Air Traffic Controllers Halt Operations For Three Hours

SATURDAY 1.25pm UPDATE: Minister of Transport and Aviation Glenys Hanna Martin has released the following statement on this morning's action by air traffic controllers at the Lynden Pindling Airport:

“It is with great regret that I inform the people of The Bahamas that air traffic controllers this morning refused for at least 2 hours to report to duty as a result of industrial action taken by BATCU.

“The dispute arises from concerns by the Union about a Security protocol that is executed by the Airport Authority mandating security screening of all personnel accessing the secured airside of LPIA, of which the Air Traffic Controllers were recently included.

“The inclusion of the screening of air traffic controllers is a direct mandate by the International Civil Aviation Organization which advised the Government of its imminent intent to post globally that this specific deficiency made LPIA a vulnerable aerodrome as it relates to security and noting that such action would seriously and negatively impact the economy and reputation of The Bahamas. These concerns were also documented by the United States Transportation Security Administration.

“As a consequence air traffic controllers are now screened through security along with all other personnel accessing the secure airside except on duty law enforcement officers.

“I personally undertook to the President this morning to cause for a meeting on Monday to discuss these concerns, however, the President was non-responsive and it was not until sometime later that the Union agreed to report for duty. I should advise that the Union advised in that meeting that if the outcome of Monday's meeting was not to its satisfaction similar damaging action will again be taken.

“During this unjustified industrial action national and international commercial air traffic to The Bahamas was negatively impacted for more than 2 hours.

“The following airlines were impacted:

Delta Airlines:

4 flights scheduled today; on average all flights delayed 3hours

All flights are primarily full and ninety percent of the passengers are expected to miss connections.

American Airlines:

Flight #4511 outbound to MIA delayed

Flight #4520 a 808hrs arrival to Nassau returned to MIA and was cancelled

Flight #4521 is delayed approximately 2hrs

Jet Blue:

Flight #2194/FLL cancelled with 90 passengers onboard

Flight #422/JFK is delayed approximately one hour


Flight #271 delayed approximately two hours, 9pax onboard


Flight #201 delayed approximately four hours (730hrs departure – 56pax onboard)

“As a result of BATCU’s industrial action, there were two cancellations to the scheduled morning flights. I am advised that on average, the remaining morning flights are delayed between 2 – 4 hours. Delta Airlines will be the only Carrier that is expected to experience delays in the afternoon. Delta, American and Jet Blue have indicated that there were large numbers of missed connections.

“I am advised that the impact on domestic carriers is as follows:

Southern Air – 1 flight delayed 2hrs

Sky Bahamas - 6 flights delayed an average of 2 – 3 hrs

Pineapple Air - 2 flights delayed to Haiti 2hrs

Western Air – 2 flights delayed 3hrs

Le Air – 1 flight delayed 3hrs

Flamingo Air - 1 fight delayed 3hrs

“I wish to assure the Bahamian people that the government will not compromise on securing LPIA in accordance with international standards and in our own national interest and I am calling on the Union to be responsible and proportionate in its actions so as to not cause undue harm to the Bahamian people.“

End of statement

AIR TRAFFIC OPERATIONS at the Lynden Pindling International Airport were halted for nearly three hours on Saturday morning after air traffic controllers refused to participate in heightened security protocol ordered by a United Nations agency.

Newly-elected Bahamas Air Traffic Control Union (BACTU) president Hinsey McKenzie explaineded that members were protesting the new security policy that mandates controllers undergo extensive personal searches at security checkpoints.

He stressed that members did not take part in strike action but began their shifts shortly before 10am after a meeting with Airport Traffic Control management. The morning shift began at 7am.

"We came to the gate at 7am for the morning shift," he said.

"They wanted to search and we told them we were not prepared to do the search, this invasive search that makes you feel violated, all your food, bags get pat down and dug through.

Mr McKenzie said: "We had a meeting with management about 9am. We couldn't get any resolution so we said we'll let them pat us down until Monday. On Monday we have a meeting with the minister."

The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) is a specialised UN agency that sets global standards in the civil aviation industry.

The agency was recently in the Bahamas to conduct an audit, according to Mr McKenzie, who explained that the increased security measures were among recommendations presented by ICAO as critical for the airport to pass the inspection.

The new policy was implemented on May 13, with the condition for a review after 120 days, according to the union president.

Before the policy, controllers were only required to show their work identification card.

Now, Mr McKenzie said there are extensive security restrictions on what controllers are allowed to bring to work but no discussions on how to alleviate difficulties presented by the changes.


Well_mudda_take_sic 3 years, 10 months ago

This will never happen in the recently awakened Cuba that is already taking large amounts of North American tourist dollars away from the Bahamas.


banker 3 years, 10 months ago

Great, just what we need. High landing fees and unstable air traffic control.


alfalfa 3 years, 10 months ago

Is Obie already shutting the country down? The only person who had the backbone to stand up to these individuals, was Sir Lynden, when he fired the entire lot of those that walked off the job at Freeport airport. Come on Mr. PM, this is the lifeblood of our country, show some spine.


B_I_D___ 3 years, 10 months ago

It's been brewing for years and the government just jerks them around, pays them nowhere near what qualified ATC staff get elsewhere in the world, then won't pay them overtime amongst other major issues out there.


DDK 3 years, 9 months ago

Brewing? They (controllers) have been holding the travelling public hostage by whim for decades. They are particularly fond of peak holiday travel times. Trust there are sufficient current qualified supervisory personnel available for the responsible one to pull a Ronald Reagan. A repeat performance would most certainly warrant it. What a stupid thing to do for such an absurd reason.


TalRussell 3 years, 10 months ago

Comrades! The best, solid advice the PM's chief political strategist should be steering their boss man's way, would to force a by-election be to held within the next 90 days at the maximum to test how rough really is their troubled waters in the voters mindsets?
It will also give the party a close-up look at how prepared/unprepared is their 2017 General Elections campaigning machinery?
With lots arm twisting and etc; the PM should use his 'influence' to declare a vacancy for the Fort Charlotte Constituency?
The PLP should know that the Air Traffic Controllers halting of operations for three hours is but small fish to fry compared to the government's mandate being halted come the 2017 General.


Baha10 3 years, 10 months ago

Clear decisive and immediate action should be taken to resolve this, as the Country can not afford to be held ransom by a few who fail to recognise that internatiinal travel today is all about seucurity and we have tourist basis economy. Follow Ronald Reagan's example, Fire Them!


avidreader 3 years, 10 months ago

Bana10: And who are you going to replace them with? Surely not the controller in Los Angeles who, one dark night some years ago, instructed the twin engine commuter aircraft to "taxi into position and hold" at the threshold of the active runway then promptly forgot all about that particular aircraft until she cleared a commercial jet to land on the same runway which the jet obediently did, right on top of the aircraft that was still patiently waiting for takeoff clearance. That made the headlines.


avidreader 3 years, 10 months ago

Bana 10: That accident referred to in my recent comment occurred on February 1, 1991, with details available on Wikipedia under the heading "Los Angeles International Airport". Complete details are provided.


truetruebahamian 3 years, 10 months ago

There are many ways to obliviate union activity serpenting its ugly head into your business. I have made good use of union control in many areas and in many businesses. All employees have been happy to have been enlightened about the negative effects of union membership or even union existence, never will I let them anywhere near my businesses.And I will always educate employees to the bad side of unions and their pervasive stink.


Greentea 3 years, 10 months ago

This is just dumb on the part of the controllers. Why do they think they should be exempt from international safety protocols?


alfalfa 3 years, 10 months ago

So avidreader, the air traffic controllers in the Bahamas do not need to adhere to international standards relative to security check points for them. They can disobey regulations enforced by our government at the insistence of the International Civil Aviation Authority, at the expense of numerous flight delays and cancellations, resulting in a black mark against our country's ability to enforce international aviation standards. They feel as if their privacy is being violated, and therefore chose to stop air travel in and out of LPIA. They are screwing around with the lifeblood of our country, and have taken a ridiculous stance against regulations that are routine. They frisk me and other passengers when I go through security, but I accept this as a part of making air travel safer for everyone. No sympathy from me. Minister Hanna and PM Christie give them their walking papers, hire foreigners if necessary, until you can replace them with properly trained replacements, but for God's sake do not let them think that they shut down our gateway and suffer no consequence.


Clamshell 3 years, 10 months ago

Avidreader: So you're saying that because an air traffic controller in Los Angeles made a mistake in 1991, the controllers in Nassau should be exempt from international security standards 25 years later? Really? What does one situation have to do with the other? Other than a common thread that all air traffic controllers might be incredibly stupid? With that sort of logic one has to assume you are a union official or a government bureaucrat.


Jetflt 3 years, 10 months ago

How stupid can these ATC controllers be to put the Country's "bread and butter" at risk? They fail to realize that airlines don't need the Bahamas but the Bahamas needs the airlines! Their 2 hour childish tantrum has cost the airlines hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Keep it up and you won't have to worry about going through employee screening to get to the Tower. You'll get you way - trust me. Airlines will stop flying to Nassau and you'll have no reason to be screened and no reason to go to the Tower.


ThisIsOurs 3 years, 10 months ago

Being pat down and having your possessions tumbled around every single day can be traumatic experience, especially if you have an over aggressive screener! Not to mention if they start digging around in your lunch container. Imagine if you had to go through this everyday to get to your job at the newspaper, bank, insurance company or government ministry.

On the government side, clearly they've shown that trafficking is a major problem at the airport. And the level of trafficking also highlights the possibility for other serious security breeches. It stands to reason that the government would want to close the loopholes.

Seems the union's only reasonable stance on this is an agreement on the handling procedures.


Clamshell 3 years, 10 months ago

MANY people go through this sort of security every day of the week as part of their jobs, especially in the U.S. -- people who work at airports, government offices, court houses, military installations, police departments, the list is endless. Oh, pity-pity these poor oppressed Nassau airport workers because they might have to open their lunch pail. What are they afraid of? That somebody might find the joint the smoke every day after lunch? (I know this happens -- I once walked into a Customs holding warehouse and interrupted two uniformed Customs agents and a forklift driver passing around a couple of doobies!)


ThisIsOurs 3 years, 9 months ago

MANY people go through this sort of security every day of the week as part of their jobs,....

Yeah I know that, but I'm sure none of them like it. I know I wouldn't, so I'm not going to tell them "suck it up" (empathy). I will say its a reality of the times and maybe they can focus on addressing issues that don't make the searches unnecessarily unpleasant, like over aggressive screeners.


JohnDoe 3 years, 9 months ago

Have you ever encountered an aggressive much less an over aggressive screener at LPIA?


ThisIsOurs 3 years, 9 months ago

I have encountered over aggressive screeners actually. Dump all the stuff out your bag, handle the contents roughly then unceremoniously dump them back in. I see nothing wrong with reviewing the rules of engagement to determine whether or not they're "too aggressive". You may find that they're perfectly fine but at least you addressed the employees concerns rather than ignoring them. It would certainly have made more sense and cost less dollars than a 2 hour strike.


alfalfa 3 years, 10 months ago

Thisisours, are you saying that the union acted responsibly in shutting down the airport? Ridiculous. If you or I refused to go through the security checkpoint (in which they open bags and make you remove items out of you pockets), we would be denied access to the flights and more than likely questioned by airport police. There is a vast difference between a "reasonable stance by the union" and shutting down our main source of visitor air arrivals. The inconvenience caused to our visitors and the international airlines, will result in negative press about our country, and hit many of us in the pocketbook.They forced some incoming aircraft to have to turn back and find alternative landing spots. Thank God their were no air accidents because of their rash decisions, or these actions might have resulted in them sitting where they truly belong, in a cell.


ThisIsOurs 3 years, 9 months ago

Thisisours, are you saying that the union acted responsibly in shutting down the airport? Ridiculous.

Yes, "ridiculous" because "no" I didn't say that. Summing up, I said "searches are unpleasant, but necessary, maybe focus on making procedures to make them the least intrusive possible


Socrates 3 years, 10 months ago

whats these people's problem.. i travel all over and i see crew, pilots and cabin attendants, being screened and patted down, etc. what makes this bunch any different. rules are rules except apparently in the Bahamas.. again these unions are out of hand. we need legislation to criminalize this economic sabotage...


TalRussell 3 years, 10 months ago

Comrades! The Bahamaland government should join most world jurisdictions by introducing legislation to protect essential services from a complete shutdown or disruption during labour disputes. Essential Services legislation would protect the saftey and well-being of citizens and the economy from a complete labour shutdown of essential services. This would be achieved by requiring a minimum number of essential workers to report for work and remain at their jobs and curtail the degree of job sites workers disruptions.
The lesson with the Air Traffic Controllers is they only have be concerned with some security personal ruffling through their their lunch boxes while thousands parents have lost their paycheques and are unable to pack a proper lunch box when sending their children off to school.
It's bad enough that the airport you're privileged to work at saw some $700 million of taxpayers moneys invested, all because of the projected visitor arrivals for the then soon to be opening Baha Mar. You're acting in the same bad faith way as the developers of Baha Mar.
Taxpayers built a new multi-millions dollars airport in which the great anticipation increased tourists traffic were to be flying into. Maybe the government really doesn't need the airport staff levels it done has?


OMG 3 years, 9 months ago

Why do they feel that they should be treated differently to everybody else. It is standard practice for all airline employees working in secure areas including flight crew to be screened. If you want to be regarded as a first world country then accept normal security standards.


MonkeeDoo 3 years, 9 months ago

The defence force should have a contingent trained and able to step in in an emergency. These should be fired for stuff like this. But who knows if GHM properly advised them of the protocol ? Probably not because they all so slack ! She just boloxed up sonething else I think !


DEDDIE 3 years, 9 months ago

The government did take the Defence Force route a couple of decades ago. I think that out of 20 officers, 2 passed and it took them 3 years. The job appears to be far more difficult than it looks. Everyone brags about what Ronald Reagan did but no one mention the increase in near misses due to Controller fatigue.The salary increase that Reagan bark about was paid to new controller in order to increase recruiting. Today, Controllers as a group in the US are the highest paid Federal Employees because of the actions taking by those before them.


JimAir 3 years, 9 months ago

What are you think'n. As a pilot, you just don't stop flying the airplane. This kind of stuff ruins reputation of the Bahamas


USAhelp 3 years, 9 months ago

Only in the Bahamas so the visitorsthat were delayed has a taste beforethey evenland. No wonder we will be part of China. Don'tcare about anyoneelse.


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