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‘Flawed Model’ Creates More Bahamasair Woe

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

Bahamasair’s “vexing business model” was yesterday blamed for the airline’s latest troubles that resulted in 17 passengers - and virtually all bags - being thrown off a flight to Marsh Harbour.

Dionisio D’Aguilar, minister of tourism and aviation, last night told Tribune Business that the national flag carrier had “no choice” but to take such action after an electrical malfunction meant it was unsafe for the plane to depart West Palm Beach with a full passenger and baggage load.

He warned that Bahamasair’s “lack of scale”, with a fleet featuring just eight planes, meant “customer service disasters” such as those that have occurred repeatedly over the Christmas period are bound to “persist” with no good options available for resolving them.

Arguing that the choices were the same as those confronting the Bahamian people since the airline’s founding in 1974, Mr D’Aguilar said the Government could either “go all in” and pour more money into the loss-making carrier by acquiring more planes, “maintain the status quo” or seek to sell/privatise it.

He reiterated, though, that Bahamasair was not prepared to compromise its “impeccable safety record” over issues such as those affecting yesterday’s West Palm Beach to Marsh Harbour flight, adding that it was better to arrive “eventually” than not at all.

One passenger on the flight, speaking on condition of anonymity, told this newspaper that the episode represented a “black eye” for The Bahamas and its reputation as a leading tourism destination given that it impacted numerous visitors - many with young children - who were travelling to Abaco for the New Year.

They added that the West Palm Beach Sheriff’s Department was called to maintain order amid fears that tempers among frustrated passengers would boil over and “spark a riot” at the gates.

“There’s complete chaos in West Palm Beach,” they told Tribune Business. “Bahamasair just announced that they will not be able to take any bags on this flight and they are now looking for 18 volunteers to fly tomorrow.

“There’s a few irate tourists. They called for the Sheriff’s Department because they were scared there was going to be a riot at the gates. They’d checked everybody in, and then said they needed 18 volunteers who would not be going today; they’ll be going tomorrow.

“Total embarrassment. It’s a black eye for The Bahamas. There’s an awful lot of people with young children. You can’t get a straight answer from anybody as to what’s going on. They said the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has imposed weight restrictions on the aircraft.”

The source said persons who volunteered not to travel on yesterday’s flight were offered around $200 compensation, which they described as “not a lot of money”. Due to take off at 12.20pm, it eventually departed West Palm Beach around two hours’ later.

Speaking after arriving in Marsh Harbour, minus their bags which remain in Florida, they added: “What comes out of all this is a black eye for tourism. We’ve just been awarded the top destination of 2018, and then Bahamasair goes and messes it up.

“I don’t know why we’re so tolerant of this thing. It loses millions of dollars every year. They said check back tomorrow and see if we have any bags. A lot of tourists were coming over for New Year, some of them with very young infants, and they have no bags. It’s the tourists I felt badly for.

“Bahamasair, in one fell swoop, goes and destroys it all. Somebody has got to do something with that airline. It loses $20m a year. Privatise it.” Tribune Business was told that the bags which failed to make yesterday’s flight are being trucked to Miami for transport to Nassau, from where they will be flown to Marsh Harbour tomorrow.

Mr D’Aguilar last night explained that the West Palm Beach problems stemmed from a malfunctioning generator on the 72-seater ATR aircraft operating the route. The plane’s manufacturer advised Bahamasair that while it could still fly, it could only do so if its weight was restricted.

“They had to reduce the number of passengers by 17,” the Minister confirmed. “It’s a 72-seat plane, and the manufacturer suggested going to 51 passengers and eight bags. They had to leave 17 passengers and 60 bags.

“Bahamasair obviously had no choice. The part malfunctioned, and in the interests of safety they had to follow the manufacturer’s guidance as painful as it is. Bahamasair has an impeccable safety record that it’s not going to compromise. It’s better to get you there eventually than not at all.”

Mr D’Aguilar said Bahamasair’s small fleet size, with a maximum of eight planes currently available to it, meant it was virtually impossible to switch aircraft between routes if one malfunctioned or was taken out of service for scheduled maintenance.

Warning that the problems experienced by the national flag carrier yesterday and over Christmas will reoccur at future intervals, Mr D’Aguilar said the Government faced the dilemma of throwing good money after bad - given its persistent $15-$20m annual losses - in acquiring new aircraft, maintaining the current situation or potential outsourcing/privatisation.

“This is what happens when you are an airline operating with eight planes and experience a technical malfunction,” he told Tribune Business. “Bahamasair is a small regional operator with eight planes, and when you suffer the loss of a plane due to mechanical issues it creates major, major issues.

“It’s not like American Airlines where they have 600-700 planes, and can switch one over. With a small regional company this is going to happen. With the business model under which Bahamasair operates right now, these types of problem are going to arise. It’s unfortunate they’ve arisen over the Christmas season, but when you lose a plane this is what happens.”

Mr D’Aguilar added that Bahamasair has a total seat capacity of 630, split between the three 120-seat jets; two 72-seat ATRS and three 42-seat ATRs. “This is a vexing business model,” he reiterated.

“It’s very hard. From the revenue standpoint you want to maximise use of your aircraft, but that leads to customer service issues for if you lose one plane you have to scramble for another. This is not an easy fix. As a businessman, this is a difficult business model to resolve, and these problems are going to arise.

“These problems will persist in the business model of Bahamasair. You’ve got a business with eight planes. It’s like Superwash with eight washers. You need to create scale, and Bahamasair does not have it. Every time you lose a plane you have these customer service disasters,” Mr D’Aguilar continued.

“The business model is flawed. To address it, you can go all in, get a heap more aircraft and simply throw money at it or you maintain the status quo. It’s a question the Bahamian people have to ask: Do we spend more money, buy more planes and invest in Bahamasair, or do we align with other companies.”

Comments

Clamshell 5 months, 3 weeks ago

I honestly do not understand how an electrical problem with a generator would be any safer with half a load than it would be with a full load. A generator does not operate as a function of weight ... it operates as a function of current. Sumpthin’ be mighty fishy here.

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pileit 5 months, 3 weeks ago

You do not understand because it is not your field of expertise. AC generators power hydraulic pumps, Hydraulic pumps raise landing gear, compromised engine with the remaining good generator means, guess what? no more AC power, slow gear retraction on backup only, and if the aircraft is too HEAVY, inadequate climb out after takeoff. Considering the shackles of token reward chairmen, political meddling, and archipelagic operation, Bahamasair is actually the most productive government entity, and also the only one with international competition. Bring in a foreign management team, because politicians will not respect the competent locals, polish this diamond in the rough at long last!

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Clamshell 5 months, 3 weeks ago

If what you say is true, they should NEVER have risked human lives by flying a commercial aircraft with that defect. As for a “diamond in the rough,” that description would also fit a lump of coal.

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pileit 5 months, 3 weeks ago

You're talking nonsense again, the limitations observed are to ensure safe operation... try reading & digesting prior to commenting. Its pretty evident why this nation as a whole is a reactive mass given to noise & uproar and quickly distracted by shiny objects..... ripe for exploitation by foreign interests... well under way....

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bogart 5 months, 3 weeks ago

BEY YINNA CAN TALK SOME FOOL NOW ..DAT......."Bahamasair is actually the most productive government entity, and also the only one with international competition." ALL YINNA LEARNED EXPERTS INCLUDING THE POLITICIANS...FER ....DECADES IS WHERE WE IS TODAY...HIGHEST NATIONAL DEBT......INABILITY TO PROVIDE BETTER EDUCATION... EDUCATION...INCREASING POVERTY....HIGHTEST ..VAT....!!!!

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DDK 5 months, 3 weeks ago

"Tribune Business was told that the bags which failed to make yesterday’s flight are being trucked to Miami for transport to Nassau, from where they will be flown to Marsh Harbour tomorrow." Why not just charter a freight plane to move the baggage from PBI to MHH? Too simple?

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BMW 5 months, 3 weeks ago

Privatize the airline!!!!! Why the hell should my tax dollars keep this overstaffed unreliable airline operating. Sell it off FFS and tell the union tough shit!

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DonAnthony 5 months, 3 weeks ago

Mr D’Aguilar was all for privatization before he became chairman of Bahamasair. Once in charge he is a never ending litany of excuses for the miserable failure Bahamasair is. Just excuses with no solution in sight. Bahamasair recently cancelled my flight and took two days to complete my flight, all with no compensation or apology. The solution here is what you advocated before you became chairman, PRIVATIZATION. It is pathetic how intelligent, supposedly moral persons become whimpering patronizing excuse mongers. The Bahamian people elected this FNM government to make hard choices and to find solutions, instead it is more of the same pathetic dithering government more concerned with remaining in power than the welfare of the Bahamian people.

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Economist 5 months, 3 weeks ago

I agree. Shut it down and save us the money.

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bogart 5 months, 3 weeks ago

AINT IT DA MOSTEST...DARNEST....TING........DAT BAHAMAS AIR WID A LEGASY DEBT OF ....SOME 500 MILLION...800 EMPLOYEES.....like 100 PER PLane.......OPERATING FOR DECADES ....HAVE ALL DESE POLITICIANS ...CRONIES...POLITICAL APPOINTED BOARDS.......WHO COUDDA...WOUDDA..SHOUDDA....now WOUDDA..again.MEN MAKING .........EXCUSES..MORE MEN MAKING MORE.....EXCUSES......DONE BETTER WID THIS AIRLINE................AN....AN..........AN.GET DIIIIISSSSS......couple Bahamian wemmen .. ..ONE...ONE...ONE LIL ANDROS AIPPLANE.......COMPANY CAN BE LONGSIDE Bahamasair DEM FOR FEW YEARS....RIGHT UNDER ...NEXT TO.......AN DIS ONE.... SMALL LIL ANDROS AIRLJNE COMPANY....CAN ORDER AND START OPERATING........SOME FIVE....(5) .....EMBRAER BRAZIL JET PASSANGER PLANES.....MUDDOES ....GIVE THE .........HIGHEST HONORS FOR .DESE INSPIRING....WEMMEN COMPANY ..no time for excuses....HARD WORK....BUSINESS ACCUMIN....DETERMINATION....TO BE ABLE TO REACH FOR DA STARS....GO WESTERN AIR GO WESTERN AIR......!!!!!!....did dese Bahamian wemmen dem get nominated....any awards... for dis business achievement.......?.???

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pileit 5 months, 3 weeks ago

We already have ti suffer Tal mindless pidgenese, must you add to the foolish sputterings?

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bogart 5 months, 3 weeks ago

Tal is entitled to speak his mind and has no shame bout being wid us da common ordinary Bahamian people. CANT KNOCK A BAHAMIAN FROM OPENING HIS MOUT AN SPEAKING.........AND ...yinna wants. TO INSULT....THROW BLOWS... MAKE FUN ...DISCRIMINATE AGAINST.... WE PORE ORDINARY BAHAMIAN FROM FREE SPEECH .!!!!!!...what next...???.....IS PITIFUL....YINNA NEEDS TO KNOW what help built this country is we the common pore people ....entertainers.. Sir Stafford used to take overseas to sell is what make this country great...the Cleophas Adderleys, National choir...singing Bahamian....Ronnie Butler... YA mighten like the way we speak, look, pore an struggling,..mussey yuck up ya vexation.want to deny us freedom of speech.....but Respect..we Bahamian.!!!!!

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OldFort2012 5 months, 3 weeks ago

Privatization is not an option...and everyone knows it. The value of the slots is not matched by the liabilities of the company. Bahamasair basically has a negative net worth and is not a going concern.

The value of Bahamasair is NOT to any private individual but to Bahamians and to the Bahamas tourist sector. Without it, fares to US would be MUCH higher. Add planes and slots and compete with AA. Have at least 8 flights to MIA daily.

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Clamshell 5 months, 3 weeks ago

I’ll respectfully disagree — airfares from the U.S. to Nassau are a function of competition among the multiple U.S. carriers, not any meager competition that might be presented by BahamasAir flying one or two routes out of Orlando or Miami. The percentage of US tourists who fly BahamasAir to Nassau can barely be measured in whole numbers.

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pileit 5 months, 3 weeks ago

Bahamasair,when viewed objectively based on global positioning, route reach and reciprocal, etc is a genuine plum, literally ideal positioning in a country with decent infrastructure & relatively stable governance. Sadly it is a highly specialized field, in operations, marketing, fleet strategy, etc. that need sto be in the hands of competent, seasoned industry professionals with global exposure, not moving from one crony laden board to another every 5 years... boards comprised of everything from tuck shop operators to pastors and dentists! Bring in a seasoned management group as was started with Lufthansa consulting years prior, give them power to hire & fire without fear of political meddling, and watch the profit and quality ramp up. If you want to keep your job, you'll do it properly, otherwise you'll be dismissed, and no phone call to an MP will restore you.... A tourist dependent nation cannot commit all of its airlift to foreign carriers... they will hold thhe Bahamian government hostage....stop trying to inject newly minted politicians into specialized areas...

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OldFort2012 5 months, 3 weeks ago

I would agree 100%. But it is highly unlikely to happen, no?

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Clamshell 5 months, 3 weeks ago

“A tourist dependent nation cannot commit all of its airlift to foreign carriers... “

Says who? Any number of tourist dependent nations rely solely on foreign air carriers and do not even have a national airline. Is there an Air Aruba? An Air Dominica? An Air Bermuda? The reality is almost exactly the opposite of what you claim here.

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OldFort2012 5 months, 3 weeks ago

I think it extremely unlikely that American and Delta would compete. They would fix fees @ $500++ to MIA/wherever and we would all be worse off for it.

I wish it were not so, but we need Bahamasair. A better Bahamasair...

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Clamshell 5 months, 3 weeks ago

Price-fixing is illegal in the U.S. A scheme like that would land their CEO in prison.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 5 months, 3 weeks ago

The darling little constantly yapping white-haired poodle sorely lacks the business sense necessary to conclude a fair deal with the U.S. State Dept., NTSB and FAA over the management of our airspace which would:

1) Grant our government subsidized national airline (Bahamasair) full landing and other airport usage rights at any U.S. airport open to use by any other international airline carrier; and

2) Grant Bahamasair and all of its passengers and crew with full exemption from all U.S. Federally imposed airspace, landing and airport usage taxes and fees (of whatever kind) associated with the use of any U.S. airspace or U.S. airport open to use by any other international airline carrier;

3) Grant every U.S. and foreign airline carrier with a final destination anywhere in the Bahamas, full exemption from all with full exemption from all U.S. Federally imposed airspace, landing and airport usage taxes and fees (of whatever kind) associated with the use of any U.S. airspace or U.S. airport open to use by any other international airline carrier; and

4) Remove the requirement for U.S. citizens traveling on a round trip ticket to the Bahamas from anywhere in the U.S. to travel with a U.S. passport.

Unfortunately though, the darling little constantly yapping white-haired poodle has no inkling of just how valuable our airspace is to the national security interests of the U.S.

And unlike his late father Vince, the poodle has zero business instincts despite the Cornell education he constantly brags about. What a doofus! LMAO

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sheeprunner12 5 months, 3 weeks ago

Bahamasair need to fly international - only ................ Get out of the domestic routes.

Government can regulate fares and ubsidize the domestic routes to the other local airlines (reform the aviation laws).

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Sickened 5 months, 3 weeks ago

But they need decent planes to do that. Those latest planes that tip over if not loaded properly (and are too small so the gang way can't reach them) we such a bad investment - almost useless. The can't even fly too high because they'll freeze up and drop from the sky.

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bogart 5 months, 3 weeks ago

HEARS YA....SheepR.....years of gubbermint... private...local international...experts....gotten us to massive legasy debt and 15 to 20 million dollar losses or taxpayers subsidies annually........ Sad reality ....seems is to "protect"..da gravy train for beneficiaries.....stretching all da way to... subsidized airfare travelling tourists staying at private hotels.... Now knee jerk reaction......HOPE they dont do a repeat of when Trinity Air started...more plane(s)....and cause unfair competition...pressures ..using taxpayers money......on ....existing local carriers.....facing unfair competition Bahamasair subsidies.....despite this...one advanced grown now using JETS ....marketing advetized on tv...existing synergies....AND IF BAHAMASAIR.. GET OUT OF LOCAL INTER..ISLAND.....then ONLY A MATTER OF TIME.... before hungry expanding enterprising local airlines then want to compete with Bahamasair on all da US routes....

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Jetflt 5 months, 3 weeks ago

Privatize the airline and get OUT of the airline business! It’s been a flawed business plan for 44 years and no matter the government in power, they FAIL to see the obvious! By the way a generator problem has absolutely nothing to do with a weight restriction on an aircraft. Just sayin’!

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DEDDIE 5 months, 3 weeks ago

Excuses, excuses! Flawed model or no flawed model. The Government should not be in any business that its citizenry should be in. The flawed model is Government owning private enterprises.

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Alex_Charles 5 months, 3 weeks ago

Can we just uninstall BahamasAir?

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Well_mudda_take_sic 5 months, 3 weeks ago

D'Aguilar's incompetence may inadvertently achieve the "uninstall" for the better of us all.

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John 5 months, 3 weeks ago

First of all Bahamasair needs a business plan before it can build a business model. Then it can ‘right fit’ it’s mode into its plan. It is all well and good to say Bahamasair is the national flag carrier and also that it flies on domestic routes that are/were unprofitable, but how does Bahamasair plan to grow its routes, its services and, most importantly, its revenue? The only way it can grow it’s fleet without being a tax burden to the Bahamian people is to increase its revenue stream and consequently its profits or, at least, cut losses. And one of the greatest mistakes Bahamasair made of recent was when it chose to remain with turbo props when it had the opportunity to go to jet craft. As you noticed one of the private companies is switching to jets that are faster and not only cut down on flying time, but allows a company to get back on schedule more quickly once service is interrupted by equipment failure or weather or airport challenges. And the excess baggage problem from Florida during peak periods must be addressed. Either there has to be baggage restrictions or excess bags have to be flown if off hours to avoid flight delays. And, of course, passengers will have to bear additional costs.

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sheeprunner12 5 months, 2 weeks ago

Bahamasair has to stop this cheap "air cargo service" .......... this is a disadvantage to the airline ......... Just purchase 2 DC-10s and operate the air cargo service, but do not allow one person to bring 5 big bags of luggage on a passenger plane.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 5 months, 2 weeks ago

Ain't no Bahamasair employee gonna tell any muck-a-muck elitist politician or any one of his family members or cronies that their cargo cannot be put in the baggage/cargo hole of the plane free of charge no matter the bulk size or weight. LMAO

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