By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
BAHAMASAIR is targeting $20m in top-line growth over the two years to end-2019, its managing director said yesterday, as it plans to shed 100 staff within 24 months.
Tracy Cooper told the Caribbean Aviation Meet-up 2018 conference that, over the next 24 to 36 months, "due to anticipated expansion in the route network because of further new developments and increased diversity in the tourism product", Bahamasair must add additional aircraft - possibly two more Boeing 737 jets and one ATR 72.
"This expansion in the fleet will be required just to keep pace with what can only be described as a sustained, organic growth in our passenger numbers. This year alone we have moved over 825,000 passengers and project 900,000 next year if we remain on our current trajectory," said Mr Cooper.
Driving the increase in passenger numbers is the increase in The Bahamas' hotel room inventory, and he added: "It is clear that the number of hotel rooms within the Bahamian market continues to grow, and so will the positive fortunes of the national flag carrier.
"To put this in perspective, with the soft opening of the Baha Mar Resort & Casino in April 2017, Bahamasair was able to move 15,000 more passengers in the period October to December 2017, as opposed to the same period in 2016. What was more intriguing is the fact that the growth was strictly over the airline's existing Florida gateways, Miami, Orlando, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach."
Mr Cooper continued: "This can be attributed in no small way to the new resort's draw. Baha Mar represents a 2,400 room increase to the Bahamian tourism inventory, and now with the Rosewood's opening only a few days ago, all the rooms are all now available.
"On the horizon there are other hotels that are either expanding or coming on stream. This includes The Pointe development's Margaritaville Resorts and Residences, with some 300 mixed use condo residence/ hotel rooms in downtown Nassau; the Gold Wynn in Cable Beach; the expansion of the Valentine's Resort in Harbour Island, and others.
"The increase in room inventory will be the driving force in growth over the next several years, especially when again reviewing the ability of Bahamasair to take advantage of its current role as the market leader and the national flag carrier."
Mr Cooper said the rapid tourism growth is projected to lead to $20m revenue growth for Bahamasair during the two-year period from beginning 2017 to end-2019.
"We have taken the approach to identify the root causes of problems within the airline, seeing what the corrective actions are and determining what are the industry's latest solutions for addressing or assisting with the corrective actions. This has led to the implementation of several industry tools that allows for better management of the various and complex areas within the airline," said Mr Cooper.
He added that starting in September 2018, Bahamasair will begin installing the Automatic Flight Information Reporting System (AFIRS) for aircraft tracking and communications in all aircraft. At the same time, the airline will launch AirFi "Media on the Move" in-air entertainment, which allows for closed loop Wi-Fi access to a database of movies or other viewing/reading materials.
The carrier also plans to become a cashless operation. "This is not new, as other airlines such as American Airlines have started this process at cash heavy airport locations. Bahamasair is working with local financial entities to facilitate electronic transacting at all of its major stations. Cashless operation is desirable for all of the known reasons," said Mr Cooper.
He revealed that Bahamasair currently employs 630 persons, 587 of whom are permanent alongside 43 temporary/contract personnel. "Last year, June 2017, we employed 682 persons. Year over year, this equates to a 7.6 percent reduction in staff and $1.9m in reduced cost," Mr Cooper said.
"This was made possible by the introduction of additional electronic platforms that allows the airline to have less reliance on human resources. We expect this downward trend to continue until we level out at around 530 persons, which we believe will happen within the next 18 to 24 months, to support the nine aircraft we expect to operate within this period."
The airline currently operates operate a fleet of eight aircraft, soon to become nine, which is comprised of three Boeing 737-500 Series; three ATR 42-600 Series (50 seats); two ATR 72-600 Series (70 seats) and one Boeing 737-700 Series to be added in December this year.
Mr Cooper said the ATR turbo prop fleet is used mainly to support the 15 domestic routes in and around the Family Islands. They are also used on international routes to Haiti, Turks & Caicos, West Palm Beach and, occasionally, to augment jet services to Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Orlando. The B737 jets are used mainly for Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, Havana and Houston.
"The jets also provide charter services on a regular basis for the government, hotels, charter brokers, local sporting, religious and civil entities. On a standard day, each aircraft is expected to perform four round-trip flights or eight cycles of operations. This allows for having an aggressive flight network with a limited amount of aircraft. The airline performs an average 400 flights per week with the present fleet of eight aircraft," said Mr Cooper.