Key stakeholders at Lynden Pindling International Airport (LPIA) are ramping up efforts to manage “double digit” increases in passenger traffic that are expected to peak this Easter weekend.
Officials at Nassau Airport Development Company (NAD), which manages LPIA, are expecting additional growth in traveller numbers - especially between April 19 and April 22 - beyond the 21.9 percent increase seen in February 2019 when 22,596 passengers moved through The Bahamas’ major airport. Similar trends are expected when March’s passenger numbers are tallied.
To address the challenges presented by such volume increases, NAD partnered with airport stakeholders to develop a new set of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) during the 2019 first quarter to manage passenger movement from arrival to the boarding gate and vice versa.
“We have seen high passenger traffic in-terminal over the past 15 months, with an 11 percent growth year-over-year in 2018 and figures for the first quarter of this year showing growth of 20 percent over prior year,” said Vernice Walkine, NAD’s president and chief executive. “For the upcoming Easter holiday period we are continuing to evaluate and tweak our SOPs in real time to accommodate larger passenger volumes in our facilities.
“We are working closely with all stakeholders to ensure that the airport performs at a level that provides an exceptional arrivals and departures experience for our users. Our efforts are co-ordinated and focused on using increased manpower, existing technology and effective communication between agencies to improve the overall operations during peak periods.”
LPIA stakeholders include Bahamas Immigration, Bahamas Customs, the Airport Authority, US Customs & Border Protection (USCBP), Nassau Flight Services (NFS), Air Traffic Services (ATS), airline operators, NAD operations, NAD parking and ground transportation, airport police and the Road Traffic Department.
All agencies were presented with the SOPs earlier this year based on their role in overall airport operations. Stakeholders are also given projected passenger numbers three days prior to anticipated peaks, allowing them sufficient time to review and schedule manpower accordingly.
The passenger projection charts detail arrivals and departures traffic in hourly intervals, and highlight peaks within each of the three terminals at LPIA. This is a powerful tool when used in conjunction with historical passenger numbers.
A busy day for international arrivals at LPIA is around 5,000 passengers. In February, the airport recorded nine days with international arrivals between 6,000 to 7,500-plus passengers. On March 9, a record breaking 8,245 passengers were processed through Bahamas Immigration and Customs.
In US departures, busy days are when 5,000 passengers are processed through the pre-clearance facility. During the first quarter of 2019, officials logged multiple 6,500- 7,000 passenger departure days. On the airside, LPIA recorded a total of 13,114 aircraft movements in January 2019 and 12,386 in February 2019, up 8.58 percent over the previous year.
For the Easter holiday weekend, LPIA’s operations plan will focus on processing areas including pre-board screening in the US Departures terminal and the international/domestic departures terminal, as well as queue management in US Customs, Bahamas Immigration and Bahamas Customs. All areas should be well-staffed and queue times in the terminals should be 30 minutes or less.
Stakeholders will also continue customer-focused measures implemented earlier this year. To expedite the flow of passengers on arrival, officers in the Bahamas immigration hall will process large families with young children and senior citizens on separate lines during the peak periods between 12pm to 3pm.
NAD’s operations team will again position line management agents (LMAs) to organise traffic flow in the US departures terminal check-in hall with the goal of processing times falling within a 30-minute window.
Ms Walkine added: “In addition to measures being taken in-terminal, our plans for the upcoming Easter holiday weekend will also focus on traffic management. NAD’s parking and ground transportation team will continue to work directly with Road Traffic Department officers and the Airport Police to manage vehicular traffic on the landside of our operations.
“Our scheduling team will work closely with airlines and ground handlers to maximise gating operations on the apron.” As it relates to air traffic management, Air Traffic Services will have the added staffing required to efficiently manage the increased commercial and general aviation arrivals and departures from LPIA during this busy period.
With passenger estimates projected to exceed Easter 2017 and 2018, airport officials are encouraging the travellers to allow for sufficient processing times on travel days and to stay tuned to NAD’s social media channels and communicate directly with airlines for important travel updates.
NAD along with the Nassau/Paradise Island Promotion Board, the Ministry of Tourism and LPIA commercial partners will host holiday-themed activities in-terminal featuring musical entertainment from local schools and bands, LPIA’s baggage claim game in the international arrivals terminal and a visit from the Easter Bunny.