By RIEL MAJOR
Tribune Staff Reporter
TOURISM and Aviation Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar yesterday said blowback from the grounding of Sky Bahamas has negatively impacted the country’s tourism product especially service to the Family Islands.
He said: “I think that Sky Bahamas made some commitments to a number of passengers to fly to the Family Islands and because they’ve not been able to obtain their Air Operating Certificate they have been unable to meet those obligations to persons who had purchased tickets on their airline so we’ve definitely gotten some negative feedback from that.
“Persons certainly arriving from overseas trying to make a connection to Sky Bahamas and not finding the service in place I would be naturally frustrated so, yes, absolutely it has been impactful. Obviously, there are a number of airlines that service those routes and they are more than happy to take up that demand.”
He said it’s frustrating for customers having to fly with another airline.
Mr D’Aguilar added: “They have to buy a whole other ticket until they figure out how they’ll get refunded from Sky Bahamas so that has caused some vexation.”
Last week, Sky Bahamas CEO Captain Randy Butler told The Tribune he is fighting an uphill battle in an ongoing standoff with the Bahamas Civil Aviation Authority.
In an interview at the time, Captain Butler further suggested the effects of this standoff have had a trickle-down effect, “creating more hardship on our team members, passengers, industry business partners and charities depending on our assistance each month”.
The airline has been grounded since July 8 over issues regarding its air operator certificate (AOC).
He further revealed that Sky Bahamas’ ticket counter at the Lynden Pindling International Airport also had to be shut down.
Last month, Mr D’Aguilar declined to intervene in this dispute.
Instead he urged Captain Butler to continue meeting with the BCAA and “work out” his differences.
On Monday, BCAA Director General Charles Beneby insisted the airline is not being “singled out” — as he underscored the Authority had nothing to do Sky Bahamas being “ordered out” of Lynden Pindling International Airport.
Mr Beneby was adamant the issues regarding Sky Bahamas not receiving its AOC are “not an act of sabotage” and said there is “no political consideration” at hand.
Instead, he noted the carrier has several outstanding requirements which need to be met.