By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
Bahamasair flew into action after it encountered regulatory turbulence in Canada to ensure the suspension of its charter licence lasted no longer than 24 hours.
Tracy Cooper, the national flag carrier’s managing director, blamed an administrative error by the Canadian Transportation Agency for the temporary hold placed on its ability to offer charter services between The Bahamas and that market.
The Canadian regulator imposed the suspension on November 28 on the basis that Bahamasair was in breach of the law by not having the necessary liability insurance in place to be able to carry fare-paying passengers.
However, the licence was restored one day later with Bahamasair receiving an apology from the Canadian Transportation Agency for failing to enter the data provided by the airline in its system.
“It was not from our side,” Mr Cooper explained. “It was a simple matter. What it is, it’s just simple stuff that the Canadian Transportation Agency themselves did not put in place.”
He explained that “this is the time of year we change our insurance over”, and full details were provided to the regulator. “We sent it in to the Canadian Transportation Agency, but the person dealing with our account was on vacation,” Mr Cooper added.
“When we contacted them they gave us their apologies and updated their system.” The Canadian regulator has also confirmed via its website that the licence suspension was lifted on November 29, one day after it was implemented.
Referring to the November 28 order, the Canadian Transportation Agency said: “The licensee [Bahamasair] is licensed to operate a non-scheduled international service on a charter basis between The Bahamas and Canada.
“The licensee has ceased to meet the requirement to have the prescribed liability insurance coverage” that is set in Canadian transportation law. Bahamasair had been given one year to come back into compliance.
Mr Cooper said the licence was maintained just in case Bahamasair was required to provide charters between The Bahamas and Canada, especially given its role in opening up service from new tourism markets into this nation.
“We do have it just in case we do need it,” he explained. “We do operate charter flights, and at times when the parties come to us we don’t want to be dealing with regulatory issues, so we keep it available in case we need it.”
Mr Cooper, meanwhile, said Hurricane Dorian had impacted 30 percent of Bahamasair’s business by knocking out domestic and international airlift to Grand Bahama and Abaco in its immediate wake.
Its routes into those destinations from Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, in particular, remain affected, and the Bahamasair chief said: “As with all entities in and around The Bahamas, Dorian affected Bahamasair tremendously as Abaco and Freeport account for 30 percent of our business.
“We’re going to start coming back on stream. We’ve started flying back out to Freeport, and those two flights should come back on in another two weeks. We’re waiting on the final approvals both airports, Marsh Harbour and Freeport, need to get from the Transportation Security Administration.” Both destinations have limitations, with no night flying currently permitted into Freeport.
While international air service into both Dorian-ravaged islands has been missing for three months, Mr Cooper said demand for passenger seats had begun to “pick up” on domestic routes again in November.
“We’ve seen strong bookings for Thanksgiving,” he added. “The flights have been relatively full for the past two to three weeks, even though I think the whole Bahamas is still shell-shocked from Dorian to be honest with you.
“We’re plugging along as best we can. The Bahamian consumer doesn’t tend to book well in advance. They book around pay day and those kind of things. For Thanksgiving the numbers have been up, and for Christmas we’ve seen the numbers climbing and expect them to be strong for this year.”