By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Deputy Chief Reporter
MONETISING The Bahamas’ airspace has been delayed, with a new timeline of January 1, 2021 set to complete the process and enforce charges upon airlines, according to Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar yesterday.
According to the minister, the process has been set back about six months after the evaluation committee tossed out all of the proposals that were submitted.
However, he did not make clear how many were received.
“We submitted a request for proposals. We received proposals. There was an evaluation committee,” Mr D’Aguilar, pictured below, said outside Cabinet. “They evaluated all of the proposals and decided to reject all of them and so we are in the process of going back to the drawing board to expand what we expect these companies to do.
“As you are well aware this has never been done before so this is very much a learning process and when we looked at the proposals that were received we were not happy that they were fulfilling what we wanted them to do.
“So the evaluation committee, which is chaired by the Chairman of the Bahamas Civil Aviation Authority Mrs Wendy Craig - former governor of the Central Bank - therein decided to reject all the proposals to go back out to seek additional information.
“When we were going through the RFP process it became evident what we needed to do to get additional information (and) learn a little bit more about it. So we ventured into a small consultancy project to really lay out what we should be looking for in an RFP.”
As for the new timeline, he said: “My target is that by the July 1, 2020 we will be in a process to launch it and then you have to give the airline companies six months to incorporate into their fee structure.
“As you know airlines pre-sell a lot of tickets and so the general rule is that when you roll out a new fee (or) a new tax or a new charge you give the airline company six months to roll out s o that will probably be January 1, 2021.”
The US Office of Inspector General stated in its December 2017 audit that the FAA has billed an astonishing $800 million in over-flight fees between 2006-2016.
The FAA billed an estimated $106 million in over-flight fees in 2017, with an estimated $126 million to be billed this fiscal year. A significant portion of this revenue will involve flights, which have used Bahamian airspace.
Last year Mr D’Aguilar stressed that over-flight fees collected will only be used for the management and upgrade of the country’s air navigation system, explaining it would not be used to pay off the national debt.
Since 1952, a portion of the air traffic through the sovereign airspace of the Bahamas has been managed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) of the United States.
Air traffic within 60 nautical miles of the Lynden Pindling International Airport and up to 12,000 feet has been managed by Bahamian air traffic controllers.
The discussion over the management of the sovereign airspace of the Bahamas has been ongoing for the last 25 years.
In its campaign to persuade the government to charge over flight fees the Tribune has pointed out other than winning the exemption for using our own airspace, the previous government made no progress whatsoever on charging foreign aircraft.