The Bahamas' major airport is set to receive six inbound international flights from key US tourism source markets on the first day that the country's borders reopen.
The Nassau Airport Development Company (NAD), Lynden Pindling International Airport's (LPIA) operator, said Delta Airlines' flight from Atlanta to Nassau, which is due to arrive at 11.30am on Wednesday will mark the return of commercial air travel to The Bahamas.
It added that direct service has been scheduled to Nassau from key US gateways such as Charlotte (North Carolina); New York; Denver; Houston; Baltimore; Newark; Miami and Fort Lauderdale, along with service from Toronto, Canada. However, several of those areas, especially the two Florida cities and Houston, are located in COVID-19 "hotspots" that are witnessing a surge in infections.
"As we enter this final reopening phase, and welcome visitors to the destination and residents back home, our focus is on ensuring that all airport partners are ready on July 1 to support the additional safety protocols put in place by the Government to reduce the spread of COVID-19," said Vernice Walkine, NAD's president and chief executive.
"From an airport perspective, we anticipate a gradual uptick in arrivals and departures over the next two to three weeks. The phased approach to restarting air service has allowed our team to successfully test new safety protocols in real time. As we move forward in this new normal of operating in a pandemic, we are using the best practices learned to-date to guide our plan."
Six international flights are also scheduled for departure from LPIA on July 1. All inbound travellers will be required to complete an electronic health visa prior to travel. All visitors, Bahamian citizens and residents will be asked to present a negative PCR COVID-19 test and confirmation of their approved health visa upon entry.
While the test can currently be taken no later than ten days prior to the date of travel, the Prime Minister yesterday announced that this window is being narrowed to seven days prior to travelling with effect from July 7.
This is designed to better protect Bahamians and residents by ensuring visitors receive COVID-19 tests and results as close as possible to their day of departure.
On arrival at LPIA, NAD said passengers should expect to have their temperatures taken. Persons showing symptoms of COVID-19 will be referred to local health officials at the airport for further testing and evaluation.
Immigration officials will provide all visitors with a flyer outlining the Government's mandatory guidelines, which are intended to protect visitors and residents against COVID-19's spread.
Besides social distancing floor markers and signage, plexiglass barriers are also in place at major points of interaction between travellers and airport staff. All passengers are required by law to wear masks or a face covering in public spaces, including airport terminals, with the exception of passengers under the age of two.
Only ticketed passengers will be allowed inside LPIA's terminals with the exception of persons accompanying minors travelling alone, elderly passengers or those with restricted mobility. Cleaning and sanitation schedules will focus on high touch point areas in the terminals, while nightly cleaning will focus on using fogging machines and electrostatic sprayers to disinfect.
NAD added that seating has been reduced in all LPIA food courts by 30 percent, while new cash handling guidelines are in place to minimise contact at the point of checkout. It is urging passengers to arrive at the airport at least two hours before domestic travel, and three hours before international travel. Arriving early will allow extra time to check in and be processed for boarding.