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Bahamasair’s Cuba, Haiti return covers local ‘shortfall’

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

Bahamasair’s managing director last night said holiday bookings for travel to the US are producing 60 percent load factors “and climbing”, adding: “Anything is a big boost.”

Tracy Cooper told Tribune Business he was optimistic that passenger occupancies on routes to the US will hit the 75 percent to 80 percent mark as the calendar moves closer to the Thanksgiving and Christmas/New Year holidays.

While these load factors remain below pre-pandemic levels, the Bahamasair chief said the national flag carrier had this week seen “a very significant” impact from the resumption of its highest-yielding and greatest occupancy routes respectively - Haiti and Cuba.

Bahamasair had resumed flying to Cape Haitien this Tuesday past, and will restart service to Port-au-Prince on Sunday - taking its service to Haiti to two flights per week. As for Cuba, it has this week begun flying to Havana and Holguin twice weekly each, making a total of four flights per week.

The national flag carrier had been flying six times per week to Cuba prior to the pandemic, and three times per week to Haiti but, although this frequency has been cut for now, Mr Cooper voiced optimism that the return of these revenue streams will enable the airline to slash the record $78.2m taxpayer subsidy it received to keep it afloat in the 2020-2021 fiscal year.

“What Haiti does for us is that it’s our highest-yielding route,” he explained. “And Cuba, with the US travel restrictions in place, there’s a high demand for going there. We expect those flights going to Cuba to be full all the time, relatively full. Anything for Bahamasair right now given that we’re recovering from COVID-19 is a big boost..... 

“They will contribute some significant returns for us at this time. Going to Haiti we were usually seeing 65 percent load factors.” Mr Cooper said the return of much of Bahamasair’s international routes beyond the US would help to compensate for slack in its domestic market.

“Over the year, and especially summer time, we were around 65 percent,” he added of the average load factor. “The issue with us is the domestic market is still not as strong as pre-COVID. It is still showing some hesitancy on Bahamians moving around The Bahamas, so we are depending on the international routes to pick up some of the shortfall.”

Aided by cruise line home porting in The Bahamas, Mr Cooper said load factors on US routes into Florida averaged around 85 percent over summer 2021. While Bahamasair, thanks to US travel restrictions, had resumed flying to Cuba this week with relatively full planes, he added that Haiti would take longer to rebuild as word about the end to the emergency orders is just getting out.

“We’re operating all routes at this time; it’s just a matter of frequency,” the Bahamasair managing director said. “That will take time to rebuild, especially with domestic. It will take some time for us to get back the demand that we had before.

“Now The Bahamas is open, and we have a better grading from the CDC [the US ‘do not travel’ advisory has been removed], we anticipate the numbers going up.” Mr Cooper said he expected inter-island travel to be positively impacted by the return of Virgin Atlantic flights from the UK, as well as the continued presence of British Airways.

“The bookings are as expected,” he added of the upcoming holiday season. “We anticipate Christmas, and Thanksgiving going into Black Friday, and everything after that to be positive. The bookings right now are definitely starting to show an upward trend, so we expect to have a reasonably good Christmas.

“In domestic bookings to go to the US, bookings are well over 60 percent and climbing. As we start getting closer to the date and things like that, I would not be surprised if we are looking at 75 percent to 80 percent. We were probably a little higher than that pre-COVID for Christmas.”

Comments

tribanon 10 months, 1 week ago

And just think, no worries about all of the Wuhan virus cases in Haiti and Cuba being brought to our shores. Kind of makes you think what all of the hell Minnis put us through was really about, eh? And now Darville wants to try pick-up where Minnis left off. LOL

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