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Bahamasair targets 20% capacity growth

photo

Tracy Cooper

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

Bahamasair is aiming to increase its fleet’s seat capacity by 20 percent come summer 2024 through adding two new jets, with its top executive describing the carrier as a “safeguard” for airlift and tourism.

Tracy Cooper, the national flag carrier’s managing director, told the Exuma Business Outlook conference that the carrier’s inability to meet all demand during a “strong summer” had prompted it to expand “its arsenal” with another Boeing 737 jet set to arrive within the next three weeks.

And, with a 72-seat ATR turbo prop set to provide a further boost in time for summer 2024, he added that Bahamasair “feels a lot more comfortable” that it will be able to handle passenger demand during next year’s peak travel months.

Mr Cooper said the carrier’s main role is to ensure affordable access to The Bahamas’ for tourists after it was pointed out that Bahamasair’s $315 ticket prices for its new upcoming Fort Lauderdale to Exuma route contrasted sharply with American Airlines charging almost $3,000 to fly between the same island and Miami.

Declining to describe the US airline’s pricing policies as “predatory”, he added that Bahamasair’s main role is to provide “price stabilisation” so that air connectivity between The Bahamas and US always remains open.

And, with Bahamasair seeking to broaden its inter-line partnerships to include Latin American and Caribbean airlines, Mr Cooper urged Exuma resorts to “broaden your horizons a bit and start to think beyond” marketing solely to the US and Canadian market by extending this effort to South America.

“Exuma is one of the beauties of The Bahamas,” the Bahamasair chief said. “We are here to assist in this tourism landscape and stand as a vital bridge between this remarkable destination and the rest of the world.”

With the national flag carrier already flying to Exuma two to three times’ per day via its turbo props, Mr Cooper confirmed airlift expansion by saying: “Starting on November 15, we will start to fly from Exuma to Fort Lauderdale with the intent that we will grow that route over a period of time. We’ll start out kind of marginal until we have traction.”

Confirming that discussions on the imminent airlift expansion have already been held with the Exuma Chamber of Commerce, and other hotel and tourism partners, he added: “We think that it’s a benefit and mutual thing that will definitely benefit the airlift you need. We will start on Wednesday and Saturday as a rotation.”

Mr Cooper said the route’s launch will not only add the flights from Fort Lauderdale but also spark more service to Exuma from Nassau. He added that Bahamasair, over the summer, had discontinued the COVID legacy service into Rock Sound and diverted this to Georgetown because Exuma is “just too strong by itself”.

“Eventually we expect this to grow. We’ll be adding some additional airlift and, once we do that, we expect it will be almost a daily situation going into Fort Lauderdale,” the Bahamasair chief said. “How are we going to be able to support the growth?

“We recognised particularly this summer that we had a strong summer in the airline, and all of the flights were full going into Florida. Bahamians were travelling a lot as well as tourists. We also had load factors in and around the islands, including Exuma, where we could not fulfill all the demand.”

This meant Bahamasair was unable to provide sufficient seat capacity and airlift for multiple festivals that took place in the Family Islands. “We were not putting in the amount of seats they were demanding,” he said.

“Bahamasair is about three weeks away from receiving another 737 jet to add to its arsenal and, before summer 2024, it is our intent to add an additional ATR-72 aircraft. We feel a lot more comfortable we will meet the demand next summer.”

Acknowledging that airlift demand was set to increase further in 2024, as resorts such as the British Colonial re-open and new projects complete their construction, Mr Cooper explained that Bahamasair was a safety valve that can be relied in to expand services if all other carriers fail to do so.

“Bahamsair is the safeguard for airlift coming into The Bahamas, so if no one else goes ahead and expands to meet the product, we will,” he added. The Bahamasair managing director added that the carrier was now forging so-called “inter-line” partnerships with other airlines that do not fly to this nation so it can potentially bring their passengers here from hubs such as Miami.

Such partnerships with the likes of Cayman Airways, Condor Airlines, Virgin Atlantic and Azul are now being developed to open up Latin America and other tourism markets outside the US. As a result, Mr Cooper urged Exuma’s hotels and tourism industry to “think beyond what you’re doing presently. You should kind of broaden your horizons a bit and think beyond what it is you’re doing now”.

Asked about the disparity between Bahamasair and American Airlines’ Exuma ticket prices, he said the affordability and pricing that the national flag carrier provides in opening up airlift and tourism markets is “sometimes taken for granted”.

“I wouldn’t call it predatory pricing. It’s a bit hard to swallow,” the Bahamasair chief said of American Airlines’ costs as quoted. “You’ll never get that from Bahamasair. We’re not about price control. I call it price stability so the affordability of coming to The Bahamas is always there.

“The whole ecosystem of tourism works. You need to get the persons there, and the hotels get their piece of the pie, the tourists get their piece of the pie. If the cost to access is too high, you break the equilibrium you are looking for. That’s introductory pricing, but prices will be in line with pricing for other destinations.”

Mr Cooper said Bahamasair is also working with a third-party provider, EveryMundo, to provide “more seamless interaction” for its passengers when it comes to connecting with other airlines, resorts and tourism partners.

Meanwhile, Sarah Swainson, Maker’s Air’s head of private charters and business development, told the same conference that the carrier - which acquired Staniel Air earlier this year - will offer direct service into Stella Maris, Long Island, beginning on December 14 this year.

Comments

moncurcool 6 months ago

Mr Cooper said the carrier’s main role is to ensure affordable access to The Bahamas’ for tourists after it was pointed out that Bahamasair’s $315 ticket prices for its new upcoming Fort Lauderdale to Exuma route contrasted sharply with American Airlines charging almost $3,000 to fly between the same island and Miami.

Declining to describe the US airline’s pricing policies as “predatory”, he added that Bahamasair’s main role is to provide “price stabilisation” so that air connectivity between The Bahamas and US always remains open.

It is very sad that our journalists do not do investigation before printing things that people spew. A simple search would show that American ticket prices are around $330 to Exuma from Miami.

The $3000 referenced is for a Business class seat on a flight next week. That is expected if that is the last seat available on a flight that is full.

We need to present the facts.

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