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Airline says fix airport or we pull out of route

Minister of Works and Family Island Affairs Clay Sweeting.

Minister of Works and Family Island Affairs Clay Sweeting.

  • Minister: Gov’t had two months to address concern
  • Otherwise airline would halt direct route expansion
  • Governor’s Harbour gets $6m; now for Rock Sound

By JEFAY SIMMONS

Tribune Reporter

jsimmons@tribunemedia.net

A Cabinet minister yesterday revealed that American Airlines threatened to pull out of its Governor’s Harbour route expansion if $6m in airport upgrades were not completed within two months.

Clay Sweeting, minister of works and Family Island affairs, told the Eleuthera Business Outlook conference he had barely been appointed to his new Cabinet position when he received a November 2023 phone call warning that the US carrier would back away from flying directly to Governor’s Harbour three times a week from Miami if the airport improvements were not completed by January 27.

He disclosed the drama in answering a question from Kerry Fountain, the Bahamas Out Island Promotion Board’s executive director, who queried when upgrades would be carried out to another of Eleuthera’s airports at Rock Sound. Until this happened, Rock Sound will remain rated ‘tier two” by US aviation regulators, which serves as a deterrent to airlines such as Maker’s Air offering more frequent service.

“I think that sometimes people look at number two and not what the potential is,” Mr Sweeting replied. “So the tier level really doesn’t matter to me because Governor’s Harbour is tier two, too. I don’t know if you knew that they only moved it to tier one when I agitated a little bit.

“So I got a phone call in November. They said: ‘Look, American said if that airport isn’t done by January 27, they will pull out’. So being the new minister of works, that’s how the airport got done so quickly. Because if that wasn’t done by January 27, American Airlines travelling to Governors, what you now know as their three flights a week, would have never happened. So sometimes things have to be done like that.”

Mr Sweeting pledged that Rock Sound’s airport will be upgraded, adding that an assessment had been conducted and a price tag subsequently developed for essential runway repairs. However, he warned that the improvements will not be to the same level as Governor’s Harbour’s Airport unless a major airline such as American makes a commitment to use it frequently.

He added: “We will do some upgrades there. I can’t promise that it will be to a level of Governor’s unless we have a commitment from an airline. Then we can have that discussion because you’re looking at how the Government will return its money, not necessarily direct to pocket but throughout our investment through the constituency or in South Eleuthera.

“So we are continuing to discuss, and if we can get some commitment I’m sure that we have room maybe for more expansion than just a renovation”. Mr Sweeting explained his main concern lies with the runway, which has already been assessed and priced for repair

He said: “Rock Sound does need some upgrades. The main concern for me is the runway. We’ve already had it assessed. We got a quote on what it would cost to redo the runway. The challenge for government, I think, is finding a way to…

“We have three international airports in Eleuthera and, at one point they wanted to close one and amalgamate it with another. And I say you must not want me to get reelected next time… But I think we have to find ways, and sometimes government looks at more elaborate plans, which are more costly, instead of functionality. We had a Cabinet paper this week that spoke about the development of airports and which ones need development and whatever.”

Comments

sheeprunner12 1 month ago

Eleuthera has THREE international airports and Long Island has NONE.

Yet, the New Day PLP deprived Long Island of its upgrade to at least have a shot at having one decent airport.

They are shameless and vindictive. No good.

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moncurcool 1 month ago

And why does Eleuthera need 3 is beyond me,

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bahamianson 1 month ago

No surprise here. All government agencies provide sub standard service, this is no different.

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moncurcool 1 month ago

“I think that sometimes people look at number two and not what the potential is,” Mr Sweeting replied. “So the tier level really doesn’t matter to me because Governor’s Harbour is tier two, too. I don’t know if you knew that they only moved it to tier one when I agitated a little bit.

What in the world does this mean? These ministers need to really think before they speak.

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