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Butler: More govt confidence needed in local carriers

Pursuing outside operators to provide services that can be carried out by local airlines is something that should be re-evaluated, according to the head of a domestic carrier.

President of SkyBahamas Randy Butler told Guardian Business yesterday that smaller carriers brought on from outside the country to operate flights isn’t the only option available for the aviation sector.  He is encouraging the government to dip into the local pool of carriers instead.

“A situation shouldn’t exist where the government looks for outside airlines to come and operate and encourage them to come and offer a service that local carriers are fully capable of carrying out,” Butler said. “The local carriers, who are here every day, are not approached and more confidence should be placed in us, so we can grow our operations along with the aviation sector.”

Butler added that the main advantage of choosing local carriers over foreign ones is keeping the monetary gains inside of the country — a portion of the funds earned by international airlines exits The Bahamas.  Doing so, according to Butler, will stimulate the aviation sector and create more benefits across the board for those involved in the industry domestically.

The upside of bringing in an international airline according to industry experts is the marketability and brand of those foreign companies.  The most recent international carrier to start offering services to The Bahamas is Vision Airlines, which will be providing non-stop flights in the fall from five different U.S. cities to Grand Bahama.  Those operations will bring around 100,000 available seats to that island annually. Butler admitted the small carriers should be competing against larger, more established ones, but he believes that the local airlines can still be actively involved in the sector in spite of the additional airlift coming from the bigger players.

“Any public/private partnership should be looked into, especially where you have a link with domestic tourism and large carriers,” he said.  ”If a plan is introduced where large carriers can collaborate with some of the smaller domestic carriers to offer flights to the Family Islands when visitors arrive, then that could be an effective promotion that benefits the aviation sector and tourism on the islands. We now have Copa Airlines coming here and if we could get involved in some capacity then it would be an effective long-term strategy.”

The SkyBahamas chief mentioned that a plan similar to his suggestion would fall in line with Minister of Tourism and Aviation Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace’s plan to promote travel to the Out Islands.

“Air transport is the link to these Family Islands, when you have the minster encouraging tourists traveling to the Out Islands the local carriers are the key.”

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