American Airlines announced that it will resume international flights to Nassau and Exuma beginning July 7, according to a Ministry of Tourism and Aviation (MOTA) statement. Meantime, the Nassau Airport Development Company (NAD) revealed in a press release that it has developed reactivation plans in anticipation of the return of commercial traffic to Lynden Pindling International Airport (LPIA).
MOTA said while it continues to follow guidance from the Ministry of Health and other agencies on the coronavirus (COVID-19), its Tourism Readiness and Recovery Committee is developing a collaborative plan for reopening the tourism sector. The government stated that it hopes to open the country’s borders by July 1.
“The committee collected and considered feedback from every type of business and tourism touchpoint, from airlines and cruise ports, to hotels, taxi drivers, tour operators and retailers, to name a few,” the MOTA statement noted.
“The intent is to provide health and safety guidelines and protocols to be followed consistently across the country that allow businesses to protect employees and guests.
“At this point in time, the July 1 reopening date is tentative and subject to change based on COVID-19 trends, namely, if there is a deterioration in improvement or if the government and health organizations determine that the protocols and procedures are not in place sufficiently to warrant an opening.”
NAD noted in its statement that airlines, commercial tenants and government entities have consolidated recommendations from Ministry of Health officials, the United States’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization and the Pan American Health Organisation in order to ready the country’s national gateway for an uptick in commercial traffic with COVID-19 in mind.
President and Chief Executive Officer of NAD Vernice Walkine said all entities at LPIA will have to adhere to the airport’s new operating procedures.
“As we move closer to accommodating more commercial traffic at LPIA, we are being guided by the advice of local medical professionals,” said Walkine.
“We’re also working closely within the Vantage Airport Group network of ten global airports, to share best practices for implementing new protocols in a dynamic airport environment.
“We are putting the necessary measures in place to ensure the safety of our employees, passengers, and airport partners. Once commercial travel ramps up, there will be visible and necessary changes to the way we conduct business in terminal. Even with the changes, our commitment to providing the best experience for LPIA users remains the same.”
NAD stated it will employ floor markers and signage at check-in areas, security checkpoints, customs and immigration halls, and retail and food and beverage spaces to ensure passengers follow proper social distance protocols. It also added that only traveling passengers and airport employees will be allowed in terminals.
According to NAD, seating in areas has already been reduced by about 30 percent; stanchions and barriers have been added to limit crowding; and plexiglass barriers are to be installed in check-in halls in Terminal A and Terminal C and at boarding gates.
“Additional barriers will be installed in Bahamas Customs, Bahamas Immigration and at the rental car facility to reduce the potential transmission of COVID-19 between passengers and airport workers,” NAD’s statement pointed out.
“In accordance with emergency orders currently in place, all airport workers and passengers will be required to wear a mask or facial covering inside the airport terminals. Amenities such as the water fountains and children’s play areas will remain closed until further notice.”
Vice President of Operations Deborah Coleby added in the release that automated hand sanitizer stations have been increased and cleaning measures throughout LPIA’s facilities have been enhanced.
“LPIA is known for its attention to detail as it relates to cleaning and our high customer satisfaction ratings speak to this,” said Coleby.
“We’ve escalated the cleaning regimen in terminal by utilizing hospital grade EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) approved disinfectants which have been proven to kill 99.99 percent of viruses and germs.”
The MOTA revealed a list of hotels hoping to open July 1, including Meliá Nassau Beach, Atlantis, Baha Mar, Sandals Royal Bahamian, Bay View Suites Paradise Island, and Comfort Suites Paradise Island.
“The Ministry of Tourism & Aviation believes it is an absolute baseline requirement for consumers to have a comfort level that The Bahamas is a safe and healthy destination to visit, and our ultimate goal is for that to remain the case,” MOTA stated.