Grand Bahama News

Another step toward ‘normal’ at GBIA

New operating hours came into effect on Monday

Following the switch to Daylight Saving Time on Sunday, new operating hours at Grand Bahama International Airport (GBIA) came into effect on Monday, much to the delight of commercial airlines, private carriers and frequent flyers.

Grand Bahama News learned last week that Freeport Airport Development Company (FADC) made the decision to implement the new hours beginning March 13.

“I can confirm that effective Monday 13, the hours of operation at Freeport’s airport will be 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. and for the private airport/Fixed Base Operators (FBO), the hours will be 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily,” said FADC board member Forrester Carroll, when contacted by GB News.

A notice was also sent to FADC stakeholders apprising them of the change.

Sherrexcia Rolle, vice president of operations and general counsel of Western Air, said her company was notified that the hours will be adjusted.

“We understand that it would apply to all operators and users of the airport, including Western,” Rolle said. 

“We think this is a positive change and a step in the right direction to ensure passengers are offered the flight time flexibility they desire. We look forward to continuing to restore pre-pandemic normalcy to our Freeport operations, especially with the reopening of the terminal in the coming weeks.

“The airport operational hours are a factor in this restoration and we are glad to see it’s been adjusted.”

GBIA’s original operating hours were from 5 a.m. to midnight. Then, the hours switched to 5 a.m. to 10 p.m., then later to 8 p.m.

After Hurricane Dorian, planes could not take off or land after 6 p.m.

In an article by this publication in July 2022, commercial and private aircraft operators complained that after the airport’s renovation and reopening in 2019, the pre-storm hours of operation should have been reinstated.

Bahamian corporate pilot Mark Albury believes the airport’s closing time was stifling business and the island’s economic rebound.

“You can’t as a businessperson go into Nassau and put in a day’s work with the intent of catching a late flight back to Freeport and vice versa,” he said.

Incoming flights, provided by Bahamasair and Western Air, arrived at 5:30 p.m. and travelers were advised to be at the airport for 3 p.m. to clear security checks. This meant that tourists or guests trying to come to Freeport, via Nassau flights – as direct flights to GB were limited – often missed the times and were forced to overnight in the capital.

At the time, Albury questioned, “How are we supposed to build the economy and build Grand Bahama back? How do we accomplish that like this?”

When contacted for comment regarding the extension of operating hours at GBIA, Airport Authority Acting General Manager Peter Rutherford said, “Freeport Airport Development Company (FADC) is aggressively working towards increasing operational hours at GBIA, in an effort to facilitate the safe travels of the flying public to and from the island.”

Rutherford said safety and security are priority for airport executives.

“It is incumbent on management to ensure that all the necessary aviation systems that are required to fully support night operations, particularly during severe weather, are in place.”

Lyn Farrington, owner of LF’s Catering, called the extended operational hours “great news”.

“I travel to Nassau and the US frequently, and having to either cut my business short or overnight was becoming very expensive,” Farrington said.

She added, “I was very frustrated with them shutting down at 6 p.m. You could not book any late flights … but at least now we have a little more freedom, even though it’s only to 8 p.m.”

Lawrence Rolle, a pilot, believes the extension of the hours is long overdue, particularly for the private carriers and travelers.

Additionally, Rolle noted the fact that new modular units installed on the airport grounds will finally be open is “great news”.

The units were completed last year to accommodate customs and immigration departments at the private section of the airport.

Prior to the units being placed in the private area, pilots and travelers were forced to clear customs and immigration in the open.  

After complaints, due to products and people having to endure the elements – rain, hot sun – tents were erected, but now the modular units will be utilized.

“This is good to hear,” Rolle said.

“We’ve been through a lot since the storm. So, while we don’t have an actual concrete building, there is a facility where we can conduct business properly instead of outside.”

FADC’s administrative office is housed in one of the units. The remaining units will house customs and immigration offices for the private passengers and cargo clearance.

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