After four years of negotiations, The Bahamas signed an air service agreement (ASA) with the United States yesterday, setting a shared regulatory regime governing how foreign air carriers provide services to the country.
The signing of this most recent agreement means that The Bahamas has now successfully concluded 23 ASAs.
“These agreements pave the way for future economic growth and increased airlift between the respective countries. Additionally, these air service agreements provide financial incentives and internationally agreed rules and regulations, which govern how a foreign carrier from a specific country can provide service to The Bahamas, either directly or via a code share arrangement,” Minister of Tourism and Aviation Dionisio D’Aguilar said at the official signing ceremony for the agreement yesterday at the British Colonial Hilton hotel.
“As a result, when a foreign carrier expresses an interest in commencing air service to The Bahamas, the regulatory regime is already in place and service can commence expeditiously, without undue bureaucratic delays. It also provides the same opportunity to our Bahamian-designated airlines to operate under this agreement into the United States and any other country with which these agreements have been executed.”
This new agreement also comes as the country seeks to complete another 28 ASAs within the next year.
A delegation of Bahamian aviation officials traveled to Aqaba, Jordan last month to attend the fifth annual International Civil Aviation Organization Air Services Negotiation Conference (ICAN), where they signed memoranda of understanding (MOU) with eight countries and “agreed minutes” with two.
“The international civil aviation air services event (ICAN) proved to be a game changer in allowing countries to negotiate agreements expeditiously. The Bahamas has participated in ICAN meetings since 2015 and we also served as host to the ICAN negotiations event in December 2016. The ASAs, some 22 of which we have signed with other countries, have not only opened a pathway for expanded commerce and economic activity between The Bahamas and the respective countries, but they have also served to strengthen foreign relations with those countries,” Minister of Foreign Affairs Darren Henfield said yesterday at the ceremony.
“I am told that, in addition to the 22 full-fledged ASAs that we have signed, there are other agreements that will eventually lead to ASAs in the not-too-distant future; these include four agreed minutes, one airline designation, two code share agreements, and 28 MOUs between The Bahamas and other countries, to date.”
ASAs allow international commercial air transport services between countries that have signed such agreements, and they tend to cover a wide range of aviation issues, such as security, safety oversight, airworthiness, navigation, environmental protection and passenger services at airports.
Also present at yesterday’s signing ceremony was U.S. Department of State Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs Manisha Singh and U.S. Department of Transportation Deputy Assistant Secretary David Short, who called the United States’ agreement with The Bahamas an important step toward deepening ties between the two countries.
“It benefits our trade and commerce. I want to underscore how important the U.S. and The Bahamas’ relationship is right now, I think we’re at a pivotal moment and we can make it even stronger. We know that you are our partner and our ally on every front and I want to make sure you know that we bring the support of the Trump administration and the U.S. government to this long-lasting relationship, which is going to get even deeper and better over the decades to come,” Singh said.
Short added, “It’s also important that we enter into this agreement because The Bahamas is our neighbor and I would venture to say it’s our most important neighbor with which we do not share a land border. And for that reason, aviation is an especially important mode of transport. Close to 90 percent of the arrivals by air are from us. We are convinced the agreement will be a win-win for both The Bahamas and the United States, just as it has been for the over 125 other countries around the world that have chosen to partner with the U.S. in a liberalized agreement of this nature.”
U.S. Embassy Chargé d’Affaires Stephanie Bowers said the agreement is about more than just simple economics, allowing stopover visitors – the vast majority of whom are U.S. citizens – to deepen their understanding of The Bahamas.
“It is my firm belief that this deeper understanding will lead to stronger, more enduring ties, including exciting new opportunities for both our countries through the Family Islands. The agreement we are signing today will also help the United States to continue attracting Bahamians to our shores as we all know Bahamians have made many important contributions to the United States, whether in business, sports or entertainment,” she said.
“And Bahamians also contribute to our economy whether purchasing our goods and services or attending our universities. With this agreement we look forward to the increased Bahamian tourism, commerce and investment to the United States that enhanced commercial air services will bring.”