Business

Bahamasair doesn’t have to be a burden on govt, says AAAWU president

The Airport, Airline and Allied Workers Union (AAAWU) yesterday criticized the management of Bahamasair for its current position, with the union’s president insisting that measures to cut flights and routes are hurting the airline’s profitability.

Gladstone Adderley said he’s offended when the government speaks of the burden of Bahamasair on its fiscal purse.

While he acknowledged the airline is suffering financially, Adderley charged that it is the fault of the executives of the airline and the Ministry of Tourism.

“We want everything to be fair. We don’t want them to say Bahamasair is a burden on the government when we know better. Bahamasair is only a burden because they place it in that position. This board and chairman failed,” he told Guardian Business.

“What is so sad in this time during a pandemic is that we went up on the tickets to the Family Islands. People there are suffering, but yet they went up on the fare. Then they say, ‘oh it’s hard to keep the flight plan because nobody is flying’. Nobody can fly because you went up on the tickets, plus you cut back on the flights. Southwest and American are now increasing flights to The Bahamas and we’re cutting back our flights. Something has to be wrong with that.”

Minister of State for Finance Kwasi Thompson announced last month that in an effort to reduce Bahamasair’s reliance on government subvention, the airline was granted approval to increase fares and fees. As a result, effective January 4, Bahamasair increased domestic airfare and introduced a new fee for the first checked bag on international flights.

Adderley insisted that if Bahamasair used a greater variety of routes, it would garner more bookings.

“The reason why the airline isn’t making any money is because they don’t want to. We have two aircraft that can go from Nassau to the Pacific Ocean and California and we’re worried about Miami and Fort Lauderdale. These aircraft can go. On Saturday they’re going to a little island in the Pacific Ocean below California on the Mexico side, to bring in a crew and they’re flying non-stop to get them, non-stop back to Abaco. The Ministry of Tourism does not look out for Bahamasair,” he said.

Bahamasair Chairman Tommy Turnquest said since July the government has provided $37.5 million in subventions. He said the airline had been struggling to maintain its commitments to staff because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which brought global travel to a halt and grounded the airline as the country’s borders were ordered closed for the majority of 2020.

AAAWU General Secretary Susan Palmer said executives are only using COVID-19 as an excuse for longstanding issues workers have had.

“Our staff has worked overtime prior to COVID-19, from January or February of last year. They had promised to pay us those funds. But you know with everything they are just saying they can’t due to COVID-19. But we’re seeing things taking place that haven’t been put on the back burner,” she said.

“We’ve really had quite a bit of things challenging us… We have taken pay cuts where we would not have received supplement pay.”

Turnquest admitted this week that the airline was only recently able to pay funds owed to some staff after not being able to since March.

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Paige McCartney

Paige joined The Nassau Guardian in 2010 as a television news reporter and anchor. She has covered countless political and social events that have impacted the lives of Bahamians and changed the trajectory of The Bahamas. Paige started working as a business reporter in August 2016. Education: Palm Beach Atlantic University in 2006 with a BA in Radio and Television News

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