Admitting that last Saturday was a learning experience, Bahamasair Chairman Tommy Turnquest insisted yesterday that those large crowds seen backed up at Lynden Pindling International Airport (LPIA) were not solely the airline’s fault.
Videos circulated widely on social media showed hundreds of travelers queuing in long lines at LPIA’s international departures terminal over the weekend.
Minister of Tourism Dionisio D’Aguilar in The Tribune on Monday attributed the backlog to Bahamasair’s management having difficulty checking in travelers in a timely manner.
When contacted by Guardian Business yesterday, Turnquest said he is quite frankly tired of people piling onto Bahamasair when it’s not just them causing an issue.
“So last Saturday was a learning experience, but it wasn’t just Bahamasair, it was also American. And then after they finished checking in there was a bottleneck at security. NAD didn’t have sufficient security agents on, so let’s be fair to the process. Everybody likes to pile onto Bahamasair but it wasn’t just Bahamasair’s issue,” he said.
“I wouldn’t say we were caught off guard because we knew they were coming, we were just overwhelmed by them coming all at once.”
Saturday marked one week since Royal Caribbean International set sail from Nassau’s cruise port for the first time with The Bahamas as its home port. More than 1200 cruise passengers had to pass through LPIA before boarding the cruise and after disembarking. Turnquest said about 380 of those travelers were Bahamasair passengers.
“You know 350 people descended on the airport at the same time. I don’t know if the movement of 600 people coming off the ship to travel back when the ship landed at 7 p.m. had an impact. So they all came to the airport around the same time. You know we had essentially 380 passengers for Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Orlando and so the issue was that all descended at the airport at the same time,” he admitted.
“It became quite overwhelming. It was busy. We had all the stations manned, we brought extra persons on, but the check-in process means they have to go through some checks, then they have to pay for some bags and so the process took a while to get through everyone.”
Following Saturday’s hiccups, Bahamasair said for its part it has implemented a new strategy to streamline the check-in process.
“As a result of our internal meetings at Bahamasair and the meeting that I just referred to with Royal Caribbean and NAD, we have agreed that we are going to pre-check in those persons before they leave the ship, so that when they get to the airport, really all they have to do is show identification, bring their bags and pay for their bags if they haven’t already paid for them online,” he said.
“We’re trying to encourage them to pay for them online. We’ll have a separate, dedicated line for Fort Lauderdale, a separate one for Miami and a separate one for Orlando. We’ll have everyone’s documents in alphabetical order so that we will be able to process them very quickly.”