Bahamasair revealed it experienced a definite uptick in load factors over the weeks leading to the Easter holiday period, with all of its flights booked to capacity.
Bahamasair Chairman Tommy Turnquest said the bulk of travelers on the airline were locals traveling to the Family Islands and South Florida.
The full flights are an about turn to the load factors during the months of January and February, when Bahamasair reported very slow bookings at only 25 percent of what they were during the same period a year earlier.
“Based on the load factors that I have noticed over the past week, we had a fairly good Easter holiday weekend in terms of flights into Florida and the Family Islands. It seems as if lots of people traveled over the Easter holiday weekend,” Turnquest said in an interview with Guardian Business yesterday.
‘‘It’s hard to say without doing a full analysis, but my initial review of it is that it’s local travel to the Family Islands and locals traveling to South Florida. One of the issues we have had with our South Florida flight is getting it out on time and a large part of that is a lot of Bahamians are traveling on their police certificates. And the question is with only one flight a day we can’t afford to leave someone if we can avoid it. So we have been holding back some of those flights to make sure they can make the flights. There were some delays as a result of that but by and large, particularly on Thursday and Friday, they got off on time.”
Bahamasair made $1.7 million in revenue during the month of December, after experiencing an uptick in travel demand for holiday travel.
While it was only a fraction of the $6.7 million the airline made during December 2019, the tourism sector had only been open officially for one month at that time after several months of COVID-19 lockdown protocols and travel restrictions.
Unable to say specifically how much the airline has earned in revenue during this uptick in travel, due in part to the normally busy spring break travel period, Turnquest said he believes it is well over the amount earned during the earlier months this year.
“In January and February we saw revenues of around $700,000-$900,000 or thereabout. So during March, early April because of how Easter fell, I expect the number to be a little higher than that $900,000. Definitely just based on the load factor. There’s a tremendous amount of pent up demand,” he said.
“We have seen an uptick in revenue, yes, but we are nowhere near 2019 levels. Secondly, Bahamasair owes a lot of people. The pandemic really has put us in a situation where millions of dollars are owed. So, it’s going to take a while to get out of it. We have been able – with the assistance of government that tasked us – not to furlough any employees and so we haven’t done that. The government has provided additional subvention to ensure that we are able to pay salaries.”
Up until February, Bahamasair offered just one daily flight into Fort Lauderdale and one into Orlando, however to meet demand for this season, Turnquest said Bahamasair added an afternoon flight into Fort Lauderdale and added a Miami flight to the itinerary.
“On Friday we had an afternoon flight going into Fort Lauderdale, we’ve added a flight into Miami in the evening, so we have added some flights. We think we are going to be able to sustain it moving forward. We’re going to watch it closely,” he said.
“Yes, the flights were full. We’ve been very pleased with that.”
Turnquest said Bahamasair is banking on a busy June and July, when Bahamians typically travel for the summer to “hold us for the rest of the year”.
He said he believes load factors will pick up the more Bahamians get vaccinated.