Bahamasair Chairman Tommy Turnquest indicated yesterday that the airline is on standby for whenever the determination is made to bring Bahamians home. He did not specify when the national air carrier intends to fly again.
On March 27, the government expanded its border closure to include all incoming individuals into the country, including citizens and residents, which left hundreds of Bahamians stranded abroad and their families begging for special considerations to be made.
However, the government remained firm in its position to keep the borders closed in an effort to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
“Bahamasair is involved in a committee that the government has set up. An official from Bahamasair has been meeting with members of the government, and so once a final determination is made, Bahamasair will be involved,” Turnquest told Guardian Business yesterday.
“In terms of the specifics and the details, I really can’t tell you that.”
Asked if the airline was preparing to fly in the near future, Turnquest said, “We would love to assist bringing Bahamians home. I can’t say more than that at this stage.”
The government has come under scrutiny after it was revealed last week that Americans traveling on a private aircraft were allowed to enter the country without a negative COVID-19 test, which was a mandated requirement for all foreigners, residents and citizens to return to The Bahamas.
In a national address yesterday, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis said “citizens and legal residents of The Bahamas, the latter with a home in The Bahamas, will be permitted entry into The Bahamas via air travel to New Providence or Grand Bahama unless approved otherwise”.
He continued, “Those individuals in these categories are to make contact with the nearest Bahamas embassy or consulate to them. Aircraft and airlines proposing to carry such individuals are required to make flight applications in the normal course to the Department of Civil Aviation.”
Turnquest said yesterday that Bahamasair has not made new arrangements at this time, but has already discussed safe flying protocols.
“We haven’t finalized those plans as yet, but in terms of protocols there will have to be a requirement to wear masks. That goes without saying. What we haven’t determined is how we’re going to utilize seating on the plane. So for example, in our 737s we have 60 seats across, two on each side of the isles. On the 500s there are 20 rows, so what is likely to happen is we’re likely to give up 20 seats on that plane so that there are no middle seats. That’s our initial thought. As I understand from a previous meeting, and I’m not on the committee, there is some thought in even having less than four across, so we will have to see,” he said.
Bahamasair grounded its entire fleet shortly after the prime minister announced a national state of emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic.