When Bahamasair is clear to fly again, the airline could take to the skies at only 67 percent capacity in its largest aircraft, in order to allow passengers to socially distance themselves, Bahamasair Chairman Tommy Turnquest told Guardian Business yesterday, adding that the airline’s management is contemplating how the removal of the seats could affect prices.
Turnquest said the airline is running through its options to see how best to continue to guard against any spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) when flights resume, with the removal of seats being a downside proposition.
“That, in itself, gives a disadvantage that we start off at,” said Turnquest.
“We’ve always looked at it, even when we were flying at the end of March.”
He added that the airline was also sanitizing and cleaning its planes thoroughly at the end of March to guard against COVID-19.
But Turnquest said moving forward, turnaround times for the airline – notorious for being off schedule – will likely be longer because of new cleaning protocols.
“Obviously, we’ve got to redo our schedules to allow for longer turnaround times, because it’s not now a quick turnaround,” he said.
“We have to do more cleaning, making sure that the cabin is safe for incoming passengers on the next flight, as well as our crew which continues on. It’s tough times.”
According to Turnquest, the airline has been mandated to do what it must to preserve its staff and salaries, but Bahamasair has also been a burden to the public coffers since its inception. Now, with no revenue coming in since its planes were grounded and with thinning revenues on the horizon in the medium term because of the virus, the airline will continue to be a strain on taxpayers.
“I think there are some fundamental ways in which we can maximize our revenues and curtail some of our costs, some of our wastage. We’ve got to look at some processes and see how we can do them better,” said Turnquest.
“You have to look at the crisis in terms of how can I make the most out of it in terms of my strategic planning and so on.
“Management has been mandated to look at the way we do things, the way we utilize our team members and see, can we do it better? Can we do it more efficiently?”
He added that Bahamasair will also have to look at its routes and decide whether to keep all of the destinations it flies to, while maintaining mandated intra-country routes.
“We know we have a mandate in terms of the Family Islands and that’s why we get the subvention, because we have to go to the Family Islands,” Turnquest said.
“But over and above that, we need to look at where else we go and why we go there and the times we go there, the aircraft that we use and how we’re selling it.
“And, so, you know in tough times, it’s up to management to make it work.
“Anybody could manage in good times. It’s the tough times. We’re trying to see how best we can do that.”
Bahamasair has also been used to dictate the cost of travel to The Bahamas by keeping its fares low. Turnquest said Bahamasair will have to continue to carry that mantle, so that competing airlines do not drive the cost of travel to these islands up too high.
“If Bahamasair just allowed the market to dictate, fares could go up to $500 or $600,” he said.