Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Leader Philip Brave Davis yesterday blasted the government after it was revealed that three of Bahamasair’s jets cannot fly into the United States due to a lack of proper navigation systems.
“The minister responsible for Bahamasair must address immediately, in the full glare of public view, how Bahamasair finds itself in this position,” Davis said at a press conference at PLP headquarters.
“The minister must have known that this was coming and failed to advise his colleagues of the need to address what was coming. Our suspicion is that political dithering landed us in this position; failing to make the hard decisions about the airline’s future.”
He added, “This development with Bahamasair is yet another example of the FNM (Free National Movement) dropping the ball and letting the Bahamian people down.”
When contacted yesterday, Minister of Tourism and Aviation Dionisio D’Aguilar directed The Guardian to Bahamasair Chairman Tommy Turnquest.
Three of Bahamasair’s 737 classics missed a January 1 deadline to be equipped with navigational kits required by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), because the supplier did not provide them in time, Turnquest said on Thursday.
As a result, he said Bahamasair is using its ATR planes to fulfill flight services into south Florida, while the jets continue scheduled flights into the Family Islands and Haiti.
He said the airline found a new supplier and expects the navigational kits to be here and installed by March.
Turnquest insisted there has been no disruption of Bahamasair’s flight services.
When contacted yesterday, Turnquest said, “We have nine aircraft.
“Six are able to fly into America. In fact, the other three are able to fly in as well, except the requirements to do so are so onerous that we prefer not to put the schedule at risk, because it means you have to seek approval every time right before you fly in.
“We have repositioned our aircraft on different routes and so those three planes that would have ordinarily gone into the United States are now going elsewhere. In fact, one of those planes is going on a heavy maintenance program at a maintenance facility in Costa Rica beginning today.
“So, no one is being inconvenienced. Our schedule is being maintained and we’re continuing to operate.”
However, Davis said he believes the issues will cause more delays for the airline and said it will likely lose money as it tries to remedy the problem.
“The government expects us to believe that with passenger numbers traditionally down in the first quarter, they are going to burn fuel to fly 10 to 40 people on a 128-seat jet to our Family Islands,” he said.
“How is that financially sensible or sustainable?”
While admitting that the PLP was aware of the FAA navigational system requirement during its last term, Davis said they did not upgrade the navigation systems on those jets because they were still deciding whether or not they would keep the jets in question, or replace them with newer ones.
“In our reorganization and development program for Bahamasair, we were considering whether or not we wanted to keep those aircraft, and what kind of fleet we were going to acquire for the purposes of what we wanted to do insofar as our expansion of routes was concerned,” he said.
Turnquest said the PLP should not try to make this into a political issue.
“It would be good if Brave and those would not try to make a political football out of something that doesn’t exist as a political issue,” he said.