More than three months after Hurricane Dorian destroyed Grand Bahama International Airport (GBIA), the facility welcomed its first commercial flight from the United States on Tuesday.
The Bahamasair Boeing 737 jet used for the flight brought 138 passengers from Tennessee who are participating in the 21st Annual Tabernacle Falcons Thanksgiving Basketball Classic, which is being held at Tabernacle Baptist Christian Academy this week.
“It was an exciting day for Grand Bahama on Tuesday, November 26, as the island welcomed its first official international flight to the fixed-base operators (FBO) at Grand Bahama International Airport since the passing of Hurricane Dorian,” the Ministry of Tourism said in a press release.
“The girls’ and boys’ high school basketball teams, along with their coaches and chaperones, were welcomed with much fanfare. Each guest received a personal greeting from various industry officials upon disembarking the aircraft and upon exiting the airport, they were treated to a Bahamas Goombay Punch soda and the sweet sounds of Junkanoo music, provided by the Platinum Knights.”
GBIA sustained catastrophic damage during the passage of the Category 5 storm, which devastated East Grand Bahama in early September with storm surges that swept seven to eight-foot waves of water over the airport.
It is estimated the cost of damage to the property is $40 million.
Last month, Acting Chairman of the Grand Bahama Port Authority – which co-owns the airport – Sarah St. George said the facility would be prepared to welcome international flights by mid-November.
The government is now in discussion to possibly purchase the airport.
On Tuesday, Grand Bahama’s Ministry of Tourism and Aviation General Manager Steven Johnson called the flight’s arrival on the island a major event.
“It was important for us to welcome this first commercial international flight since Hurricane Dorian. Every opportunity to put heads in beds in Grand Bahama is more important now than ever,” Johnson said.
“Also, we didn’t want to disappoint the students and families, who look forward to competing in The Bahamas every year and we felt that this year was particularly important for the local students and families.”
More participants in the tournament arrived on Grand Bahama yesterday via Bahamas Paradise Cruise Lines’ Grand Celebration cruise ship. The teams will stay at the Island Seas Resort.
This is the first time the team, which normally travels to Grand Bahama for the tournament on a charter flight, utilized Bahamasair. That’s because Tabernacle Baptist Christian Academy Principal Norris Bain reached out to various government officials to assist with securing travel arrangements for the visiting teams.
“As a Grand Bahamian, I feel really, really proud to have been a part of the first international flight to hit the island since Dorian. That really gave me a great sense of pride,” he said.
“There’s so much more we can do on this island,” Bain said. “I’m not going to be one of those on the side complaining. I’m going to try to partner with the Ministry of Tourism, if they’ll let me, and try to bring more events to our island and try to see if this will be the first of many flights to come to Grand Bahama.”
Two hundred visitors are expected to be on the island over the duration of the tournament, making a direct and positive impact on that island’s local economy.