Knowles: COVID-19 restrictions impacting LPIA traffic

Though far from a ghost town, Lynden Pindling International Airport is oddly quiet nowadays, a top airport official lamented yesterday.

LPIA Vice President of Marketing and Commercial Development Jan Knowles said “it’s odd” when asked about the movement of passengers in and out of the country’s main gateway yesterday.

While in August 2019, LPIA saw 204,418 passengers travel through the airport, Knowles noted that in August 2020, there were just 4,296 passengers.

“Basically, the airport has been very quiet. We continue to be open and we still have flights on a daily basis, whether they are US and international flights or domestic flights. Our domestic operations pretty much restarted with the change in COVID-19 orders, but we’re seeing a slow but steady flow of passengers coming, arriving and departing from the Family Islands,” she told Guardian Business yesterday.

“And then, of course, we have limited US flights. We have almost daily flights into Florida, a couple of times a week into Charlotte, but very limited flights, certainly not what we are accustomed to, but we continue to provide as good a service as we could to the limited passengers that we do have.”

Like other airports around the world, LPIA has lost significant traffic due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated travel restrictions.

Knowles said while the airport saw a pickup in July when the country first reopened its borders, things slowed nearly completely after the second lockdown was announced.

Figures that Knowles shared with Guardian Business showed there were 207,211 passengers traveling through LPIA in July 2019, and 30,176 in July 2020.

“So, for instance, back in July, when we were open, we saw a return of more than 10-15 percent of our traffic on the international side,” she said.

“Certainly, if we had remained open, we would have seen a greater increase in traffic in August because we had more flights scheduled, but once we shut down, that changed things.”

Despite these low passenger numbers, Knowles said the airport’s airline partners are confident things will rebound, dependent on how the government manages the COVID-19 crisis.

“Airlines are coming in with persons, or they’re leaving with persons who are returning, or Bahamians who may be traveling for whatever emergency purposes. But we’re not seeing the volumes of passengers, understandably, that we typically see. That doesn’t mean, though, that the desire to come to The Bahamas is not there,” she said.

“We look at the flights that are on sale for the months of October and November and there are significant flights that are on sale in the system, however as we get closer to the time, what would make those flights a reality is our management of COVID-19, because if we have the same restrictions, if there aren’t changes in terms of entry requirements, then you will find that those flights will go away. But certainly, The Bahamas is always a desired destination. We talk with our airline partners, they want to be flying here but the restrictions are there. It’s difficult to come on vacation and quarantine for 14 days, so the sooner that we are able to get a handle on what is happening in The Bahamas, COVID-19 wise, I think that’s the sooner we’ll be able to open.”

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Paige McCartney

Paige joined The Nassau Guardian in 2010 as a television news reporter and anchor. She has covered countless political and social events that have impacted the lives of Bahamians and changed the trajectory of The Bahamas. Paige started working as a business reporter in August 2016. Education: Palm Beach Atlantic University in 2006 with a BA in Radio and Television News

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