Turnquest: Bahamasair won’t lose money with wet lease

Bahamasair will not be losing any money through its recent wet lease of aircraft to meet flight demands, after three of its larger jets were banned from traveling into the United States due to a lack of proper navigation systems.

Chairman of Bahamasair Tommy Turnquest confirmed that Miami Air International was contracted for the wet lease.

Asked the cost of the lease, Turnquest would only say that airfare would cover the cost, allowing Bahamasair to even “pocket a little bit”.

“We don’t lose money on it. That’s the point I’m making, because we are now able to carry 157 passengers as opposed to 120 passengers, that goes more to the bottom line in terms of after we’ve paid for the plane and its crew and so on. So, we didn’t lose anything,” Turnquest said in an interview with Guardian Business yesterday.

He shied away, however, from saying the company would break even definitively, “I won’t say until there has been a full analysis, which is more embarrassing than financially draining, let me put it that way.”

In the airline industry, Turnquest explained, a wet lease is when an aircraft is leased along with its flight and cabin crew; and then there’s just a lease of an aircraft when a company uses its own pilots and cabin crew.

“We used an outfit called Miami Air. A number of them we have used from time to time in our heavy demand, when our existing fleet cannot accommodate it. We have used Miami Air before, we’ve also used Swift Air before, all of which have filled our demand,” he said.

“Why I say we have to wet lease it, you know those planes are able to carry 160 people. We were able to sell 156 to 158 seats on both of those fleets, so there were an extra 36 to 37 seats that we were able to sell that we would not be able to sell on the 120-seat planes. So, the difference between the wet lease and those extra seats will be a bit of a wash on that. But we are still doing a full analysis in terms of that.

“I’m advised – and I’m still asking them to do the analysis – but I’m advised that our load factors were such that other than yesterday we have been able to meet the demand of our ATRs and our 737-700 series, which have 138 seats.”

Navigation kits

Turnquest also revealed the company now contracted to install the new surveillance technology on its three aircrafts is South Florida-based JanzAir Consulting Services.

The three 737 jets that were banned from the U.S. were supposed to be outfitted with an automatic dependent surveillance broadcast (ADS-B) which allows an aircraft to send out a signal every second, ultimately improving its ability to be tracked by satellite technology.

The deadline to have those units installed was January 2, 2020.

“We paid $200,000 to Fokker for the navigational kits that they didn’t fulfil their contractual obligations on, so we are making every effort to get that back in the first instance,” Turnquest said.

“The aircraft maintenance firm that we have now contracted by the name of JanzAir based in South Florida, they are charging us $195,000 per plane. Essentially, it’s the same amount that Fokker was charging us, so there is a $200,000 loss there.”

Fokker is the name of the Dutch aerospace company Bahamasair contracted in September 2019 to install the devices.

“The reason we have been able to feel satisfied now using this maintenance firm called JanzAir for the navigational checks is that Swift Air, which we’ve used on occasion in the past, also flies the 737 classics and they directed us to JanzAir. We didn’t know about them at all but we felt satisfied that they were able to successfully supply Swift Air with the older planes, which are very difficult to find the necessary parts for, those older planes, they are 25-year-old planes,” Turnquest said.

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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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