Bahamasair Chairman Tommy Turnquest said yesterday that while there is sufficient demand for more repatriation flights to bring home Bahamians and residents stuck abroad, the number of people the airline can bring in is limited by the number of people that can be housed at the government’s designated quarantine facility.
“The government’s quarantine facility is at Breezes; they only have so many rooms,” Turnquest told The Nassau Guardian.
“So, right now they have – I don’t know the exact numbers but let’s say they have 100 rooms, for the sake of this conversation. Forty of those rooms are being used by people who came in on the flight Friday before last. So they have 60 rooms [available]…not a problem on Thursday.
“On Friday, those 40 rooms will be vacated because they would have fulfilled their two weeks and those rooms will then become available. And so, we’re sort of trying to work along with the health officials saying, ‘You can only bring so many people because we can only accommodate so many people.’”
Two Bahamasair flights brought home 183 individuals who were stuck abroad due to the COVID-19 pandemic two weeks ago, but repatriation flights were suspended shortly afterward when Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis revealed that one passenger who was not on the manifest had tested positive for the virus.
The Ministry of Health has since declared the man COVID-19-negative and said that he did not pose a threat to other passengers.
Minnis on Sunday announced that repatriation flights will resume, with a flight out of Fort Lauderdale on Thursday and another on Saturday.
But hundreds of Bahamians and residents remain abroad seeking to return home.
Turnquest said the Thursday flight can seat up to 138 passengers and will go straight to New Providence, while the Saturday flight will stop on Grand Bahama before going onto New Providence.
While he noted that “50 odd persons” have booked to go to Grand Bahama, the airline cannot confirm how many people will actually be able to fly “because, again, the health officials have to know how they’re going to accommodate persons who need to be government-quarantined”.
“Now, I said to the government that it appears as if we have sufficient demand to put on additional flights,” Turnquest said.
“But that’s the variable that we have to deal with… We believe that what happened Friday before last was persons filled out the [health] questionnaire on the aircraft. If they are able to complete that questionnaire before they get on the aircraft, we’ll then know whether we’re able to accommodate more or not.”
He added, “So, essentially, we’re waiting on health officials to tell us to what extent.”