Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officials from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security are scheduled to inspect Grand Bahama International Airport (GBIA) and Leonard M. Thompson International Airport (LTIA) this week, to determine whether they are fit to receive international commercial flights, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis revealed on Friday.
The airports have not been able to receive commercial international flights since they were both badly damaged during Category 5 Hurricane Dorian more than three months ago.
Regarding GBIA, Minnis said, “I’ve been informed we’d have modules at this particular point in time to get the airport open. Those modules will be first class with all the different amenities, seating arrangements, bathroom facilities, ticketing counters for both international as well as domestic flights. We would not have the pre-clearance at this particular point in time, because, as you know, that has been destroyed and that calls for more engagement.”
Minnis said for now, the flights into the airports would be done primarily by Bahamasair until the Ministry of Tourism can increase airlift to those islands.
“Bahamasair domestic flights should be flying into the new airport facilities, the modules, on Saturday. TSA…will be flying into Grand Bahama on Tuesday where they will do their assessment and, once that is approved, then Bahamasair’s international flight will be flying in on Wednesday,” he told reporters on Friday.
“Our minister of tourism is aggressively in discussion with the other international/American airlines to see when they would come on board. TSA will also be flying into Abaco on Friday, so that they can do their assessment there. Once that assessment has been approved, then we expect international flights to fly into Abaco on Saturday. The first flights that will fly in would be Bahamasair and the procedure will be there to essentially observe the entire mechanism.”
The storm caused an estimated $1 million in damage to LTIA, which is owned by the government, while GBIA sustained much more significant damage estimated at $40 million.
The government has said it is currently negotiating the possible purchase of GBIA to ensure the airport is rebuilt to support two major tourism developments on the island that are pegged to come on stream in the coming years.
Asked about negotiations, Minnis said, “It’s essential that the airport opens as quickly as possible. We’re comfortable with the progression.”