NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Bahamasair chairman Tommy Turnquest said yesterday the airline has joined carriers such as American Airlines and United Airlines in scrapping social distancing protocols on flights, telling Eyewitness News that it was both impractical and unprofitable.
Turnquest said: “A month ago we were talking about not using the middle seats on the jets and then the question was what do you do with the ATRs which are only two seats across. On a 70 seater you lose 35 seats and on a 50 seater you lose 25 seats as opposed to a jet where you lose a third of the seats. It just wasn’t profitable. We would be going along with all the other protocols in terms of PPEs, ensuring everyone wears a mask, the screening and so forth but we will not be able to physical distance on the plane. Six weeks ago that wasn’t the thinking but the airline industry has come out with a different approach,” said Turnquest.
He added, “The seats are only 18 inches apart and it’s very difficult to get three to six feet as suggested. The airline industry decided that there would not be any social distancing on the airlines. This was essentially industry wide.”
American Airlines recently indicated that it will ditch social distancing and book its flights at full capacity, a move United Airlines has also announced.
American Airlines said it will notify customers and allow them “to move to more open flights when available, all without incurring any cost.”
“They believe that it is a mere fallacy to think that you can’t social distance on a plane,” said Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar.
“They are going to rely on the fact that they sanitize the aircraft before passengers embark and they believe that how they ventilate the cabin is more effective than social distancing on a plane,” he added. I’m not sure how correct that is. I would suggest that if you go on a plane that you wear a mask and whatever PPE you can get your hands on to keep safe. The bottom line is you probably shouldn’t travel right now unless you have a medical emergency or some other pressing issue.”
American Airlines will resume flights to Nassau and Exuma on July 7. United Airlines announced its daily Houston to Nassau service will resume July 6 and the Saturday-only Denver to Nassau service will resume July 11.
Nassau Airport Development Company (NAD) chief executive Vernice Walkine told Eyewitness News, “NAD has not specifically discussed this very recent position taken by American regarding their passenger loads.
“In view of the fact that The Bahamas requires all passengers to present a negative COVID-19 test result, we believe we will materially mitigate any risk.”
Walkine said: “Furthermore, The Bahamas attracts families who will travel in their small groups and sit accordingly on-board aircraft. Once passengers disembark they are subject to temperature screening and are required to wear masks within our terminals.The country’s entire response to enable our borders to reopen is about mitigating the risk of COVID-19 infection.”