NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Despite claims that air traffic controllers were operating under “work to rule,” Tourism Minister Dioniso D’Aguilar confirmed yesterday that continued delays at the Lynden Pindling International Airport (LPIA) was the result of increased volume, the need for additional runway space and continued power outages.
The issues also forced some flights to be post-cleared by U.S. Customs in the United States as opposed to pre-clearing in the capital.
D’Aguilar said the many issues at LPIA require immediate attention as flights were delayed for hours and negatively impacted hundreds.
“There were too many gaps between planes arriving and departing,” the tourism minister said. “The ATC’s [air traffic controllers] have said that we need additional runway space because the main one intercepts with the secondary runway, so it’s a combination of factors that plays in delays.”
With the increase of air arrivals to the country’s main gateway, D’Aguilar admitted that the traffic jams are becoming more frequent.
“There is also a lack of communication. When we have heavy traffic days it creates a frustrating problem, and because it’s an area of safety we have to refer to the experts. It’s nothing the political directorate can do, it’s really in the hands of the air traffic controllers.”
While attempts to reach air traffic officials yesterday were unsuccessful, the national flag carrier, Bahamasair, was also impacted following a travelling nightmare for its passengers last weekend due to a downed air jet and the closure of airports in South Florida.
In a statement, managing director Tracy Cooper said as a result of inclement weather conditions, air traffic controllers had to ground a number of flights causing two-hour delays.
He added that priority was given to Long Island and Rock Sound flights due to lighting concerns. He said that despite the challenges the airline did anticipate completing its Thursday schedule.
Cooper also reassured Eyewitness News Online in an interview yesterday that Bahamasair is actively planning to advance its services by procuring a jet in January and maintaining a strong relationship with their external industry partners.
“We’re acquiring another jet. It will be in our possession by the middle of January – this will be a new addition to Bahamasair, not a new jet. The intent of this jet is to provide more charters and reliability,” said Cooper. “We’re going to continue to work with our industry partners as far as leasing airplanes to be sure of ourselves in times of chaotic tendencies.”
Cooper further informed Eyewitness News that other major airlines are able feasibly cope with such circumstances due to their sizable fleet of aircrafts.
“The difference between Bahamasair and American Airlines is that they have a wide variety of airplanes that when they have a flight back-up, they can use an even bigger airplane. So, rather than bringing in 100 passengers, they can bring in 200 passengers,” Cooper said.
Matthew Moxey – Eyewitness News Intern also contributed to this report.