NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Grand Bahama and Abaco airports will be assessed by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) this week to determine whether they will be authorized to receive international flights from the US.
For Grand Bahama’s airport, which is operating out of modules, US pre-clearance will not be reinstated, according to Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis.
Minnis spoke to reporters on the sidelines of the Bahamas Hotel & Tourism Association’s (BHTA) annual general meeting.
He said the government is in discussions with the airport’s owner, Hutchison Port Holdings to have it reopened as quickly as possible.
“We’re comfortable with the progression,” he said.
“I’ve been informed we would 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 arrangement, bathroom facility, ticketing counters for both international, as well as domestic flights.
Minnis continued: “We will not have the pre-clearance at this particular point in time as you know that has been destroyed and that calls for more engagement. Bahamasair domestic flight should be flying into the new airport facility, the modules, on Saturday.”
Minnis said TSA will be flying in to Grand Bahama on Tuesday.
A Bahamasair international flight will be fly into the airport on Wednesday if approved, he said.
“The Minister of Tourism is aggressively in discussion with the other international, American and other airlines to see when they would come onboard. TSA would also be flying in to Abaco on Friday so that they can do their assessment there.
Minnis said: “Once that assessment has been approved then we can expect international flights to fly into Abaco on Saturday. The first flights that will fly in would be bahamasair and usually the procedure is they would be there to observe the entire mechanism.”
Yesterday, Pelican Bay Resort general manager Magnus Alnebeck told Eyewitness News Online ensuring the GB international airport is TSA and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certified should be the immediate focus.
Albenek furthered described pre-clearance as the “icing on the cake”.
“To have pre clearance is a great advantage, especially if we would run an airlift program like we did some years ago with first Vision Air, and then Vacation Express, where we had direct airlift into secondary US cities, where you don’t even have immigration,” he said.
“I think the flight from Grand Bahama to Birmingham, Alabama was the first International flight to land there. That model has worked well for GBI in the past, but for it to work in the future, we need the hotel product that drives demand in those markets.
Albenek continued: “We had that when Memories was operating, and if we were to have that sort of product operational in the future, yes, then pre-clearance is important.”
“At this present moment, the focus must be on getting Grand Bahama International Airport TSA/FAA certified, so that we can start receiving scheduled International flights.
“Getting pre-clearance back, is the icing on the cake. We all love it, but it is the actual cake base that fills our bellies. And that cake base is international flights.
“Let’s hope that happens this week,” Albenek added.