Operations at LPIA “leveling off” after last week’s delays

NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Aviation officials on Sunday reported that operations at the Lynden Pindling International Airport (LPIA) are “levelling off” after numerous delays, inclement weather, the closure of international airports and the reported lack of runway space, which severely crippled operations last week at the country’s main gateway.

As for the national flag carrier, Bahamasair, Managing Director Tracy Cooper told Eyewitness News Online that there were no delays yesterday and all flights were scheduled to be on time.

Passengers at the Lynden Pindling International Airport await word on flight departures.

As for the fallout with passengers overextended delays, Cooper said they must work to restore consumer confidence in the airline.

The Bahamasair managing director also expressed optimism that the acquisition of a new jet, come mid-January, would lessen the load and improve the airline’s efficiency.

“It [a new jet] is going to augment our fleet,” Cooper assured. “It’s going to help us out and allow us more flexibility and reliability.”

Keith Major, Chief Operations Officer at the Department of Civil Aviation said the delays were the result of “the extraordinarily high amount of traffic,” which he claims is common for this time of year.

“It was even more or a little more than what was normal for us,” he said.

“Coupled with the weather situation, we had a situation where there would have been some back-up and we had to deal with it.

“It’s just a whole lot of traffic and runway space is limited, due to the increase in air arrivals.”

Major explained that LPIA was built in the 1950’s and while improvements were made to the terminal space, he suggested that no consideration was given for the airport’s runway.

“Little really has been done to make it better for air traffic,” he said. “You can’t get a gallon in a pint, so you figure it out. If you have more traffic to move and no more asphalt to put it on, it’s pretty clear.”

Meanwhile, the on-again-off-again travel fiasco at Lynden Pindling International Airport (LPIA) during the festive season left thousands of passengers stranded for days; a vexing situation which affected both Bahamians and tourists alike.

The backlog of flights started ahead of the Christmas holiday, and things seemed to have levelled off for about 24 hours last week on Christmas Day, but air traffic at LPIA bottlenecked once again on Boxing Day, and that congestion continued into the weekend.

Upset travellers told Eyewitness News Online that they were forced to wait hours without any conclusive communication as to what caused the extensive delays.

Derek Coleman, a stranded passenger, who had been trying to depart Nassau for 48 hours said on Friday that the experience was a guessing game.

“It’s like everybody is guessing and wondering what is going on because we can’t get any solid answers as to what’s happening,” he said.

While it’s been a guessing game for Coleman, another stranded traveller, Nick Stewart, said he was bothered by the lack of communication.

“It’s not been good. We had a delay and sat on the tarmac for about two hours last [Thursday] night and then the flight was cancelled. They gave us no accommodations and still haven’t heard anything about what they are going to do. There has been a total lack of communication,” Stewart said.

Another traveller, Richard Hanson, said the entire saga left his entire family feeling trapped.

“You can’t even get out if you decide that you want to leave the airport, you can’t get out the terminal unless an agent takes you down and we haven’t seen an agent around here for hours now,” Hanson said.

Delayed flights leaving out of LPIA last week meant that many travellers missed their connecting flights.

Adding insult to injury, all passengers who experienced major cancellations were forced to either sleep at the airport or find their own accommodations elsewhere, according to Samantha Barrow, an American Airlines passenger.

“We’ve had to change our connecting flights three times now and communication has been so short,” she said.

“On top of that we were told to find our own accommodations after our flights were cancelled and that meant to either sleep on the airport floor or chairs or go somewhere else.”

Luckily, the begrudged passengers told Eyewitness News Online that their experience at LPIA has not changed their love for the country.

“The Bahamas was a great vacation and I do plan to come back again,” Coleman said.

“I definitely think this whole situation could have been better but I’ve had a great time in The Bahamas so I know it’s not something to blame on the country. The airport just needs to rethink some of its practices,” Barrow said.

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Theo Sealy also contributed to this article.