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SkyBahamas Airlines chairman eyes expansion

Despite rising operational costs, airline is set to increase its fleet as it expands the number of routes, with daily flights from Grand Bahama to Florida. Chairman says expansion comes on the back of a 51 per cent year-on-year increase in passenger airlift in 2010. 

Friday, February 25, 2011
Friday, February 25, 2011

Local airline and the winner of this year’s Cacique Award for Transportation, SkyBahamas Airlines Ltd, is looking to expand its fleet in tandem with the launch of a new route to Florida, according the airline’s chairman K Peter Turnquest.

The new route from Freeport to Ft. Lauderdale and West Palm, Florida, is likely to run twice a day and will be introduced in Q2 this year, says Turnquest.

“We like to think of ourselves as the little airline that could,” he says. “We have expanded routes to Cat Island and Abaco, and we are looking to launch one to San Salvador. From there we intend to expand further.”

To accommodate the growth, the airline will add at least two more aircraft to its six-strong fleet. “We are also constructing a new hangar in Nassau to do our maintenance. We hope to service our own aircraft, as well as those of third parties.”

The expansion plans come on the back of a growing revenue base and a 51 per cent year-on-year increase in passenger airlift in 2010. “This is a very competitive industry and operating costs have increased significantly over the last couple of years,” says Turnquest.

“When you are competing against a state company things can become complex, particularly if that company is not driven by profit margins,” says Turnquest, who is also president of the Grand Bahamas Chamber of Commerce. “I cannot operate flights at the same cost as the state carrier; it would put me out of business. We don’t mind competing, as it makes us more sharp, but we can’t compete against an entity that is not interested in making a profit. But despite this we are doing well.”

Short haul flights, continues the chairman, are expensive, as most of the costs of a flight are incurred during takeoff and landing. “There are fuel costs, which are a major cost driver. Moreover, every time you turn off an engine, it counts as a cycle, and there are only so many cycles you can do before you have to completely overhaul the engine. Add to that the airport fees for domestic carriers and the price of each flight increases.”

Newly appointed president of COB, Dr Betsy Vogel Boze, envisions a multi-campus system, with research facilities and teaching centres. “We will work this year to distill our essence, to provide the best advice for our future direction and to define the standards by which we, and others, will measure our success,” she says.

Lynden Pindling International Airport opens the new, $190-million, state-of-the-art US departure terminal in Nassau, as Phase I of entire airport-wide overhaul comes to a close. The launch comes in tandem with government approval for work to start on the next phases of the redevelopment, which looks to position The Bahamas' premier airport as the best in the region.

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