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SkyBahamas Mulls Cat Island Stop Over 'Horrible Runway'

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SkyBahamas Mulls Cat Island Stop Over 'Horrible Runway'

Unread post by bimjim » Tue Feb 18, 2014

http://www.tribune242.com/news/2014/feb ... le-runway/

[SkyBahamas] Airline Mulls Cat Island Stop Over 'Horrible Runway'
NEIL HARTNELL Tribune Business Editor
Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Sky Bahamas yesterday warned it may soon suspend flights to Cat Island because of “horrible” runway conditions, its chief executive again accusing the Government of failing to support Bahamian-owned airlines.

Captain Randy Butler, telling Tribune Business he was “pretty fed up” with the Government continually ignoring the sector, said the Cat Island situation and proposed compromise over the 2013-2014 Budget tax increases showed policymakers continued to favour international airlines.

David Johnson, director-general of tourism, said in a February 7, 2014, letter to the aviation industry that existing Customs-related processing fees and service charges would “fall away” for commercial airlines “operating 300 or more rotations annually” into the Bahamas.

This is part of a proposal to shift the taxation burden to passengers, via a $4 increase in departure tax to $29, but Captain Butler said the ‘300 rotation’ threshold would not help Bahamian-owned airlines with international routes.

Citing Sky Bahamas and its service to Haiti as an example, Captain Butler said: “I don’t see this government position helping the industry, and they’re not considering domestic airlines doing international flights. Sky Bahamas goes into places like Haiti, and we’d fall under the 300 threshold with 200 international flights at the minute.”

That would appear to leave the airline exposed to the possibility of continuing to incur these processing fees and service charges, and Captain Butler added: “I’m pretty fed up with them [the Government]. When you look at the way it’s going forward, they’re not really considering Bahamians that work in these airlines and their future. When you look at the policies, the taxes and fees they have put in place, it’s not favourable or conducive for the growth or support of domestic airlines or the employees that work for them. The Government has not paid attention to this sector or the possibility for expansion.”

As an example of this, he pointed to the runway conditions at Cat Island’s main airport, a constituency represented by Deputy Prime Minister Philip Davis. Describing the runway as “horrible”, the Sky Bahamas chief added: “I’ve complained about it, and if that’s not changed pretty soon, we’ll have to stop operating into Cat Island.”

Captain Butler cited the proposed new aviation tax regime, set to take effect from April 1, 2014, as further evidence of the Government’s focus on international carriers and its failure to properly consult with industry players. “They’re helping the US carriers, but are not paying attention to the domestic carriers,” he told Tribune Business. “I will be shocked to know, and find out, that anybody at the Ministry of Tourism, Civil Aviation and the Government is sure of what they’re doing and what the objectives are. They’ve gone out there without consulting the industry at it’s backfired on them. The aviation fees, the way they introduced them, did not show goodwill to the industry and the airlines that have slim profit margins.”

Questioning whether Mr Johnson could speak for the Ministry of Finance and government outside the tourism ministry, Captain Butler said neither he nor Sky Bahamas were consulted on the new aviation tax regime.

Suggesting that the Government and Ministry of Tourism were “forging ahead” without wide consultation with the sector, he added: “The industry had asked the Government to look at the total tax structure going forward, because we believe we are paying our way right now. “We wanted to work on ways to make this much better, so the Government gets its revenue and the seats keep coming to the Bahamas. There’s ways we can fix it, but the way it was done did not give us options at the time.”

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