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A Bahamasair 737-500 (Photo: Venkat Mangudi [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)])

Caribbean Carriers Split Between Profits and Bailouts

As the airline industry continues to find its footing amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, Caribbean carriers have sent mixed messages over which moves are to be made. Some airlines are chasing potential markets while others are looking for more government assistance as each island takes its own approach to handle the global crisis.

On the island of Barbados, the government welcomed the start of operations for interCaribbean Airways on the island, Caribbean Journal reports. The small island-hopping airline announced that it will use Barbados as a hub. Flights will start later this month with operations beginning to St. Vincent, St. Lucia, Dominica and Grenada. Further opportunities to Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana will be pursued with the goal of launching by the end of the year. All flights will be operated using Embraer EMB-120 Brasilias. The airline’s new hub will supplement its primary hub in Providenciales, Turks and Caicos.

This move comes over a week after the Trinidad-and-Tobago-based Caribbean Airlines also announced new operations at Grantley Adams International Airport. In doing so, the airline created new routes to Grenada and St. Vincent as a way to utilize planes not operating in the home islands. Passenger travel to Trinidad and Tobago remains closed off and the airline sees Barbados as a way to help keep passengers moving. interCaribbean Airways will overlap with the self-proclaimed “Warmth of the Islands” on routes to St. Vincent, St. Lucia, Dominica and Grenada.

Bahamasair, in the meantime, is looking to cut costs by reducing salaries of over 500 employees as the airline finds ways to cut spending during the pandemic, per ch-aviation. The Bahamas’ international borders closed to commercial traffic on July 22 after reopening for a quick three-week stint. The airline used that open window to reestablish Florida routes and planned to reopen Caribbean service, but a spike in COVID-19 cases resulted in the island once again isolating itself.

Bahamasair has been very vocal that aid will be necessary for the debt-ridden airline to remain afloat. The airline struggled even before the pandemic, and it has received numerous bailouts just to stay afloat. The airline faced additional struggles when it missed the deadline to equip its Boeing 737-500s, the largest aircraft in its fleet, with ADS-B and was subsequently banned from operating the type in the U.S. This, plus the coronavirus pandemic, has eaten into the airline’s revenue, boosting cries for increased financial assistance as the company struggles to cope with operating with just a domestic schedule for the time being.

Ian McMurtry
Ian McMurtry
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