This article provides an outline of key developments in The Bahamas' aviation sector in 2021.
Post-vaccine requirements for flight crew
On 15 October 2021, the Civil Aviation Authority Bahamas (CAA-B) issued an industry notification addressed to flight crew members and air transport operators in which it was specified that CAA-B medical certificate holders may not act as pilot-in-command or as any other required flight crew member for 48 hours after receiving a dose of a covid-19 vaccine.
The notification indicates that the CAA-B Aviation Medical Assessor made this decision "after evaluation of available medical information about [covid-19 vaccines] and potential side effects".
Further, if a CAA-B medical certificate holder experiences any side effects from a covid-19 vaccine more than 48 hours after receiving it, they may not act in their roles "for the duration of the symptoms".
ICAO audit results imminent
In November 2021, the International Civil Aviation Organization carried out an audit in the Bahamas.
While the full results of the audit have yet to be released, much progress has been made in the Bahamas' aviation sector since its last audit in 2017, including the implementation of: the Civil Aviation Act 2020, (repealing the 2016 Act) the Civil Aviation Authority Act 2020 and the Air Navigation Services Authority Act 2020 (for further details, please see "Dawning of a new age: proposed legislation shapes future of aviation").
It is hoped that such progress will be reflected in the results of the ICAO audit when they are released.
Aviation industry affected by omicron variant
The Bahamas' aviation industry, like that of many jurisdictions, has suffered from reduced passenger numbers during the covid-19 pandemic. The omicron variant has caused further strain in this regard, with an estimated 15-20% drop in passenger numbers over the Christmas period. (1)
It is hoped that numbers will soon pick up again after passengers who had previously cancelled flights with Bahamian airlines due to the covid-19 pandemic start to rebook them again. A recent memorandum of understanding signed between the Bahamas' Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Public Service and Dubai-based airline Emirate to promote the Bahamas as a tourist destination is also expected to boost air traffic to the islands.
Developments expected at Grand Bahama airport
The Bahamas' government has committed to improving facilities at Grand Bahama Airport. In January 2022, Minister of Tourism, Investments and Aviation Chester Cooper expressed concern about working conditions at the airport and the fact that it is currently "not a welcoming experience for investors to Grand Bahama".
The government has previously outlined plans to put in place a public private partnership initiative for select airports throughout the islands. Cooper confirmed that the Grand Bahama Airport is "priority number one" in this regard. It is expected that a new request for proposal will be issued imminently.
Notwithstanding the covid-19 pandemic, significant strides have been made in the aviation sector and, as the country emerges from its constraints, the industry can only advance from strength to strength. The results of the recent ICAO audit will be key to the CAA-B's continued success.
(1) For further information, see "Airlines 'Pay Price' Over Covid Surge With 15-20% Drop".
Llewellyn V Boyer-Cartwright