07 Sep 2020
On 4 June 2020 Prime Minister Hubert Minnis announced that The Bahamas would reopen its borders on 19 June 2020; in fact, domestic borders were opened as of 8 June 2020. This easing of restrictions was, as in all other affected countries, conditional on the implementation of protocols which have now become familiar. Unfortunately, following a significant increase in COVID-19 cases (the so-called 'second wave'), on 3 August 2020 the prime minister announced that as of 4 August 2020, The Bahamas would be subjected to another lockdown for a minimum of two weeks. Subsequently, on 17 August 2020 the prime minister announced that there would be a full lockdown of The Bahamas effective immediately, bringing aviation to a complete halt. After a backlash of criticism from the aviation community, the prime minister then relaxed some of the restrictions regarding air travel.
At 10:00pm on 4 August 2020 all international flights carrying passengers ceased operations into The Bahamas, save for flights from Canada, the United Kingdom and EU member states. Bahamian citizens, residents and visitors (from the exempted countries) may travel to The Bahamas, but must obtain a Bahamas Health Visa and provide proof of a negative COVID-19 (RT-PCK) test from an approved laboratory within 10 days of travel. Effective 1 September 2020 under the Emergency Powers (COVID-19 Pandemic) (3) Amendment (6) Order, the 10-day requirement has been reduced to five days. Further, all travellers are subject to a mandatory 14-day self-quarantine and must:
Pilots and crew who remain overnight in The Bahamas are also exempt from providing a negative COVID-19 test result and must quarantine for the duration at their respective accommodation.
The Ministry of Health may exempt from quarantine any person or class of persons whose arrival in The Bahamas is necessary to perform an essential service or is of national interest.
Inter-island travel is permitted; however, citizens, legal residents and visitors under the age of 10 are not required to provide a COVID-19 test result, but must submit to a mandatory quarantine for 14 days or for the duration of their stay. Persons travelling inter-island for the following reasons are not subject to the COVID-19 test or required quarantine:
The president of The Bahamas Air Transport Operators Association has expressed concern as aircraft remain parked on runways throughout the country and airlines have either implemented temporary furlough schemes or staff redundancies. There is no indication as to whether the state-owned Bahamasair will take similar action, but this second lockdown will undoubtedly have a major effect on the airline's financial viability. Nassau Airport Development Company has advised that it is working with concession operators at the Lyndon Pindling International Airport to provide some economic relief.
The overall effect of the COVID-19 crisis on the Bahamian aviation sector is unknown and may be for some time; however, there is no doubt that the short-term effects have been severe. Tourism and aviation in The Bahamas go hand in hand, with one affecting the other. The pandemic may provide an opportunity for the country's aviation industry, as there is increasing interest from private aircraft owners and those willing to spend a little more in order to avoid the constraints of scheduled commercial travel.