Bahamas airline targeting summer for launch of Cuba flights

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Bahamas airline targeting summer for launch of Cuba flights

Unread post by bimjim » Fri Apr 29, 2011

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Bahamas airline targeting summer for launch of Cuba flights
By Jammal Smith
Nassau Guardian Business Reporter
April 29, 2011
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Western Airlines
NASSAU, Bahamas – Bahamas air carrier Western Air is inching closer towards launching its flights to Cuba, with the head of the carrier saying services will likely begin by the summer.

Director of operations at Western Air, Seyfert Wolf, told Guardian Business on Wednesday that a meeting is scheduled with the Department of Civil Aviation Air Transport License Authority on Friday to gain approval for its expansion of services into Havana, Cuba. He is optimistic of a good outcome.

“We have a meeting with the licensing board for approval for additional licensing,” Wolf said. “Once we get the approval we applied for then we’ll be able to move to the next stage and start planning and put everything in motion.”

Wolf mentioned that flights to Cuba should start by mid-to-late summer, adding that after the airline gains approval locally it will take about 30 days to gain approval from the aviation authority in Cuba. After those approvals are granted, Wolf said the airline will have a 90-day window to prepare the service for the public.

The airline initially targeted the end of March to launch services into Havana, but regulatory approvals from the US are still pending. Expansion into the US was also planned, but those flights will come on stream after the Cuba services are running, according to Wolf.

The airline’s route expansion plans included flights from Nassau to Jacksonville and Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and Havana, Cuba, as well as services from Freeport and Marsh Harbor, Abaco to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The only daily flights will depart from the three Bahamian islands to Fort Lauderdale, while the remaining services will operate on a Wednesday-Friday-Sunday schedule.

The Western Air executive also hinted at moving into the Dominican Republic market, saying the domestic carrier has a bit of interest in “filling the void” left by Bahamasair when it offered services to Santo Domingo.

An additional three aircraft would be needed for the expanded service, according to Wolf in an earlier interview, adding that an additional 30 jobs would be created with the new routes -- between 10 and 15 in ground operations and the same number on the flight operations side.

While the company is looking forward to its future expansion, the present routes are showing some promise as well.

“It looks like the economy is improving and that’s encouraging for us,” Wolf said. “We had a good Bimini regatta weekend and are looking forward to the Exuma one as well. It looks like the Bahamian traveler is starting to feel a little bit more confident and is doing some traveling, and we are ensuring that we are in a position to capitalize on that.”

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