Friday, May 14, 2010

Spirit leaves Grand Bahama

Inderia Saunders ~ Guardian Business Reporter

Grand Bahama will lose service from a major airline this month when ultra low-cost carrier Spirit Airlines ends all routes to that island - a loss Tourism officials promise will be met or exceeded.

The Grand Bahama change doesn't mean that things are necessarily in the clear for Nassau, either, with Spirit pilots now threatening strike action next month if they aren't awarded new contracts.

The strike could significantly effect arrivals to the country, coming at the kickoff of the peak summer travel period.

It's a problem the nation's second city won't have to worry about, however, given Spirit's service as of June will be no more to Grand Bahama, said the island's Tourism General David Johnson.

He also confirmed that increasing competition from the water side played largely into the airline's decision.

"They have signaled the end of their service at the end of May after much discussion with us over a period of time," David Johnson told Guardian Business. "It was a Spirit decision...when the Grand Bahama market saw two large ships each with 1000 capacity or more that they don't have in Nassau, so Grand Bahama and residents in Florida have the option of taking a cruise and take everything with them and four hours later land in GB.

"And that's significant competition for airlines and Spirit's concern was that they were relying heavily on Bahamians and Floridians with a jet size [and] they underestimated the competition from the ship, particularly when Celebration entered the market. That has influenced their decision."

Johnson asserts, however, that already Bahamasair and American Airlines has already stepped into to take up where Spirit has left off. On a weekly basis, the low-cost carrier would wing somewhere around 280 seats into the island on a bi-weekly basis.

Johnson said the replacement airlines will usher an additional 260 seats into the island when the service continues. Ticket prices for the additional airlift are also expected to be near those that the departing carrier charge.

Spirit Airlines just recently announced it would move to implement a $45 charge for carry on bags starting August 1. It's unclear at this point just how many passengers a possible strike at Spirit will effect.

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