Sky Bahamas, an airline based in Nassau, is currently fighting to stay alive. The airline has been forced to suspend flight operations pending the renewal of its Air Operator's Certificate (AOC) by the Bahamas Civil Aviation Authority (BCAA) after the approval required for the airline to carry fare-paying passengers expired on June 29, 2019.
In the beginning, Sky Bahamas was looked upon as the go-to-airline in The Bahamas, due to reasonable fares and great on time reliability. At one time, the airline had a fleet of 4 Saab 340s and 1 Beechcraft 1900D and flew them between The Bahamas, South Florida and the Caribbean on both regular and chartered flights. However, after a June 2013 crash landing in Marsh Harbour, Abaco, the public perspective of the airline shifted and this can be viewed as the beginning of its downfall. Over the next few years Captain Randy Butler has publicly expressed his concerns and frustration at the airline industry in the country.
Chief Executive Officer, Captain Randy Butler was quoted saying that the airline has lost millions of dollars in fixed costs and expected revenue and has also taken a major hit to its reputation due to the extended grounding of its fleet. Butler questioned the BCAA's methods and procedures as even though safety concerns were brought up and addressed a month prior, the airline was told to cease all flights on July 8th. The airline currently has two planes and a staff of 63 people.
Talking to the Tribune Business Butler said, “We’re in a position where there’s not a lot to pull from any more. It’s critical. We had a run on the bank last week when word got out and everybody was calling. We had a meeting and we said if we don’t get it today (July 23) we will have to make some hard decisions tomorrow. It’s critical now. We’re there right now. I met with my folks today to tell them we need to get the air operator certificate today or tomorrow. That’s how critical it is. We are right there. We are there.”
With 7 small commercial airlines fighting for the same piece of the revenue it became challenging. However many passengers don’t believe in everything Butler says because he is the only CEO/Chairman of any of the local airline to send out a press release whenever something he dislikes happens. One recent complaint was about the closure of Runway 09/27 at MYNN/NAS for $20m worth of essential maintenance. He had added between 30-45 minutes have been added to his airline’s flight times due to both incoming and outgoing delays.
Minister of Tourism and Aviation for the Bahamas, Dionisio D’Aguilar, said that the closure of the runway for major rehabilitation was an unavoidable infrastructure upgrade that is essential to keep traffic at The Bahamas’ major gateway flowing.
When asked about the current situation of Sky Bahamas, D’Aguilar said "If Sky Bahamas has a matter before the BCAA, it's up to them to figure out how to get the necessary approvals in order for them to obtain his AOC. I don't have the technical expertise to intervene on their behalf as this is something they have to work out with the regulator. The aviation sector is highly regulated with a lot of technical standards and rules, which the regulator knows and the operating airlines know. They need to sit with the regulator and work out what difference he has in order to bring ease and calm to the matter, and put the regulator at bay to fulfill all of the requirements that he has."
The financial impact on Sky Bahamas and its 63 employees from the grounding has been significant. If the AOC isn’t renewed soon the airline would move past the point of no return.