Government, Hutchison, GBPA at odds on airport

Freeport International Airport

There is frustration within the Government of The Bahamas over the apparent nonchalant manner of Hutchison Whampoa and (also said to be) co-owner the Grand Bahama Port Authority, regarding the rebuilding of the Grand Bahama International Airport.

 The GB International Airport was damaged severely by Hurricane Dorian, this past September. The terminals used for international and domestic travel are still in the same state of destruction, Dorian caused. A portion of the taxi way for planes is in terrible condition and, in essence, the airport needs to be rebuilt.

Western Air mobilized quickly, and much in the way of physical adjustment has been done by the Bahamian-owned airline, which has been a saviour for residents of Grand Bahama.  The international airport owners have arranged for the building, formerly used for private airplane service, to be refurbished. Other than domestic flights, Bahamasair, on Monday resumed flights to Fort Lauderdale.

However, the major buildings at the airport are not fit for use.

Last month Minister of Tourism and Aviation Dionisio D’Aguilar targeted Hutchison, in particular.

He reportedly said the following: “Hutchison is the operator of that airport and they have not demonstrated an effort to rebuild that airport to where it was before. They seem somewhat reluctant and so the government is considering its options. Buying the airport is the easiest thing, but its (about) what you do when you get the airport. Right now, the focus of the Bahamian people is on Hutchison to do something with that airport. Once you buy it, the focus shifts to the government and what it will do.”

So, clearly the government is in a hard place, as indicated by one of the top ministers in the Government of Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis. D’Aguilar pointed the finger at Hutchison, but that entity is said to be simply co-owner along with the GBPA of the GB International Airport.

Just as Hutchison has been, the GBPA is quiet on the matter. As a result, the GBPA seems as much at odds with the government on the future of the airport, as is Hutchison.

The people of Grand Bahama deserve better. The GB International is the heart of the island’s tourism, and by now, something concrete should have been said to the people of Grand Bahama.

The nonchalance/silence is actually disrespectful.

Grand Bahamians should get accustomed to no pre-clearance status. Grand Bahamian travelers to the United States will not be extended that courtesy, until the international airport is rebuilt and put in line with the United States Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) standard.

Sadly, nothing much is likely to change for the next two years or so.

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