Vision Airlines to soon discontinue services to GB
By Cleopatra Murphy
Freeport News Reporter
The future of Vision Airlines on Grand Bahama is looking more and more uncertain as director general of tourism, David Johnson revealed to The Freeport News that the airline will discontinue its current service to Grand Bahama in mid-March.
"Vision has agreed to continue flying through the middle of March, from that point on there will be a wet lease. There is no certainty that that will be with Vision, but the service will be flown under Bahamasair's license," Johnson said.
Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham revealed at the FNM's Marco City Office opening Friday that Bahamasair would get another jet and take over the service currently provided on the island by Vision Airlines.
"It would have the capacity to deliver to Grand Bahama 6,600 seats monthly and when combined with the seats that Bahamasair now has out of Fort Lauderdale, it will be 8,800 seats per month, nearly 100,000 seats per year coming to Grand Bahama" he said.
Johnson said the Ministry of Tourism expects the transition to take place on March 15, 2012.
He noted that Bahamasair would not acquire its own jet when it takes over Vision's route that includes Richmond, Virginia; Louisville, Kentucky; Raleigh/Durham North Carolina and Baltimore, Maryland.
Johnson explained the wet lease concept.
"That's a term that's used when an airline, until they have their own equipment still operates the service, takes the reservations, the customer gets the tickets from them, but the route is flown for them by a sub-carrier for an agreed period of time," he said. "The customer in this case would be with Bahamasair."
Johnson said it has not been determined yet if Vision Airlines would continue its operations.
"It is likely that they will not continue, but the service will be operated on a wet lease basis," he said.
Earlier in the year, rumors suggested that Vision Airline was preparing to stop its route to Grand Bahama. When contacted about the rumor, Marketing Manager, Gini Strobel told The Freeport News that the airline had no intentions of leaving the island.
Strobel said the company had been engaged in discussions with the Ministry of Tourism on ways to increase passengers, which included a partnership where Bahamasair would distribute seats through its sales and distribution network.
Johnson, who said he was uncertain about the future of Vision Airlines' services said the uncertainty is because contracts are presently being signed.
"When this is happening, generally speaking, we don't like to disclose third party things before signatures are signed. We are confident, there is no uncertainty or discomfort about the transition, it's just the timing for making the announcement should follow the ink being dry on these agreements," he said.
Johnson said everything appears to be on track and the Ministry of Tourism is working with the carrier to ensure that the transition takes place by mid-March.
When asked if this would be a profitable move for Bahamasair that has been operating at a loss for years, Johnson said the risk on the service had not been with Vision Airlines and the risk on the service would not be there with Bahamasair.
In the 2009/2010 fiscal year, Bahamasair operated at a loss of $23.6 million.
"We are confident though - Vision agreed as well - that Bahamasair's superior distribution will attract far more distributors and more sales for the flight," Johnson said.
He noted that during the first phase of the transition Bahamasair would continue to operate in the cities Vision Airline presently operates in.
"We plan for further expansion, but for the winter the plans are to continue and strengthen the existing cities for the winter," Johnson said.
He noted that as the summer and fall approach, options for further expansion would be explored because the available aircraft time and capacity exists to add more destinations.
Johnson noted that tourism stakeholders must work together jointly to improve the island's tourism prospects.
"It requires the team effort of the Ministry of Tourism, the hotels, the airport and the airlines and I think we are working towards that sort of relationship where we are all redoubling our efforts to certainly turn Grand Bahama's tourism around," he said.
Calls to Vision Airlines were not returned up to press time.
© 2012 The Freeport News