Airline chief: Bahamasair taking spend from nation

By NATARIO McKENZIE

Tribune Business Reporter

nmckenzie@tribunemedia.net

BAHAMASAIR should not be used as a tool to undermine Bahamian businesses, a local airline executive warned yesterday, arguing that it should be playing a greater role in national development.

Sky Bahamas chief executive, Captain Randy Butler, echoed concerns voiced by the Bahamas Federation of Retailers (BFR), while adding that the national flag carrier was undermining other domestic carriers. The BFR, in a recent statement, calling for the Government to make local apparel, shoes and fashion retailers price competitive through duty elimination, arguing that Bahamasair was undermining local retailers through its 'shop in Florida' specials with discounted rates on the number of bags Bahamians can bring back.

Mr Butler agreed, telling Tribune Business that Bahamasair has a greater role to play in national development and should be looking to bring more visitors/spend to the Bahamas rather than aiding shopping excursions and steering money out of the country.

"Bahamasair should be the tool to build up our tourism industry, but instead they have chosen to go and kill the industry that other private airlines have built over the years by competing with us. We are obviously at a disadvantage there because we don't get the kinds of subsidies that Bahamasair does. Profit is not a major concern for them," said Mr Butler.

"A lot of people have the belief that private domestic airlines got into business to compete with Bahamasair, but that is far from the case. When the Free National Movement (FNM) won in 1992 they appealed to businessmen to get into the sector. Bahamasair is now a tool which the people's tax dollars is being spent to support to take you out of business. I've spoken about this, the retailers are speaking out, and you will hear others saying the same thing. It makes no sense. There must be a strategic plan for Bahamasair."