Although it has been a long time in the making, Transport and Aviation Minister Glenys Hanna Martin said the country is the closest it has been in 10 years to acquiring its own airspace.
Mrs. Hanna Martin told reporters on Tuesday that the government is fighting hard to own the airspace which the US has owned since the 1950s.
Officials are now in talks overseas with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
“Yesterday evening, a Bahamian team went to Miami. It comprised of the undersecretary of my ministry, Mr. Charles Albury, the Acting Director of Civil Aviation Butnagger from the Office of the Prime Minister; Baltron Bethel, a consultant and advisor in the Office of the Prime Minister, and Mr. Lauren Clyde, who is the senior council officer at the Attorney General’s Office. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will join them in Miami,” she noted.
“They are now as we speak sitting around the table with a view to tying down the outstanding issues and seeing how close we can get now to a management agreement of the airspace by the Americans and with a concomitant financial arrangement for The Bahamas,” said Mrs. Hanna Martin.
Meantime, the Transport and Aviation Minister said one of the important issues on the table is to ensure parity between the US and The Bahamas.
“Because the Americans are managing our airspace, they exempt all of their US aircraft from over flight fees. It’s a way of subsidising or boosting the aviation sector in their country. On the other hand, The Bahamas, like Sky Bahamas and Bahamasair fly in our own space and must pay over flight fees to the Americans,” Mrs Hanna Martin said.
“They have indicated they can’t exempt us because they would need to pass a law. So that is a critical issue for us. They’ve exempted their industry. So we want to put that on the table because that is unacceptable and it’s not parity in the arrangements.
“They know that’s a major issue and out of this arrangement including a monetary arrangement we hope that we can strike, we want to ensure that domestic flights are not obliged to pay over flight fees to the Americans.”
The minister said the government has been in talks with international agencies to determine the costing of the airspace.
Meantime, Mrs. Hanna Martin feels optimistic that this would bring a new paradigm that will inure to the benefit of Bahamians.
Additionally, she said the government is working towards building capacity to perform a service that is second to none.