October 29, 2012
Western Air is poised to bolster its domestic and international service after the opening of a $4 million terminal on Grand Bahama. The new facility, including a hanger, maintenance facility, corporate lounge and five gates, is the second distinct location for the growing Bahamian carrier. Beginning today, Western Air will offer 12 direct flights - six from Nassau, six from Freeport - every day. The terminal is also expected to be the site of all domestic travel for at least a week while Grand Bahama's main facility undergoes considerable repair and refurbishing following Hurricane Sandy.
Wolf Seyfert, operations manager at Western Air, said the new site resembles more of an executive terminal that rivals equivalent offerings in the U.S. He told Guardian Business that the $4 million investment in Grand Bahama should pay off as the economy rebounds. "We are positioning ourselves for growth in the Freeport economy," he revealed. "We want to build up our strength in the domestic market. But we are also looking at the international market, especially secondary gateways in the U.S., Cuba and other airports in the Caribbean."
The airline's expansion could pay off if the government's intentions come to fruition. Since coming into office, the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) has pledged to bring thousands of jobs to the troubled island through strengthening both the tourism and manufacturing industries. Most recently, the government announced the reopening of the 500-room Reef Village at the Grand Lucayan. In September, developers revealed a $10 million investment to revive the Blue Marlin Cove Resort and Marina in Bottle Bay.
Ryan Pinder, minister in charge of trade and manufacturing, said Grand Bahama is being targeted for development in collaboration with Brazilian companies, possibly for the production of ethanol or the processing of poultry. Western Air, founded in 2001, has a fleet of more than 12 planes, including several 33-seat Saab 340s. Its headquarters is located on the grounds of San Andros Airport. Rex Rolle, the president and CEO of Western Air, could not be reached for comment before press time.
Guardian Business understands that Rolle is traveling to the U.S., which is appropriate given the airline's intentions. Seyfert said Western Air is seeking approvals to begin U.S. flights within the next few months. "We were also doing Jamaica and Haiti flights, but those were suspended with Hurricane Sandy. We're hoping to start these flights again soon," according to Seyfert. The airline anticipates further hiring as it continues with this expansion.
It is unknown whether it would purchase additional planes before bringing new routes online. Should Western Air enjoy success in these areas, it could result in the rise of a credible competitor to rival domestic carriers Bahamasair and SkyBahamas. Western Air's new terminal will no doubt open with much fanfare, as Grand Bahama's domestic terminal recovers from the storm. As of Sunday afternoon, Seyfert told Guardian Business that the maiden flight from the new terminal to Nassau should occur at 8 a.m. this morning.
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