All of the airlines serving our country before COVID-19 say they are ready to return to Bermuda once the crisis passes however the frequency of flights may not be what we have become used to, Minister of Tourism and Transport Zane Desilva said.
Speaking at today’s Government briefing, the Minister said, “I am pleased to today inform the public, that all of the airlines serving our country before COVID-19 say they are ready to return to Bermuda once the crisis passes.
“However, and perhaps not unexpectedly, the mix of gateway cities, the time of year, and the frequency of flights may not be what we have become used to in years past, at least not initially.
“We should anticipate a gradual resumption of the regularly scheduled air services. We should certainly not expect everything to return to normal immediately.”
Minister Zane Desilva’s full statement follows below:
A week after the Government’s announcement of a phased reopening of Bermuda’s economy, this is now an opportune time to update the country with an overview of the measures being implemented by the Ministry of Tourism & Transport to restore public transportation and reintroduce scheduled commercial flights to the island.
The public will be aware that the public ferry resumed service today under a reduced operating schedule with limited passenger capacity. The schedule is available to download from the Department of Marine and Ports Services website at www.marops.bm.
The Department of Public Transportation or DPT continue to operate the KEMH bus service while preparing to implement additional measures for resuming the public bus service.
The DPT is working to reintroduce the public bus service in the following phases.
Phase 1 – Sunday Public Bus Service operating 7 days per week.
Phase 2 – Full Summer Schedule
Before service can resume there are critical items that are being resolved, these include:
- 1.Installation of driver protection screens [sneeze guards];
- 2.Deep cleaning of buses;
- 3.Obtaining agreement from the BIU/BPSU for the proposed scheduling arrangements and from the Office of Safety and Health committee for the proposed recommendations;
- 4.Installation of hand sanitizers on all buses; and,
- 5.Managing crowd control and queuing at Central Terminal.
We expect these issues to be resolved in the very near future and the public will be informed when the bus service is scheduled to resume.
In the interim, all members of the public are welcome and encouraged to use the public ferry service.
Now on to the topic of reintroducing flights to Bermuda.
As an island isolated in the Atlantic Ocean, air service is quite literally Bermuda’s lifeline to the rest of the world, and is critical to many areas of our economy and ultimately has a major impact on our economic wellbeing.
Air service to Bermuda is always a matter that has to be managed with the utmost consideration, but this is of overriding importance at the present time when considering the potentially menacing role that international travel can play in the spread of the Covid-19 virus.
In the face of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Ministry of Tourism & Transport is taking the lead role in reviewing and coordinating policy and the implementation of necessary controls in respect of air travel and its potential impact on the island.
Last year, the Ministry of Tourism and Transport supported a collaborative effort between the Bermuda Tourism Authority and the Bermuda Airport Authority to produce a strategy aimed at improving airlift to the island.
Together, these bodies commissioned an experienced aviation consultant called Ailevon Pacific or APAC as they are more commonly known.
In the first quarter of this year, APAC were due to introduce its recently completed strategy to increase and improve airlift to the island.
This strategy sought to grow Bermuda’s airlift capacity, that is, to increase the number of airline seats available for purchase both to and from Bermuda.
Increasing airlift capacity is an important stepping-stone towards growing Bermuda’s tourism industry.
Of course, the Covid-19 pandemic has forced everyone to ‘hit pause’ on the implementation of the APAC airlift strategy but this does not mean that the process of ‘building the strategy’ has not greatly assisted in other ways over the past eight weeks.
Being able to leverage APAC’s broad range of relationships within the industry, and being cognisant of the recently completed strategy document, as well as partnerships with the Bermuda Tourism Authority, the Bermuda Airport Authority, and Skyport Bermuda has been in constant contact with its airline partners.
I am pleased to today inform the public, that all of the airlines serving our country before COVID-19 say they are ready to return to Bermuda once the crisis passes.
Frequency Of Flights May Not Be What We Have Become Used To
However, and perhaps not unexpectedly, the mix of gateway cities, the time of year, and the frequency of flights may not be what we have become used to in years past at least not initially.
We should anticipate a gradual resumption of the regularly scheduled air services. We should certainly not expect everything to return to normal immediately.
In updating the public on the current situation in regard to air travel, I would add important words of caution, that by its very nature, this is a constantly changing situation that may improve or may indeed, worsen by the time we reach Phase 4 of reopening, the “New Normal” phase.
When the time is right for regularly scheduled commercial flights to resume at L F Wade International Airport and non-residents are once again permitted to pass through our borders, we anticipate service to and from the following airports to recommence:
- New York’s John F Kennedy International Airport;
- Boston’s Logan International Airport;
- Atlanta’s Hartsfield International Airport;
- Toronto’s Pearson International Airport; and
- London’s Heathrow Airport.
London’s Heathrow Airport
The British Airways service from London’s Heathrow Airport will be a ‘new’ service for Bermuda and will replace the previous British Airways service from Gatwick Airport after British Airways consolidated its operations at Heathrow; at least on a temporary basis.
For our tourism sector and for the majority residents travelling from Bermuda, the change from London Gatwick to London Heathrow could have many advantages, particularly given how much easier it is for travellers to connect to other European countries from Heathrow as opposed to Gatwick which has limited European connections.
In the meantime, we anticipate the resumption of airline service to Bermuda from Philadelphia International Airport and Miami International Airport sometime in the not too distant future.
However, we would stress that we do not anticipate services from these cities resuming immediately upon Bermuda reaching the “New Normal” phase.
Like everything else at present, this is subject to change!
Seasonal Services From Newark, Washington Regan & Charlotte Unlikely To Resume Until 2021
Lastly, I would like to advise all of Bermuda that the seasonal services from Newark International Airport, Washington Regan Airport, and Charlotte Douglas International Airport are unlikely to resume until 2021.
It should be stated that throughout discussions with our airline partners, the Ministry has been extremely pleased with the responsiveness and flexibility shown. Particularly considering how much turmoil currently exists throughout the global aviation industry.
At this point I would remind the public of another extremely important reality.
Dialogue with airlines and winning their commitment to serve Bermuda is really only one-half of the onerous tasks associated with restoring post-COVID-19 airlift to Bermuda.
Public Health Requirements
I can also reassure the people of Bermuda that the Ministry of Tourism and Transport is working very closely with the Ministry of Health to prioritize a long list of public health requirements that must be implemented to keep our community safe as the time for the “New Normal” approaches.
There still remains much work to be done in a multitude of areas as we progress towards Phase 4.
Our primary focus is to ensure that as an island, we get to this point safely and responsibly.