Flight frequency will be lower when airport opens – no opening date yet
Flights between Bermuda and five cities are expected to be available when the airport reopens to commercial flights, the Minister of Tourism and Transport said yesterday.
However, Zane DeSilva — who did not give a timetable for flight resumption — warned that the unpredictable nature of the coronavirus pandemic meant that the situation could be worse by the time the island reached the last of its four-phase return to near normal.
He said: “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.”
Mr DeSilva added: “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 four of reopening — the ‘new-normal’ phase.”
He said that “when the time is right” to resume regular flights, they were expected to operate between Bermuda and New York, Boston, Atlanta and Toronto.
He added that the British Airways service was expected to return about the same time, but would fly to London’s Heathrow airport instead of Gatwick.
Mr DeSilva said: “For our tourism sector and for the majority of 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.”
He added that services from Philadelphia and Miami were expected to return a little later, although he emphasised that could also change.
Mr DeSilva said that seasonal services from Newark, New Jersey, Washington and Charlotte, North Carolina, were not expected to restart until next year.
He added: “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.
“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 prioritise a long list of public-health requirements that must be implemented to keep our community safe as the time for the ‘new normal’ approaches.”
Mr DeSilva said: “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.”
He added that the Ministry of Tourism and Transport supported a partnership in 2019 between the Bermuda Tourism Authority and the Bermuda Airport Authority to come up with a plan to increase airlift.
The two organisations commissioned Ailevon Pacific, an aviation consultant, which was due to unveil its strategy to boost services in the first quarter of this year.
Mr DeSilva said that creating the plan had helped over the past eight weeks, even though its implementation was put on hold.
He told a press conference that the Department of Public Transportation was working to restore bus services after ferries returned with limited capacity yesterday.
It is expected that buses will run on a Sunday schedule seven days a week in a phased approach to reintroduction before a full summer timetable was introduced.
Mr DeSilva said that “critical items” must first be resolved, including the installation of driver protection screens, deep cleaning of buses, and agreement with the Bermuda Industrial Union and the Bermuda Public Services Union on the proposed scheduling arrangements.
The Office of Safety and Health committee would also have to sign off on the proposed measures.
Mr DeSilva said hand sanitisers would be installed on buses and plans to manage crowds and queues at the Hamilton bus terminal would be drawn up.
He added: “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.”