Business Aviation Trip Planning: The Bahamas
While the Bahamas is a welcoming environment for business aviation, be aware that support services may be lacking at secondary airfields. When operating to remote airfields or to major airports during high season, it’s important to confirm fuel, services, and local ground handling availability.
The following is an overview of what you need to know when operating to the Bahamas:
1. When is high season?
The Bahamas is a popular destination all year round, but peak travel period is December 20-April 19 and around the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday. From time to time, aircraft parking availability may become tight.
2. What are popular destinations?
Destinations most operated to are Nassau (MYNN) and Freeport (MYGF), which are both 24-hour Airports of Entry (AOEs). Treasure Cay (MYAT) and Marsh Harbour (MYAM) are also AOEs, although not 24/7. Overtime for MYAT and MYAM can be arranged with 24 hours’ advance notification.
There are also several popular domestic airports. Prior to operating to domestic airfields, it’s best to confirm, in advance, airport conditions, operating hours, and availability of ground handling services. In some cases a ground handler will need to be re-positioned to a domestic airfield. When operating to more remote airfields, you’ll need to clear Customs, Immigration, and Quarantine (CIQ) at AOEs both inbound and outbound.
3. What information is needed to arrange ground handling?
You’ll need to provide your ground handler with the full schedule, crew/passenger information, operator name, aircraft type, and registry, as well as ground service requirements.
4. Are there ground service limitations at remote airports?
You may run into issues with fuel availability, credit, handling, and CIQ at remote airports. Fuel shortages occur – particularly during holiday periods – and fuel uplift quantity may be limited. Sourcing in-flight catering is more challenging at remote locations, and additional notification is always necessary. When arranging your own ground handling at remote airports, it’s particularly important to confirm arrangements in advance and reconfirm day of arrival to ensure that services are in place.
5. What about PPRs and aircraft parking availability?
Bahamian airports do not have airport slot or Prior Permission Required (PPR) requirements. However, aircraft parking can be an issue during high season and at smaller airfields. Some operators book requests for high-season parking as early as July (i.e., 6+ months in advance). While you may not be given a parking confirmation until closer to day of operation, early requests are processed before last-minute requests.
6. Are landing permits required for the Bahamas?
Landing permits are necessary for charter (non-scheduled commercial) operations, but not for private non-revenue flights. Permits are available for both single- and multiple-entry operations. A permit for a single operation requires four business days, and a 3rd-party provider can assist with this type of permit. Blanket multi-entry permits/air transport licenses are good for unlimited charter operations over a one-year period but can take up to 90 days to obtain. All annual permits are done directly between the operator and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). While an annual permit is in process, operators may continue to obtain single-entry permits. Short-notice permits are possible on a case-by-case basis at the discretion of CAA. Normal CAA operating hours are Monday-Friday, 0800-1600 local.
7. What documentation is needed for landing permits?
Documentation requirements include a copy of the registration and airworthiness certificates, insurance certificate, Air Operator’s Certificate, and ad hoc application for a charter permit.
8. Are there credit issues?
At many locations, services, airport fees, and fuel uplifts may be arranged on credit. At remote locations, however, you may need to prepay services or pay for services upon arrival with consumer credit cards. Hotel accommodations fill up during holiday periods – particularly at smaller destinations. In some cases, hotels must be pre-paid and cannot be cancelled for a refund. Availability of ground transportation is limited at remote locations, and public taxis may be in poor condition. It’s best to make all hotel and pre-paid (car with driver) transport arrangements in advance.
9. What’s the process for operating to uncontrolled airfields?
Bahamian aviation authorities are specific in terms of operational procedures into uncontrolled airfields. Operators must follow Article 56 of the Air Navigation Order. Overtime may be requested for uncontrolled airfields. However, overtime is limited, and approval is at discretion of CAA. A "transire" form (the Bahamian version of a gen dec) is required for domestic ops within the islands. Your ground handler can prepare and complete this in advance, assuming you’ve pre-provided all required information.
10. What are CIQ procedures?
CIQ pre-clearance for the U.S. is not possible in the Bahamas for general aviation. Onboard Bahamian CIQ clearance is available with 24 hours’ notice, but approval is at discretion of CAA. For international tech stops, so long as no passengers or crew are embarking or disembarking, CIQ clearance is not required. Keep in mind that even though an airport may operate 24 hours, CIQ may not be available 24 hours. Onboard catering may be permitted to be offloaded, or stored at the airport, but you’ll need to confirm these arrangements in advance with your ground handler.
11. Are there additional operating tips for the Bahamas?
Pets may be brought into the Bahamas, but the pet must be no less than six months old and have a current rabies shot and a health certificate from a veterinarian. The animal, within 48 hours of arrival, must be presented to a local veterinarian for examination. If you intend to have firearms on board, coordinate with your 3rd-party provider or ground handler well in advance. For additional information on Bahamas, see the Bahamas private flying site or the entry requirements site.
When operating to the Bahamas during high season, be sure to check fuel availability in advance and pre-book hotels and local transport. Be particularly diligent in setting up and confirming ground handling and fuel arrangements at remote domestic airfields to avoid last-minute surprises. When arranging your own services, be sure you have direct contact numbers for your local ground handler and service providers.
If you have any questions about this article or would like assistance planning your next trip to the Bahamas, contact me at email@example.com.