Traffic Is Steady At Hub For Bahamas-Bound Travelers

 - December 28, 2010, 11:04 AM

During the economic downturn, some FBOs have enjoyed a steady flow of traffic, especially in places like the Bahamas where visitors from all over the world come to enjoy the warm weather and clear water.

For Odyssey Aviation Bahamas, based at Nassau’s Lynden Pindling International Airport (MYNN), business has been good as tourists travel to vacation homes and yachts. “We’ve had constant traffic, even in the downturn,” said Zelda Evans, the FBO’s guest services and special events manager. “We didn’t see the massive decline in arrivals and departures,” she said, although fuel sales did decline slightly because more jet operators are tankering fuel.

During the Thanksgiving weekend, traffic at Odyssey Bahamas spiked to 70 arrivals per day, according to Jill Case, executive director of marketing and branding. Traffic during the busy northern hemisphere winter season averages 60 to 70 arrivals per day, she said, then drops off during the summer months and hurricane season. This year the Bahamas enjoyed a hurricane-free summer.

Odyssey Aviation has been operating in Nassau since president and CEO Steven Kelly opened the FBO in 1997. Said Kelly, “I had owned and operated various types of construction businesses in the Bahamas since 1978. The owners of Phoenix Aviation (dba Odyssey Aviation Bahamas) seized the opportunity to resurrect a bankrupt FBO development at MYNN in June 1996, completed the construction process of the FBO and ramp and opened as Nassau Jet Centre in January 1997.” In November 1997, the FBO became a Million Air franchisee. Since late 2009, the company has also been providing refueling and handling services at Treasure Key, Abaco, and Georgetown, Exuma. At Exuma International Airport, Odyssey is building the airport’s first full-service FBO, which is slated to open in March or April.
Odyssey Aviation Bahamas is part of a marketing and branding partnership with U.S.-based FBO chain Odyssey Aviation. The seven U.S. Odyssey FBOs and Odyssey Aviation Bahamas used to be part of the Million Air franchise system but they struck out on their own and formed the partnership in January 2008. The experience as a Million Air facility “did a lot for this company,” said Case.

The Nassau Odyssey team does everything possible to make the experience smooth and fast. Bahamas customs and immigration personnel are housed in the Odyssey facility at Nassau, and the FBO is open 24/7. Customs and immigration services are available after normal business hours as well.

Most arriving customers use Odyssey’s reservations system to let the FBO know they are coming, although some regular customers just come in unannounced. For arrivals from countries outside the Bahamas, Odyssey customer service reps fill out most of the information on customs/immigration forms if the customer provides the information as part of the reservation process. All the customer has to do is fill out any additional information and sign the form after arriving.

“Our customer service representatives meet every arriving aircraft and greet the passengers and escort them,” said Case. While one pilot usually stays with the airplane to coordinate fuel requests with the line technicians, the CSR escorts the other pilot and the passengers to the customs/immigration office and stays with the group until they are picked up by ground transport or the people they are meeting. “Even on the busiest day of the year have we have a CSR meeting every airplane,” she said.

Odyssey’s Nassau facility is located on a 20-acre site completely separate from the commercial side of the airport, on the southwest side of 11,353-foot-long Runway 32. The FBO doesn’t handle any airlines but focuses strictly on the charter and business/general aviation market. Closed-circuit TV cameras are located throughout the Odyssey facility, which has its own security guard. For larger charters that require departure checks as part of their security program, Odyssey Aviation has a private area for screening outbound passengers, who can then be driven in their vehicles directly to their aircraft.

The FBO brings all the amenities pilots expect of a modern facility to the Bahamas, including a pilot’s lounge with six snooze areas, Internet-enabled desk/work areas, large-screen tv in the passenger lounge, catering refrigerators, a conference room and complimentary Starbucks coffee, popcorn and cookies. Odyssey personnel will drop off and pick up beach-goers in the FBO courtesy cars, and the beach is just 10 to 12 minutes away.

Odyssey has its own refueling capability, thanks to the company’s fuel farm with a 90,000-gallon jet-A tank and 25,000-gallon avgas tank, both Texaco-branded.
When it comes time to leave Nassau, Odyssey’s CSRs help pilots fill out flight plan forms and make sure that all airport charges are billed immediately. At Nassau, aircraft operators pay a landing fee and a $20 per person departure tax, and Odyssey adds those fees to the invoice with no markup. Odyssey also charges a ramp fee, but that is waived for minimum fuel purchases.