Barbados is preparing for a busier than usual 2015 winter tourist season with more than 200,000 passengers forecast to pass through Grantley Adams International Airport (GAIA) during December alone.
Operations manager Jason Inniss said from November 6, 2015 to April 10, 2016, there would be an increase in the number of flights to the island, resulting in more passengers using the Seawell, Christ Church facility.
Some 387 flights are expected, representing an increase of 53 over the last winter season. Passenger numbers are expected to rise by about 15 per cent.
“Operations at the Grantley Adams International Airport are expected to increase significantly for the winter season 2015/2016, both from air-to-sea charter operations as well as from our regular scheduled services,” reported Inniss.
“For December our forecast calls for approximately 205,000 passengers using the Grantley Adams International Airport. And for the year we should end with close to two million passengers. This is up from 1.8 million passengers for the calendar year 2014.”
The GAIA executive made the disclosures this morning during a presentation at the third quarterly general meeting of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA).
Inniss said a number of carriers and charters, including JetBlue and Thomas Cook are expected to introduce new or additional services during the season.
“A part of our highlights for the year for 2015/2016, and this is not completely confirmed as yet, but Avianca is looking to start a service from December 2, 2015 and they would operate twice weekly – on Wednesday and Saturday,” he added.
Avianca is Colombia’s national carrieer. It would join GOL, which operates a weekly service out of Brazil, as the second airline flying between Barbados and South America.
Stating that the air-to-sea operation had “a big impact on operations at the airport”, Inniss said there would be several airlines to operate that service this winter season including Thompson Airways, Thomas Cook and British Airways.
He said an addition this year for the air-to-sea operation would be German low-cost airline Eurowings twice per week.
“The air-to-sea operation is mainly for passengers going to the cruise ships. However, we do have a number of persons particularly on Thompson Airways who actually spend a week here in Barbados before they move on to the cruise,” Inniss pointed out.
The main air-to-sea flights will be coming from airports in England and Germany.
Giving a breakdown of the busiest days for the airport in December where regular scheduled services are concerned, Inniss said over 9,400 passengers are expected to go through the airport on Fridays, more than 10,300 on Saturdays and more than 9,100 on Sundays.
“This, of course, impacts significantly on the operations of the airport and this doesn’t even count the passengers that come off the air-to-sea flights and go directly to the port,” he said, noting that Fridays would be the main air-to-sea day for the island with as many as 10 chartered flights.
“If I include those [air-to-sea] passengers coming through the airport, those numbers go up to 12,500 [on Fridays], 12,000 [on Saturdays] and 11,500 passengers [on Sundays]. So this will be a very significant season for us,” he said.
As a result of the expected increase in passenger traffic, Inniss said there would be “a short-term” expansion of the seating area in an effort “to handle the increase in activity”.
“Design capacity initially for the airport during our expansion back in 2005 was for 1,600 passengers. So considering the numbers I gave earlier, the seating at that time was about 900 and something. Since then we have gone up about 30 per cent to about 1,200 seats in the departure seating area and our regional lounge now we are up to 125 seats.
“We are going to put in 550 seats in that area, which is about 6,000 square feet. Also, because of the increase in operations with LIAT in Barbados, we are also expanding our regional lounge. That is supposed to break ground in early 2016. That will provide additional seating as well as more concessions for our regional passengers.”
“Of course, the next stage of operations will include four to five jet bridges, but that will be sometime in 2016,” he added.
There are currently 22 parking positions for aircraft, with some able to accommodate up to three planes.
“Of course, on these peak days during the winter, all parking positions will be fully occupied,” said Inniss.