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Cancelled Airline Routes Prompt Launch of Seaplane Service in Pandemic

Madhu Unnikrishnan

January 15th, 2021

In the midst of a pandemic and a near-shutdown of international tourism, a new airline is launching in the Bahamas. Coco Bahama Seaplanes expects to start operations next month, the company said in a statement.

The airline has not published its schedules or destinations, but it says it is planning to operate between the islands of the Bahamas. “Recovery of the family islands will be accelerated with the arrival of Coco, and importantly without the need for additional direct government investments to expand, rehabilitate, or build new airports,” CEO Brian Hew said in a statement.

Hew hit upon several issues that have plagued aviation not just in the Bahamas but throughout the Caribbean. The region’s air connectivity historically has been poor. An industry maxim holds that travel between Caribbean islands and nations often requires a connection in London or Miami.

Infrastructure in the region often can’t support aviation’s expansion. Hew added that using seaplanes allows Coco to get around that issue and fly directly to island harbors. The Bahamas is comprised of about 700 islands.

A high-end, privately owned resort, Kamalame Cay is backing the airline. The resort is accessible only by boat and seaplane.

The new airline comes as the Covid pandemic has battered tourism in the region. The Riu resort chain this week said it would lay off up to 90% of its staff as its resorts continue to report losses.

The Bahamas early on launched a program to attract digital nomads to the country on a one-year visa. Visitors staying longer than five days must take a Covid test on their fifth day in the country.

Coco isn’t the only new airline expected this year. David Neeleman’s Breeze is expected to start operating in the U.S. later this year, and Pakistani startup AirSial recently began flying in that country.

Madhu Unnikrishnan

January 15th, 2021

Photo credit:  Coco Bahamas Seaplanes

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