Low-cost carrier AirTran Airways has released flight schedules for new service from three U.S. hubs to the Bahamas and Jamaica, including daily flights to both countries from Atlanta.
The carrier plans to fly four times per week between hubs in Baltimore and Orlando to Nassau, Bahamas, and Montego Bay, Jamaica, in addition to the new Atlanta service to the Caribbean destinations.
The routes are pending final government approvals in the two countries and in the U.S.
“We’re pretty far along in the process,” said Cynthia Tinsley-Douglas, an AirTran spokeswoman. “It’s pretty much a go, but we still have a little bit of red tape to get through.”
AirTran Airways, a subsidiary of Orlando-based AirTran Holdings Inc., operates its largest hub at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. It announced last week that it had filed for U.S. Department of Transportation approval for routes to Aruba, the Bahamas and Jamaica.
Aruba routes were not included in the newly released schedules. Ms. Tinsley-Douglas said the Aruba route was not denied by the DOT but that it’s not as far along in the approval process as the other two.
The new Bahamas routes come on the heels of the opening of a new Bahamian consulate in Atlanta covering the Southeast U.S.
Bahamas Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham traveled to Atlanta to dedicate the consulate last month. He praised the new government outpost as an asset that would boost trade and tourism during a severe economic slump largely caused by a drop in U.S. visitors to the small island nation.
“Our overnight visitors are down significantly,” Mr. Ingraham said told GlobalAtlanta in an Aug. 20 interview. “While the number of people who come on cruise ships is up, overall expenditures are down. We have unemployment in double digits. Many of our businesses that depend on tourism are not as profitable.”
In December 2000, AirTran began flights to the city of Freeport on Grand Bahama, the fourth largest in the Bahamas island chain. The flight ran until September 2007, when decreased demand caused by hurricane damage and rising fuel prices made the route no longer profitable, Ms. Tinsley-Douglas said.
Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines Inc. has operated a daily flight to Nassau for more than three decades.
“Atlanta is a major hub for the Bahamas,” Mr. Ingraham said. “Delta Air Lines has been serving us in excess of 35 years with daily flights. We see opportunity and potential for trade between the U.S. and the Bahamas.”
Ms. Tinsley-Douglas said AirTran would provide low prices and quality service to compete with Delta’s long-standing route and those of other carriers.
“The one thing Airtran does on all of its routes is provide low fares, so typically when we come into a market, no matter what airline is currently serving, we tend to provide more competition,” she said.
She added that AirTran is the only U.S. carrier that offers wireless Internet access on every flight.
AirTran’s only other international route is to Cancun, Mexico. It also flies to Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory in the Caribbean.