Bahamasair (UP, Nassau Int'l) is to reintroduce an early retirement programme as the flag carrier looks to cut costs further after changing its business model, trimmed its schedule, and reduced its workforce through attrition and an earlier round of voluntary retirements.

Chairman Tommy Turnquest said although Bahamasair did not plan mass lay-offs or furloughs, salary costs at the state-owned carrier were 8% higher than the industry average and needed to come down. Of its 550 employees, 140 were 55 years or older, with the average tenure at the airline being around 20 years, local media reported.

The airline had seen its revenues double in December compared to prior Thanksgiving in November. While this was cause for optimism, these results represented only 25-30% of pre-COVID passenger numbers a year earlier. “We still are extremely challenged,” he said.

Turnquest said the airline’s business to Cuba grew to six flights a week in December after engaging a Cuban wholesaler in Florida in November. However, numbers had dropped off again after Cuba tightened entry requirements on January 1.

The carrier in January also adjusted its airfares and baggage fees to cover increased operational costs.

Turnquest previously said Bahamasair would need extra funding from the government to cover its COVID-linked losses estimated at USD10.5 million, adding to an USD8 million loss following hurricane Dorian in 2019. The airline was due to receive a USD19 million subsidy in the current budget.