Freeport Grand Bahama International Airport is targeting November 15 for the resumption of international commercial flights, Nassau-based newspaper The Tribune has reported.

From September 1-3, the airport was heavily damaged by Hurricane Dorian, leaving it under two metres of water. As CNN reported two days after the disaster, debris littered the runway, the walls of the terminal were destroyed, and aircraft lay broken with part of one small aircraft lodged inside the terminal along with other wreckage.

Dionisio D’Aguilar, the Bahamian Minister of Tourism and Aviation, said that Hong Kong-based Hutchison Whampoa, the airport’s 50% controlling owner, had promised the government to have the facility open for international flights with a target date of November 15.

However, the return of US pre-clearance facilities to the island was “sketchy”, he cautioned. Bahamians travelling from Grand Bahama to the US currently need a visa unless they travel via Nassau Int'l.

Godfrey Smith, chief executive of Hutchison Whampoa's British Virgin Islands subsidiary Hutchison Ports, said of the planned full reopening: “Thankfully, the airport’s runway sustained no damage, but that doesn't mean that resuming operations will be an easy task.”

In recent weeks, Bahamasair (UP, Nassau Int'l) and Western Air Bahamas (WST, Nassau Int'l) have resumed services in temporary facilities for domestic travel, and the airport has been open to NGOs and relief supplies. Personnel have worked in tented facilities provided by the Bahamas' National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA).

“Our main goal is to reopen the international airport facilities and welcome international commercial flights again,” Sarah St George, acting chairman of airport co-owner the Grand Bahama Port Authority (GBPA), said.

Last week, The Tribune reported D’Aguilar as saying that Bahamasair’s Dorian-related losses had “quickly spiralled” above USD2 million due to a combination of evacuation costs and lost commercial flights. He said the flag carrier had lost revenue from cancelled flights over the Labour Day holiday weekend (September 5-7) and had incurred extra costs from evacuating 3,080 people from Grand Bahama and Abaco on 38 flights.