Flying is the most popular way to reach the Bahamas and, with more than 60 airports, the Bahamas is certainly easy to reach by plane. Though only approximately half of these airports have paved runways, small island-hopping jets fly from one island to the next with ease. Large international and private flights arrive in Nassau International Airport and Freeport International Airport.
Booking round trip tickets well in advance can save money when traveling. When you plan to travel is also an important consideration. Flights departing during the fall, spring, and summer are usually less expensive than winter flights. Obviously, winter is the most popular time to fly to the tropics. Mid-week flights are less expensive than weekend fares and Saturday stay-overs usually decrease the ticket price as well. But remember, specially-priced tickets are often non-refundable, and altering a flight may incur special fees.
Many major airlines fly directly to the Bahamas. Flights from Miami to Nassau can take as little as 35 minutes, with flights from Jacksonville and Ft. Lauderdale not taking much longer; two hours from Atlanta; three hours from New York; and approximately seven hours from Los Angeles. Taxis are available at the major airports; staff at small airports can call for taxis to make sure your arrival goes smoothly. Don't forget to have the $15(USD) departure tax on hand when you leave the Bahamas.
After being ranked as having some of the least-efficient airports in the Caribbean, a $409.5 million airport redevelopment project was announced in 2009. The goal of the project was to enhance the quality of life for residents as well as the experience of visitors who pass through the airports. Phase one of the project, a new US departures terminal at Nassau's Lynden Pindling International Airport, was completed in 2011, just 20 months after construction began. In October of 2013, the airport announced the completion of the project when a new terminal for domestic and international flights opened. As planned, the renovations made it possible for 50 percent more passengers to arrive each year. Features of the finished product include a 606,000 square foot LPIA, an additional one million square feet of air craft operating surface, 10 bridges, 30 loading positions, energy efficient terminals, and a modern baggage system.
The abundance of airports and ease of island-hopping in the Bahamas give travelers easy access to a plethora of places to explore. Bahamasair is the main inter-island air carrier of the Bahamas, but smaller carriers and charter planes have services to the Out Islands. Visit one of the many Out Islands like Abaco, Biminis, Eleuthera or Exumas if you really want to get away from the crowds. Visit http://www.airflightcharters.com/ to find out more information on charter flights on the island.
Flying to the Bahamas is convenient as many major airlines have regularly scheduled flights. Airlines servicing the Caribbean from the United States include the following:
|Air Jamaica||Jamaica: 888-359-2225
North America: 800-523-5585
|American Airlines/American Eagle||800-433-7300|
|Chalk's Ocean Airways||800-424-2557|
|Delta Air Lines||800-221-1212|
|Florida Coastal Airlines||954-772-9808|
|Gulfstream International Airlines||800-231-0856|
|Tropic Ocean Airways||800-767-0897|
Airlines servicing the Caribbean from Canada and Europe include the following:
|Air Canada||888-247-2262 (U.S.)
|British West Indian Airways||800-538-2942 (U.S.)
Airlines offering connections between major flights and local Caribbean service include the following:
|Air Turks & Caicos||954-323-4949|
|VI Air Link||284-495-1652|
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) ranks carriers based on safety, service, and performance, so travelers unfamiliar with an airline's reputation can do a little research. Contact the FAA at 800 Independence Ave., SW, Washington D.C., 20591 or online at www.faa.gov. You can also phone the FAA regarding specific issues:
|Air Travel Service Problems||202-366-2220|
|Aviation Safety Hotline||800-255-1111|
|Aviation Consumer Protection Division||202-366-2220|
|Questions about FAA-monitered consumer issues||866-835-5322|
|Transportation Security and Baggage Screeners Concerns||866-289-9673|
Added time travelers spend in airports before boarding can be avoided. It is recommended that vacationers check with the specific airlines for possible delays before they even leave for the airport, and arrive at least two hours in advance of the scheduled departure time. Make sure you have your ticket or e-ticket confirmation page and your passport before you get to the airport.
To further reduce waiting time and ensure that you reach your gate in a timely manner, consider these airport standards and advisements:
Your passport and boarding pass should be easily accessable for security clearanace purposes. Children under the age of 18 must also present a passport or other approved travel document when entering or re-entering the U.S.
Metal objects such as steel-toed boots, heavy jewelry, or bulky belt buckles should be avoided, since these items could set off the checkpoint detectors. Loose change, keys, cellular phones, etc. will need to be placed in the container provided by the airport for screening. You will also need to remove your shoes, sweaters, coats and other outerwear before you walk through the screening detector.
If you have any metal surgical implants, bring a current note from your doctor to avoid a long meeting with an airport official.
Remember that only ticketed passengers with boarding passes are allowed to pass through security. (Non-ticketed persons can only pass through if accompanying a child or an elderly or disabled person). An official confirmation page for an e-ticket will suffice.
Items such as metal scissors and razors, are not permitted on flights. For a complete list of regulated items, visit the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) website at www.tsa.gov/public/index.jsp or call 1-866-289-9673 in the U.S. Other general carry-on rules are as follows:
Food and beverages may not be brought through security checkpoints, but can be purchased beyond security and brought on board.
The carry-on limit per passenger is one carry-on bag plus one private item such as a briefcase, laptop case, or purse. Generally, carry on bags must be small enough to fit below your seat or in the overhead compartment.
If you plan to carry presents with you, it is advised that they be unwrapped for clearance, or send them to your destination ahead of time.
The Bahamas opens its skies to intrepid travelers who want to fly in on their own wings. Still, pilots looking to land in the Bahamas must follow certain guidelines.
Pilots leaving the United States for the Bahamas must file an International Flight Plan and activate it on Miami Radio, frequencies 122.2, 122.4, or 126.7, before leaving Florida. All passengers are required to have a Coast Guard approved life jacket. To land in the Bahamas, close your flight plan on Nassau Radio, frequencies 124.2 or 128.0, and land at an official Airport of Entry (AOE) to clear Customs and Immigration. If you are unable to close your flight plan in the air you may call 800-WXBRIEF or 242-377-7116. Also, if possible, have Gen Decs and Cruising Permit and Immigration cards ready to speed the Customs process. If you have questions about these procedures, check with the Aviation Specialist with the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism at 800-32-SPORT (800-327-7678).
Departing from the Bahamas must be done from an AOE and you must complete a Gen Dec and turn in a copy of your Immigration card. You must file an International Flight Plan at 800-WXBRIEF and advise U.S. Customs of your flight, then activate your flight plan with either Nassau Radio or Freeport Radio. If these are unavailable, activate with Miami Radio on 126.7 or 122.4, or from Bimini on 122.1, and listen on VOR 116.7. While in the air, you must receive a discrete transponder code from FSS 126.7 Miami Radio 15 minutes before entering the ADIZ. Close your flight plan with Miami Radio, or with the Customs office at 800-WXBRIEF if Miami Radio is unavailable. Land at an official AOE, go directly to Customs. Prepare your U.S. Arrival Report and Customs Declaration cards ahead of time if possible to speed up the Customs process.
Private pilots entering the Bahamas will need the following:
Three copies of the C7A Bahamas Customs form;
One Bahamas Immigration card per person; and
Proof of citizenship with one of these document combinations: passport; birth certificate and drivers license; or Pilots License and photo ID.
Remember that everyone onboard needs proof of citizenship and must meet all other necessary entry requirements.
Private pilots leaving the Bahamas will need a copy of the Bahamas Customs General Declaration Outward Form (C7). They will also need to do the following:
Turn in the Bahamas Immigration card copy;
File a flight plan; and
Pay the Government Departure Tax of $15(USD) for travelers over the age of six years.
Private pilots should keep these other requirements in mind:
Single engine private planes under 6,000 lbs. on a non-commercial trip will be given no Landing Fee at any government-owned airport.
Private air crafts visiting the Bahamas for recreational purposes, and with pilots who declare that they will gain no remuneration for the flight, will not pay an Overtime Customs and Immigration Fee.
Private pilots traveling through the Bahamas for pleasure do not need a Transire (C38) because a C7A will suffice.
Government airports will not charge a Tie Down Fee.
Private pilots are expected to file a flight plan, activated prior to entry and closed after landing. Pilots must file a new flight plan to leave the islands.
Private airports may charge some of the fees that government airports waive. Please be aware of which airport you are flying into and what fees apply. You must land at an official AOE when entering the Bahamas.
Also remember that fuel is not available on every island, but a nearby fueling station is never more than 20 minutes away by air. Only Nassau and Freeport have lighted runways for night flights. All other airports require arrivals and departures between sunrise and sunset.
With consistent schedules and plenty of flight options, it's easy to see why Bahamas air travel is a breeze.
If you want to learn more about flying into the Bahamas, read our local Bahamas Air Travel guides that give a better picture of specific locations.
|Great Guana Cay|
|Green Turtle Cay|
|New Providence Island|
|the Bimini Islands|
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