Operators of Nassau’s Lynden Pindling International Airport (LPIA) have an ambitious goal, to make it one of the world’s leading airports. While that intention may have surprised those familiar with the old airport, the Nassau Airport Development Company (NAD) has achieved a tremendous amount in the decade since it took up the reins at LPIA.
In 2013, NAD concluded a $410 million redevelopment, transforming the airport into a modern, efficient and culturally reflective facility. The airport increased in size by 24 per cent and is now capable of accommodating 50 per cent more passengers – more than five million. In 2016, some 3.3 million passengers travelled through the award-winning airport, which makes LPIA well-positioned to welcome additional capacity as travel to the Caribbean takes off in the coming decades.
Through architecture and artwork, the terminals reflect a Bahamian sense of place while expanded amenities, shopping and dining options entice passengers wanting one last piece or taste of paradise to take home with them.
“Bahamians have an airport we can be proud of,” said Vernice Walkine, president and chief executive officer, Nassau Airport Development Company. “Having a beautiful, efficient and sustainable airport helps us make a positive first and last impression on visitors to our islands.”
But the organisation hasn’t rested on its laurels. Once the redevelopment was complete, the team turned its focus to ensuring a smooth and enjoyable experience for travelers while maximising the efficiency of operations. One of the airport’s most important initiatives has been the launch of its Automated Passport Control system. 20 BorderXpress kiosks, developed by Vancouver Airport Authority, were installed in 2015 to cut wait times and expedite the border clearance process at LPIA’s US pre-clearance facility.
In 2016, NAD also implemented Electronic Boarding Pass scanners to allow travelers without checked bags to use their mobile devices to move directly through the airport to security checkpoints and onto their gates.
To accommodate more US flights during peak demand times, NAD recently converted two international gates into swing gates, allowing them to be used for US operations. This move increased capacity for processing U.S. flights by 20 per cent without expanding the physical footprint of the terminals. Additionally, NAD recently completed a new apron drive bridge to increase its aircraft docking capacity and availability. Together, these initiatives have increased LPIA’s gating capacity by 50 per cent.
A key part of NAD’s five-year strategic plan is to deliver an extraordinary and authentically Bahamian customer experience. Permanent and rotating works of art showcase the islands’ rich culture and a new music service plays local music while promoting airport retailers. LPIA’s Take-Off Fridays commercial program celebrates Bahamian culture through music, food and activities for passengers.
LPIA has been expanding its retail offering to align with travellers’ needs and boost non-aeronautical revenue, offering a mix of global brands and local favourites. The Lignum Club, a new airport lounge, offers a range of amenities including a business centre, a full-service bar and food options.
Customer service has been a major focus of airport staff training and support. In the first quarter of 2016, LPIA regularly receives top scores in ASQ Customer Satisfaction surveys that place it in the top two airports in the Latin American and Caribbean region.
NAD has been working closely with The Nassau Paradise Island Promotion Board and the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism on air service development initiatives. In 2016 alone, JetBlue, Southwest Airlines and Silver Airways all added new routes or frequencies to Nassau. Meanwhile, British Airways upgauged the aircraft used to service its London Heathrow to Nassau route, with a resulting 46 per cent capacity increase.
In all, the results have been impressive. Since 2007, revenue has doubled, passenger traffic has increased and LPIA has earned a global reputation for excellence in everything from airport design and operation to communications and customer care.
“LPIA’s revitalisation has had a hugely positive impact,” continued Walkine. “We’ve been working hard to anticipate the needs, and exceed the expectations, of the travelling public as well as our industry and airline partners.”
In 2016, Nassau’s Lynden Pindling International Airport (LPIA) celebrated becoming the first airport in the Commonwealth of The Bahamas to receive its Aerodrome Operator Certificate. The effort was an initial milestone in the Bahamian government’s airport redevelopment program, which is focused on modernising the country’s aviation sector.
“ICAO Certification is a distinction that few airports in the Central America and Caribbean region have achieved,” said Walkine. “This accomplishment demonstrates to the entire industry our team’s commitment to operational excellence and international safety standards.”
The certification process covers all operational areas that are needed to assure ICAO that the airport can safely accommodate all aircraft operations. Beyond meeting ICAO regulations, the certification establishes a baseline for continued operational and safety standards at certified airports.
NAD has spent the better part of two years focused on achieving certification through a detailed evaluation by the Bahamas Civil Aviation Department under the guidance of ICAO. Requirements included the establishment of Runway End Safety Areas (RESAs), Runway Strips and the development of an Aerodrome Manual, which contains essential information on the airport’s location, facilities, services, equipment, operational processes, business organisation and management, in addition to the implementation of a Safety Management System (SMS).
However, certification does not mark the end of the focus on safety for LPIA. NAD has continued to raise the bar, adopting new systems, processes, and technology as well as upgrading airside infrastructure. The organisation recently implemented a new software system to track and monitor all incidents, wildlife and safety hazards at LPIA. The data is being used to better understand problems, detect trends and develop solutions to persistent issues.
It also opened a new state-of-the-art Operations Centre with upgraded computers and improved views of key systems including baggage handling and CCTV. This new facility offers the team tools to boost their performance and the efficiency of airport operations, which benefits the airport, its airline partners and passengers alike. In addition, improvements were made to the Airport Operations Database (AODB), allowing for better management of the website and baggage, gate and flight information displays.
Additional Wireless Access Points (WAPs) have been installed at strategic airside locations to improve the safety and efficiency of baggage handling operations. The WAPs significantly enhance signals received by the handheld scanners used by Nassau Flight Services (NFS) and airlines performing bag handling and scanning functions.
To deliver on its goal of providing a safe and secure airport, NAD has also dedicated resources to training its people, strengthening relationships with key emergency response agencies and testing its plans through emergency preparedness activities. Because while new technology is essential, safety will always require the commitment of the entire airport community.