Early morning on May 27 I stood inside the Leonard M. Thompson International, still unsure whether it was actually open, or if it was some cruel joke. But no, it was very real. The first Bahamasair flight arrived shortly after 7am and people spilled out of baggage claim. A Ms. Betty Role was the very first to leave baggage claim and was promptly greeted by the Abaco press core – Mr. Silbert Mills and myself.
The Abaco people have waited a very long time to greet that first new passenger into our new airport. And this airport is a facility we can be proud of.
Of course the new terminal still has some physical bumps to iron out (a door installed backwards, a baggage carousel not working, no PA system, among a few others) but I am thrilled it is just finally open. Those kinks will iron out. And as personnel and passengers get used to the new terminal after today’s “Soft Opening” the appropriate changes will be made.
There are managerial challenges ahead as well. The facility will certainly be costly to run considering it was not originally designed with airport best practices. Paid parking is new for Abaconians and the taxi drivers will have to learn a new system. There are also reports of security being a little too, enthusiastic, in their pat-downs.
I say these things not to nitpick. Just to say that this airport is real now, and we are all stakeholders in it. We should all take pride in, and have concern for, its operation. We’ve waited too long and worked too hard not to appreciate it fully.
All of that aside, this really is an exciting time for Abaco. A lot of things are looking up; there are a lot of boats in the harbours, attendance in the fishing tournaments are up, more visitors seem to be on the streets compared to last year and now, with a brand new airport as our face to the world, Abaconians can feel confident that economic growth is a real possibility for everyone.
If we can get this airport open I have full confidence we can overcome any other hurdle that hinders us.
With our capacity now for increased airlift, local entrepreneurs should be seizing opportunities. Who knows what developments we will see a few years from now? Direct flights out of Atlanta, maybe?