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Sat, Mar 08, 2014

Bahamas Ditches Private Pilot's Bill Of Rights

Charges New Overtime Fees For Customs & Immigration

The long-standing Bahamas "Bill Of Rights For Private Pilots" is no longer valid. The island nation has begun charging a new fee should a private airplane arrive or depart before 0900 or after 1700 local time, according to information forwarded to ANN by Caribbean Flying Adventures.

Previously, there were no fees charged for such services from customs and immigration if the pilot declared that he/she does not receive any remuneration and the flight is for recreational purpose.

But our source reports that this exemption was declared null and void by a new regulation issued July 1, 2013. Arrive or depart before 9 am or after 5 pm and you will be charged $100 ($50 each for immigration and customs) at most ports of entry.

That new regulation, however clearly states that these fees apply only to immigration officers "outside a place of normal attendance." Jim Parker of Caribbean Flying Adventures said he spoke Thursday with the Bahamas acting Director of Immigration who refused to acknowledge the language in the regulation, and insisted that all flights would be charged no matter whether they use an FBO facility or a fully staffed airport terminal. "His response was "just arrive after 9 or depart before 5 pm," Parker said.

"Having organized 30 Fly Ins to the Islands during the past 10 years, I can confirm categorically, that almost 90% of the private planes returning to the States depart prior to 9 am in order to get ahead of the weather and/or arrive at their destinations in Pennsylvania or Ohio or wherever at a reasonable hour," Parker said in a news release. "So be prepared to pay an extra $100 on departure."

Facilities at Nassau, Freeport and Exuma International are charging the new fees. Stella Maris is not for the moment. But Parker said "it's only a matter of time before all airports charge the fees."

Parker says that, when you add up the fees, it totals $250. "Fly to the Bahamas in your little four seater with three friends; pay $50 to land; $100 in departure taxes; and $100 in overtime fees if you arrive or depart before 9 am or after 5 pm," he says.

"What are they thinking? The number of private aircraft arrivals has been declining steadily over the past five years," Parker said. "Yet another fee of $100 will surely contribute to a further decline in private aircraft arrivals and the loss of millions more in tourism revenue. The government has completely ignored the blowback from private pilots over the recent $50 arrival fee for private aircraft and the increase in the departure taxes from $15 to $20 to $25 and the increase in Avgas taxes and the increase in hotel taxes. They did fold under pressure from the Commercial airlines who threatened to curtail service. Guess we private pilots don't matter."

Parker encourages pilots to email the Director of Tourism, Hon. Obediah H. Wilchcombeand and "let him know that you will probably stop flying to the Bahamas and fly instead to the Florida Keys or the Dominican Republic or Belize or Puerto Rico where the fees are nil or less than $50."

FMI: www.bahamas.com

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