New fees that took effect July 1 for aircraft serving the Bahamas have prompted a strong reaction from U.S. airlines, which say they may reduce service to the destination in response.

A new customs-processing fee is $75 per arrival and $75 per departure for each commercial flight.

Also, there is an increased customs-service charge for each flight arriving and departing the Bahamas between 5 p.m. and 9 a.m. — $50 for aircraft with less than 30 seats and up to $200 for planes with 70 or more seats.

In addition, the departure tax of $25 per ticketed passenger now includes children under the age of 6, who were previously exempt.

The new fees are part of the 2013-2014 government budget, but airlines had less than two weeks' notice about the new fees and no meetings with the airlines prior to the increase, according to the Tribune, a Bahamian newspaper.

Airlines for America, the trade group for U.S. commercial airlines, sought to clarify the new fees and the reasoning behind them, in a June 28 letter to Charles Turner, comptroller of customs in the Bahamas.

"This development is of particular concern to member airlines due to the lack of notice, transparency and cost-based justification for the new charges and increased fees. Less than two weeks is insufficient time for airlines to reprogram their systems to accommodate the new fees and increased charges," wrote Keith Glatz, Airlines for America’s vice president of international affairs.

With slim profit margins and the inability to recoup taxes and fees that airlines pay directly to governments, airlines “may be forced to reconsider their service levels to the Bahamas,” Glatz said. “The proposed fees may have unintended consequences and undermine the desire to stimulate the Bahamian economy.”

Follow Gay Nagle Myers on Twitter @gnmtravelweekly.


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