News & Media

Airlines Optimistic About Service to SXM

SIMPSON BAY, St. Maarten (March 9, 2014) - Most of the airlines servicing the Princess Juliana International Airport expressed optimism about their performance based on the results posted last year.

At meetings held with the St. Maarten delegation to the recently concluded Routes Latin America in El Salvador, which was led by the Hon. Ted Richardson, Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunications, Delta Airlines, for example, revealed that it was satisfied with its load factor and revealed that bookings for the next three to four months already show over 50%, which is “pretty good.”

Minister Richardson however emphasized that it is government’s desire to stretch the season and become a year round destination. He invited the airlines to a partnership that would create demand. “We can no longer afford to be a seasonal destination only,” he said.

Delta Airlines, which at the beginning of this year, increased the frequency of its flights from JFK, New York to a daily service, said it especially welcomes the recently established Air Service Development Committee and its objectives and suggested that it creates more awareness among carriers.

Air Transat revealed that its average load factor for 2013 was 54% and thus far, year to date (YTD) 2014 its average load factor is at 72%. In addition, the airline disclosed that it would reinstate its YYZ service for the winter 2014 season using an Airbus A310.

For its part, Jet Blue said it is very pleased with the market, which has shown an overall strong performance. The company’s focus is currently on the expansion of its slots at Washington Reagan International Airport (DCA), hence the noticeable limited growth in the region and at SXM.

Nevertheless, Jet Blue said it will further look into the request to consider a possible RON (Remain Over Night) flight on the SJU-SXM route. SXM can serve as a second hub for Jet Blue in the Caribbean, with a focus on the Northeastern part. “We will work towards this diligently,” said Regina LaBega, SXM Airport’s managing director.

The good news for St. Maarten continued with the revelation that SXM is “on the radar” for when Southwest Airlines extends its wings to the Caribbean starting July 1, 2014. The airline, with a fleet of 700 aircraft, is expanding its international operations as part of its merger with Air Tran, which it acquired in 2011. New service for the Summer 2015 season will be announced in the next four to five months and according to John Kirby, International Business Manager for Southwest Airlines, “SXM is highly favored.”

With a load factor of between 75 - 80%, COPA Airlines has been doing very well and performing strongly. The yield is good and feedback has been very positive, the carrier disclosed. It said it has identified the St. Maarten market to be high end. Therefore, depending on the profitability, the airline will most likely consider the possibility of increasing the frequency of its flights. The carrier indicated that the top five markets to SXM are Panama, Sao Paolo, Bogota, Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro. COPA’s current schedule offers connectivity primarily to South America.

Similarly, Insel Air intends to expand its operations to and from Aruba and is considering the establishment of an Insel Air SXM in the same way it has Insel Air Aruba. The company plans to acquire additional Fokker 70 aircraft with a seating capacity of 80, especially in view of new markets coming on line like Boa Vista c - Manaus- Porto Velho (Brazil), Georgetown (Guyana), Baranquilla - Cali - Bucaramanga (Colombia), Quito (Chile) and Paramaribo (Suriname). 

Finally, the effects of the recent merger between US Airways and American Airlines on the St. Maarten market are not yet known. According to a representative of the airline, it would take some time before plans are finalized and thus we will continue to operate “as is.” While AA’s Miami flight is doing very well, same could not be said of its JFK service, which operates at a below 80% load factor. However, 2013 was a very good year for US Airways on its CLT service which had a 91% load factor and on the PHL flight with a 86% load factor.

“With our partners in the Air Service Development Committee, we will continue to work hard to ensure sustainable service to SXM and to attract new carriers as well,” said LaBega.