The sooner the better

The sooner the better

The Dutch government agreeing to provide Winair with a US $3 million loan (see related story) is good news. The carrier based at Princess Juliana International Airport (PJIA) plays a pivotal role in ensuring connectivity for St. Eustatius and Saba.

The Netherlands owns 7.95 per cent of the company on behalf the latter two islands. St. Maarten is the biggest shareholder and has a major stake in terms of employment, passenger facility and landing fees, taxes, etc. Besides that, the airline is key to the hub-function of PJIA, particularly regarding “jet set” destination St. Barths.

Conditions include at least two flights per day to Saba and Statia, which will be crucial to revive their tourism sectors. All this can only happen once their COVID-19 entry restrictions are eased so there is enough demand to fill the seats.

Fact is that the current measures have caused much inconvenience, prompting the public entity of St. Eustatius to organise daytrips to St. Maarten to make essential business transactions as reported in last week Tuesday’s edition. All that would not be necessary if Winair could again operate its regular commercial schedule to the two islands of the Caribbean Netherlands. That will hopefully not take long, as any meaningful recovery of their economies without vacationers seems difficult at best.

St. Maarten, Curaçao and Aruba are now accepting each other’s travellers without a PCR or antigen test (see related story) providing they have not been in high-risk countries 14 days before departure. This too is a plus for Winair and its service to Curaçao and Aruba based on a wet lease with Guadeloupe’s Air Antilles. From there passengers can easily fly on to Bonaire, thus connecting the three so-called BES islands (Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba) for which the Dutch government is – after all – responsible.

Travel within the local area remains important in terms of the regional product, and the sooner trips by both plane and ferry also to Anguilla can safely return to normal the better.