Passengers making use of a rental car company on Saturday afternoon.
AIRPORT--Exactly 350 passengers arrived at Princess Juliana International Airport (PJIA) from the United States (US) on Saturday, which was the first day the country reopened to that market in four months. Government officials and tourism stakeholders were on hand to witness the initial stream of US-based tourists set foot on “The Friendly Island”.
A jetBlue aircraft from John F. Kennedy (JFK) International Airport in New York City, New York, was the first to arrive. It touched down at PJIA around 11:20am Saturday.
The airport’s Rescue and Firefighting (RFF) Department lined up on both sides of the taxiway and welcomed the aircraft with a water salute.
As the aircraft parked at gate A1 and the boarding stairs approached to allow passengers to disembark, several government officials and tourism stakeholders took group photos to mark the occasion.
On hand were Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunication (TEATT) Ludmila de Weever, Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labour VSA Richard Panneflek, Parliament Chairperson Rolando Brison, St. Maarten Tourist Bureau (STB) Director May-Ling Chung and airport operating company PJIAE chief operating officer (COO) Michel Hyman.
The 83 passengers arriving on this flight made their way to the arrival hall, and 12 of them were tested for coronavirus by staff of VSA’s Collective Prevention Services (CPS). In the arrival hall, they were treated to steel pan music courtesy of Sweet Pan Entertainment and STB.
In addition to jetBlue, three other US flights landed at PJIA on Saturday: an American Airlines flight from Charlotte, North Carolina; an American Airlines flight from Miami, Florida; and a Spirit Airlines flight from Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
In total, the US flights brought exactly 350 passengers to St. Maarten, and departed with 191.
The other international flight on Saturday was an Air France flight from Paris, France. This flight brought 189 passengers and departed with 221.
The airport’s passenger volume for Saturday’s five international flights was 951, of whom 539 were arriving and 412 were departing passengers.
CPS tested approximately 70 incoming passengers for coronavirus on Saturday, and none came back positive. These passengers were reportedly obligated to pay approximately US $125 for the test and were to stay in quarantine until their results returned negative.
“It is a great day for our first run of passengers. It may not have all been 100 per cent, but it is the first step to get destination St. Maarten back on its feet after nearly four months of hibernation,” said PJIAE chief executive officer (CEO) Brian Mingo on Saturday.
According to the latest figures of US flights released by the TEATT Ministry, American Airlines will fly to St. Maarten daily from Miami, Florida, and five times per week (except Tuesdays and Wednesdays) from Charlotte, North Carolina. After August 20, the airline will fly only once a week from Charlotte.
Delta Airlines will operate from Atlanta, Georgia, three times per week (on Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays), while jetBlue will fly from JFK once per week. Spirit Airlines will fly from Fort Lauderdale once per week.
As US-based tourists come into St. Maarten, the French side closed its border to the country on Friday, except for cross-border workers and persons seeking medical attention.
“US visitors are not permitted entry to the French side of the island. Our US visitors are therefore invited to enjoy the southern part of this unique two-nation destination,” said TEATT in a press release on Saturday.
A jetBlue aircraft being sprayed by PJIA’s Rescue and Firefighting (RFF) Department on Saturday morning.
From left: Kevin Maingrette of the Minister of TEATT’s Cabinet, STB Director May-Ling Chung, Halley Aviation Services Director Ariana Halley, PJIAE COO Michel Hyman, jetBlue Regional Manager Shellian Ramchandani, TEATT Minister Ludmila de Weever and Parliament Chairperson Rolando Brison.
Passengers taking a taxi to leave the airport.
A taxi driver sanitising the hands of an arriving passenger before she enters his vehicle.
A Spirit Airlines aircraft (left) and an American Airlines aircraft parked on PJIA’s tarmac on Saturday afternoon.