PHILIPSBURG--American Airlines (AA) said it plans to maintain its second Miami flight to St. Maarten in the winter as well as direct service from New York; Charlotte, North Carolina, and Philadelphia, the Ministry of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunication (TEATT) said in a press release on Sunday.
The destination's performance was discussed during a high-level Zoom meeting between TEATT Minister Arthur Lambriex and AA Network Planner Director Michael Eng and team on Monday, May 29.
The meeting served as an opportunity to delve into crucial topics such as pricing strategies, seat availability and the overall operational landscape. During the meeting, AA Regional Manager Kathy Edwards expressed keen interest in St. Maarten being able to confirm that a completion date for the Princess Juliana International Airport PJIA departure hall remains set at the fourth quarter of 2023. Edwards cited issues with weight restrictions and accessibility in the carousel area.
AA stated during the meeting that if PJIA implements US pre-clearance, it will allow for a better customer experience and assist with scheduling. AA cautioned against increasing airline expenses with the expectation of growing capacity.
After the meeting, the general sentiment was that the destination’s success, evidenced by 90% and above load factors on most flights and around a 17% increase in ticket sales over last year, must be protected and improved upon.
Lambriex said he considered the meeting with AA “productive and successful” and said he was encouraged by the airline’s request for continued dialogue on improving and increasing airlift to St. Maarten.
“Our goal in speaking to American Airlines was to re-emphasise the value our destination puts on its service over many years and encourage collaborative efforts to satisfy the steadily increasing demand for travel options from the US mainland to our shores,” said Lambriex.
The minister’s team fielding the call from American Airlines included TEATT Ministry Secretary General Miguel de Weever, Director of Tourism May Ling Chun and Senior Policy Advisor Regina LaBega, and Suzy Kartokromo representing Princess Juliana International Airport (PJIA). They spoke at length with Director Eng, AA Government Liaison Robert Winc, AA Revenue Management Marvin Alvarez Ochoa and AA Regional Manager Kathy Edwards.
Lambriex said the goal of the meeting was to discuss crucial aspects of air travel between the United States and St. Maarten via American Airlines with a focus on airfares, capacity and the availability of aircraft servicing St. Maarten.
Eng told Lambriex the US east coast is the primary source market for St. Maarten, representing almost 90% of the airlift. However, he pointed out that capacity constraints are presently being experienced because of their supply chain’s delivery of equipment and a shortage of pilots over the short term.
According to Eng, American Airlines is in the process of “balance sheet restructuring” to create a more sustainable framework for the airline. The process involves assessing the value of its assets and asset disposal or lease restructuring of regional jets. The airline aims to ensure that carrying values reflect the market’s worth.
AA says it will soon start looking at aircraft allocation to St. Maarten for summer 2024 in the next few months, as it generally makes decisions at least six months in advance.