(Left) Minister Leo Lambriex, responsible for Tourism, posing for a photo at the new Boarding Pass readers. On the right the situation at the airport on Thursday.
SIMPSON BAY--Princess Juliana International Airport proudly welcomed its first passengers through the doors of the new Departure Hall on Wednesday, offering “an enriched passenger experience for all travellers.” However, passengers tell a different story. “What chaos, lots of angry tourists,” a woman said about the situation on Thursday.
Told to arrive at the airport three hours prior to departure, many passengers flocked together waiting in line. Among them an employee of The Daily Herald, who said it took two hours before she could pass airport security and get to the gate. “Hours in line despite having booked VIP service.”
Airport employees seem not to be fully prepared for the new situation, she said, explaining that the service rendered is not up to par. “This caused a lot of frustration and anger among travellers.”
The airport’s operating company PJIAE did not recognise the passengers’ dismay, stating to the contrary in a press release on Thursday: “Passengers embarking from the new departure hall expressed their delight at the seamless check-in process, efficient security procedures, and overall look and feel of the facility.”
The airport did not mention that passengers travelling with American Airlines and Delta need to wait for buses to bring them to respective planes.
Outside of the airport terminal, the arriving passengers faced an even bigger ordeal than those inside the building. As the temporary Arrival Hall is too small to accommodate all visitors and residents on arrival at the airport, a great number of persons had to wait up to 1.5 hours outside near the tarmac, in the open air.
The reconstructed terminal building will be opened in a phased approach, PJIAE explained on Thursday. “Each phase focusses on specific areas to ensure seamless airport operations throughout the project.”
Next on the list is the Check-in Hall, which will open in December 2023 and is designed with “a keen focus on passenger comfort and convenience, incorporating modern technologies and design principles to create a seamless check-in process and an inviting environment for travellers.”
The 10,000 square metre Departure Hall, PJIAE said, “features cutting-edge technology and innovative design elements. From the moment passengers step into the hall, they are embraced with an atmosphere of sophistication and convenience.”
Approximately eight concession units will be open for business by this weekend, with others coming online by year’s end, PJIAE announced. “All will contribute to an enriched passenger experience for all travellers.”
Following the completion of the Departure and Check-in Halls, the attention will shift to the final phase, which will be the construction of an upgraded Arrival Hall, PJIAE informed. “The new Arrival Hall will provide a welcoming space for passengers, offering improved baggage handling systems, efficient immigration and customs processes, and enhanced passenger facilities. This phase aims to optimise the passenger flow and ensures a seamless transition from the aircraft to the terminal.”
Construction of the Arrival Hall is anticipated to be finalised by the second quarter in 2024. “In time for summer travel,” PJIAE said in conclusion.