Posing next to the Arajet Boeing 737 Max-8 on its arrival Tuesday were (from left) Halley Aviation Supervisor Johanna de Windt, PJIA CFO Ben van der Klift, Arajet CFO Mark Breen, Arajet spokesperson Nacin Yala, Acting TEATT Minister Omar Ottley, Arajet Lead Agent Jasper Dore and Priscilla Halley, also of Halley Aviation. (Robert Luckock photo).
AIRPORT--Princess Juliana International Airport (PJIA) officially welcomed Arajet Airlines from the Dominican Republic with a symbolic inaugural ceremony on Tuesday. The ceremony had been postponed due to the passing of Tropical Storm Fiona.
A full plane-load of passengers disembarked from the Boeing 737 Max- 8 aircraft, including Arajet executives who were met on the tarmac by Interim Director of the Commercial Division Suzy Kartokromo.
Inside the terminal building, Arajet’s Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Mark Breen and Arajet spokesperson Nacim Yala were welcomed by PJIA’s CFO Ben van der Klift.
“I can assure you this will be one of the most beautiful airports in the region, it used to be and will be,” said Van der Klift. “For me, I am inspired by the happiness over your arrival and I hope we can keep up the good spirit with the airport and our relationship with Arajet and I wish you a lot of success.”
Van der Klift presented a plaque to Yala before Acting Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunications (TEATT) Omar Ottley gave his remarks.
“This is a sign that St. Maarten is on its way back to being the number one tourist destination,” said Ottley. “Trust me, what you are seeing today is peanuts compared to how this airport is going to look and operate in the years to come. It will be a state-of-the art airport with the best staff. Staff is one of the best assets we have. So, we encourage this relationship, we thank you, and look forward to more flights in the future.”
Ottley emphasised on the long history of trade relationships and family ties that St. Maarten and the Dominican Republic share.
“The Dominican Republic has a vast number of travel enthusiasts whose visits will further enhance our economic model as we continue to grow,” he said
The Arajet executives were presented with gift bags on behalf of Minister Ottley, the Government and St. Maarten Tourism Bureau.
Yala said, “Thank you for the welcome and we are very proud to fly to St. Maarten. We are also very proud of our new fleet of Boeing Max-8 aircraft. We are very happy to be here and look forward to growing this market.”
Arajet will have two weekly flights between St. Maarten (SXM) and Santo Domingo (SDQ) on Tuesdays and Saturdays using the Boeing 737 Max 8 with a capacity of 185 seats, and from October on Mondays and Fridays. The venture serves as part of Arajet’s growing network out of the Dominican Republic.
Van der Klift said Arajet is an important addition to PJIA’s hub function to increase St. Maarten’s connectivity in the Caribbean. The entire island, both the Dutch and French sides, will benefit from this route development.
“There will be more tourists coming to our island and the people of St. Maarten have even more choices when they want to fly to Santo Domingo,” he said.
Earlier, Arajet Chief Executive Officer Victor Pachego Mendez had said: “We are excited to start operations to Princess Juliana International Airport. St. Maarten is one of the top destinations in the Caribbean and the launch of direct, low-fare flights from the Dominican Republic will attract more tourists, increase connectivity and offer our guests the opportunity to experience our warm and distinctive Dominican customer service, flying in an environmentally-friendly fleet of a new and modern 737 MAX-8.”