I tried and did my best!

Dear Editor,

In 2018, during the collapse of the previous airline, as a shareholder of a small company that operated charter flights, I felt the need to help Curaçao with a new airline. At that time, I had been retired for 14 years, but I still wanted to do something significant for my country.

A contact connected me with the owner of Avianca, and I reached out to him. We had several discussions, and I was invited to Bogotá, Colombia, to talk about establishing a new airline in Curaçao. We immediately began the process, and together with some employees from the previous company, we started making all the necessary preparations, and that’s how JetAir was born.

At the end of negotiations with Avianca, things didn’t go as planned because I had to start the company with my own resources. They later would have participated by providing two planes.

Aside from that, they also demanded a majority of the shares. We couldn’t reach an agreement, and I found myself alone in deep waters, with big waves, strong currents, and no buoy.

Why did I continue? Because I continue to believe in Curaçao. A small island without a national airline would be a huge setback for our economy and the general well-being of our population.

Seeing that there were already two airlines covering the traffic between Aruba and Bonaire, we opted to fly the traditional longer routes that our airlines have always flown. Together with some colleagues who knew more about aviation than I did, we developed a business plan and prepared the manuals for use in various departments.

We calculated that since we already had an AOC (Air Operator Certificate) for charter flights and wanted to change this to regular flights, the process wouldn’t take more than six months. During this process, we purchased two Fokker 70 aircraft to meet the requirement of having planes ready on the tarmac as a condition for obtaining our AOC. Gradually, we started hiring staff and sending them to the Netherlands for training to operate the type of aircraft we planned to use.

Unfortunately, instead of the six months we expected, the AOC process took 14 months, putting us in a multitude of unnecessary expenses. Initially, we had 35 employees on payroll and 12 mechanics to maintain the aircraft. This was at the beginning, with more staff being hired later on.

When everyone returned from their courses, we had to fly 100 hours of training flights together with an aviation inspector for our operation to be approved. This cost us around 320,000.00 florins in fuel, not counting all the salaries that had to be paid during that time.

Finally in November 2019, we received our AOC from the Minister, designating JetAir as the national airline of Curaçao. We began operating our first flights to St. Maarten.

Just as we started our initial flights, two months later, COVID-19 hit, and we had to suspend all operations for two long years, with all the corresponding expenses to keep the company alive. Despite our planes being grounded, maintenance had to continue as if nothing had happened.

During the Covid period, both aircraft had to undergo their C-checks. The first one cost 1.3 million euros, and the second cost 1.2 million euros. All this before we could truly begin providing service to our clients.

During the Covid period, every airline faced problems, including JetAir. The first company to cry for help was KLM, which requested and received 9 billion euros from the Dutch government to cover its expenses during Covid.

Winair was subsidized by the government of St. Maarten. Airlines worldwide were subsidized by their respective governments.

During the Covid era, the Netherlands sent a large sum of money to Curaçao for the government to subsidize and try to save Curaçao’s vital companies from bankruptcy. We requested assistance from the government of that time, and after much pleading, we began receiving a very small sum over a period of 8 to 9 months, which wasn’t even enough to cover the “social burdens” of our employees at the end of the month.

I continued to hold on tightly to ensure nothing happened to JetAir, spending all my money to keep our national airline on its feet. At least I can say, “I put my OWN money where my mouth is.”

Why did I continue to invest so much money despite everyone recommending I “bail out” seeing that the company was doing so poorly? Because I am a very persistent person with the conviction that JetAir’s best days were still to come. In that, I was mistaken.

I didn’t need any airline to make money because I had been retired for 14 years. I simply wanted to do something significant for Curaçao, where I grew up and matured.

It’s important for everyone to understand that I am the same Curaçaolenean as those who criticize me. The only difference is that I stepped up to do something good for this country, which is a rare phenomenon on this island.

After going through a “Perfect Storm” for three long years, carrying an entire airline on my shoulders just to not lose the ideal with which I started the company. I believe everyone knows that there is no industry more complicated than the aviation industry where luck can turn a company’s fortune upside down.

Returning: From the moment Covid happened, Jetair was bankrupt. For almost three long years, I always carried the hope that things would change with time.

This year, we received assistance from the government through CTB and CAH, which helped us cover all the expenses for that month.

Since last year, we’ve been looking for partners to join us on several occasions, but most of them wanted to fly between Venezuela, Curaçao and Miami. That wasn’t possible because in the 14 years since Curaçao lost its Category 1 status in 2010, this country has been unable to change this status in a way that would allow us to also get a share of the pie that American Airlines has.

There, I want to refute the fact that all airlines in Curaçao have lived off flights between Venezuela, Curaçao and the US, and vice versa, and JetAir did not have that opportunity. I’m sure that if we had the possibility to fly the VEN-CUR-MIA route and vice versa, Jetair would not have found itself in such a deplorable situation.

Meanwhile, with Curaçao not regaining its Category 1 status, it can bury its aviation industry with JetAir. The lack of this is really the main cause for JetAir’s downfall. Now it’s too late!


Word to the people: Forgive me for everything that has happened in recent days. The way things turned out in the end was stipulated throughout the entire process of terminating the company. There was never any intention to take advantage of our customers who innocently bought tickets.

Unfortunately, all of this fell into the bankruptcy pot, which benefited no one. There, I want to ask everyone who was harmed, my sincerest apologies.

Sorry once again, for everything that went wrong after 6 years, where I did everything I could to give Curaçao a national airline. I did my best!

With sorrow in my heart,

Antonio Ribeiro

The Daily Herald

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