Today’s news that KLM is not only going back to non-stop flights from and to the Netherlands at the end of October but increasing the frequency to three times per week in mid-January, is most welcome. Up to now, partly due to less airlift, St. Maarten has not benefitted from Dutch tourism like, for example, Curaçao and Aruba.
Planes currently returning from Princess Juliana International Airport (PJIA) to Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport via Curaçao isn’t exactly helpful either in that sense, as it adds several hours to the – already considerable – travel time. KLM’s service to the destination getting back to pre-Hurricane Irma levels thus offers an opportunity to further develop this market a bit.
To do such will require the necessary means under difficult budgetary circumstances, so it was good to hear Finance Minister Perry Geerlings say some NAf. 3 million from the Trust Fund managed by the World Bank has in fact already been made available for promotion. Perhaps with a good plan more can be done in this regard, because its hospitality industry is really all the island has when it comes to generating income.
However, there is another problem. While KLM and Air France via Paris may provide enough capacity on the route, their rates are often not very favourable.
The latter is no doubt based on supply and demand, but may also have something to do with the two carriers merging. In addition, when Dutch travel organisation TUI’s airline stopped flying to PJIA a few years ago it mentioned choosing for the so-called ABC islands (Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao) and basically leaving St. Maarten to KLM/Air France.
Strict fair-competition rules exist in the European Union (EU) to which also aviation companies must adhere. It would be good to see some lower fares in the immediate future to avoid even the mere perception of deliberate price-fixing.