Island Aviation

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SIMPSON BAY, St. Maarten - The Princess Juliana International Airport, SXM, has received yet another international award for excellence – “The Majestic 5 Continents Award for Quality and Excellence” granted by Paris-based Otherways Management and Consulting (OMAC).

The gala event was held at the Intercontinental Hotel in Berlin, Germany at the beginning of this month. Mr. Anastacio Baker, SXM Airport’s Manager of Quality Assurance Department, received the award on behalf of the company.

“St. Maarten was the only Caribbean island honored at this ceremony, but also the only airport honored,” Baker said.

“This award is a bit different from all the other awards we have been receiving, as this one highlights our Quality and Excellence in service by the employees of SXM Airport,” he said, adding: “This is the first time that SXM Airport has been nominated and selected for this award, which celebrated its 15th anniversary this year.”

The award is designed to recognize outstanding companies from around the world for their firm commitment to quality, innovation and excellence. A total of 36 companies was recognized and honored this year, 20 of them in the Quality and Excellence category and the rest in the Green Era category.

According to Baker, “Each company gave a five-minute presentation. Everyone present was impressed with our presentation as it detailed our geographical location and its advantages, as well as our role as the hub airport for the neighboring islands and our ongoing capital improvement projects.”

“This award adds to the growing collection of international recognition, which SXM Airport has been receiving in the last few years,” note Larry Donker, SXM Airport Deputy Managing Director.

“It is really an honor to see that the work of our employees is not only recognized on a local level but also on an international platform,” Donker said, while congratulating “all employees of SXM Airport for their contribution to the safety, quality and excellent service provided daily at the airport.”

In Photo: Mr. Anastacio Baker holding the Quality and Excellence Award granted to SXM Airport. (SXM photo)

caption2 A Baker SXM 4 2016

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados – Businessman Robert Pitcher is calling for radical changes to the management structure of regional air carrier, LIAT, recommending former Minister of Tourism Noel Lynch as one of the people to lead this change.

With the sudden resignation of Chief Executive Officer David Evans, Pitcher today suggested that Lynch should be approached to take over the leadership of the problem-plagued regional carrier.

Describing the former Member of Parliament for St. Michael South as “a good tourism person” who had a good grasp of the aviation sector, the Marketing Consultant of Fun ‘N’ Sun Publishing Inc hinted that Lynch would be an effective CEO.

“It would be a great move by Prime Minister Freundel Stuart to reach across the political divide and recommend his former political opponent Lynch for the position of CEO. Lynch was a good tourism person and he understands aviation,” Pitcher said of the man who Stuart defeated in St Michael South in 2008 and again in the 2013 general election.

However, Lynch, who served as Minister of Tourism and International Transport from April 2000 to January 2008, was not Pitcher’s first choice to replace Evans. That honour went to Captain Nigel Harris, the founder and Managing Director of Montserrat Airways, which trades as Fly Montserrat.

“We have a private airline which is owned by a European called Fly Montserrat. He is Captain Nigel Harris and he should be asked to assume the office of CEO with the absorption of Fly Montserrat into LIAT. The same way that he is making a small profit for Fly Montserrat he may be able to do the same for LIAT,” Pitcher told reporters at the offices of Fun ‘N’ Sun at Rendezvous, Christ Church.

Pitcher also called for the dismissal of the entire board of directors of LIAT, insisting they should be replaced with regional business leaders with good track records.

He identified Barbadian businessman Ralph Bizzy Williams, who was involved with the doomed low-cost carrier, RedJet, but otherwise remains a successful entrepreneur, as a possible chairman.

He also proposed the recruitment of prominent local businessman Mark Maloney and counterparts from Antigua & Barbuda, Dominica and St Vincent and the Grenadines to make inputs into the running of the regional airline.

Evans resigned after less than two years on the job after what was reported to be a heated meeting of the board of directors last week.

The airline issued a terse statement yesterday confirming his resignation and thanking Evans, but giving no reasons for his departure.

Evans had replaced Ian Brunton who had an even shorter stint as head of the embattled airline.

Brunton resigned in September 2013 after one year in charge.

At his news conference today, Pitcher suggested that LIAT had moved away from its initial function as an island-hopping airline.

He said the current route structure, which includes direct flights from Barbados to some destinations, was unsustainable.

“I recently returned to Barbados on a direct flight from Trinidad and Tobago with only twelve passengers on board. This flight is only fully used at carnival time in Trinidad and Tobago.

“Similarly, it does not make sense to have a direct flight to St Kitts or Tortola. Flights going north or south along the chain of islands should be picking up and setting passengers as it serves the chain of islands,” the tourism marketing consultant and frequent flyer argued. (Barbados TODAY)

GEORGE TOWN, Cayman Islands Cayman Airways has received approval from the Cayman Islands Government to proceed with its Fleet Modernisation Plan.

This plan will commence in the fourth quarter of this year and will see the airline’s current fleet of 122-seat Boeing 737-300 aircraft fully retired and replaced with new Boeing 737-8Max aircraft, by 2020.

“This government is delighted to announce its approval of Cayman Airways’ Fleet Modernisation Plan in-keeping with the airline’s business plan,” said Deputy Premier and Minister for Tourism, District Administration and Transport, Moses Kirkconnell.

“The modernisation starts this year with the introduction of a next generation Boeing 737-800 to the existing fleet, followed by the phased introduction of four brand new, state of the art, Boeing 737-8Max aircraft between 2018 and 2020.  By 2020, the 737-300s will be retired and Cayman Airways will have a fleet complement of four 737-8Max aircraft that will not only give our National Airline the newest fleet in the region, but will also guarantee our growth in tourism air arrivals as we prepare our airport to accommodate more visitors and as our room stock grows accordingly.

“Cayman Airways will now have the range to be able to reach any part of the United States and most of Canada with a significant growth in capacity, poising the airline to increase the $200 million economic contribution to the local economy annually. We are also pleased to state that due to the airline’s continued positive financial performance, with the full support of this Progressive Government, no government guarantees or other contingent liabilities were necessary to achieve this milestone,” Kirkconnell added.

For the fiscal year 2014/15 Cayman Airways delivered audited financial results with a profit of US$3.64M and for the first eight months of the current 2015/16 fiscal year, Cayman Airways has already surpassed that profit. This strong financial performance has proved to be the foundation of the proposed fleet modernization program, as the airline has achieved an ability to accomplish the modernization program without the need for government to issue any guarantees or take on any new liabilities.

BASSETERRE, St. Kitts – The Minister responsible for aviation in St Kitts and Nevis says he hopes last week’s resignation of LIAT Chief Executive Officer David Evans will not prove too  much of a setback for the regional airline.

Evans, who was touted as a results-driven executive when he became LIAT CEO in April of 2014, resigned following what was described as a stormy meeting with the board of directors of the airline.

It remains unclear however, what was the exact catalyst that prompted him to walk away from a LIAT he indicated at the start of his stint that he would try his utmost to turn around the fortunes of the cash strapped regional airline.

Aviation Minister Brantley is hoping that LIAT will put this apparent setback behind it and move forward.

“It is our hope that that will not damage the fortune of LIAT too badly, that we’ll be able to find in quick order, someone who could manage the affairs of that airline” he said.

Trade Unionist Chester Humphrey’s TAWU represents some of LIAT’s workers.

He has expressed surprise at Evan’s going, and says the airline needs to adopt a business model that will provide more stability in terms of its leadership and operations (WINN FM)

PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten – The permanent Committee of Parliament for Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunications (TEATT), will meet on April 22ndwith representatives from Ava Airways.


The Committee meeting is set for Friday at10.00amin the General Assembly Chamber of the House at Wilhelmina Straat #1 in Philipsburg.

The agenda point is a discussion with representatives from Ava Airways concerning the business plan; the Sint Maarten Aviation Open Sky Policy; the private public partnership proposal with WINAIR; the intension with FAA IASA Cat 2 aviation rating and the circumvention, slanderous statement, discrimination and protecting of a monopoly in Air Transport within the Dutch Caribbean by the Government of Curacao.

Members of the public are invited to the House of Parliament to attend parliamentary deliberations. The House of Parliament is located across from the Court House in Philipsburg.

SIMPSON BAY, St. MaartenThe Princess Juliana International Airport, SXM, has been named “Caribbean Airport of the Year 2016” by the Caribbean Journal, one of the region’s leading online journals.

In its edition of Tuesday, April 12, 2016, the publication named its “10 Best Airports in the Caribbean 2016” with SXM Airport topping the list.

The Caribbean Journal said its choice was “based on major criteria including aesthetics, food and beverage options, shopping and, importantly, customer service levels.”

With an iconic photo of a KLM aircraft approaching the runway from the Maho Beach end, and another photo of the Terminal Building, the Caribbean Journal described SXM Airport as, “A modern, well-run airport with perhaps the Caribbean’s best duty-free shopping collection, this was an easy addition to the top of this ranking. This airport has well-run immigration and, even more importantly, is the Caribbean’s great regional hub, with easy-to-make connections across the region.”

“Congratulations to the Caribbean Airport of the Year for 2016,” the journal added.

The publication noted that “These days, flying can be so stressful and soul-destroying that by the time you’ve navigated check-in, security and all the chaos of the concourse you’re desperate for a vacation – even if you didn’t need one before. Which is why we’re fans of these Caribbean airports, which make our tropical transits that much easier.”

The journal singled out “perks such as automated Immigration, plush lounges and smart layouts,” as part of the reasons for its top 10 picks.

“We’re very happy and also humbled by this recognition, the latest in a series of awards which SXM Airport has been receiving in the last few years,” said Deputy Managing Director Larry Donker.

“It is because of the contributions and efforts of all stakeholders, in particular the entire airport community, that we are able to deliver the quality of service mentioned by the journal,” he said.

“The recognition makes us feel even more motivated to continue to work diligently to maintain our position as a leader in regional aviation,” Donker added.

Number 2 on the list is Antigua’s V.C. Bird International Airport, followed by Aruba and Nassau, Bahamas. Punta Cana, in the Dominican Republic was number 5, with San Juan, Puerto Rico in the 6th position.

Others on the list are Cancun at number 7, Cayman Islands at number 8 and Hato, Curacao at number 9. Martinique closes off the list at number 10.

TORTOLA, British Virgin Islands – The police on Thursday launched a major investigation into reports that terrorists were planning to “blow up” the Terrence B Lettsome International Airport and other locations on this British overseas territory.

The Royal Virgin Islands Police Force (RVIPF) said along with the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) in the United States, they were probing the reports.

“The Royal Virgin Islands Police Force are investigating these reports. The BVI National Security Council, jointly chaired by the Governor and Premier will meet early this afternoon to consider appropriate action,” said Governor John Duncan.

“I am aware of reports circulating on local social media channels about a potential terrorist threat to the territory,” the Governor added.

BVI News Online made reference to a report being circulated on social media that an “ISIS fanatic” had threatened to “blow up” the territory’s main airport on Friday, April 15.

In response, Director of the BVI Airport Authority Denniston Fraser, stated that steps were taken early Thursday to review security at the airport.

“We have received information of a possible threat to airports across the Virgin Islands including Terrance B Lettsome International Airport, and we are working closely with the FBI currently on the matter. We cannot yet be sure that this information is credible. Meantime, we have reviewed and stepped up security at the airport and continue to look at public safety as our main priority,” Fraser said.

Meanwhile the authorities have urged persons visiting the territory to remain vigilant.

“…. Should you see anybody acting suspiciously or see any unattended baggage, please contact a member of security staff or other airport personnel.”

“The authorities have stressed that it is business as usual but have recommended that passengers present themselves three hours before their departure to give themselves sufficient time during this weekend’s heightened vigilance,” added the RVIPF and the BVI Airports Authority.

ST JOHN’S, AntiguaRegional airline LIAT on Wednesday announced the appointment of Mrs. Julie Reifer-Jones as acting Chief Executive Officer.

Reifer-Jones replaces David Evans.

The airline’s Board of Directors said it has accepted the resignation of Evans effective 13th April 2016.

“The Board of Directors thanks Mr. Evans for his service and wishes him every success in his future endeavours,” a company statement said.

Reifer-Jones is Director Finance and ICT at LIAT.

ST GEORGE’S, Grenada – The Grenada government Tuesday warned drone users that they must first obtain permission from the police before allowing the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV)into the air.

“Cabinet has decided that persons who wish to operate a UAV should apply to the police stating the reason,” Planning Minister Oliver Joseph told reporters.

He explained that at present Grenada has no policy with regards to the operations of drones and is collaborating with the Antigua-based Eastern Caribbean Civil Aviation Authority (ECCAA) to develop a policy for the use of drones.

Joseph said that in the absence of an official policy the police will decide who receive permission for using drones in Grenada’s airspace.

Joseph did not provide a reason for Cabinet’s decision.

Barbados recently announced a ban on using drones in its airspace until legislation and or a policy is enacted and enforced.

Joseph said that Grenada will not adopt the measure to totally ban the use of drones but instead has decided to let the users apply to the police for permission.

PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten - So far, Cuba has dominated the headlines in 2016: first, the Department of Transportation opened bidding for new commercial routes into Cuba.

Then President Obama announced that he would become the first sitting president in 88 years to visit Cuba. Coinciding with this week’s state visit are also both a Major League Baseball game and a Rolling Stones concert. Altogether, it’s quite the cultural watershed moment.

So what do these rapid developments mean for the travel industry? In this two-part series, we use Sabre data to explore how the ecosystem of travel to Cuba could develop over the next year.


Airlines apply for routes

Earlier this year, the Department of Transportation opened applications for U.S. carriers to fly into Cuba. Up to 110 scheduled daily flights are available for officially sanctioned commercial flights to Cuba’s ten airports, including 20 daily flights into Havana’s José Martí International Airport. Airlines eagerly filed applications to fly non-charter flights to Cuba. Alaska, American, Frontier, Spirit, Sun Country, United, JetBlue, Southwest, and Delta are the biggest brands angling for a fixed number of routes.

American Airlines flew 1,200 charters last year to Cuba, while JetBlue also flies charters to Cuba. The government has not said whether those already operating in Cuba will have an advantage in the bidding process. To be considered, airlines must submit details of the proposed routes, such as aircraft type and a prioritized list of origin cities.

In a statement toBloomberg BusinessWeek, JetBlue’s SVP of government affairs Rob Land, highlights how competitive this process already is:

I think it’s safe to say that the Havana market application pool will be oversubscribed.

Land’s statement is indeed correct: U.S. carriers applied for about 50 daily flights to Havana from various hubs, far more than the 20 allotted slots. The breakdown of daily scheduled flights reveals significant bids from American, JetBlue and Southwest.


Cuban-American populations

Airlines are clearly eager to serve the 77% increase in Americans arriving to Cuba in 2015, a year that saw a total of 161,000 American arrivals according to theCaribbean Tourism Organization.

BusinessWeekalso highlighted some of the likely metrics for regulators, saying that “the size of a city’s Cuban-American population, along with which routes are most conducive to business travel and other commercial engagement with the island” will be prioritized. The airlines serving the cities below are likely to have a leg up in the selection process.

This critical information supports some of the airlines’ applications for a sizable share of the daily flights to Havana. For example, American argues that its strong hub in Miami is ideally suited to serve that area’s significant Cuban-American population.

Travel to Cuba opens up – but from which cities?

Amidst the backdrop of his historic trip, President Obama furthereased travel restrictionsto Cuba. Americans can now travel to the island if the trip is declared a cultural visit. This includes activities such as visiting art museums, learning about the Cuban people, taking in art or even watching a baseball game.

Given this, more and more Americans will travel to Cuba. The question is: from which cities?

Sabre data from 2015 sheds some light on which cities airlines may be awarded routes. While its never apples-to-apples (Sabre’s internal data set on American travel to Cuba is significantly large), our predictions considered gateway cities for travel to similar Caribbean countries.

The data, which is pulled from an anonymized and blended (corporate/leisure) set sorted by date of booking, shows the most popular gateway cities for travel to the Caribbean. A gateway city is the last city prior to flying to a country. So rather than showing the city a traveler started from, it shows the last city a traveler transited through before arriving in the country. Since passengers from other cities generally travel through hubs, this analysis shows the hubs that the DOT would be most likely to consider for sanctioned travel to Cuba.

The countries include Barbados, Bahamas, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Trinidad and Tobago. Based on the assumption of attracting a mix of leisure, family and corporate travel, each of these countries have a similar profile and demographic appeal as that of Cuba.


There are twenty daily flights in play – could the DOT match the current travel patterns to Cuba or will the government adjust these flights to match local Cuban-American populations with direct access to their families back home? There’s no easy answer but the data offers an insightful look at how many elements should be considered.

The DOT could also look at which airlines market the most flights into the Caribbean, which demonstrates deeper knowledge of the operational complexities of Cuba. An analysis of airline marketing codes shows that American, Delta, JetBlue and United are the most active commercial airlines in the selected countries.

Gateway Airline Code

The DOT is expected to release the chosen routes by the summer – just in time for the onslaught of American travelers expected to touch down on the island during peak summer travel season!Will you travel to Cuba in the next year?

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