US carrier Virgin America is conducting market research on the Caribbean island of St Maarten as part of its long-term development plans. This was disclosed at a meeting the airline requested with the St Maarten delegation at World Routes in Las Vegas, USA and was revealed in a statement highlighting St Maarten’s involvement in the event.
The St Maarten delegation was led by the Hon Ted Richardson, Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunications and included Regina LaBega, Managing Director of St Maarten’s Princess Juliana International Airport (SXM), and Edward Dest, Interim Director, St Maarten Tourist Bureau (STB). Other members of the delegation were Louis Halley, head of Maritime and Civil Aviation, and Suzy Kartokromo, Acting Manager, Marketing and Customer Service Department at SXM.
“Our participation at the World Routes 2013 yielded very positive results,” said Minister Ted Richardson. “We were not only able to meet with key players in the aviation industry, but also discussed the long-term plans of airlines such as Virgin America and Southwest Airlines, which are considering possible service to St Maarten.”
The St Maarten delegation also met with representatives of Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta Airport and New York’s John F Kennedy International Airport. “These meetings were based on our interest to establish meaningful sister airport relationships. We had fruitful discussions among others, about ‘best practices’ as they relate to retail, technical, customer service, etc. in the operations of an international airport,” said LaBega.
The potential of increasing airlift to St Maarten was among the main focus of the delegation in its discussions with several airlines. According to LaBega, US Airways, expressed its satisfaction with the St Maarten market and revealed that it is finalising plans to use a larger aircraft in November to operate its weekend flights into St Maarten. “This larger aircraft, Airbus 330 will result in an increase of approximately 70 seats per flight,” she said.
In other discussions, LIAT also expressed its interest to operate in and out of St Maarten after 9pm, to maximize aircraft utilisation and profitability, while Fly Montserrat, expressed an interest in flying between Antigua and St Maarten, with a service that will complement and not compete against LIAT.
According to LaBega, JetBlue’s San Juan, Puerto Rico service has been performing well and the airline is looking into the possibility of increasing service. In discussions the carrier revealed its load factors in and out of St Maarten are good and revealed that talks are underway for a possible interline agreement with LIAT. It is also considering “sharing flights” between two markets, according to the executive. In such cases a flight would, for example, operate four times weekly into St Maarten, and the other 3 days the aircraft would be used to operate for example in and out of St Thomas.
“I am very satisfied with the outcome of our participation in the World Routes event and look forward to follow up action to concretise the results of our various meetings with our aviation stakeholders,” concluded Minister Richardson.