Hooker calls for replacement/competition for Winair

POSTED: 03/30/11 1:04 PM

GREAT BAY/ORANJESTAD – Former Commissioner of Aviation Affairs in St. Eustatius Roy Hooker has called for the Dutch government to either start an airline based there that will serve the island or identify another airline to serve as an alternative to Winair. The call is part of his most recent assertion that the airline’s tickets are too expensive.

Hooker said as a Commissioner he continuously raised the issue of the high airfares with visiting Dutch delegations and urged them to think outside the box in terms of reducing fares. He’s now urging the sitting government, in the Netherlands on a working visit, to reopen talks with the Dutch government.

“The Dutch have always looked at this issue from a commercial point of view, but we have urged them to see it as more than that because people earning minimum wage cannot afford the ticket prices and cannot survive in this overbearing situation, with astronomical prices,” Hooker said.

The former commissioner believes the Dutch government, which holds 7.95 percent of the shares of Winair on behalf of Saba and St. Eustatius, to use that position to press for a decrease in fares that he said are 25 percent of what minimum wage earners make. He’s especially concerned about how the fares affect students at local schools, students at the Medical School and the island’s tourism industry.

“The people of St. Eustatius need to have the opportunity to come and go as they like and the cost is too expensive to travel between St. Maarten and Statia.  Someone who is making a minimum salary on Statia cannot afford to travel with Windward Islands International Airways (WINAIR) and that needs to be fixed,” Hooker said.

He added, “It is not fair to the people of the Island Territory since this has been part of the negotiations with the Dutch from the inception and it is really taking the island backward. They continue to deny those things and they need to listen. We are not asking them to throw money at something but it needs to be structured properly.”

The former commissioner said the high cost of the airline tickets also affects the government’s ability to travel to meetings in Bonaire – the central point of contact for the public entities and the Dutch government.

“Before, we had to fly to St. Maarten and then to Curacao. Now it’s more difficult, as we have to fly to St. Maarten, then to Curacao and then to Bonaire, and this is making it more expensive,” Hooker said.

Winair is currently the only airline that flies to St. Eustatius. Caribbean Sun launched a Dash-8 service to the island from Puerto Rico on November 15, 2005, but those flights ended in January, 2007 when the company stopped doing business.

 

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