Overwhelming response to SXM Airport automated passport initiative

POSTED: 02/5/15 5:55 PM


The IATA representative (standing) giving his presentation in St. Maarten to top officials of SXM Airport, the Civil Aviation Authority, the Ministries of TEATT and Justice, and airline representatives. (SXM photo)

St. Maarten —The SXM’s airport initiative to introduce Automatic Passport Control (APC) at the facility has the full support of Minister of Tourism Claret Connor and his colleague Minister of Justice, Dennis Richardson who is cooperating very closely with the airport in this endeavor.

This was revealed by Regina Labega, SXM Managing Director, following the presentation made Tuesday to all stakeholders by Filipe Pereira dos Reis, of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and Anthony Henn of SITA.  Labega said the feedback from the presentations was “overwhelmingly positive” and singled out Udo Aaron, the Secretary General of the Ministry of Justice and Director of the Immigration and Naturalization Service of St. Maarten for his “visionary outlook and support” of the project.

“We are very encouraged by all the understanding and cooperation we have been receiving from the authorities and all the stakeholders concerning this project and I believe together, we will be able to get it off the ground and transform SXM into the leader in Caribbean aviation and one of the best airports in our region,” Labega said. According to Pereira dos Reis, “SXM needs to be connected globally.” He said he had walked through the airport and “it looks like SXM can accommodate it with some infrastructural changes.”

Implementing the APC would be a “potential game changer if SXM wants to be a serious regional hub,” he continued, while he noted that “Not having interlink agreements between airlines is not necessarily an impediment.” The IATA official pointed to the fact that Schipol Airport in Amsterdam has made “huge investments” in this regard. “It’s a strategic decision for SXM to make,” he said. During his interactive presentation titled, “The Perfect Passenger Experience,” Pereira dos Reis revealed that “by 2020, eighty percent of global passengers will be offered secure fast travel experience.” The goal, he said, is to get departing passengers from the “curb to the duty free area in 10 minutes,” and from the moment of arrival to the taxi in 30 minutes.

IATA’s aim, therefore, is to “partner with SXM to take it to the next level,” he said. “We’re changing the process with technology.” This is becoming more available and affordable due to competition, he added. The “perfect passenger experience” means “fast travel” through self-service options in a number of areas, “passenger facilitation,” that results in an “end-to-end passenger experience that is seamless, secure and efficient,” and “smart security” that allows passengers to move through security and immigration check points with “minimal need to divest.” In his comments following the presentations, Udo Aaron said, “this is the way of the future; we cannot afford to lag behind.” For his part, SITA’s Anthony Henn, stressed that “Security is a balancing act,” especially due to budget constraints, which affects everyone including rich oil producing countries who are now seeing the price of oil fall precipitously on the world market. SITA, he said, offers a “complete set of capabilities to transform border security and facilitate the travel experience,” which it calls “iBorders.” This is achieved through “information, intelligence, optimized interactions with travelers and comprehensive insights to enhance every aspect of border operations.”

Among those in attendance at the presentations were top officials of SXM Airport, the Civil Aviation Authority, the Ministries of TEATT and Justice, as well as airline representatives.

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