SXM Airways gets support from parliamentarians

POSTED: 11/12/15 6:48 PM


rolando brisonSXM Airways Managing Director Rolando Brison during his presentation to Parliament. Photo contributed

Upstart airline SXM Airways received encouraging words of support from Members of Parliament on Tuesday as management and shareholders briefed the Central Committee on the airline’s plans and vision. The MP’s urged management to “keep pushing” and not to be afraid of competing with other airlines including Winair.

Managing Director Rolando Brison and shareholders Elvis Queeley, Michel Carter and Jeff Oliver, gave a comprehensive presentation about everything from the origins of the idea for the on-demand airline, to educational initiatives, market analysis, market share, share availability for local purchase and operational perspectives. Brison also shared information about financing for the airline and the process to obtain all licenses and meet all requirements of the Civil Aviation Department.

MPs mentioned that it was very encouraging to see a group of local people take a “bold step” in a challenging industry. Brison and his team were encouraged to “keep pushing” and “don’t give up” as they strive to make their dream into reality. MPs assured the SXM Airways team that they stand ready to support the effort and should their assistance be needed to clear any bottlenecks, SXM Airways can feel free to inform them.

MP Tamara Leonard for example said the aspect of cooperation with other airlines such as Windward Express which have pledged to assist the start-up company, “is a positive sign of hope.” MP Christophe Emmanuel said he was very happy to see members of his generation finally doing for themselves instead of just complaining. MP Franklin Meyers said SXM Airways is an example that “our people don’t want to be just workers anymore, they want to own.”

Various MPs also encouraged the SXM Airways team to look at expansion and not to be afraid to compete. MP Frans Richardson stressed that the airline industry is very challenging and won’t be an easy trek for SXM Airways. However, he added, the team behind the airline is obviously a very experienced one that can pull off the venture.

Richardson said he was proud to see St. Maarteners embark on such a venture and urged them to give Winair competition. “Don’t be afraid. They probably won’t just accept it. But Winair needs competition especially on the St. Kitts, Nevis, Statia and Saba routes. But they need competition. Winair isn’t even owned fully by St. Maarten, it is owned partially by the Dutch. At least with SXM Airways we can say that something is 100% owned by St. Maarteners,” Richardson said.

In responding to Richard’s question about why the team members left a secure job (at Winair) to form an airline with no guarantees, Jeff Oliver, former Chief Pilot of Winair said that he, Elvis Queeley and Michel Carter were the driving forces at Winair. “If there is any team that can make SXM Airways a success, it’s this team. We share the confidence that we can get this done.”

Brison made special mention of the efforts of former Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunication Claret Connor in getting the process of licenses moving. He also thanked management of SXM Airport for its vital cooperation so far. He urged government to support the Civil Aviation Department which he praised extensively for its cooperation.

St. Maarten Airways will provide on demand travel for a niche market of travelers out of SXM Airport.

Brison explained that the airline can be considered “a genuine local initiative” and that it wants to provide plenty of internships for local students.

The airline will also assist other airlines with deeply discounted fees in the event they are over-booked, are unable to fulfill flights or need assistance transporting baggage. “When other airlines coming to St. Maarten fail to deliver, it reflects poorly not just on the airline but on our airport and overall aviation product. This is why we will offer deeply discounted rates to other local airlines so that our small fleet can assist them wherever the need arises.”

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