Virgin America researches options in St. Maarten

POSTED: 10/14/13 12:11 PM

St. Maarten -Virgin America is conducting a market research on the island as part of its long-term plans, the company disclosed at a meeting the airline requested with the St. Maarten delegation at the recently concluded World Routes 2013 in Las Vegas.

The delegation was led by the Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunications Ted Richardson, and included airport Managing Director Regina Labega, and Tourist Bureau interim director Edward Dest. Other members of the delegation were the head of Maritime and Civil Aviation Louis Halley and the acting manager of the marketing and customer service department at the airport Suzy Kartokromo.

“Our participation at the World Routes 2013 yielded very positive results,” Minister Ted Richardson said. “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, which are considering possible service to St. Maarten.”

More than 2,700 delegates representing 300 airlines, 750 airports and 100 destinations participated in World Routes 2013, considered the world’s most important commercial aviation event, which was held this year for the first time on US territory.

The St. Maarten delegation also met with representatives of Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta Airport and New York’s Kennedy 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,” Regina Labega said.

The potential of increasing airlift to SXM was among the main focus of the delegation in its discussions with several airlines. US Airways, for example, expressed its satisfaction with the St. Maarten market and revealed that it is finalizing plans to use a larger aircraft in November to operate its weekend flights into SXM. “This larger aircraft, Airbus 330 will result in an increase of approximately 70 seats per flight,” Labega said.

Liat also expressed its interest to operate in and out of SXM after 9 PM, to maximize aircraft utilization and profitability.

Similarly, Fly Montserrat, expressed an interest in flying between Antigua and SXM. The company stated, however, that this would not be to compete against Liat but merely to complement the existing service from carriers.

JetBlue’s San Juan, Puerto Rico service has been performing well and the airline is looking into the possibility for increasing service. The company said its load factors in and out SXM are good and revealed that talks are underway for a possible interline agreement with LIAT. It is also considering “sharing flights” between two markets. In such cases a flight would, for example, operate 4 times weekly into SXM, 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 concretize the results of our various meetings with our aviation stakeholders,” concluded Minister Richardson.

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