Winair gets annual losses under control

POSTED: 01/11/12 12:38 PM

St. Maarten – Winair managed to bring down its annual debt from 5 million to 900,000 guilders in fourteen months (from $2.8 million to $500,000) and to reduce its staff by 30 percent from 106 to the current 74, the company’s advisor Michael Ferrier said yesterday morning during a presentation to participants in the inter-parliamentary Kingdom consultation at the Great Bay Beach Hotel.
Winair’s ownership was transferred to St. Maarten and the Netherlands on the day it became an autonomous country in the Kingdom with a negative equity of 16 million guilders ($8.9 million) and an accumulated debt of more than 20 million ($11.1 million). The airline’s fleet was sold in 2006 through a sale and leaseback arrangement in an attempt to raise capital. Currently, the company pays between $30,000 and $32,000 per month for each of the three De Havilland DHC6-300 Twin Otters. By the end of this month, the fleet will be expanded with a fourth aircraft.

The ad-hoc committee Prime Minister Wescot-Williams established in October 2010 to assess the situation at the airline found that financial reporting was deficient and untimely, and that the staffing levels were artificially high.
Last year, Winair made 3,476 flights to Statia, 2,814 flights to Saba and 8,388 to St. Barths plus another 700 to Nevis. With, St. Barths is “Winair’s cash cow” as 52 percent of its flights per year. All in all, the airline handled 151,257 passengers last year.
The new board is looking for a solution for the inherited debt as part of its intention to turn Winair into a profitable operation. Cost controls, adequate and transparent financial reporting and reduced staff levels are part of the package of measures to keep Winair flying. Last year the company dropped seven unprofitable destinations from its itinerary.
“We are also going aggressively after the charter-market,” Ferrier said.
For the future, Winair foresees the development of new routes to the UDS Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Haiti to the north, and to Bonaire, Curacao and Aruba to the south.

At the same time, the airline is looking for additional revenue streams.
“Winair must be designated as St. Maarten’s national carrier and be awarded ground handling services privileges at Princess Juliana International airport,” Ferrier said.
Other activities the company will develop to generate additional income are aircraft wash and polish, and maintenance and mechanical services.

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