Windward Islands Airways International (Winair) managing director Michael Cleaver said, “The shareholders of Winair are the government of St. Maarten with ninety-two per cent of the shares, and the Netherlands owns eight per cent. Saba and St. Eustatius gave their shares of Winair to the Netherlands when they achieved their new status.” Cleaver stated this in an email sent to The Daily Herald on Tuesday in response to an article in this newspaper’s edition of Wednesday, February 29, which he said contained several errors.
In the article on a presentation by Winair management to stakeholders in St. Eustatius, it was erroneously stated that director of operations Edwin Hodge had also been present. Cleaver also wrote in the email that the Netherlands, Saba and Statia have not, “now or ever,” provided Winair with any subsidies. “Winair is not looking for hand outs or charity from our shareholders, but if additional services are required or requested then, as with any NV, Winair can expect to have a return on assets used for these services,” Cleaver explained. “The Netherlands did study Winair ‘s route structure approximately two years ago, and they determined Winair was the best and most viable option for air service to Saba and Statia. Again this was done by a group of Dutch aviation experts prior to 10-10-10.”
Cleaver also stated he had shared with participants in the meeting that there are Caribbean airlines that receive government subsidies, “However, Winair was not one of them. Our shareholders have mandated that there is no budget for financial aid to Winair, and therefore Winair must operate in a financially responsible and sustainable fashion. Winair is a business and must make a profit in order to reinvest and guarantee its future. “We are indeed restructuring the company and to date progress has been made. Seven underperforming routes, which were costing Winair by continuing service to these destinations, have been cut,” the managing director said.
Cleaver explained that Director of Customer Sales and Marketing Claudio Buncamper and himself were in Statia to share information with stakeholders and partners, “as well as to begin to create tour packages for Statia based on the Saba model we are selling to our customers through all types of media available to Winair, such as newspapers and webbased social media such as Twitter and Facebook.”
Winair is looking forward to working with stakeholders to develop more demand for the markets it serves said Cleaver. “Winair has met with St. Maarten hotels and will announce packages for residents of Saba, Statia, St. Barths and Nevis to travel to St. Maarten and enjoy discounts on airfare and hotel stays.” “We did also speak about the absence of direct air service between Saba and Statia and explained that we had previously met with Saba and Statia Commissioners to discuss various options, but with the change in Statia government time will be required for the new commissioner to get up to speed on his portfolios.”
Buncamper and Cleaver had lunched with Commissioner Koos Sneek, Director of Tourism Charles Lindo and a representative of Kingdom Service Caribbean Netherlands (Rijksdienst Caribisch Nederland, RCN) to discuss different facets of the airline industry. “Participants in the meeting were very positive and enthusiastic about developing packages for Statia, while information on existing Saba packages was shared,” Cleaver stated.
Source: “The Daily Herald” 2012-03-07