The Daily Herald reports that “four concerned citizens of the Friendly Island” have started a Facebook page called “Unfair KLM ticket prices SXM – AMS” to protest and maybe trigger a change from KLM regarding its high ticket prices from St. Maarten to Amsterdam.
The page was started on Thursday, January 16 and by Friday, January 17 it had almost 2,000 likes.
The page administrators and people posting on the page argue that KLM maintains unfair ticket prices and explain that on average a ticket to Curacao is 500 euros while a return ticket to St. Maarten is 900 euros on average. According to the page administrator “When u fl y with KLM from St. Maarten to Amsterdam you are in the SAME plane as the passengers from Curacao to Amsterdam. Because the trip is, SXMCUR- AMS / AMS-SXMCUR. But the difference in price is around 400 euros. The reason? Just because they can. This has to stop. It is the same plane.”
People posting also say that according to KLM, ticket prices are high because demand is low, but opined that demand is low because the ticket prices are too high. These complaints about KLM prices to St. Maarten are not new. In fact, addressing the issue has been on the agendas of successive governments over the years with little to no change or reductions. One of the issues that constantly come up in those discussions with government is the fees that KLM says it is subjected to at the Princess Juliana International Airport.
Veteran Travel Specialist and General Manager of the fi rm Le Beau Reizen Marlon Beauperthuy concurred. Beauperthuy, stationed in the Netherlands, knows the business well and, in particular, the issues of airlift to St. Maarten. “KLM rate to SXM is primarily high due to Juliana International Airport landing fee. No promotion with KLM has been done in the last years like Aruba and Curacao have done. So sometimes that aircraft lands on SXM and only lets maximum 50 passengers off. This cannot cover the landing fee,” he said.
He pointed to the fact that St. Maarten promotion in Holland must improve to generate the interest in the destination and, subsequently, generate demand for KLM. “It’s not KLM to blame. They have to maintain the airlift. But the circle is not complete if St. Maarten and Juliana do not get their act together. St. Maarten has spent too much money at the agency (Interreps) in Holland and they have done squat. Only complain to everyone how SXM does not pay. Even the French side has been frequently bombarded by them on this matter. That is why the French also pulled out of Holland as to not to intervene.
“Curacao promotion team is all 100 percent local run here in Holland and they have their stuff together; Aruba the same. That is why I have dedicated St. Maarten people around me with one common goal; get that island on the map in Europe as it should be,” he said. Beauperthuy said that operation costs of a 747 aircraft such as the ones KLM operates on the route are very high. “To just land on St. Maarten without any promotion trying to fill the fl ights/airlift is useless. Bringing in another premium airline from Europe is what we should work on. This drops the fares. It worked for Curacao,” he said.
Curacao also gets service from Air Berlin. St. Maarten officials had announced last year that British Airways (BA) was showing interest in the destination. “BA is a high quality European airline and a lot of well-to-do Dutch choose them over KLM even with the connection in London.”
The “four concerned citizens of the Friendly Island” when contacted by The Daily Herald via Facebook said they did not expect to get as many responses as they did in such a short period of time. “In a nutshell, the reason why we started this FB-page is that we are all fed up with KLM abusing its monopoly position when it comes to air fares SXM-AMS and the other way around. It is ridiculous that someone who travels from Amsterdam to Sint Maarten has to pay between 200-400 euros more compared to someone who travels on the same airplane, but with destination Curacao, which is even further away,” they said. “This has been a problem for many years now and with this initiative we want to bring the issue under the attention of all parties involved and see if we can put a stop to it once and for all.”
Several people also posted on KLM’s Facebook page telling the airline that customers are fed up and want a reduction is prices. KLM, who is usually very good at responding on Facebook to its customers, said in one post: “We offer various fare classes for every route. These classes are tailored to the wishes of our passengers regarding things like flexibility and comfort. The availability of these fares depends on, for example, demand and supply, cost structure and date. Depending on the travel date and the date of booking, availability (and prices) may vary.” People commenting dismissed this as the standard KLM answer.