Opinion published in The Daily Herald.
The questions posed by St Maarten’s Member of Parliament Johan “Janchi” Leonard (UP) about Winair (see Friday Daily Herald) deserve an answer. If indeed the government-owned carrier owes US $4.1 million to a company in Guadeloupe for wet-leasing an ATR plane, the former policeman’s concern is understandable. After all, St. Maarten is the airline’s majority shareholder, while St. Eustatius and Saba each have minority interest. Not only that, but the operations are concentrated at Princess Juliana International Airport SXM, so the Dutch side has a huge stake in the company in terms of employment and related business.
It’s no secret that the flights to the Dominican Republic and Dominica, among other places, with the bigger aircraft than the ones Winair usually operates, failed. When these new routes were announced it was said to have been based on proper feasibility studies. Apparently the latter were faulty, or at least wrong. That can happen, but in this case it’s probably a major blow to an airline that already has struggled financially over the years and on various occasions was close to bankruptcy. One expects that especially under those circumstances great caution is exercised regarding any ventures that could make an already delicate situation even worse. Perhaps there is silver lining to this cloud, but the public is yet to hear about it.