The Daily Herald writes that today’s report that the possibility of an Open Skies agreement with the United States (US) was discussed during the recent Routes America Conference (see related article in the Daily Herald) is encouraging. It also seems like a no-brainer, considering there appear to be no national interests to speak of that need protecting in this regard.
Things were a bit different in the days of the former Netherlands Antilles, when there was still the Central Government-owned airline ALM that later became DCA before it went under. InselAir is a private company registered as carrier for both Aruba and Curaçao, but not necessarily St. Maarten, although it does provide important regional airlift. Of course, there is still the locally-based Winair with St. Maarten as majority owner, while St. Eustatius and Saba each have a small share. The latter islands are also its main markets along with St. Barths, Tortola and Dominica, but there is no immediate reason to believe an open skies policy would threaten these flights seriously.
Challenges involving insufficient airport and Air Traffic Control infrastructures as well as inadequate capacity were mentioned, but it’s also clear that the economic benefits could be significant. To be sure, a lot probably will depend on reversing the downgrading of the (former Antillean) Civil Aviation to category 2 by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
Establishing a US Immigration and Customs clearance at SXM Princes Juliana International Airport (PJIA) obviously would be more than welcome. The same was done with much success on Aruba, which is now working on a similar arrangement for the so-called Schengen countries of the European Union (EU). It may take a while to achieve these goals as indicated, but certainly seems worth the effort. If making them a reality is in any way possible, all those concerned should work hard to give it their best shot.