Windward Islands Airways International Winair had a loss of about one million euros in 2017 due to Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Hurricane Irma caused great damage to the airline’s headquarters and hangar and there was a drop in passenger transport in the last quarter of 2017.
Dutch State Secretary of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops disclosed this in a letter he sent to the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament on Tuesday. The Second Chamber’s Permanent Committee for Kingdom Relations had requested information about Winair following a working visit to the Windward Islands in July this year.
As part of a long list of questions on various topics and developments in the Windward Islands, Parliament had asked Knops to provide a fact sheet with financial and operational information about the airline in which the Dutch government has a minority share of 7.95 per cent. The other 92.05 per cent is owned by the country St. Maarten.
According to the 2017 annual report, which will be approved during a shareholders’ meeting in September 2018, Winair had a loss of about one million cures in 2017. In 2016, Winair made a profit of about four million euros.
The last time Winair had a loss was in 2014, when the company had a negative end balance of one million euros. In 2015, the airline had a net profit of three million euros. Revenues dropped from 24 million euros in 2016 to 21 million euros in 2017.
“Winair has suffered great material damage to, among other things, the headquarters and inventory as a result of the hurricanes in 2017, especially Irma. Due to the destruction by the hurricanes on the islands, Winair was also confronted with a strong decline in transport demand. As a result, Winair has made a loss in 2017,” stated Knops. He also provided an overview of the airline’s core figures of the last five years. In 2017, the occupancy rate of the aircraft was 54 per cent, the number of passengers 187,761, the number of employees 98, the number of flights 18,981 and the number of destinations 14. In 2016, the occupancy rate was 56 per cent, the number of passengers 216,882, number of employees 115, number of flights 22,850 and the number of destinations 12.
In a recent release that Winair sent to the local media on the occasion of its 57th anniversary, the airline’s management announced that the company would turn a profit in the first half of 2018. Winair’s main office, totally destroyed by Hurricane Irma, is expected to be completed in about five months, while the badly damaged hangar has already been fully repaired. Responding to a question from the Members of Parliament (MPs) about reports that flights to St. Eustatius and Saba occasionally were cancelled in favour of flights to St. Barths, Knops said Winair management and board had assured him that this was not the case.
“They indicated that Winair has never cancelled flights to St. Eustatius and Saba in order to be able to fly to other destinations. Flights are sometimes only cancelled for technical reasons or due to the weather,” Knops stated. The Dutch MPs further enquired about Winair’s ticket prices between the Windward Islands, and the tax and fees passengers have to pay. Return tickets between St. Maarten and St. Eustatius vary between US $145 and $220. This includes the $38 fees and taxes in St. Maarten for departing passengers. Ticket prices for a return flight St. Maarten-Saba vary between $133 and $197, including the St. Maarten airport taxes and fees. In Saba, departing passengers have to pay $10 airport tax and in St. Eustatius $15.
The MPs also sought clarity on the legislation and regulations applicable to grant air transport concessions from St. Maarten to St. Eustatius and Saba.
Knops explained that based on the Multilateral Protocol on the Liberalisation of Air Transport signed in 2011 between all countries of the Dutch Kingdom, airlines that are based in the Kingdom can make an agreement with airlines from third countries to carry out operations, including wet-lease with a foreign aircraft and crew, on the routes within the Kingdom. Several airlines registered in the Dutch Caribbean make use or have made use in the past of aircraft of French and Canadian airlines on a wet-lease basis.
An expert group has carried out an assessment of the connectivity between the Dutch Caribbean islands, and how this can be improved in a safe and reliable manner. The Dutch minister of Infrastructure and Water Management is planning to send the final report with policy recommendations of the expert group to the Dutch Parliament later this year.
The Daily Herald.