PHILIPSBURG:--- With the season and the projected increase in passenger arrivals to St. Maarten, the board of the United St. Maarten Party is concerned with the lack of measures in place to manage passenger experience and questions the much-talked-about benefits of the strategic Alliance with Schiphol Airport.
“After all, the CEO of PJIA Brian Mingo makes it a habit to highlight Schiphol’s level of expertise and experience as far surpassing our local capacity. So one would have expected that a strategic plan would be in place to address future growth and current passenger experience, instead of the reestablishment of a vision already brought to reality by our local experts for 40 million dollars less,” President of the USP board Cecil Nicholas said.
Nicholas lamented the long lines outside of the terminal now being experienced by visitors to the country, some 4 years after hurricane Irma. Additionally, he questioned what exactly has been accomplished at PJIA since the government, Schiphol, and Ballast Nedam shared a toast in August this year. “It does not seem like a nail has been driven. There is no real progress being observed at PJIA.”
“The focus instead seems to be on recruitment and the replacement of our locals, so we see no strategic plan being executed by management that addresses the issue of the long passenger lines that extend outside the building.”
“We have lost our edge waiting and depending on Schiphol Management to chart our way forward. Our 75-year history of building human capacity through local recruitment and training produced tangible results. The original building was constructed from scratch at a cost of roughly 100 million dollars compared to the current refurbishing amount of over 140 million dollars. Our people’s capabilities and experience should not be trivialized or nullified, nor should they be overlooked and sidelined as if they were not instrumental in building the airport,” Nicholas said.
Nicholas also pushed for follow-through on the pre-hurricane Irma plans for US-pre clearance, since the majority of the congestion issues comes from established US carriers. He said direct flights from the US to Anguilla and Dominica and KLM direct flights to Barbados, signifies a possible trend moving forward and should be countered with the establishment of US pre-clearance at PJIA. He said the separate buildings will go a long way in alleviating the congestion in the main building.
The long talked about relocating the fuel farm and the construction of a state of the art FBO building to accommodate and complement private jet passengers needs to be revisited insuring that PJIA remains formidable and competitive in the region for the foreseeable future.
“The glass ceiling being built over the heads of our local people is a strategic plan that does not address our most pressing issues. Other than marginalizing local involvement in the rebuilding and the replacement strategy being executed in key management positions, there have been no tangible results from the strategic alliance between PJIA and Schiphol Airport. Keeping in mind that most of the engineering work in the past construction of the current building was done in house, by local engineers currently employed at PJIA,” Nicholas said.