PHILIPSBURG:--- On Monday, August 1st, the community was astounded by a letter that has been sent to the Dominican Republic by the St. Maarten Civil Aviation Authority informing that all flights between the two countries will be canceled as of August 5th, 2022.
Acting Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transportation & Telecommunication, Omar Ottley found this short notice and extended travel between St. Maarten and the Dominican Republic until August 31st, 2022 which will give him the time needed to assess the alleged dispute between the two Countries' aviation authorities.
It appears the decision was in reaction to the Civil Aviation Authority of the Dominican Republic blocking Windward Island Airways (WINAIR) from offering airline services between the Dominican Republic and St. Maarten.
The retaliatory decision created the risk that many passengers would have been left stranded in St. Maarten and the Dominican Republic.
Many residents traveled between the two islands for leisure and medical purposes over the past few months. Minister Ottley said if the decision to suspend airlifts from the Dominican Republic is upheld, it would be carried out to allow travelers sufficient time to make alternative arrangements to get safely home.
After the fact, the Minister learned of the decision taken by the St. Maarten Civil Aviation Authority and has called an urgent meeting to discuss the situation. "Once I have sat with our Civil Aviation and get a clear picture of what has occurred, we will further evaluate the next steps," said Ottley. The Minister also stated that he was not inclined to pressure travelers when many would be traveling for summer vacation and medical purposes.
"We will have to find a more diplomatic approach to the situation and ensure that we protect our Airline (Winair) while allowing free movement between both countries who have a long and cherished history of friendship and family ties," said Ottley.
The Minister will meet with the Civil Aviation Authority members and Foreign Affairs representatives early Tuesday to follow up on their letter sent to the Dominican Republic.