~Says SXM gateway performed well, gives thumbs up to proposed US Pre-Clearance~
PHILIPSBURG—American Airlines has confirmed that SXM's performance from all gateways the past year has been "very well" and disclosed plans to maintain its second Miami flight to St. Maarten in the winter as well as direct service from New York, Charlotte North Carolina and Philadelphia.
After the meeting, the general sentiment was that the destination's success, evidenced by 90 per cent and above load factors on most flights and around a 17 per cent increase in ticket sales over last year, must be protected and improved upon.
During the meeting, American Airlines confirmed its position on US Pre Clearance for St. Maarten. The airline stated that if PJIA implements US Pre Clearance, it will allow for a better customer experience and assist with scheduling. AA cautioned against increasing airline costs with the expectation of growing capacity.
The destination's performance was discussed during a high-level meeting between the Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transportation & Telecommunication TEATT, the Honourable Arthur Lambriex and AA - Network Planner Director Michael Eng and team on Monday, May 29. The meeting served as an opportunity to delve into crucial topics such as pricing strategies, seat availability, and the overall operational landscape.
During the meeting, Kathy Edwards – Regional Manager for AA, expressed keen interest in St. Maarten being able to confirm a completion date for the Princess Juliana International Airport PJIA departure hall remains set at Q4-2023. Edwards cited issues with weight restrictions and the accessibility in the Carousel Area.
Minister Lambriex considers the meeting with AA "productive and successful" and said he was encouraged by the airline's request for continued dialogue on improving and increasing airlifts to St. Maarten. He said, "Our goal in speaking to American Airlines was to reemphasize the value our destination puts on its service over many years and encourage collaborative efforts to satisfy the steadily increasing demand for travel options from the US mainland to our shores."
The Minister's team fielding the call from American Airlines included Secretary General of the Ministry of TEATT Miguel de Weever, Director of Tourism May Lin Chun and Senior Policy Advisor Regina M. LaBega and Suzy Kartokromo representing Princess Juliana International Airport (PJIA). They spoke at length with Director Eng, AA - Government Liaison Robert Winc, AA Revenue Management Marvin Alvarez Ochoa, and AA Regional Manager Kathy Edwards.
A release issued by Minister Lambriex stated that the goal of the meeting was to discuss crucial aspects of air travel between the United States and St. Maarten via American Airlines with a focus on airfares, capacity and the availability of aircraft servicing St. Maarten.
Eng told Lambriex the East Coast is the primary source market for St. Maarten, representing almost 90 per cent of the airlifts. However, he pointed out that capacity constraints are presently being experienced because of their supply chain's delivery of equipment and a shortage of pilots over the short term.
According to Eng, American Airlines is in the process of "Balance Sheet Restructuring" to create a more sustainable framework for the airline. The process involves assessing the value of its assets and Asset Disposal or Lease Restructuring of Regional Jets. The airline aims to ensure the carrying values reflect the market's worth.
American Airlines says it will soon start looking at aircraft allocation to St. Maarten for summer 2024 in the next few months as it generally makes decisions at least six months in advance.