Air connections are crucial for islands
Kralendijk – The board of the Pension Fund for Caribbean Netherlands (PCN) has decided, after a preparatory period of almost 18 months, to invest in the purchase of aircraft for the airline EZ-Air. With the loan provided to Bonaire-based Medicair N.V., by means of the Participation Company Caribbean Netherlands (PMCN), established by PCN, two Beechcraft 1900D aircraft will shortly be purchased that will take care of regional flights. In addition, the required working capital is also provided for the start-up of the EZ-Air operation.
The aircraft in question were, until recent, used for flight operations on behalf of Air Canada Express. The aircraft, with 19 seats each, will be used under the brand name EZ-Air for flights between the ABC islands, flights between Bonaire and St. Eustatius and flights to Colombia. The aircraft have been specially selected for their ability to fly directly to various destinations, within an acceptable time and with sufficient comfort. The Beechcraft planes have a pressurized cabin and passengers can walk upright in the cabin due to the high construction of the machines. The relatively long distances, for example on the route between Bonaire and St. Eustatius, brought about several requirements for the aircraft, which among other things have a toilet, and reasonable baggage capacity.
Drector of Medicair and EZ-Air, Rene Winkel, has an enormous experience in local aviation. He previously flew as captain for both the Winair and ALM Antillean Airlines. In addition, with his company Medicair he has been carrying out ambulance flights between Bonaire and Colombia since the year 2000. The name EZ-Air is not new on the islands. In the past, Winkel has been executing flights between Bonaire and Curaçao for several years with two Britten-Norman aircraft.
For PCN there were various considerations to invest in EZ-Air. “First, it must be said that this is a solid business case,” says PCN chairman Harald Linkels. “Over the past few months, we have worked intensively with the EZ-Air team and together we have looked at the type of aircraft, the routes that can be served and the commercial plan. From the very start we noticed in a positive sense the solidity and the level of detail in the business plan, “says Linkels.
In addition, Linkels says that the fund mainly wants to invest locally in matters that benefit the islands and the residents. “Although it is regularly stated that aviation is a risky industry, it is also a fact that we as islands can’t do without aviation,” says Linkels. The PCN chairman says it is extremely sour that every time the island picks the bitter fruits of the malaise in aviation on neighboring island of Curaçao.
“Let’s be honest. Bonaire is not the priority of most airlines based in Curaçao. As soon as something goes wrong there, as in the case of ALM, DCA, DAE and now Insel, this has dramatic consequences for Bonaire. People can’t leave the island, doctor visits have to be cancelled and doing business out of Bonaire in Curaçao or Aruba has become nearly impossible, “says Linkels. It is also important for St. Eustatius to have a direct and reliable connection with Bonaire.
Linkels says that although Divi Divi Air does a good job on the route between Curaçao and Bonaire, the company does not offer sufficient capacity and, due to the aircraft used, can’t fly much further than the 3 ABC islands.
René Winkel says he is delighted with the plans for EZ Air. “Although EZ Air has put the commercial flights between the islands on the back burner for a couple of years, people on Bonaire kept asking me when we would provide regular flights again. We waited for a while, because we wanted to invest in the right type of aircraft”, says Winkel.
Winkel from his side is also positive about the collaboration with PCN and PMCN. “We have always held constructive discussions with the board of PCN and they understood where we wanted to go with our plans”, said Winkel.
PCN will, as part of the agreement, name 2 persons on a Supervisory Board of EZ-Air, which will consist in total of 3 people. As a result, PCN will be able to closely monitor the way in which EZ-Air is managed and will participate in important decisions by the company.
“On the PCN board we have Valdemar Marcha, who as former director of the ALM has a huge experience in the field of aviation and airline management”, says Harald Linkels. According to Linkels PCN with their investment have the ambition is to help create a stable and solid company that will finally bring reliable and affordable flights to the islands.
Although the purchase of the planes will probably be finalized this week, they cannot be put into service immediately. “The aircraft will soon be flown from Canada to Miami, for the installation of some instruments necessary for the certification of the aircraft on Curaçao,” says Winkel. EZ Air is currently still undergoing the certification process on Curaçao. Winkel says the airline gets good cooperation from the civil aviation authority (CCAA) on Curaçao.