This article was originally published on www.koninkrijk.nu
Kralendijk – Contrary to the expectations raised about lower ticket prices for flights between the islands, there seems little hope that these will indeed materialize on the short term.
Nearly a year ago, on March 5 2019, Minister Cora van Nieuwenhuizen of Infrastructure and Water Management (I&W) indicated to the members of the Second Chamber that no fewer than 5 studies had been carried out into the so-called connectivity in the Caribbean part of the Kingdom.
The minister quoted from one of the studies, carried out by SEO: “In the report it is stated that in the period 2012-2017 both the supply and the demand for air transport on all routes in the Caribbean part of the Kingdom in recent years fell sharply”.
In a letter of August 19, 2019 to the Second Chamber, then- State Secretary Raymond Knops wrote to Dutch Parliament that he expected I&W ‘after the summer’ (of 2019, editor) to present results on how connectivity in the Caribbean part of the Kingdom could be improved.
Public Service Obligation
In her March 2019 letter, Van Nieuwenhuizen indicated that research conducted by the SEO research agency showed that the routes Sint Maarten-Saba / Sint Eustatius, Sint Maarten-Curaçao and Aruba-Bonaire should be characterized as (very) thin routes on which passengers are often dependent on one company. SEO therefore advised the minister to introduce a so called Public Service Obligation (PSO), which subsidizes those routes. By means of a PSO, the government subsidizes certain (domestic) routes that are not considered viable on a purely commercial basis.
“This year, in consultation with Sint Maarten, Saba and Sint Eustatius, I will explore options based on the SEO study to improve the degree of connectivity between Sint Maarten with Saba and Sint Eustatius and between Bonaire and Curaçao. In particular, the pricing, frequencies and security of supply deserve special attention. This action will start in February, “the minister wrote to the Second Chamber.
In her letter, Van Nieuwenhuizen also referred to the fact that the Countries of the Kingdom had decided, in February 2017, to set up an Expert Group to advise the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management on connectivity in the Caribbean part of the Kingdom and, in particular, ways to achieve lower fares for flights between the islands.
ABC Online media, which manages both koninkrijk.nu and bes-reporter.com, has since spoken several times with the chairman of the Expert Group, former KLM director Peter Hartman. During the conversations with Hartman the airline expert said that a report suggesting concrete measures had in the meantime “been presented to the Ministry”. Hartman also said that the Expert Group’s advice was ‘positively received’, but that the ball was now back in The Hague’s court to take further decisions when it comes came to concrete measures that should lead to both better connectivity and lower costs for traveling between the islands.
Kingdom.nu has contacted both the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Affairs (BZK), which plays a coordinating role for the BES islands and the Ministry of I&W.
A first question on January 10th, 2020 to the spokesman of the Ministry of BZK about the status of the advice was initially not answered. In a follow-up mail on 15 January, the BZK communications officer pointed in the direction of his colleagues at I&W. The I&W spokesperson, contacted on January 21, however, didn’t offer any concrete information either. Koninkrijk.nu was promised an answer, ‘as soon as there was any news’. To date, February 1, 2020, no further feedback has been received from I&W.
All in all, it appears that more affordable tickets -among others- will not happen anytime soon. If any progress has already being made with the issue, the ministries involved are not very eager with providing concrete information.
It should also be noted that from the side of local politics and the respective Executive- and Island Councils, there currently seems to be little to no attention for the problem of high fares for inter-island travel.