ORANJESTAD- Government Commissioner Alida Francis is of the opinion that the airlift problem, with which St. Eustatius is being confronted is ‘nothing new’. According to Francis, the problem has persisted for over 30 years and under various governments.
Francis made her comments in response to criticism from among other councilmen Clyde van Putten and Koos Sneek in the debate over the delayed start of the Makana ferry service. Both councilmen said during the debate they felt that the current government was not doing enough to address the shaky airlift situation of the island.
“We now have a brand new airport terminal, but no flights”, said Sneek more than once. Van Putten stressed that the Island Council adopted a motion to work on an improvement of airlift to the island, but that ‘nothing was being done with it’.
Francis said during the debate she felt that both areas of transportation needed attention and that a maritime service, in addition to flights, were ideal. Francis pointed out that it was not a question of ‘either or’, but rather ‘and, and’’.
The Government Commissioner added that she felt that, considering the situation Winair found itself in since the Covid-pandemic, there should be limited hope of a fast increase of airlift to the island. Francis also stated that the island Government had people working on connectivity behind the scenes.
Current capacity from Winair on the route is half what it used to be, with 6 flights per day. This is written in, among others, the report of the Committee Hartman. While the report dates back from the year 2017, it noted that the number flights out of St. Maarten had gone down from six per day, to only 4. This means that, while the situation may always has been ‘problematic’ as Francis stated, it has become more acute of the pas few years.