Comeback of InselAir increasingly challenging task

InselAir sees increasing competention on various key routes. After Winair, which started with flights on the Curaçao-Sint Maarten route, Surinamese Fly All Ways, seen here next to Insel’s MD82 planes on the platform of Hato International Airport, wants to start competing on the Paramaribo-Curaçao route. Photo: Harald Linkels

Kralendijk- The comeback of local carrier InselAir remains a daunting task. Travelers between Bonaire and Curaçao have released a collective sigh of relief as of late, now that the reliability of flights between the islands has been brought back to an acceptable level for the first time since months. Chief Operations Officer (COO) of InselAir, Captain Junny Sluis, announced that, since the introduction of the so-called back-to-basic program, InselAir has been able to achieve an On-Time Performance of over 90%.

The back-to-basic program has meant a drastic reduction of flights executed by the local carrier to only the three ABC islands and Sint Maarten, with the two Fokker50 aircraft that the company currently operates.

The turn-around business plan drafted by InselAir foresaw the redeployment of least 1 MD-82 jet as of June 2017, allowing for faster service and an increased range compared to the current Fokker50’s planes. The airline wants to restart service to among others Suriname and possibly 1 or 2 other regional destinations. However, the Curaçao Civil Aviation Authority (CCAA), does not seem too keen on releasing any of the jet planes as of yet. Reportedly, CCAA would like InselAir to carry out a new C-check on the aircraft, but InselAir does not have the needed financial resources.

Another challenge is the fact that, to fly internationally, InselAir needs to regain access to the so-called Billing Settlement Plan (BSP), which will require an additional 1.6 million US dollars in investments.

On Aruba, sister company InselAir Aruba, was declared bankrupt this week. According to InselAir’s interim management, this bankruptcy will not affect the restructuring efforts of InselAir International, based in and operating from its Curaçao base.

Meanwhile, InselAir is increasingly confronted with competitors who see a chance of capturing parts of InselAir’s lost market. For example, Surinamese Fly All Ways has announced two weekly flights between Paramaribo and Curacao, starting June 25, and Sint Maarten-based Winair has started last week with the execution of flights between Sint Maarten and Curaçao, via a wet-lease construction with aircraft from PAWA-Dominicana. The initiatives of Fly All Ways and Winair both cut directly in the flesh of InselAir, whose return on these routes is becoming increasingly challenging.

On the other hand, it can be said that very little progress has been made in securing additional or alternate capacity on the routes between Bonaire and Curaçao. Although the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment (I & M) is busy with an inventory of alternatives for the route to and from Bonaire, few companies can actually start such operation on the very short term. This week, various local papers wrote that a local company would shortly start up flights between Bonaire, Curaçao and Aruba. The news so far, seems little concrete.

Commissioner of Economic Affairs, Clark Abraham, stated to the BES-Reporter this morning that he is not aware of any concrete news about a new company starting to serve the island on the short term. “I continue to be a major advocate for local initiatives to complement InselAir’s service and, in particular, to launch direct flights between Bonaire and Aruba,” said Abraham. At present, certainly in terms of capacity, there is hardly any concrete alternative to replace InselAir, should the airline not be able to survive on the long run.

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