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Printed in The Daily Herald, Wed 09-Mar-2003

Air Sint Maarten is ready for first flight

PHILIPSBURG--Air Sint Maarten is ready for its first flight from Amsterdam to St. Maarten on April 20.

A Boeing 747 of European Air has been chartered and the airline will continue to have weekly flights, announced Air Sint Maarten Managing Director Terrance Rey.

The inaugural flight will leave Schiphol Airport and is scheduled to arrive at Princess Juliana International Airport (PJIA) Sunday, April 20, at 3:30pm. The aircraft will overnight here and fly back to Amsterdam, with a stopover in Santa Maria in the Azores, the next morning at 6:00am.

Bookings for the first flight, especially for Carnival, are going steadily, although some people are "a bit reserved" about flying on a new airline, said Rey. The war in Iraq and people wanting to see "something tangible" are the main contributors to this reserved attitude, he added.

To take away the feeling of lacking something tangible and to provide better service, Air Sint Maarten is opening a counter at Schiphol Airport on Tuesday, April 15. Rey said he foresaw a rush on tickets when the counter opened, possibly even on the day of the first flight.

The airline is getting "a lot" of bookings for the summer. The July 7 flight is almost full, mostly with students who want to spend the summer at home, Rey said. People have been booking as far ahead as December.

Tour operators in Holland, as well as Germany and Denmark, are enthusiastic about Air Sint Maarten, the managing director said. Promotion of the airline on TV, through e-mail and in live shows will continue.

Only the inaugural flight is on a Sunday. From April 28, the flight will leave Amsterdam on Monday and return to Holland on Tuesday. Possibly the departure time in St. Maarten will also change and be set later. Local airport authorities have indicated that they prefer to have the flight leave after 6:00am. The plane overnights in St. Maarten to give the crew a chance to rest.

Air Sint Maarten has 22 business class seats, which the airline called "Cupecoy," and 418 seats in the economy class, dubbed "Tradewind." The aircraft has more legroom than on other airlines, Rey said. There are also possibilities to transport cargo.

Representatives of Air Sint Maarten went to England earlier this month to seal the deal with European Air Charter. Details on operational and passenger service were discussed at that meeting before an agreement was made on the long-term working relationship, explained Rey.

Rey proudly announced his team, consisting of four St. Maarteners. Maynen Lucio is Office Manager, Marlon Beauperthuy is Customer Service Manager and Station Manager Schiphol, Matumi Shigemoto is Revenue Manager and Muriel Nijhove is Public Relations Manager.

The carrier's logo was designed by Angelo Rombley, another St. Maartener. Rey also originates from St. Maarten.

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