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Printed in The Daily Herald, Wed 11-Jun-2003

Air Holland to start flight to St. Maarten

WILLEMSTAD--Air Holland will start three flights per week to Curacao on June 30, one of them via St. Maarten.

The Dutch carrier hopes to find a new market with so-called "budget flights," announced board of directors member Normann Kleine. "The idea behind this new flight is that there is more space in the market. We are not entering a complete war with the existing companies (KLM and DCA, ed.)."

After an extensive market study the airline came up with three classes per aircraft. In the budget class people pay only 500 guilders for a return trip, but don't get any service on board, although they can still purchase food, drink and the right to bring more luggage.

The coach class will cost 1,000 guilders and includes complete service, "more than the competition," says Kleine. The first class of 2,000 guilders will provide all possible comfort.

The flights will be executed with a Boeing 767 with 189 seats in the economy classes and 26 in the first class. It will fly straight from Amsterdam to Curacao and back Monday and Thursday, while the Friday flight will stop in St. Maarten.

The flights will depart Holland around noon and Curacao around 6:00pm. The ticket sales will start this Saturday.

The plans are part of Air Holland's policy to carry out fewer charters and concentrate more on its own products. The timing is considered perfect because of the high euro, making the islands with their Antillean guilder tied to the US dollar more attractive, also for youngsters.

Two years ago Air Holland executed weekly flights for the Van der Valk hotels in Curacao and Bonaire, for a short period. It also flew the mid-Atlantic route in cooperation with Air Aruba for a while.

Like other low-budget airlines such as easyJet and Ryanair, Air Holland will introduce the "first minute system," in which passengers who book the earliest get the lowest rates. In a press release the company mentioned margins of 200, 300 and 700 guilders, depending on the class.

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