SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Aviation Authorities of the Dominican Republic and St. Maarten have resolved the issues affecting airlifts between the two countries following the intervention of Acting Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transportation & Telecommunication (TEATT) Omar Ottley on Tuesday.
Based on the resolution Ottley has given the approval for Director of St. Maarten Civil Aviation Authority Louis Halley to recall the letter he sent banning flights from the Dominican Republic as of August 5.
Minister Ottley held an emergency meeting on Tuesday with Foreign Affairs representatives for the Government of St. Maarten, the Secretary General of the Ministry of TEATT, the head of the Tourism Bureau, and the Director of Civil Aviation.
The goal was to ascertain what resulted in the St. Maarten Civil Aviation Authority issuing the ban on flights from the Dominican Republic and to find a more amicable solution that does not leave thousands of passengers stranded for the summer.
A letter sent by the Director of St. Maarten's Civil Aviation Authority sparked significant concern within the community as he decided to suspend flights between the Dominican Republic and St. Maarten.
His action was in response to a decision by the Civil Aviation Authority of the Dominican Republic to stop local airline WINAIR from flying to and selling airline tickets in the Dominican Republic.
During the emergency meeting, Minister Ottley suggested that Halley contacted the Civil Aviation Authority in the Dominican Republic to learn more about their decision (Resolution 172-2022) to deny St. Maarten flagship carrier WINAIR traffic rights between St. Maarten and the Dominican Republic.
Based on information gathered and the agreements reached, Ottley and his team advised the Director of Civil Aviation in St. Maarten to recall the initial ban on airlifts from Dominican Republic.
A letter will be sent to the Civil Aviation Authority in the Dominican Republic informing them of the decision to rescind the letter banning airlifts effective August 5 and thanking them for allowing WINAIR to resume airlifts between the two countries.
"It must be clear that we are equally interested in the airlifts between the Dominican Republic and St. Maarten and will defend our goal to have our local carriers branch out to these islands to offer services reciprocally," said Ottley. He said the two countries now have a mutual understanding, and it was agreed that WINAIR would continue its charter services to Dominican Republic and sell tickets there throughout August.
Airlines from the Dominican Republic can also fly to St. Maarten if their airlift agreement has not expired.
Based on this agreement, Ottley said WINAIR would also be allowed to apply for a Commercial airline service license in the Dominican Republic, which it will receive once the airline complies with the required regulations.
"It is important that we understand the need to protect our own, which I believe was the premise of the letter sent in the first instance. However, we must also recognize that at times our actions can harm more than help, and therefore diplomacy is sometimes a better avenue of travel," said Ottley.
Ottley said the same reciprocity goes for airlines from the Dominican Republic whose service agreements are still valid for St. Maarten or are requesting new service dates.
ARCHIVED - SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - One Monday August 1st, the community was astounded by a letter that has been sent to the Dominican Republic by St. Maarten Civil Aviation Authority informing that all flights between the two countries will be canceled as of August 5th, 2022.
Acting Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transportation & Telecommunication, Omar Ottley found this short notice and extended travel between St. Maarten and the Dominican Republic until August 31st, 2022, which will give him the time needed to assess the alleged dispute between the two Countries' aviation authorities.
It appears the decision was in reaction to the Civil Aviation Authority of the Dominican Republic blocking Windward Island Airways (WINAIR) from offering airline services between the Dominican Republic and St. Maarten.
The retaliatory decision created the risk that many passengers would have been left stranded in St. Maarten and the Dominican Republic.
Many residents travelled between the two islands for leisure and medical purposes over the past few months. Minister Ottley said if the decision to suspend airlifts from the Dominican Republic is upheld, it would be carried out to allow travelers sufficient time to make alternative arrangements to get safely home.
After the fact, the Minister learnt of the decision taken by the St. Maarten Civil Aviation Authority and has called an urgent meeting to discuss the situation. "Once I have sat with our Civil Aviation and get a clear picture of what has occurred, we will further evaluate the next steps," said Ottley. The Minister also stated that he was not inclined to pressure travelers when many would be traveling for summer vacation and medical purposes.
"We will have to find a more diplomatic approach to the situation and ensure that we protect our Airline (Winair) while allowing free movement between both countries who have a long and cherished history of friendship and family ties," said Ottley.
The Minister will meet with the Civil Aviation Authority members and Foreign Affairs representatives early Tuesday to follow up on their letter sent to the Dominican Republic.