SINT MAARTEN (SIMPSON BAY-AIRPORT) - In 2017, Winair’s Sales, Customer Service and administration offices at the Princess Juliana International Airport (PJIA) were destroyed. Everything, including the Hanger and Warehouse was mere rubble after hurricanes Irma and Maria left their devastating mark on St. Maarten.
This devastation was similar for several other islands in the Caribbean where Winair flys. Yet, despite their personal challenges including loss of property, and for some totally or partially damaged roofs or being without water or electricity, Team Winair banded together and started cleaning the debris. What followed after was the planning and preparation for a temporary location, and the reconstruction of the Airport facility. Within six weeks of the worst natural disaster in St. Maarten’s history, Winair opened a Sales Office on the Walter Nisbeth Road in Philipsburg on October 27, 2017, and started accepting customers. People who wanted to travel abroad or get their family home now had a point of contact with Winair.
Today the airline boasts four aircrafts each with a 19-passenger capacity and its Headquarters is completely rebuilt to modern standards with a Hanger and Warehouse space to add to its improved Sales and Customer Service offices.
Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport & Telecommunication (TEATT) the Honourable Stuart Johnson recently visited the facility at the Airport to get a firsthand look at Winair's progress. Following that visit, Johnson said he was very optimistic about the future of the airline. "What I saw and based on the future plans which I know are being worked on by the Winair Management and Team, I am confident that Winair will be a force to be reckoned with in the Caribbean. It already offers ease of connectivity and the airline's future plans include increased travel options for its customers at competitive rates with excellent service."
These plans are consistent with "The Governing Program 2018 - 2022 of the St. Maarten United Christian Democratic Coalition which speaks directly about the need to consider Winair as our National Airline.
Johnson said, "Today we see significant improvements in the airline's operation and its bottom line. As we continue to rebuild our Tourism product Winair's role will become even more critical. We already depend on the airline to provide a substantial portion of our airlifts to the neighbouring island which is in line with the hub function of PJIA."
He said, "This service benefits the PJIA and improves the islands economic activities as it offers neighbouring residents the ease and convenience of daily travel to and from our island." According to Johnson the work being done now by Winair’s Management Team led by its CEO gives hope for increased airlifts through the possibility of offering interline connections in the future to larger airlines. “I must commend Mr Cleaver and his Team for an excellent job in restoring the operations of Winair at the Airport and quickly regaining ground post-Irma,” said Johnson.
According to Winair Chief Executive Officer Micheal Cleaver, the plan is for a soft opening of the newly remodelled Sales Office at the Headquarters on #69 Airport Road by April 15, 2019, to accommodate customer sales and reservations and internal administrative functions.
Projections are also positive for the grand opening of the facility which has been set for May 15th, one month later. Cleaver said the new Sales Office would offer three service positions, comfortable seating for eight, customer restroom, reception and an information desk.
The preparations for the grand opening including the installation of the final pieces of furniture are ongoing. Cleaver said Winair will keep its Philipsburg branch opened indefinitely as it "fulfils a need for Winair’s customers in Philipsburg and surrounding districts."
He said, "By offering two sales locations, service and communication is doubled allowing our customers several convenient options when planning their travel.”
Both sales offices have ample space for Customer parking, and the airline has improved on its aesthetics to benefit the customer experience by offering a coffee corner, water cooler and entertainment/tv for waiting customers.
Some new additions to its service offer will include 24-hours advanced check-in at Walter Nisbeth Road. This service will be completed within the next 120 days. Once this is finalised, travellers can check-in at Winair's office on W.A. Nisbeth Road one day in advance. This service includes checked bags, and issuance of boarding passes. Travellers can then proceed to their respective gates on the day of departure.
Cleaver said Winair continues to strive for improvement in its services. "We thank our employees for their dedication and hard work, which provided Winair with the opportunity for expansion where it was economically viable.” We also thank Pharo Construction, St. Maarten Dry Wall, Electec, Dontel, Caribwork IT, who have made our recovery a reality," said Cleaver.
Customers of Winair can look forward to a “major promotional sale" which the airline will announce during the week of the grand opening of its Airport office. Meanwhile, everyone is encouraged to contact their regular travel agents or visit the Winair sales offices to inquire about future travel. You can also log on to Winair's website at www.fly-winair.sx for more information. Please note that the soon to be announced special sale will only be available at the WINAIR sales offices.
At present Winair has a wide range of flight options to neighbouring islands. The airline offers two daily flights to Antigua, St. Kitts and Tortola. Commencing April, 15th Winair will offer one daily service to Aruba, and five weekly services to Bonaire (via Curacao). Winair also offers a daily service to Curacao from St. Maarten, five weekly flights to Dominica and Guadeloupe, two weekly flights to Haiti and Santo Domingo from Curacao (commencing April 15th). There are also three weekly direct flights to Nevis, 4 daily flights to Saba, 4.5 daily flights to Statia, six weekly flights to San Juan Puerto Rico, five weekly flights to Santo Domingo from St. Maarten, one weekly flight to Haiti from St. Maarten. Those travellers hoping to visit St. Barth have 15 daily flight frequencies. For flight information and bookings, please contact your favourite travel agency or visit Winair online at www.fly-winair.sx.