On Thursday October 8th INSEL AIR once again showed its power as the monopolist on the St. Maarten-Curacao route, when its flight to Curacao was unable to depart on the scheduled time due to engine failure. This is definitely not the first time that the scheduled 4:55 p.m. flight from St. Maarten to Curacao could not depart on time. As a matter of fact this departure now is more often delayed than on time. Transiting passengers suffer the utter disregard at the hands of INSEL AIR. INSEL AIR representatives and support staff at SXM Airport are dependent on instructions from the head office in Curacao and are so too often placed in a position where they are unable to give proper information to stranded passengers.

These representatives face the anger, discontent and many questions from passengers too often and whilst they try their best their hands are tied. At the SXM Airport there was no information readily available as representatives awaited word from Curacao. Passengers waited for hours in the departure area to learn that another aircraft would be sent to St. Maarten for the passengers awaiting departure. The flight would now depart St. Maarten at 11:10 p.m. with an arrival time in Curacao at 12:50 a.m. The representatives at SXM airport could answer no questions regarding missed connections and were told that upon arrival in Curacao they would be informed on onward connections.

In flight the airline attendants had no information. INSEL AIR also did not see fit to have a representative at the end of the jet bridge to welcome passengers and to guide them. As passengers deplaned they walked through an empty arrival area and had to guide themselves through Immigration. It was only at the luggage belt that an announcement was made to report to a desk in that area. Passengers then had to stand in line for INSEL AIR representatives to register passengers one by one for hotel and transportation vouchers. One would think that INSEL AIR having a complete manifest of all passengers checked in in St. Maarten, could have had the vouchers ready for issuance upon arrival. INSEL AIR had ample time between 4:55 p.m. and 12:50 a.m. to prepare vouchers.

Passengers were then told that all hotels were full and they had no option but to accept a stay at the Airport hotel or to sleep in the departure area. Rebooking for passengers now stranded in Curacao still had to occur and passengers had to wait for this process to be concluded or were told to check in the morning on which flights they were booked.

INSEL AIR has in the past knowing that its flight is delayed and that connections will not be made by passengers in St. Maarten whilst checking in, rebooked passengers without any communication. INSEL AIR has often elected to keep passengers in Curacao instead of having a connecting flight wait for the arrival of passengers out of St. Maarten. There is an utter disregard for passengers and INSEL AIR can do so because it has the monopoly. INSEL AIR also issues food vouchers in the amount of ANG 15, at an airport where that barely gets you a bottle of water. One must wonder if the INSEL AIR antics are another tactic to ensure that the economy of Curacao is boosted by a new revenue source:” income through stranded passengers”.

Fact is that other airlines have successfully been blocked, because INSEL AIR slashes its rates when competition is offered on a route. INSEL AIR so maintains its monopoly, and we the passengers at its mercy. The next time a new airline enters the arena maybe we should not be so loyal to INSEL AIR simply because it slashes its rates. Maybe we should support the competition so that with competition we ultimately get our money’s worth.

The Board of Directors of COCI.