AIRPORT–The tents in use at Princess Juliana International Airport’s arrival and departure halls for some fifteen months will be demolished starting December 15, the scheduled date for the resumption of operation in the airport terminal for the first time since Hurricane Irma in September 2017.
The terminal is set to open with 32 check-in stations and several concession outlets. The departure hall will be able to handle up to seven major airline departures at once via six departure gates.
Some 700 seats will be in the departure hall. The hall can accommodate up to 1,300 people, five times that of the tents. Charging stations for devices will be installed along the rows of chairs.
New bathrooms have been outfitted throughout the terminal. One significant improvement since Irma is people waiting for arriving passengers can again wait indoor in an air-conditioned space.
Concessionaires have been granted 24-hour access to their locations to aid final preparations for the December 15 reopening.
The first phase of reconstruction will be complete with a first-aid room for outbound and inbound passengers, a departure check-point, a transfer and lost baggage area, and two baggage conveyor belts. A VIP lounge, some 75 CCTVs, several offices and a cafeteria for airport staff, immigration offices, and Customs and security check points and a search room are all in the first phase.
Some amenities such as Wi-Fi, may not be available by the reopening date. Bids for this service have already been submitted by several locally-based companies.
The roof, spanning more than five football fields, will take some 700 sheets of specialised galvanise sheets to cover, the longest is 74 metres, according to roofing company Riverclack . More than half a million screws, nuts and bolts will be used to secure the roof.
Riverclack installed an 18-tonne machine that fabricates the roofing sheets at the top of a tower made of shipping containers outside the terminal. It takes 15 men to transport each sheet to its designated area due of the length and to prevent bending.
Eighty per cent of the airport’s roof was damaged in Irma.
Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transportation and Telecommunication Minister Stuart Johnson was updated on the airport terminal progress by airport management during “a surprise visit,” according to a press statement from his Cabinet issued on Sunday night.
Johnson is said to have visited the airport to make clear to the management that the reopening deadline for the terminal “must be met … We simply cannot accept any excuses for delays without consequences.”
The ultimate goal to get to the airport after all repairs are completed is to realize the operations of United States Immigration and Customs pre-clearance locally. “This will be complemented by increased airlift,” said Johnson, adding that the reopening of resorts and the increase of economic activity will also bring spin-off.
Airport Chief Operation Officer (COO) Michel Hyman, other members of management and airport reconstruction Project Manager Rob Noorman met with and gave Johnson a tour of the facilities. Johnson and the team climbed the scaffold to the airport roof to inspect the progress there.
The airport representatives told the minister, according to the press statement, all is “on track to move into the main terminal on Saturday, December 15.”