An emergency meeting was held Tuesday between acting TEATT Minister Omar Ottley (centre), TEATT Ministry Secretary General Miguel De Weever (far left), director of St. Maarten Civil Aviation Authority Louis Halley (second from left), and Patrice Gumbs and Rogelio Voges from the Department of Foreign Affairs (second from the right and far right).
PHILIPSBURG–Windward Islands Airways International NV WINAIR is allowed to continue to fly to the Dominican Republic. The day after St. Maarten threatened to ban Dominican airlines by August 31, St. Maarten Civil Aviation Authority revealed that it had come to an agreement with its Dominican counterpart and all flights will continue in the coming months.
“We believe a solution has been found avoiding any disruption of services to the traveling public, while also providing choice of airlines to the customer,” WINAIR Chief Executive Officer Michael Cleaver said on Monday afternoon.
The Dominican Republic and St. Maarten are well established and important social and business markets for each other, enjoying historical and cultural bonds, Cleaver noted.
WINAIR management thanked St. Maarten Civil Aviation Authority (SMCAA) Director Louis Halley and Acting Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunication (TEATT) Omar Ottley for “their guidance and leadership.”
Ottley sent out a press release around midnight Monday stating that he had learnt of the decision taken by SMCAA early that day and that he had called for an urgent meeting on Tuesday morning to discuss the situation.
“It appears the decision was in reaction to the civil aviation authority of the Dominican Republic blocking Windward Island Airways from offering airline services between the Dominican Republic and St. Maarten,” Ottley said in the press release. “The retaliatory decision created the risk that many passengers would have been left stranded in St. Maarten and the Dominican Republic.”
Ottley extended the August 5 deadline set by SMCAA until the end of the month, August 31. After that date St. Maarten would suspend all authorisation of Dominican air operators to enter St. Maarten territory, if the Dominican Republic still would not allow Winair to offer commercial services.
The Dominican civil aviation authority Junta de Aviacion Civil (JAC) responded on the same day with an elaborate explanation in which it explicitly referred to agreements made between the two countries.
First of all, JAC stated, “It should be noted that in accordance with paragraph 3 of Article 3 of the air transport agreement signed between the Kingdom of the Netherlands, with respect to Saint Martin and the Dominican Republic, and their respective territories, dated May 13, 2019, it should be noted that: Upon receipt of the operating authorisation referred to in paragraph 2 of this article, a designated airline may, at any time, begin to operate the agreed services, in whole or in part, provided that it complies with the applicable provisions of this agreement and the internal regulations of each of the parties.”
In the letter, JAC draws attention to its own internal regulations stating that while there is no doubt that Winair has been designated to operate to the Dominican Republic, “Winair has not applied for the required Operating Permit for Foreign Air Operators that empowers it to perform regular operations, which are described in the Manual of Requirements of the Junta de Aviacion Civil, JAC-001, so it follows from there that it has not complied with the internal regulations of the Dominican Republic for this type of regular operations.”
After further explanation of the applicable guidelines with regard to airlines such as WINAIR that do not have their own aircraft, but hire them with crew, JAC stated: “By way of background, we indicate that the foreign air operator Windward Island Airways International has been recurrent in the request for the commercialisation of tickets for charter flights in the Dominican Republic and on more than one occasion the Junta de Aviacion Civil has indicated that they must obtain an operating permit for regular flights, which is stated in the resolutions. With an operating permit, such an operator may market its tickets.”
Pending Winair’s application for an operating permit, JAC had already approved Winair on July 13 to operate a total of 21 charter flights to the Dominican Republic in the period July 7 to August 30, 2022.
In his letter of August 1, 2022, JAC president Jose Ernesto Marte Paintini once again pointed out how Winair can apply for a Permiso de Operaciones, what form must be completed for this and what documents (copies) must be attached.
“The Dominican Republic, as a signatory to the International Civil Aviation Convention, recognises that the future development of international civil aviation contributes powerfully to creating and preserving friendship and understanding among nations, so that, through the agreement between the parties, the safe and orderly development is guaranteed on a basis of equal opportunities for international air transport services,” JAC chairman Marte Piantini wrote.
“In order to continue the commercial air relations between our countries, we remain in their disposition to hold meetings between the parties, with a view to clarifying the foundations of the decision of the Dominican Republic in accordance with its internal regulations for non-regular or charter flights.”
Ottley issued a press release on Tuesday stating that he had held an emergency meeting with Government of St. Maarten foreign affairs representatives, the secretary general of the TEATT Ministry, 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,” Ottley said, explaining that a letter sent by the Director of St. Maarten Civil Aviation Authority on the minister’s behalf “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, Ottley suggested that SMCAA director 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.”
In his press release, Ottley said “based on information gathered and the agreements reached,” he and his team had advised the director of civil aviation in St.
Maarten to recall the initial ban on airlifts from Dominican Republic.
Ottley said, “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.”
Based on this agreement, Ottley said WINAIR would also be allowed to apply for a commercial airline service licence in the Dominican Republic, which it will receive once it complies with the required regulations.