AIRPORT–Passengers at Princess Juliana International Airport (PJIA) will soon be able to enjoy Wi-Fi connectivity thanks to an agreement signed Wednesday between PJIA and provider Microtech.
Signing of the concession contract marks an important milestone for PJIA to improve the passenger experience by providing Wi-Fi options for the current “Package One” temporary operations of the terminal building (ground floor for now) and for stakeholders and the airport community.
Wi-Fi will be operational in six weeks from now, it was stated. The Wi-Fi is based on a monetised platform where passengers receive free Wi-Fi for up to 30 minutes. It is envisaged that more free time will be possible by watching an advertisement or filling out a survey. A paid solution starts at US $4 per hour. The service will eventually be extended to the remainder of the terminal building and externally to concessionaires and airlines.
“When will Wi-Fi be installed at the airport?” has been the most-asked question on social media. Plans were already afoot to improve Wi-Fi service before the arrival of Hurricane Irma which then caused more delays. Since then there has been no Wi-Fi at the airport.
“Once we had moved into the building (package one) and out of the pavilion and tents, we felt it was time to accelerate the Wi-Fi plan,” explained New Business Development Manager Robert Brown.
“During the bidding process several proposals were considered. We put a team together to evaluate the proposals from the providers and it was Microtech that came out with the preferred offer. We then negotiated with Microtech to ensure we were all on the same page to obtain the best possible product for our passengers.”
Brown thanked the whole team that worked on the project, mentioning New Business Department Officer Damien Schmidt and Communications Specialist Audrey St. Luce-Jack, among others.
“Executive Consultant Emile van de Weerd gave us a big hand in negotiating the contract, making sure all the important points were included, and airport CEO [Chief Executive Officer – Ed.] Brian Mingo helped us negotiate the bandwidth and how he wanted it all done.
“Our legal adviser Christian Wasiela worked very hard on the agreement, making numerous changes, until we had the best possible agreement to sign. Now it passes on to Passenger Experience Manager Ketty Paines who will monitor Wi-Fi performance.”
Van de Weerd added: “It’s a unique partnership. On the one hand passengers receive Wi-Fi for up to 30 minutes and we offer the advertiser platform where messages can be tailored to individual customers. Advertisers obviously pay for adverts that will be seen by passengers and it gives us an opportunity to create a business model whereby the Wi-Fi concessionaire benefits financially and we as an airport benefit, and also stakeholders and taxpayers.
“Different packages will also be available for the airport community. With Microtech we wanted to make sure we have a good partner that can work to the standards we want. It’s a state-of-the art network and I am 100 per cent sure Microtech will deliver up to par.”
Microtech’s Jan Willem Wielkers said that, based on the company’s experience with hotels, it had been able to create a platform for the airport beneficial to both parties. “We have a clear idea of how this project should go forward and are confident that it will be way better than before,” he said.
Brown explained that instead of offering unlimited free Wi-Fi, which can have drawbacks, the airport had decided on a middle option to put the onus on the provider to ensure quality Wi-Fi. “It becomes a commercial activity for them, but at the same time they are responsible for providing quality service.”
With annual passenger numbers approaching those of 2016, advertisers have the opportunity to sell their services or products on the Wi-Fi platform by contacting the airport or Microtech directly.