The government of Sint Maarten has revealed their initial assessment of the Princess Juliana International Airport and, as you could guess, it’s not good. They are estimating that it will take 35 weeks — 8 months — for the airport to be fully operational. What exactly that means and how soon commercial flights can begin operating there in temporary facilities or a partially opened terminal is still not totally clear.
According to an article in the Daily Herald, the initial assessment indicates that there was heavy damage to the entire airport, including the terminal, the airfield, the perimeter, and all four jet bridges. Minister of Aviation, Mellissa Arrindell-Doncher, said that the airport is adopting a recovery plan that will “address the issues required for the resumption of civil and cargo flights into St. Maarten as soon as possible.”
No further details were given about what that final plan might look like or what a timeline would be to get commercial service up and running. The Minister did mention that the airport will be able to operate much sooner than the 35 week timeline. Both International and regional carriers have released target dates for their resumption of service (read about that here), but ultimately, the condition and functionality of the airport will drive those decisions.
The airport has sustained major damage in the following areas:
- Airport perimeter fencing has been destroyed and must be replaced for security purposes
- All four jet bridges have sustained major damages
- All runway and taxi lights have been destroyed
- Vehicles suffered water and body damages
- Seventy-five percent of the terminal’s roof and/or ceiling has been destroyed
- Substantial standing water is present on all levels of the terminal
- Mold is present throughout the terminal
- All four entrances to the airport terminal have been damaged
- The entire terminal building has sustained either physical or water damage
While there wasn’t a formal plan announced yet, the Minister did lay out priorities for the airport to begin to get repairs in place without further delay. Of course, this comes more than three weeks after the hurricane hit.
The main areas of focus will be:
- Repair perimeter fencing
- File all insurance claims and work with insurance companies to get the process moving
- Begin terminal roof repairs
- Order and replace critical operations systems
- Repurpose parts of the airport to serve as passenger processing halls
There’s no question that getting commercial flights back and operating at SXM is going to be a big step towards economic recovery for the island and it’s communities. Earlier this week, I wrote about the importance of the airport and cruise port being up and running as soon as possible (read about that here). With high season just around the corner for Sint Maarten, this announcement gives us more insight into the condition of the airport and hope that commercial service can resume, at least partially, within a short period of time.