Dutch Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk is looking into a reduced price system for those residents who can ill afford the high ticket prices of flights between the Windward Islands. The Minister stated this in a letter he sent to the Dutch Parliament late last week in relation to the agreement list of the January 2016 Inter-Parliamentary Consultation for the Kingdom IPKO that was held in St. Maarten.
The high ticket prices on Winair and the wish to establish a fast ferry connection between the three Windward Islands were two specific points the IPKO delegations had secured in the agreement list. Plasterk explained that a trajectory had started to assess whether it was possible to limit the cost of flying of less fortunate residents of St. Eustatius and Saba to St. Maarten; for example, through a voucher system. This system would enable these residents to travel at a reduced price or even for free. The Minister pointed out that a large part of the ticket price was determined by the taxes and fees levied for the use of the airports in St. Maarten, Saba and St. Eustatius. “The local parties have the required instruments to influence the ticket prices,” he stated.
The Dutch Government has pointed out on previous occasions that St. Maarten plays an important role in the amount people have to pay to fly between the Windward Islands. Not only is Winair largely owned by the St. Maarten Government, but so is the airport which levies the landing fees and other fees that make up a large part of the ticket price. “The Netherlands is anxiously awaiting the information from St. Maarten,” stated Plasterk.
As for the fast ferry connection between the three islands, a matter that has come up in several IPKO meetings as well as the Kingdom Conference, the Minister stated that improved sea connection with a ferry service was one of the ways to reduce the cost of transport of people and goods. The Dutch Government is looking at the “economic and political feasibility” of a fast ferry service. “Better access to the islands can have a very positive result on the economic development and the mobility of people between the islands. The objective is to establish a public-private cooperation with commercial parties,” stated Plasterk.