Subsidies for flights in Dutch Caribbean

Subsidised flights between the islands seems the only way to guarantee reliable air transport within the Dutch Caribbean. This can be deduced from a report by the Social Economic Research SEO unit at the University of Amsterdam on the problematic air connec­tions in this part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

SEO carried out a study into supply and demand on flights between Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao, St. Maarten, Saba and St. Eustatius. This shows that the demand for transport is rising, but supply is lagging.

Many residents depend on a very limited number of carriers for air their transport, which means that vital connections are interrupted when these become inoperative, such as recently with InselAir. According to the SEO, this does not benefit the prosperity of the inhabitants and the local economies.

SEO advised Dutch Minister Cora van Nicuwcnhuizen to look at subsidised flights. This should be done via so-called Public Service Obligations (PSOs), where government awards routes to the airline and grants subsidies, provided that the ticket prices remain affordable and that authori­ties have a say in the frequency. In addition, the airline can be approached on matters such as delays or cancellations.

PSOs are very common in Europe. France, for example, already has such a structure for its territories. PSOs are also used in the region to provide remote areas such as in Scotland and Scandinavia with air transport.

The Daily Herald.

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