‘Winair in principle a healthy company’

An objec­tive assessment has shown that Windward Islands Air­ways International Winair is in principle a healthy company, but the conse­quences of the COVID-19 pandemic caused the air­line to have financial prob­lems.

Dutch Minister of In­frastructure and Water Management Cora van Nieuwenhuizen and State Secretary of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops stated this on Thursday in response to two sets of written ques­tions, one by Member of the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament Ronald van Raak of the Socialist Party (SP), and the other by Members of Parliament (MPs) Chris van Dam and Mustafa Amhaouch, both of the Christian Democrat­ic Party CDA.

The MPs had sought clar­ity early January 2021, after the announcement of Min­ister Van Nieuwenhuizen on December 31, 2020, that the Dutch government had decided to grant a US $3 million mortgage loan to Winair in order to keep the airline in the air during the current crisis.

Van Dam and Amhaouch asked about an underly­ing analysis, the conditions of the loan, Winair’s St. Maarten-Bonaire route and the guarantee of flights to Saba and St. Eustatius. Van Raak wanted to know how much members of Wi­nair’s management team earned, and whether their salaries would be reduced.

Van Nieuwenhuizen and Knops explained that the decision to give Winair a loan was based on a request of St. Maarten’s Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs and a political-social and business-economic assess­ment carried out at the request of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Cli­mate policy EZK.

There are a number of conditions to the mortgage loan, the minister and state secretary noted. Winair may not pay bonuses, divi­dends or profits until the loan has been repaid. Also, the airline must fly at least twice daily on the route St. Maarten to Saba and St. Eustatius, and between St. Eustatius and Saba as soon as the COVID-19 travel re­strictions have been elimi­nated. The airline must fur­thermore provide insight into its financial manage­ment, to the Dutch govern­ment.

Van Nieuwenhuizen and Knops reiterated that as a result of the travel restric­tions due to the coronavi­rus crisis, the regular air connections between the Windward Islands and the Leeward Islands have been disrupted.

“The island governors of Bonaire and Saba, and the government commissioner of St. Eustatius have in­dicated that they are very concerned about the con­sequences of this. The Min­istry of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations BZK considers it important that the islands remain well-connected in times of cri­sis, and for this reason has made funding available to safeguard the weekly flight between Bonaire and St. Eustatius.”

Several airlines were ap­proached to carry out this flight, and only Winair was willing to do so. “The routes are not competing since no direct connection is offered between Bonaire and St. Eustatius. There are only flights with mul­tiple transfers which are undoable due to the travel restrictions.”

Van Nieuwenhuizen and Knops pointed out that the Saba and Statia connec­tion was not profitable due to the small scale. Without a mortgage loan, Winair would have had to request payment deferral, with as a result, a discontinuation of regular flights to Saba and Statia.

“With this loan, the ac­cessibility of Saba and Statia has been secured in the short term. The Dutch government is looking at how to safeguard the acces­sibility in the middle-long term.” The Dutch govern­ment owns 7.95 per cent of the Winair shares. The country St. Maarten owns the remaining shares.

As for subsidising the route between St. Maarten, St. Eustatius and Saba, the minister and state secretary clarified that, based on the advice of the Expert Group on Connectivity, a pilot was announced for a ferry con­nection between the three islands. “This pilot can be carried out as soon as the travel restrictions have been lifted. Government is monitoring the air con­nections in the Caribbean Netherlands.”

Responding to the writ­ten questions by MP Van Raak, Van Nieuwenhuizen and Knops reported that Winair’s Chief Executive Officer earned a salary of 169,000 euros in 2019. De­tails on the remunerations of the executive board are stated in the Annual Re­port Management State Participations that the Sec­ond Chamber receives ev­ery year.

A salary reduction for Wi­nair’s management was not part of the conditions of the loan. The assessment that was carried out showed that in April 2020, Winair cut the salaries of the execu­tive board and supervisory board by 25 per cent.

The Daily Herald.

Funding for children’s activities at the library
Update from Island Governor Jonathan Johnson, February 4, 2021

2 comments

  1. If this so-called company is 100% owned by the government, whether Kingdom or St. Maarten governments doesn’t matter, the board and directors are also civil servants. Why were the same colleagues of St. Maarten obliged to give in salary and these protected civil servants not?!
    Furthermore, a statement that other airlines were approached to fly within Caribbean Netherlands is not verifiable. As it’s strange that only the government airliner got financial support, so one could ask himself if other airliners aren’t in the same dire streets.

  2. A little search on the Internet and you’ll see that Winair has had financial problems for more then one decade. In the report about government shareholdings to the Second Chamber you can read that the costs of this airliner have been too high for many years and there are too many bigwigs with excessive costs.
    The support given by the St. Maarten government during many years is kept out of the reporting, so this is shady and not complete. Some of their financial figures fluctuated that much, that you could ask yourselves whether there’s some kind of hanky panky going on.

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