Column: Aviation in Curacao: To be or not to be…

By Roger Cannegieter
A few weeks ago I e-mailed my short summary to my friends. One of the aerlines members of the editorial team invited me to post the story here. So here’s my general analyze of the aviation in Curaçao.

Atlantic Airlines sent a delegation to go excellarate obtaining its air operators certificate. Talks will also continue with banks for local funding and with CAP (airport) for available space at the airport. Negotiations with travel agencies, tour operators and the free trade zone are also ongoing. The airline says to have two Boeing 737-200Advanced aircraft already available by the end of October which could be flying by the 1st of December if all certificates have been obtained. Atlantic Airlines route structure aims at flights to the Dominican Republic, St. Maarten, Aruba, Bonaire, Venezuela and the United States.

The air connection between Aruba, Curaçao and Bonaire is improving. BonairExpress/CuraçaoExpress is doing a decent job in filling the gap DCA left behind with their ATR42. The 737 in my opinion is too large for island hopping with high frequency. Only during peak seasons an aircraft of this size can be attractive. Looking at the number of 737s Atlantic Airlines wants to start with (only two) island hopping might not be a bad move. Two daily flights or combining other Caribbean flights with Aruba might bring Atlantic Airlines more profits.

The Caribbean is currently well served to Jamaica with Air Jamaica being the leader. BonairExpress/CuracaoExpress is covering the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba pretty well with satisfying loads reported. Connections to the Dominican Republic can be improved. Aeropostal of Venezuela currently flies from Curaçao to Santo Domingo on almost a daily basis. In the past both Aeropostal and DCA/ALM operated flights to Santo Domingo with decent load factors so it can be done. St. Maarten is currently underserved as BonairExpress/CuracaoExpress still doesn’t have enough capacity to increase its flights here. Atlantic Airlines can be the savior when they start 737 flights on this route. The number of passengers and cargo an aircraft of this size can carry is ideal for this route. Caribbean people are known for taking a lot of baggage when they fly so the 737 is a good aircraft for this route.

Aeropostal, Aserca, Avior Airlines and AeroSol fly from approximately five destinations in Venezuela to Curaçao in total. The Venezuelan market is a large market which might attract more passengers in the future. Brazil so far has a small market which cannot scheduled flights, only charter flights. Same goes for Ecuador. These countries are great destinations as leisure charter markets but don’t offer enough demand for yearround flights, just seasonal services. With more Colombians discovering Curaçao, I would also focus more on this market as well. This market also has quite some potential…

Miami is the South American and Caribbean gateway to the U.S. All Latin American and Caribbean airlines have between two and four daily flights to Miami. American Airlines’ fortress hub in Miami also offers many flights. American Airlines currently has about nine flights per week to Curaçao. In the past ALM operated three daily flights with very good load factors, so more flights are possible. Atlantic Airlines can be a nice here. Surinam Airways will bring more competition on this route soon when they start Miami flights from Curacao. Atlantic Airlines is good for the local and regional travellers, but American Airlines can feed passengers from their entire U.S. network to Curaçao through their Miami hub. Most Latin American airlines flying to Miami have their own local markets that can support daily flights to Miami where American Airlines also takes a piece of the cake here. Canada has potential during the winter charter season.

No other European destination comes close to Holland here. Germany has some potential (especially divers) and Portugal as well. TAP Air Portugal operates charter flights to Curaçao to cater for the increasing Portuguese population on Curaçao. The Portuguese who live in Curaçao are the wealthier classes from Portugal (Funchal). I can see TAP operate scheduled flights again to Curaçao but now is not the right time yet. Two flights a week would be a nice start but this is still a long way ahead in my opinion.

As you can see Curaçao has potential. With tourism slowly increasing we might see a brighter future in the aviation as the success of the aviation is linked to the tourism for the biggest part. The local market of Curaçao cannot generate enough to fully support the aviation in its entirety. Just like all other Caribbean islands, Curaçao will always be heavily dependant on tourism. The charter business will play a significant part in this.

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