SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Independent Member of Parliament (MP) Christophe Emmanuel on Tuesday said Princess Juliana International Airport should follow the same route as the major international airports that service St. Maarten scale back the project to protect the airport in uncertain times then re-commit when projected revenue can be counted on. If not, he warned, PJIA could run out of money in mere months.
Emmanuel pointed out that all of the major ports that “feed” directly to St. Maarten have either cancelled their extensive projects plans or put them on hold until 2023 at the earliest when they project travel will return to pre-2019 levels. Miami International, JFK New York, Charles de Gaulle Paris, Charlotte North Carolina, Dallas Fort Worth (American Airlines) and Atlanta (Delta) have all within the past few weeks made announcements to forgo large investments in upgrades or new terminal projects.
He stressed that this does not mean that PJIA should stop its re-construction, but scale down the project which is already over budget by some US $25 million. Even more worrisome, he said, at the rate of spending at PJIA with “ridiculously high consultant fees and poor financial and overall management”, the airport could be out of money by the end of this year if not before.
The MP suggest scaling the project back to focus on the necessities of the terminal, establish the first level/phase of US pre-clearance, take care of employees, replace the CEO, CFO and Supervisory board and put all other related projects at PJIA on hold.
“The ongoing airport expansions and overhauls have all had to scale down as a result of the pandemic and a drastic drop in business. Dallas dropped its US $3 billion terminal expansion project, Miami International paused its US $5 billion improvement plan to ensure it can maintain operations and make payroll, JFK’s US $15 billion makeover has been put on hold with only the smallest project (American Airlines terminal 8) is moving ahead. And you see the same trend all over the world,” Emmanuel said.
“Here we are, with a grossly mis-managed airport, hiring expensive consultants and trying to fix a facility that isn’t even brand new but cost millions more than what it was built for, with a pandemic still affecting travel. We have to be real with what the numbers are. PJIA is losing money at an unsustainable rate. Two years from now, the airport is still projecting to have a cash shortage of approximately Naf 25 million. Current revenues are just not covering operating expenditures. And that means you simply have to scale back until you can count on dependable revenue,” the MP said.