Normalcy is a long, long ways off for the island of St. Martin/St. Maarten, but a small step in that direction is coming next week as Princess Juliana International Airport (SXM) reopens for commercial service on 10 October. The airport has not seen commercial flights since Hurricane Irma plowed through the island last month, wreaking havoc and destruction.
Most of the initial flights to PJIA will be from neighboring islands, not tourists in from the US and Europe, and that is probably a good thing. The airport is not ready for the typical volume of traffic the island sees. The airport authority is planning to use alternate facilities for inbound and outbound passenger processing while the rebuild efforts progress. All four jetbridges were heavily damaged during the storm, as was the terminal structure and many of the handling systems.
Which is not to say that the airport has been out of business for the past month. As part of the critical recovery efforts for the island the airport was reasonably quick to reopen under the auspices of the Dutch military to facilitate flights bringing cargo and rescue workers on to the island.
The cargo flights mean a wide variety of aircraft types and, as the airport is renown for its runway just off the edge of Maho Beach, great opportunities for plane spotting. Yes, the beach and the bar and many other things in the area are damaged or destroyed. But that has not stopped AvGeeks from hanging out on the beach as some of the specials come in.
I’ve been there a few times now and know for certain I’ll be back. Probably well before it is a smart choice, but there’s a draw I cannot resist.
Beyond the early commercial flights coming only from the neighboring islands there are long-term cancellations in place for long-haul flights. TuiFly will not operate its planned winter schedule from Brussels and some US-based service will also be cut. No surprise given that many of the largest hotels are closed right now; Sonesta cancelled all bookings into early 2018.
Never miss another post: Sign up for email alerts and get only the content you want direct to your inbox.