On December 31, the Dutch Government announced a US$3 million mortgage loan to Windward Islands Airways (Winair), a small regional airline based in Saint Maarten. The loan will help the struggling carrier to survive the current crisis and keep the Caribbean Islands connected.
A necessary loan
In the Caribbean, the plane is the most comfortable and sometimes only means of transportation. Therefore, air connectivity is essential to keep the economies in the region up and running. Unfortunately, due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, the airlines in the Caribbean are in jeopardy.
Currently, one of the regional carriers is in some sort of financial reorganization. In June, the Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda announced the liquidation of LIAT. After years of net losses, LIAT’s history seemed to have come to an end. But, a few months later, it came back to life, relaunching operations on November 30.
To avoid this up-and-down turmoil, the Dutch Government decided to provide a rescue line to Winair. The loan of US$3 million has a market-based interest rate, announced Cora van Nieuwenhizen, the Dutch Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management.
What’s the small print of the loan?
The Dutch Government has a minority share in the airline. According to The Daily Herald, the Netherlands owns 7.95% of Winair, while the St. Maarten Government owns 92.05%.
In a letter sent to the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament, van Nieuwenhizen said,
“The issuing of this loan is based on the necessity of maintaining the air connectivity with the Caribbean Netherlands islands. The support is provided in the form of a mortgage loan with a repayment term of 18 months, which can be extended to a maximum of six years with mutual approval.”
Winair will put its building at Princess Juliana International Airport in St. Maarten as collateral.
Additionally, the Dutch Government imposed some conditions for the airline to receive the loan. The main concern is to keep the connectivity along the Caribbean, especially between the Netherland Antilles.
Winair must keep flying between St. Maarten, St. Eustatius, and Saba during the loan duration, said Van Nieuwenhuizen. The airline must operate two flights per day between these islands as soon as the COVID-19 travel restrictions are lifted.
A brief history of Winair
Winair started operating in 1961. Since the beginning, the main goal of the airline was to provide safe and efficient air transportation in the Caribbean.
Due to the nature of the Netherland Antilles, Winair has required, historically, small aircraft. Therefore, it currently has a fleet of seven planes. It is composed of four De Havilland Twin-Otter and three ATR 42-500/62, according to its website. Nevertheless, Winair doesn’t operate the ATR fleet. Instead, the French carrier Air Antilles does so. Both airlines are close partners and have codeshare agreements.
Currently, Winair has 16 destinations. According to its website, it flies to:
- San Juan (Puerto Rico)
- Santo Domingo (the Dominican Republic)
- St. Barths
- St. Eustatius
- St. Kitts
- St. Maarten
Have you ever traveled with Winair? How was it? Let us know in the comments.