Netherlands lends $ 3 million to Caribbean airline Winair
On December 31, the Dutch government announced a mortgage loan of $ 3 million to Windward Islands Airways (Winair), a small regional airline based in Saint Martin. The loan will help the struggling carrier survive the current crisis and keep the Caribbean islands connected.
A loan required
In the Caribbean, the plane is the most comfortable means of transport and sometimes the only one. Therefore, air connectivity is essential for the economies of the region to remain operational. Unfortunately, due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, Caribbean airlines are at risk.
Right now, one of the regional carriers is doing 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 story seems to have come to an end. But, a few months later, it came back to life, relaunching operations on November 30.
To avoid this turmoil, the Dutch government decided to provide a lifeline to Winair. The $ 3 million loan has a market-based interest rate, said Cora van Nieuwenhizen, the Dutch minister for infrastructure and water management.
What are the fine print of the loan?
The Dutch government owns a minority stake in the airline. According to The Daily Herald, the Netherlands owns 7.95% of Winair, while the government of Saint-Martin holds 92.05%.
In a letter sent to the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament, van Nieuwenhizen said:
“The issuance of this loan is based on the need to maintain air connectivity with the islands of the Caribbean Netherlands. The assistance is provided in the form of a mortgage loan with a repayment term of 18 months, which can be extended up to a maximum of six years by mutual agreement. “
Winair will put its building at Princess Juliana International Airport in Saint-Martin as a guarantee.
In addition, the Dutch government imposed certain conditions for the airline to receive the loan. The main concern is to maintain connectivity along the Caribbean, especially between the Netherlands Antilles.
Winair must continue to fly between Saint-Martin, Saint-Eustache and Saba during the term of the loan, Van Nieuwenhuizen said. The airline is to operate two flights per day between these islands as soon as COVID-19 travel restrictions are lifted.
A brief history of Winair
Winair began operations in 1961. From the beginning, the airline’s main objective was to provide safe and efficient air transport in the Caribbean.
Due to the nature of the Netherlands Antilles, Winair has always needed small planes. Therefore, it currently has a fleet of seven aircraft. It is made up of four De Havilland Twin-Otter and three ATR 42-500 / 62, according to its website. However, Winair does not operate the ATR fleet. Instead, French airline Air Antilles is doing it. The two 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 (Dominican Republic)
- Saint Barth
- Saint Eustache
- St. Kitts
Have you ever traveled with Winair? How was it? Let us know in the comments.