Deputy Prime Minister, the Hon. Theodore Heyliger on Thursday welcomed the latest addition to JetBlue service to this destination, the inaugural flight from San Juan, Puerto Rico to Princess Juliana International Airport (PJIA) in St. Maarten.
PJIA Managing Director Regina LaBega accompanied Mr. Heyliger, who also has responsibility for the airport, in the traditional ribbon cutting ceremony.
In his brief remarks, the Deputy Prime Minister highlighted the importance of the new service to St. Maarten in particular and the wider Caribbean region in general.
Heyliger described April 1, 2011 as, a most difficult day for St. Maarten as "there was no direct flight to Puerto Rico."'
According to him, "This was difficult for an island that at one point had seven daily flights to Puerto Rico. So government decided this is something we needed to get back."'
"I am also happy that we stuck to our guns that we would not guarantee seats, choosing instead to assist with marketing funds. One flight per day is great, but two or three would be nicer,"' the Deputy Prime Minister added.
JetBlue flight 450 brought 78 passengers with a crew of four, on board an Embraer 190 aircraft, which has a capacity of 100 passengers, touching down at PJIA at 2 PM Thursday. It carried the same number of passengers back to Puerto Rico on its return leg the same afternoon.
The Embraer 190 aircraft features convenient, assigned seating; a free first-checked bag; complimentary and unlimited name brand snacks and drinks; comfortable leather seats; more leg-room than any other carrier in coach and free in-flight movies on personal seat-back TVs.
Ms. LaBega called the relationship with JetBlue "a perfect and loyal match for our destination,"' adding that the airline, in her opinion, has changed the "landscape of tourism on St. Maarten."'
She said it had accomplished this "through its on-time performance and by offering customers a better experience and better amenities. It has also focused on technology with a customer-friendly website while distinguishing itself through its award-winning customer service and by just being different."'
The airline's general manager in St. Maarten, Mr. Marc Boasman, also highlighted JetBlue's signature customer service.
"We offer the best customer service experience in the industry,"' he said, "thanks to our best asset " our people!"'
"We have more than 14,000 award-winning crewmembers " seven years running with the JD Power and Associates,"' Boasman added.
According to him, "The St. Maarten community has warmly embraced JetBlue's value proposition, and thanks to their tremendous support today we're pleased to be able to offer this new destination for travelers. That, coupled with our everyday low fares, is surely a recipe for success!"'
JetBlue has been flying to St. Maarten since 2008 and has been expanding its reach into the region steadily.
"This week,"' Boasman revealed, "we also began service to La Romana, Dominican Republic, and launched Westchester County, New York's only international flight, to Nassau, Bahamas. We are also launching direct flights from New York's JFK to Liberia in Costa Rica today as well. To celebrate all of our new routes, we are waiving surfboard fees network wide between November 17 and December 17, 2011."'
In Ms. LaBega's view, "JetBlue will continue to make travel more accessible from Puerto Rico to St. Maarten and vice-versa, as it provides a convenient and efficient travel option for a wide range of users of this airport."'
She said the new daily service from Puerto Rico would soon increase to at least three daily flights in the coming months. "That is among the reasons why partnering with JetBlue was the most efficient and strategic option we could have taken,"' LaBega added.