The management team of the Princess Juliana International Airport, SXM, led by managing director, Regina LaBega, met with the Minister of Justice, Dennis Richardson on Friday to discuss a number of issues, including the handling of transit and VIP passengers at the airport. The minister was accompanied by his top advisers.
The two sides discussed the logistics of hosting transit passengers who have to overnight and stressed that in this as in all other cases, the necessary basic human rights conditions should be met.
The “no show numbers” on certain carriers are very high, which poses a problem. A recent report indicates that too many people are getting away. A short-term solution would therefore be needed for which several temporary solutions were tabled. These included, amongst others, placing chairs in the Pre-Immigration area to accommodate the transit passengers.
However, airlines should be held responsible for the transit passengers. Interline agreements, it was noted, could also help solve this matter, but this is ultimately a commercial decision made by the respective carriers. SXM Airport agreed to see how it could encourage airlines to enter into the necessary interline agreements.
The meeting also agreed that there is a need for a special VIP line at the Immigration at the arrival hall of the airport. VIP passengers can then only be escorted by authorized VIP service providers “registered” with the Immigration officers. SXM Airport plans to set up a VIP holding area shortly.
Meanwhile, the Immigration line opposite the one for residents and St. Maarteners can be used. Seating arrangements can also be provided for the VIP passengers. Airline crews should be able to walk through at all times through this separate immigration line.
It was, however, noted that the current set up for passenger flow does not allow for profiling by Immigration officers, although other international airports are all set up in the same manner as at SXM Airport.
The handling of dignitaries, diplomats and the like was similarly discussed, a matter which a special Immigration line as exists at other international airports would solve.
Although overall, service by Immigration/Emigration at the airport has improved, it was noted nevertheless, that isolated cases could have a significant effect and should therefore be looked into.
Currently, Immigration officers are undergoing training, coordinated by the Ministry of Justice and the St. Maarten Tourist Bureau, to enhance the customer service levels.