Monday 16 July 2018

The Caribbean's most spectacular airport set to reopen

Hurricane season

A commercial jet approaches Princess Juliana airport in Saint Maarten (2013). Photo: Deposit
A commercial jet approaches Princess Juliana airport in Saint Maarten (2013). Photo: Deposit
Hurricane Irma lashed islands in the Caribbean. Photo: AP
An airplane approaches the runway at Princess Juliana International Airport, St. Maarten. Photo: Getty Images/Flickr Open
Scenic landing: Maho beach on the Caribbean island of St Maarten

Soo Kim

St Martin’s Princess Juliana International Airport, famous for its proximity to the beach, which sees aircraft swoop within spitting distance of sunseekers and planespotters, will reopen this month after being damaged in recent hurricanes.

Dutch carrier KLM will restart its twice weekly services from Amsterdam Schiphol Airport to the Caribbean hub, with a stopover in Curacao, on October 29.

Winair, based in St Maarten (the Dutch half of St Martin), is expected to resume its regular services to Saba, St Eustatius, St Barts, and St Kitts from October 6, with the potential for other destinations to be added.

The carrier will also operate special commercial and repatriation flights between Curacao and St Maarten on October 5, 7 and 10.

Hurricane Irma lashed islands in the Caribbean. Photo: AP
Hurricane Irma lashed islands in the Caribbean. Photo: AP

St Maarten suffered severe damage during recent hurricanes, with buildings flattened and infrastructure decimated.

On September 30 it was estimated the airport would not be restored to “all its glory” for another 35 weeks, but would be functioning optimally sooner than that, according to the country’s Minister of Tourism, Melissa Arrindell-Doncher.

“The entire airport perimeter fencing was destroyed and all four jet bridges sustained substantial structural damage,” explains the official Caribbean tourism website. “The swing cabs were blown off all four bridges and all metal entrance doors attached between the bridges and the terminal building were blown in.

“All runway and taxiway lights and precision approach path indicators were destroyed. The shoulders and a section of the runway were under water.

“The majority of the roof was destroyed in the terminal building, exposing the terminal to outdoor elements with water found on all four levels,” the website added.

Princess Juliana has been rated as one of the world’s scariest and scenic airport landings. With its flight approach being over water, pilots must make regular instrument checks to ensure the correct altitude is maintained. Take-off involves a U-turn to avoid the mountains that loom large at the end of the runway.

Maho Beach has become a popular spot from which to observe approaching aircraft, and tourists are sometimes swept off their feet and injured by passing planes.

Read more:

WATCH: Fasten your seatbelts for 10 of the world's scariest landings

Telegraph.co.uk

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