Left: Princess Juliana International Airport is a
hub for Caribbean islands
Change is afoot at Princess Juliana International Airport (SXM) in St Maarten. As the Caribbean region’s hub airport, serving neighboring islands of Anguilla, St Barths, Saba, St Eustatius, Dominica, Tortola and Nevis, SXM plays a crucial role in the economic stability of the Caribbean and is working hard to meet the demands of its growing passenger numbers.
In 2007 the airport opened a US$100m, 328,000ft² international passenger terminal designed to handle 2.5 million passengers annually – the airport handled 1.8 million passengers in 2014 and this figure is expected to reach almost two million by 2020. The four-level, fully air-conditioned facility consists of 12 boarding gates, including four passenger loading jet bridges, 46 check-in positions all equipped with common use terminal equipment, and 12 common use self service check-in kiosks.
The airport is now two years through a five-year US$132m capital improvement program, which includes a renovated departures lounge (which opened in June 2015), upgraded concession areas, runway resurfacing, additional aircraft parking and relocation of the fuel farm. Other developments at the airport include an aviation training academy and a 21,500ft² solar panel field situated in the south west corner of the airfield, for which construction is beginning this year.
“The capital improvement program is developing well, and we will continue to improve to meet the standards our passengers are demanding,” explains Regina LaBega, managing director at SXM. “We’re looking at building a car park center to make it easier for travelers to rent a car right here at the airport. We also want to follow other international airports by building a hotel – there aren’t many hotel rooms on the island but we have growing visitor numbers, so we’d like to offer this service and have spoken to a number of major chains that have expressed an interest. We’re looking to develop the airport into a little aerotropolis.”
Right: The renovated concessions area
Sense of place
The airport opened its renovated departures lounge
in June 2015, which offers an extended range of retail and food and beverage options. Taking its inspiration from Changi Airport, Singapore, which LaBega describes as “incredible”, SXM has included
a number of features to help create a sense of place for passengers arriving and departing from the island. “Although Changi is much bigger and accommodates far more passengers than us, I love how it blends nature with commercial elements and tries to exceed the customer’s expectations – that’s our inspiration,” she adds.
Featuring large windows that flood the terminal with natural light and provide a perfect view of the Caribbean vista from the departures area, SXM has also included local food outlets to give passengers a taste of the Caribbean. “The food is exceptional on St Maarten – there is no place like it where you have such great restaurants in such a small area – and we wanted to demonstrate this to our customers,” LaBega explains. The new concessions area is 95% complete, with the final retail outlets due to open at the end of the year. An additional full-service restaurant will also open later this year.
Left: The ProVision 2 from L-3
Security & Detection Systems
SXM is also upgrading its security area and recently installed a ProVision 2 screening machine from L3 that will enable the airport to screen 200-300 people per hour. “We have another of these machines on order that will be delivered and installed in October 2015,” comments Larry Donker, director of operations at the airport. “We want to make sure we stay at the forefront when it comes to both security and customer service, and these machines will help us to make security screening more efficient and less intrusive.”
The airport has also received approval from its management board to install automated passport control kiosks and e-gates, further improving the passenger experience through the airport.
“We were inspired by attending Passenger Terminal Expo and seeing this new technology in place,” says LaBega. “We want to be the most intelligent airport in the region and we hope to have these new APC kiosks and e-gates in place by December 2015.
“Princess Juliana International Airport is an exemplary airport in the region – there are several islands that are constructing new airports and they always come to this airport to see what we are doing and why we are working so perfectly. We will continue to remain a trendsetter and deliver exemplary customer service.”
August 27, 2015