The content originally appeared on: The Anguillian Newspaper

Air traffic controllers at the Princess Juliana International Airport (PJIA) went on strike last Saturday, January 15 – the busiest travel day of the week for St. Maarten – impacting travellers bound for our islands.

Among the hundreds of persons impacted by the disruption in airlift, at the PJIA, were several travellers in route to Anguilla. Some of them were able to alter their plans – travelling through San Juan and arriving in Anguilla on Sunday morning via a propeller aircraft. Sadly though, for many others, their only option was to cancel their scheduled flights.

Speaking at the Government’s weekly press briefing, Minister of Tourism, Mr. Haydn Hughes, commented: “Historically, we have promoted the PJIA as our gateway. Even the control of the airspace in this particular area – 10,000 feet out and 3,000 feet up – St. Maarten takes it over. [The disruption on Saturday] impacted our visitor movements via air travel.

“It also significantly impacted our visitor movements via ocean because, with the flights not being able to come as they usually do, there were lots of cancellations, and passenger movements dropped significantly.”

Mr. Hughes noted that the disruption in St. Maarten’s air service should help us to see the importance of developing our own air facilities. “We can see how we need to become independent of these critical bits of infrastructure and how we can become economically independent. [Anguilla’s] airport development is tantamount to our economic survival – our economic independence.”

He continued: “We believe that the airport is going to drive the entire economy along. [However, this] will not reduce the significance of our seaport, as St. Maarten is still important to us. Persons are travelling from the British and US Virgin Islands into Anguilla, and going off to other islands around us – St Barths, St. Maarten, St. Martin.

“Not only will persons land at the PJIA and come over to Anguilla, but persons will also land at the Clayton J. Lloyd International Airport (CJLIA) and go over to St. Marten, either by boat or by plane. It benefits both of our countries with more passenger movement and more economic activity between the islands, and more revenue and opportunities for the Anguilla Air and Sea Ports Authority and the people of Anguilla.”