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Caribbean-On-Line / St. Barts / News / Transportation / Winair Cuts Schedules Due to Pilot Shortage

Winair Cuts Schedules Due to Pilot Shortage

As reported in the St Maarten newspaper the Daily Herald on June 4, Winair is facing a shortage of pilots and has been forced to reduce the number of its flights to all destinations. The airline needs five more pilots to supplement its pool of 25 pilots in order to maintain its previous schedules. Because of a shortage of pilots from the Antilles, Winair has been trying to attract foreign pilots. However, the process to acquire the mandatory employment documents is lengthy. Documents from the pilot must be submitted to the Island Labour Office. Once they are verified, Winair must pay the processing fee to the Island Receiver. This initial process takes about three days if all goes well. Normally, once Winair has provided proof of payment to the Labour Department, it takes a week to process the paperwork and send it to the Executive Council for approval. At the same time, all documents are sent to Police Affairs for a residence permit. After these steps are completed, an appointment must be made to process "the declaration act of guarantee" and the paperwork is sent to the Lt. Governor and the Immigration Department for approval. Winair reports an incident when paperwork for a pilot was begun in January and by the end of April was still not completed. The airline is appealing to the Central and Island Governments to streamline the process so that it takes only two weeks from when the documents are submitted to obtaining the permit. Winair's management requested a meeting in April to discuss these issues. As of today, no meeting has been set.

As quoted by the Daily Herald,

"Until the required number of pilots is employed, the airline will be operating on a limited schedule."
Be sure to allow extra time to make your connection, even if it requires staying overnight in St Maarten. If you arrive and find your flight to St. Barth has been cancelled, you can take a taxi to Marigot for $20 and hop on the Voyager, a ferry that takes 75 minutes but can be rough. If you arrive early enough, you can take a taxi to Bobby's Marina in Philipsburg and catch the 5:00 pm Rapid Explorer. This is a comfortable, air-conditioned high-speed catamaran that will get you to St. Barth in 45 minutes.

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