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Surinam Airways to expand long-haul fleet
Published on January 23, 2014 Email To Friend    Print Version

By Ray Chickrie
Caribbean News Now contributor

PARAMARIBO, Suriname -- Surinam Airways (SLM), which has been in the red for the past decade, will expand its long-haul fleet in 2015 to avert further financial losses by acquiring an additional Boeing 767 aircraft to ply the mid-Atlantic route. It will be a smaller aircraft than the sole Airbus 340 that is currently deployed on the Amsterdam/Paramaribo route, according to Clyde Cairo, vice president commercial affairs.

With no extra long-haul aircraft available, SLM has had to charter from other airlines whenever the Airbus 340 faced technical problems or needed to be taken out of service for routine C check. This has cost the airline millions of dollars to compensate European passengers especially.

In Europe, passengers are qualified for up to 600 Euros if their flight is significantly delayed, or a full refund if cancelled. These rules only apply if the flight departed from an EU airport, or if passengers were on an EU airline where the flight landed at an EU airport. And this could get worse for SLM since the EU recently granted more passenger rights that will take effect this year.

The mid-Atlantic route between Holland and Suriname is serviced by SLM’s sole Airbus 340 and continues to face disruptions due to only one aircraft servicing the route. This has been hemorrhaging the airline. Surinam Airways wants to bring delays to a minimum. A third aircraft, a Boeing 737, for regional destinations has been acquired and has improved the regional schedule.

There is no word yet whether or not SLM will fly between New York and Paramaribo via Guyana. The route is more lucrative since Delta stopped flying between Guyana and New York City. New York City has a large Guyanese community. More recently, Caribbean Airlines and Fly Jamaica were denied DOT permission to fly non-stop between Georgetown, Guyana, and JFK. However, SLM should have no problem getting DOT permission to fly the Paramaribo-Georgetown-JFK route.

And in a related development, Suriname’s Bluewing Airlines, which is banned by the EU because of a “series of accidents” involving the carrier and “serious deficiencies” is in the process of acquiring two of KLM’s Fokker aircraft. Bluewing plans to deploy these planes on regional routes in the Caribbean and Brazil by July 2014.

Many safety issues are plaguing Suriname’s aviation sector. Aviation insiders have pointed fingers at the Zorg En Hoop City airport in Paramaribo that is in violation of many civil aviation standards. The fencing of the airport, parking aircraft beyond the red-line, debris on the runway, paving of the runway and training of air traffic controllers are just a few issues that they have raised with the government. Many airports in the interior of the country are also in a deplorable state.
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