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St. Martin Airport: Rude, Incompetent, and Lazy…

St. Martin Airport: Rude, Incompetent, and Lazy…

Mar 31st, 2008, 12:46 PM
  #1  
jrpinto
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St. Martin Airport: Rude, Incompetent, and Lazy…

This is not completely fair. There were some very helpful people at the airport – they were the exceptions who proved the rule. The problem is, the people who work at the airport don’t work for the individual airlines – they work for the government. As government employees, they have job security and don’t care about their own performance. Also, most people use St. Martin simply to change planes. Therefore, the airport workers have no vested interest in seeing that you make your connecting flight (all of which stop at dark). To them, if worse comes to worst, you have to spend the night (and some of your money) on their island.

I never had trouble with the old airport. True, it was dirty and run-down, but it never took any time to go through immigration, get my bags, and make my connecting flight. I used to spend most of my time sitting around. NOW, even though most airlines require you book a two-hour break between flights, THAT IS NOT ENOUGH TIME TO GET THROUGH THE AIRPORT. Coming through immigration and getting your bags can last over an hour, and so can checking into your next flight and going through security again. Not to mention the fact that your main airline probably delayed you so that you arrived in St. Martin late. When you finally make it to the Winair counter, the representative (who works for the airport and NOT Winair) will probably bark at you: “You’re late – you missed your flight!” (At this point, bribery helps.)

This has become such a problem that this year, St. Barths has been offering a “VIP” service for connecting flights. It costs about 280 Euro but it is worth it. The only thing is, you MUST be pushy when you arrive in St. Martin. Demand to see your VIP representative (get a name) – otherwise they will force you to go through the regular procedures. The VIP service will expedite you through security, check you in on your next flight, and transfer your bags without your needing to touch them. This is no longer a luxury – it is a necessity. You will miss your connection otherwise.
 
Apr 1st, 2008, 04:52 PM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Mar 2008
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I've had these experiences in my hometown airport in NYS!!! Really, other airports are much worse.
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Apr 1st, 2008, 05:49 PM
  #3  
WannabeinaMontserrat
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"You reap what you sow"
 
Apr 2nd, 2008, 04:39 AM
  #4  
jrpinto
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Actually, the service at JFK is getting increasingly better. The people are friendly, the facilities are nice, and (with the new self-check-in) it doesn't take much time to get your boarding pass. (Taking off on time is another matter.)

I'm on firm ground with my comments about St. Martin airport however. Everybody who I talked to for the past two years has had similar observations. The employees of the individual airlines can't stand the airport either. We witnessed a pilot get yelled at by an anonymous airport worker for some trivial reason (not really a good business strategy to yell at each other in front of customers).

The proof is that these smaller-island-based VIP services even exist.

I'm not quite sure about the "You reap what you sow" cliche. Perhaps the implication is that I was being so rude that I deserved to be treated rudely?
 
Apr 2nd, 2008, 06:44 AM
  #5  
WannabeinaMontserrat
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Bingo. But most times it's not the Airport, it is the particular airline. If dealing w/Winair (@ anytime) you may as well just plan on problems. I've had flights cancelled, reservations lost, flights changed to the next day, etc. All just w/Winair in the past 3 years. I have always allowed an extra day when traveling from the US to other islands & typically just plan on staying in St. Maarten or Antigua coming &/or going for exactly that prupose. I'm on vacation, I am in no hurry. It is also a lot easier to make connections if you carry-on. You're always first in line & probably through Customs & Immigration before everyone else collects their baggage.
 
Apr 2nd, 2008, 07:00 AM
  #6  
iw
 
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Hey, I paid good money for VIP service to St. Barts last year and was not sorry a bit! The only good service I received in St. Martin was at the bar!
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Apr 2nd, 2008, 01:02 PM
  #7  
 
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Couln't agree more. Service at the bar is great. Yes, SXM is a pain, but just go early and bite the bullet and then sit at the bar and have a few before the flight.
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Apr 2nd, 2008, 02:58 PM
  #8  
 
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St. Marteen's airport was a breeze the 2 times we went through it (this year and last year).
Regarding Winair. We were at the airport in St. Barth waiting to catch our flight back to Grand Case, St. Martin, when this petite woman at the Winair counter started going off. Apparently she was in St. Barth for FIVE days and her bags had still not made it to the island from St. Maarten. She had a 3-year-old child. Yikes! I've never flown Winair but I will do my best to avoid ever doing so. Heard enough horror stories about them.
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Apr 2nd, 2008, 06:15 PM
  #9  
jrpinto
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If the argument is that SXM is so bad you have to plan on spending the night there rather than make a connecting flight, then that proves my point. No intelligent person could claim that the SXM staff only behaves rudely towards rude people; the staff treats everybody rudely - not just me. There was a lady who spent an hour at the counter because her luggage was lost and the family in front of me was told that they couldn't get on the flight they were scheduled for. The people behind the desk did their best to show that they couldn’t care less.

Most of this is a racket - since the completion of the new airport, they act as though the flights are set in stone. Offer them money however and some seats magically appear. That's why the VIP service is important – it’s not a guarantee, but it is your best odds of making a connecting flight. It’s cheaper than spending the night on St. Martin.


 
Apr 2nd, 2008, 07:44 PM
  #10  
WannabeinaMontserrat
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I can sleep pretty good in St. Maarten for 280 euros + you're saving a nights stay in St. Barts which likely costs even more. Where IS the savings ? + there is 4 of us, so $1120 for some alleged 'VIP' nonsense ?! Please, there IS one born every minute.
 
Apr 2nd, 2008, 08:13 PM
  #11  
jrpinto
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1. The 280 Euros is for a group of 4.
2. The average family getting caught doesn’t know ahead of time that, even though they allowed the specified two hours between flights, it still isn’t enough time, so they will be forced to pay for a room on St. Martin AS WELL AS St. Barths (or wherever his final destination is).
3. They will have a precious vacation day ruined (not everyone has unlimited time) because the inconvenience of traveling was unnecessarily spread out over two days and… well, let’s face it – St. Martin sucks compared to its surrounding islands.
4. They’d still need the VIP service on the return flight, unless they wanted to spend four hours at the airport.
5. By slinging unprovoked insults and demonstrating ignorance on a topic you purport to be familiar with, you’ve proven that you are a rude schmuck. (You also omitted the apostrophe in “night’s”.)
 
Apr 3rd, 2008, 04:25 AM
  #12  
iw
 
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We have flown Winair many times and it is ok....No lost luggage, thank goodness! The flights are never on time, but when in the islands.....
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Apr 3rd, 2008, 05:18 AM
  #13  
jrpinto
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It's not really Winair's fault. The people at the Winair counter at SXM work for the airport and not Winair. (The person behind the counter made this perfectly clear.) It is hard to find a Winair representative in SXM. The counter people don't like it when you ask to speak with a Winair representative. If you want to be cynical, one could assume that this is because they want you to offer them a bribe. They also don't like the VIP service - presumably because the service will already contact the people at SXM with your travel information so there is no need to bribe anyone (although I still liberally tipped everyone who helped me).
 
Apr 3rd, 2008, 07:02 AM
  #14  
WannabeinaMontserrat
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No where (that I can see) did you ever mention the VIP service was for 4 people (?). If you are aware of what you will be dealing with (you stated you've done this several times) plan accordingly. The price for the service is still outlandish & I doubt you're getting much for your money. I have never bribed, tipped or otherwise tried to finagle my way onto a plane, I guess I'm just not that self-important. I am, however, smart enough to know when I'll be dealing w/'island-time' & plan accordingly. Calling people names is a bit childish, don't you think ? You should also quit yelling in your posts, oh wait, I covered that in the last sentence. You also can't find a Win-Air rep in Antigua either as they are no longer able to land their planes there (due to unpaid taxes & airport fees). They lease another companies planes for planes entering & departing Antigua. This may be happening on St. Maarten as well. If dealing w/Win-air, I would always allow plenty of time, or if you are able use Liat or another carrier. Please feel free to correct my spelling & punctuation at your leisure. Happy Travels !
 
Apr 3rd, 2008, 08:11 AM
  #15  
 
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"You also can't find a Win-Air rep in Antigua either as they are no longer able to land their planes there (due to unpaid taxes & airport fees). They lease another companies planes for planes entering & departing Antigua"

Really?
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Apr 3rd, 2008, 09:23 AM
  #16  
WannabeinaMontserrat
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That has been going on for over a year unless they have made amends w/the Antiguan authorities. I've not been there since last Spring, so perhaps it has been corrected. However, knowing what I know about Win-Air makes this seem unlikely. Let's face it, the way we all travel has changed dramatically in the past few years. The days of making tight connections & jumping on a plane at the last instant are gone. The rules have changed. You need to allow more time for lots of things - checking in, going through security & times between flights. In addition, flights are now packed full & at an all time low for on- time arrivals. You can either choose to adjust, & make the best of it, or be miserable. The OPs' original post certainly rubbed me the wrong way. I picture a guy running around in a Magnum PI shirt waving American dollars at everyone expecting for the world to stop so he can make his flight. The definitive ugly American (& I don't know if it is a guy, or is an American, ha-ha !). I can only say as a person who has been involved in various forms of customer service over the years, it is unlikely the OP would have gotten on any of my planes, anytime soon.
 
Apr 3rd, 2008, 10:15 AM
  #17  
 
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I flew thru SXM several times in February, taking day trips from SXM to Saba, Statia, and St. Kitts, and I found the airport pleasant and the staff professional, competent and quick -- as much, if not more so, than at other airports.

I don't know what you expected, but anyone willing to pay 280 Euros to have their hand held while trying to make a flight is a different type of traveler than I am.

I have flown into most of the major Caribbean airports (San Juan, Santo Domingo, SXM, Port of Spain, Barbados, etc.) and I would rank SXN near the top.
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Apr 3rd, 2008, 04:04 PM
  #18  
jrpinto
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For those traveling to St. Barths, here is the link to the VIP service:

http://www.easyway-sbh.com/

I believe that Anguilla and the other islands have their own such services but I don’t have any information on them.

They do much more than hold your hand. Feel free to check them out and contact them. It is a thriving business predicated on the inefficiency of SXM, which illustrates my point. (The other posters have also backed my argument, whether they meant to or not.)

The point of this post was to warn travelers of the problems inherent in transferring through SXM – especially in the afternoon. In the afternoon, the jets from New York and other distant places land. The connecting flights end at dusk because there is no night flying. Everything goes to hell in between. If the previous poster took “several day trips in February,” it is very likely that she wasn’t flying during peak hours – a luxury most travelers don’t have. I have been through the new SXM on several occasions at peak hour in the high season, and I have met many frustrated travelers there. These harried people – parents, really – were badly treated and were certainly willing to grease a few palms in order to get their exhausted kids to their destination island for the few days of vacation they had. (Notice that I never said I bribed anybody.)

The problem is not “island time.” “Island time” is a charming phenomenon – a laid-back attitude towards life. What’s going on at SXM is something else. It is the same sort of thing at Post Offices and DMV’s around America. The worker has no incentive to work harder (she does not work on commission) and no disincentive to behave badly (her job is completely secure).

Such is the inherent problem with government work in general, and the government of the Dutch West Indies specifically. You remember the government of the Dutch West Indies? These are the people who botched the Natalee Holloway investigation and let her killer go free. But her parents were ugly Americans anyway. After all, they had her for nineteen years. How greedy could you be? Who did they think they were, coming down to Aruba and waving reward money around and expecting the world to stop until they got their daughter back? They obviously don’t know the basics of customer service.

In any case, potential travelers have now been warned – if not by me, then by various other websites that express the same opinions about SXM. If you connect through there – especially at peak time in the high season – you either have to book a service to help you make a connection or book a hotel for the night in St. Martin. This site is supposed to help fellow travelers – not be a venue for frustrated people to make asses out of themselves in a pathetic attempt to work out their own personal issues over bad career choices.

FOOTNOTE: The cliché that name-calling is childish is actually false. It is a well-respected literary device with a long and glorious tradition...especially when it is so richly deserved, you uptight shmedrik.
 
Apr 5th, 2008, 11:02 AM
  #19  
WannabeinaMontserrat
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It is probably more effective to insult someone, when they actually understand what you are saying. Since I am not Jewish, the words you are using are meaningless, as is your opinion. BTW you also state "...at this point, bribery helps", in your original tirade. If you didn't bribe anyone, how would you know ??!
 
Apr 7th, 2008, 07:20 AM
  #20  
 
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I have been traveling thru SXM for the past 15 years since I live on a nearby island and that is my gateway to anywhere. I will attest to the fact that the immigration and customs officers are very often rude. I always greet them with a smile and say "good morning" or "good afternoon" and I'm lucky to get a snarling look in return, but mostly I'm just ignored. I take it with a grain of salt, however, as I'm used to it after all this time.

I've had my fair share of issues with WinAir over the years with their being the airline I use most throughout the year, but I have had more good service from them than bad so I can't really complain there. It's the immigration and security employees at SXM that are really getting out of hand, IMO.

I flew from JFK thru SXM to return home yesterday and I found the JFK employees (both airline and security personnel) to be very professional and friendly, yet the passport control and security employees at SXM were downright rude to me and everyone else around me. Everybody in line was commenting about it and it wasn't just one person treating people in that manner.

The outbound passport control officer literally "yanked" my passport out of my hand like some sort of "wannabe cop" (for lack of a better word) all the while giving me a total "go to hell" look. I have NO idea what I'd done other than say "good afternoon" with a smile. Perhaps I should follow their cue and try a scowl the next time.

Once I got to security, the employee there yanked my bag off the conveyor belt, asked whose it was and proceeded to unpack and toss everything out of the bag as if I were some sort of criminal. I have NEVER had security throw my things around outside the bag like that. My stuff was everywhere. Then, he proceeded to tell me to move along. Well, there was no way I could close my bag again and move along until I got things back in the proper way. So, considering I had a 2-hour layover I took my sweet time using his security table to repack my bag that way it was before he made such a huge mess of everything.

I'd had such a good trip all week long (even with delays and whatnot) until I got back to SXM. God, I hate that airport and it's mainly because of the government employees. I always wonder just what tourists must think as their first impression of "The Friendly Island" with meeting up first with those fabulous folks.

Don't get me wrong. I have no issues with WinAir, the locals, etc. It's just the airport government employees that I've seen nothing positive with in my 15 years of traveling thru there frequently. It's honestly a running joke with most people I know in the islands.

Just for the record, when I was sitting at my gate there was a group trying to board a WinAir flight for St. Barth's and they were all in quite an uproar. Apparently they had inquired about their flight at the gate, were told to sit down until they were called and then the flight left w/o them. Not sure what the deal was with that, but the passengers were quite upset as I could hear them shouting at the gate agent from afar.
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