Surinam Airways, the small airline with big ambitions to carve out a profitable niche connecting Suriname with the rest of the world, is making great strides in bridging this aviation gap. The airline was originally established to provide important regional and industrial links within Suriname, initially serving the Paramaribo–Moengo route.
On August 30, 1962, the company was taken over by the Surinamese government and on the country’s independence in 1975, the carrier officially became the national airline of the Republic of Suriname, launching services to Amsterdam at the same time.
Based at Paramaribo’s Johan Adolf Pengel International Airport, today Surinam Airways operates a network of regional services in South America and the Caribbean, in addition to long-haul services to Amsterdam. Recently, it introduced a new connection linking Georgetown, the capital city of Guyana, with Suriname’s own capital, Paramaribo, and Miami International in the U.S. The twice-weekly Paramaribo-Georgetown-Miami service commenced in April, with a Boeing 737-300 flying the nation’s flag on the new route.
Surinam Airways already offers flights to Miami from Johan Adolf Pengel International Airport in Paramaribo on a three-times-a-week basis via Aruba, which will continue to operate alongside the new twice-weekly rotation via Georgetown’s Cheddi Jagan International Airport.
An estimated 35,000 origin and destination (O&D) passengers traveled between Paramaribo and Miami in the past year and Surinam Airways currently has just a 52% share of this traffic.
This year, Surinam Airways is celebrating its 50th
anniversary and has every intention of making the next 50 years just as accomplished as the past half century. The airline is planning to launch their third 737-400 in 2012 as part of its plans to look for more opportunities in connecting neighboring countries, such as French Guiana, with the Caribbean or Miami.
"We link Miami directly to Caricom, our neighbors, and Suriname. Miami is an important gateway. We also connect the Caribbean with the Netherlands."
The President and CEO of Surinam Airways, Ewald Henshuijs, shares his thoughts about the future: “Surinam Airways stands out as an example as we are the only airline that is not subsidized and we would like to connect the Caribbean with every part of the world, as we have been doing for 50 years. We have just initiated a comprehensive plan with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs regarding facilitating passenger visas so that one may purchase a Surinam Airways ticket in their own country, be it France, the U.K., Belgium, Luxembourg, Scandinavia or the Baltic States, and have no hassle with visas. We also connect the Caribbean with the Netherlands. In addition, we have signed an agreement with Access Rail so that people can take a high-speed train to the airport and connect with our flights.”
The company’s business projection for 2012-2015 outlines plans to update its fleet for long-haul journeys, switching twin-engine aircraft for those with four engines. “We also want to start joint operation with our neighbors in Guyana to take them to Europe or wherever their market demands,” says Mr. Henshuijs.
He adds: “Things are changing in the airline business and we are making efforts to cut costs and make our company profitable; this is one of our major focuses. Contracts that expire need to be renegotiated and in this year we are celebrating our 50th anniversary and when I leave I believe this company can continue to grow for the next 50 years.”
The airline also has a strong focus on Brazil right now, particularly on regional flights within the country. Many Brazilians from the north or east have to travel to Rio or San Paulo in order to get to the rest of the world. “We are inviting them to come to Suriname and that is the reason why we operate five flights a week out of Belem, and we are planning to do more, if possible with additional aircraft. We have a strong commitment with our southern neighbor, especially with the upcoming 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Olympics that will be held in Brazil,” says Mr. Henshuijs.
The President and CEO adds: “We also operate the Miami-Aruba link, which is three flights a week, and now we have five flights a week into Miami, including the new route via Georgetown. We link Miami directly to Caricom, our neighbors, and Suriname. Miami is important as it is used as a gateway to the U.S. – that is why we chose to serve Miami and connected with Delta Airlines to reach the rest of the United States. Our product in Miami is an exceptional one as we strategically positioned ourselves to stand out from the competitors who are cutting down on the amenities they offer clients, such as food and drinks and maintain the high quality services.”
Going forward, Surinam Airways is planning lots of new opportunities to facilitate Suriname becoming the aviation hub of the Caribbean.
“We want to seek opportunities all over the world, bearing in mind that it is a tough business, as you have to be conscious of your costs; there is one that you have no control over and that is fuel,” explains Mr. Henshuijs. “However, there are costs you can control by making the best deal for your company, and those are the ones we focus on. By reaching deals with other partners, you can really arrive at win-win situations and do business for years to come. I must say that it works because we have obtained, for example, a substantial reduction on the lease of our aircraft. I tell my partners that we may be a small airline but if they do not want our business, somebody else will. We need the best partners to be a stable airline that is always on time and offers the best service.
“By keeping up with our obligations, we are sure that our clients, in turn, will continue flying with us and our partners will continue to be interested in Surinam Airways.”