Willemstad.- In a recent interview with the President of the Haitian airline, Sunrise Airways, Philippe Bayard, he indicated that the success of the company is measured by customer satisfaction and the progressive increase of the load factor. Since the launch of scheduled passenger flights in December 2012, Sunrise Airways has promoted the concept of safe, reliable and comfortable air transportation.
“Our goal is to offer a good product at an attractive price. We are constantly working to improve the quality of service to our customers and open new destinations and provide more connecting options,” said Bayard.
Sunrise Airways began its operations in 2012 with schedule service between Haiti’s two largest cities, Port-au-Prince and Cap Haitian using a fleet of four Jetstream 32 aircraft (19 seats).
The fast evolution of the fleet from Jetstream 32 to Airbus A320 via ATR 42 in less than 3 years is due to the relevance of the airline’s route structure which has an average 90% load factor proving that there is obviously a tremendous need for Caribbean direct interconnections.
“Our growth has seen our passenger numbers increase from 69,000 in 2016 to 140,000 in 2017 and have a projection in 2018 of 200,000.”
Sunrise Airways recently inaugurated its new destination, Cuba. According to Bayard, for the Cuban market, Haiti is an organic choice to travel.
“The excellent historic relationships between both countries goes back to 200 years and have been a determinant factor at the moment to choose Cuba destinations. We began to fly in April 2014 with a Jetstream 32 aircraft (19 seats) to Santiago from Port au Prince and today we operate 11 flights per week with an Airbus A320 (150 seats) to three destinations, Santiago, Camaguey and Havana.”
Bayard also indicated that the Cuban government has always been very professional and cooperative. “We began one month ago the discussions with the Cuban Aviation Authority in order to establish an interline agreement between Cubana de Aviacion and Sunrise Airways.”
“This is an important step for us in line with our long-term final objective which is to link the Caribbean directly or through a partnership between regional airlines: ONE CARIBBEAN.”
To the question if it is the objective of Sunrise Airways to make Port au Prince a hub, Bayard stated that as an island nation, Haiti has a need for Sunrise an efficient air transportation infrastructure.
There has been an over-reliance upon service provided by the US legacy carriers, in particular, American Airlines and generally upon air service to the USA which is often used as a distribution point for travel back into other areas of the Caribbean.
Haiti’s geographical location lends itself to become the focus of an intra-Caribbean feeder route system, a “HUB” which will underpin the continued growth of the country through the stimulation of trade and tourism.
“However, talking about a Hub in Port in Prince is little premature, even if we have started to promote connections in Port au Prince today from Curacao to Cuba or Curacao to Santo Domingo.”
Bayard recognized that the Haitian airport infrastructures are totally inadequate and not suitable for a mass market transit as other airports in the region like Panama or Santo Domingo for example. Adding to this, the excessive level of taxes on the ticket coupled with the most expensive Jet fuel price of the whole region is a big handicap to the aviation market development into the Caribbean.
“My goal is to create the conditions to ease the circulation of travelers in the Caribbean without loss of time and money.
For example, travel from Kingston to Santo Domingo is a long trip and very costly when a direct flight is about 2 hours. One sees the importance to be able to federate all Caribbean airlines to provide travel solutions for the whole Caribbean.”
Talking about the future, Bayard indicated that in 2018, the airline is investing a lot in technology. “In few weeks, we will change our CRS (Computer Reservation System), our Web page and our accounting system. We measure how the technology is important today in the workflow to win productivity at all level of the client experience. This is the reason why we will limit opening of new destinations in 2018. Only two in the pipeline: Curacao Santo Domingo and Santo Domingo Habana. To open them, we will receive a new aircraft soon.”
“In 2019, we have in plan to open Kingston in Jamaica, Santa Clara and Holguin in Cuba, and continue to work with interlines and maybe codeshare agreement with some Caribbean Airlines. The network already exists, we need to make some approach with the existing carrier in the case of our project: One Caribbean”.
To the question what in his opinion can Sunrise Airways mean for Curacao, Bayard stated that Curacao is very important in the strategic development of the ONE Caribbean project.
“We inaugurated Haiti-Curacao in November 2017 with 2 flights per week. Until April this year, the market was growing slowly for several reasons. In May, we changed our schedule in order to promote connections from Curacao to three cities in Cuba, Cap Haitian and Santo Domingo via Port-au-Prince.
We started seeing the difference in our load factor. We also began discussions with InselAir in order to explore the different axes of collaboration with Sunrise.
Working with InselAir is an important step for ONE CARIBBEAN.