Following the destruction brought about by Hurricane Irma in 2017, the majority of homes and business across the island of Saint Martin suffered extensive damage, with estimated losses crossing $7 billion.
The Sonesta Maho which I stayed at in May 2019, suffered so much damage that it had to be stripped to the frame and rebuilt from scratch. The Princess Juliana International Airport was not spared either, with major sections suffering extensive damage. Temporary tents had to be set up in the early days to handle departures and arrivals while crews worked to bring back bare essentials in the main terminal.
The once beautiful hallways were reduced to black exposed ceilings, snaking lines, with all departing passengers being filtered through the gates usually used for prop flights to nearby islands.
Reconstruction began in September 2021, with the project being split into two major phases. Work first began on the departure hall, with an expected completion date of November 1, 2023.
“The new Departure Hall, including new airport stores, is set to open by November 1st, 2023, and will feature cutting-edge amenities, spacious waiting areas, advanced security checkpoints, and streamlined boarding processes.”
Following the departure terminal re-opening, the Princess Juliana International Airport Operating Company N.V. (PJIAE) hopes to re-launch the check-in hall by December 2023, “with a keen focus on passenger comfort and convenience, incorporates modern technologies and design principles to create a seamless check-in process and an inviting environment for travelers.”
Assuming all goes to plan, the airport will then tackle the arrival hall as part of phase two, with the hopes of a Q2 re-opening.
“The new Arrival Hall will provide a welcoming space for passengers, offering improved baggage handling systems, efficient immigration and customs processes, and enhanced passenger facilities. This phase aims to optimize the passenger flow and ensures a seamless transition from the aircraft to the terminal. Construction of the Arrival Hall is anticipated to be finalized by the second quarter in 2024, in time for summer travel.”
In the mean time, passengers entering St. Maarten via Princess Juliana will be filtered through a recently built Temporary Arrival Facility (TAF) until the new arrival hall is completed.
[Featured Photo: Princess Juliana International Airport - St. Maarten/Facebook]