By Ray Chickrie
PARAMARIBO, Suriname — Last Wednesday, [December 18] Suriname’s Johan Pengel International Airport (JAP) welcomed its 500,000 (half a million) passenger who arrived on a Surinam Airways (SLM) flight from Amsterdam. The goal of the management team at JAP is to reach one million travellers by the year 2033. “The facilities must be created in order to accommodate this number,” said Timothy Mendonca, director of JAP.
The lucky passenger who clocks in the half a million was “ Ruth Kortstam-Pinas, received a great reception in the arrivals hall from director Timothy Mendonça, president-commissioner Ranu Mathura and other executive and staff,” a government news agency release said.
Minister Ranu Mathura said, “The signing of aviation agreements is also being carried out towards the intended purpose.” He cited minister Vijay Chotkan of public works, transport & communication who last month signed an Aviation Cooperation Agreement with the United Arab Emirates (UAE.)
“It is already leading to more such cooperation in the pipeline.” Both Mendonça and Mathura see the target of 1 million passengers ” ahead of schedule.” There is already approved for a new passenger terminal, and the current one will become a shopping center at the airport.
Mendonça spoke to the media and praised his team as “ a joint effort by all actors” and discussed how he will meet the one million milestones. Recently the president of Surname was in China where a loan was approved to build the new terminal bigger with modern amenities and transit facilities with the expectation to become a hub.
Mendonca said that the airport has made strides in attracting more airlines. One newcomer is COPA Airlines of Panama and a Star Alliance member. Trans Guyana Airways also began service to the Johan Pengel Airport, and soon a French Guiana based airline will commence service to Paramaribo.
There are ongoing talks with American Airlines, and with traffic at the airport up 13 percent this year, American Airlines ‘may add Suriname to its network’. Also, Caribbean Airlines (CAL) is looking to expand its Suriname network with Guyana now an oil producer. Suriname is expected to benefit from Guyana’s oil wealth.
Surinam Airways is also hoping to begin flights to New York City and Toronto via Georgetown, Guyana. On Wednesday, Surinam Airways Boeing 777 arrived in the country to replace the four-engine Airbus 340. It is the first time that SLM will use twin-engine aircraft on the Paramaribo/Amsterdam route.