Air Service One talks with….. Jo-Anne Meaux Arends, Aviation Business Development Executive Aruba Airport Authority N.V

Jo-Anne Arends Aruba International Airport

Air Service One talks with… has been a popular series of interviews over the last 3 years delivering a mixture of serious and fun insight into the lives of familiar faces within the air service development sector.

Jo-Anne Meaux Arends, Aviation Business Development Executive Aruba Airport Authority, has been one of those familiar faces within our industry sector that many of our readers will know.

We asked her to give us an insight into how Aruba Airport has recovered its pre-pandemic passenger levels, there focus on North America and their Gateway 2030 project!

In addition, she gives us a little more about her favourite elements of the island we should all visit.

Aruba Airport (AUA) has completely recovered its pre-pandemic passenger levels and exceeded them in 2023. Which markets drove the airport’s growth?

In 2022 and 2023, the US market experienced steady growth, while Latin America emerged as the primary driver of traffic expansion. This period marked an exceptional year for AUA Airport as we celebrated the successful negotiation and arrival of two major carriers, British Airways and LATAM Airlines, following a decade-long process.

The increased frequencies offered by US carriers underscore the strong demand for our destination. Latin America witnessed significant growth, with LATAM’s introduction of the Lima – Aruba service, along with additional frequencies from Avianca and the announcement of seasonal service between MDE Medellin and Aruba this summer. Copa now boasts a total of 10 weekly flights to Panama, while Wingo’s remarkable success story saw their initial two weekly services from Bogota to Aruba expand to 11 weekly flights, serving Bogota, Medellin, and Cali combined.

With over 25 airlines and 45 non-stop services operating out of Aruba, it is a significant achievement for our small island. AUA Airport stands as a proud hyper-connected gateway to the Caribbean, providing travellers with an extensive array of options to explore the charm of “one happy island” – Aruba. The recent additions to our airline portfolio are a testament to the strong commitment, passion, and tireless efforts of our Air Service Development team in ensuring diverse and extensive connectivity options for our passengers.

North America is a dominant market for Aruba. Do you see potential for further development and diversification of your markets and, if so, which ones?

Indeed, the US market remains the dominant force for Aruba, capturing an impressive 69% market share. With 10 airlines serving 13 cities, Aruba boasts an impressive 19 nonstop services.

When analysing our top feeder markets, key destinations include Detroit, Pittsburgh, Raleigh, Cleveland, and Las Vegas. Of these, Las Vegas and Los Angeles are emerging as rapidly growing markets for Aruba, aligning perfectly with our long-term strategic goal of expanding our network in the near future. In addition, recognising airlines’ interest in alternative data, we recently conducted a Mobilitics Analysis with Campbell Hill. This study identified strong demand from Connecticut (New Haven and Hartford) and Providence, which is information we are eager to share with both our existing and potential new airline partners to showcase the opportunities for expanding services to and from Aruba.

In Latin America, the impact of direct service between Lima and Aruba by LATAM Airlines has been remarkable. Within just three months of its launch, LATAM has responded to the growing demand by announcing the addition of an extra weekly flight, bringing the total to four weekly flights. This expansion not only strengthens the connection between Lima and Aruba but also extends to important secondary markets such as Argentina, Chile, and Brazil.

What are the airport’s expectations for 2024 in terms of route development?

Looking ahead to 2024, Brazil has emerged as a primary focus for the Air Service Development Team and the Aruba Tourism Authority. We are actively pursuing partnerships with airlines to establish direct routes between Brazil and Aruba. The success of LATAM’s service reaffirms the potential of such connections to drive traffic growth and enhance the accessibility of Aruba to travellers from key markets in Latin America.

How important for your airport is the decision in the Netherlands to scrap flight limitations at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport?

Flight limitations out of Amsterdam would be significant and would have indeed been an issue for us, but fortunately this is no longer the case. Now that this decision has been overturned, we are open for additional operations out of Amsterdam as soon as these opportunities arise.

 Could you tell us a bit more about the Gateway 2030 project and what is its current status?

Athens International Airport

In the year 2019 the planned large-scale investment in the airport terminal and other critical infrastructure under the name Gateway 2030 was initiated. The first phase, with an investment of more than USD 140 million, encompasses a new check-in terminal for US bound passengers, including a new baggage handling system and baggage make up area, which will be completed and delivered by mid-2024. The commissioning of the new baggage handling system and check-in areas will then follow with its operational readiness expected at the beginning of 2025.

Construction of the second phase of Gateway 2030, which will include an expanded current hold room area, additional hold room areas and aircraft boarding bridges, as well as a remote boarding gate area, is expected to start in the summer of 2024 and will take approximately two to three years to complete. Preparatory work for the third and final phase has also started and completes a total investment in Gateway 2030 of more than USD 300 million.

Air Service Fun

Favourite airline?

With over 5,000 airlines, it’s a difficult question to answer as I would have to choose 1 out of my exciting partners.

All-time favourite aircraft?

The Boeing 777 undoubtedly! One of the most admired and respected aircraft in aviation history (Introduced in the early 1990s), as the Boeing 777 revolutionised long-haul travel with its advanced technology, exceptional range, and passenger comfort.

All-time favourite airline livery?

United Airlines Star Wars.

United Airlines
The famous United Airlines Star Wars Livery

Favourite TV show or movie?

Friends

Favourite things you like to do on Aruba?

Chasing sunrise and sunset unique experiences

  • Mountain Biking: Aruba offers a diverse terrain, from rugged desert landscapes to coastal trails, provides excellent opportunities for mountain biking enthusiasts.
  • Hiking: Lace up your hiking boots and explore the natural beauty of Aruba on foot along rugged coastlines, and past cultural landmarks like ancient cave paintings and historic ruins.
  • Sunset Cruises: Aruba has one of the most magical sunsets – I like to experience this enchanting beauty aboard a scenic cruise along the breathtaking coastline.

Favourite unusual fact about Aruba?

Fascinating fact about Aruba is its unique weather phenomenon known as the “divi-divi” tree. These iconic trees, with their distinctive bent trunks and windswept appearance, are a symbol of the island’s resilience against the constant trade winds blowing from the northeast.

The Divi Divi Tree is Aruba’s natural compass always pointing in southwestern direction
The Divi Divi Tree is Aruba’s natural compass always pointing in southwestern direction

Which city/country would you most like to visit (that you haven’t been to yet)?

Thailand and neighbouring countries (Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam

Shannon Airport