In the aftermath of a recent aviation accident on Thursday, August 24, 2023, Air Antilles has suspended its direct flight operations between St Barths (Saint-Barthélemy) and Guadeloupe. This move not only inconveniences travelers but also marks a significant setback for the airline, which is presently undergoing severe financial strain.
At 11:42 am on the fateful day, a Twin Otter aircraft from Air Antilles collided with a private helicopter on the tarmac of Rémy-de-Haenen Airport in St Barths. The accident led to significant property damage, temporarily disrupting the traffic. Surveillance footage revealed that the plane, carrying eight passengers, had veered off its course.
Implications for Travelers
The termination of direct flights between the two islands by Air Antilles poses a substantial challenge for travelers. This change primarily impacts the cost of airfares due to reduced competition in the sector. Those seeking to travel between Guadeloupe and St Barths will now have to factor in a layover in St Martin. Alternatively, travelers can opt for maritime operators to maintain a direct connection.
Air Antilles’ Current Financial Predicament
The suspension comes as a significant blow to Air Antilles Express. The airline, operated by Compagnie aérienne interrégionale express (CAIRE), has been grappling with numerous challenges, including a recent employee strike. The company was officially placed under bankruptcy proceedings on August 2. The continuation of its operations now hinges on the possibility of potential buyers showing interest.
As of September 1, investors keen on acquiring the Caire group (which includes both Air Antilles and Air Guyane) have begun submitting their candidacies. Of the thirty potential buyers who reviewed the company’s profile, about fifteen are genuinely interested. Local Antillean media report that five of these are seen as serious contenders, including two private entities and two public ones. Among the public entities, the community of Guyane wishes to establish its own airline, and Saint Martin’s community has also shown interest. The estimated cost for the acquisition is around 15 million euros, with a full takeover stipulated without any layoffs.
Local reports suggest that not all interested parties aim to retain the entire 300-member workforce. The trend is leaning more towards “partial” takeovers. Initially, the technical and flight personnel would be prioritized.
An intriguing development reveals that a former Air Antilles pilot might be among the potential buyers. The community of Saint-Martin reportedly made a takeover offer before the deadline in collaboration with the Eidis group, responsible for managing Grand Case airport. While major airlines like Corsair and Air Caraïbes have not made any bids, a consortium of three private buyers, including a former Air Antilles flight captain, has put forth an offer. Final decisions are set to be unveiled during the review hearing on September 21 at the Pointe à-Pitre commercial court.