THE MOST EXCITING AIRPORT IN THE WORLD
The Princess Juliana International Airport is the second busiest airport of the hemisphere.
Regular jet service from most metropolitan centers in the United States turns travel to the Caribbean into an easy 2 to 3 hour commute from most cities on the US east coast. Jumbo jets also arrive from Europe, mostly Paris and Amsterdam.
Smaller commuter planes are connecting less developed islands with St. Maarten as the hub. The town of Grand Case on the French side of the island is home to the second airport.
Though more modest in size, there are regular international flights from this airport to Puerto Rico (a US territory) and the Dominican Republic. The other French islands of St. Barths, Goudaloupe and Martinique are also served with frequent flights, which are – of course – considered in-land flights, as they are within French territory
winner of the caribbean airport of the Year 2016 award
Have you ever wondered why ‘insiders’ shorten St Maarten/St Martin to SXM?
You are seeing this abbreviation everywhere, even a popular bumper sticker is using it. Well, there is not much mystery behind it: SXM is the airport’s international code name.
A Bit of History
The airport was built in the 1940s and started out as an airstrip for the military in 1942. By the following year, it had already been converted into a civilian airport. In 1944, the Dutch Crown Princess Juliana visited the island and landed at the airport. The place was eventually named after her.
In 1964, the airport was remodeled and outfitted with a new terminal building and control tower. A master plan to modernize the airport was then commissioned in 1997. It was divided into three phases, but only the first two have been completed so far.
The first phase upgraded the existing facilities and the level of service in different areas. The runway was widened and strengthened to increase its bearing capacity. The old terminal was also upgraded and a new apron was constructed. All these were completed in 2001.
The second phase involved the building of a radar facility and a new air traffic control tower, both of which were completed in 2004. A new and modern terminal measuring 27,000 square meters was also constructed and unveiled in 2006. This terminal is capable of handling up to 2.5 million passengers every year and has five jetways for large aircrafts.
Also, to comply with international safety rules, a Runway End Safety Area, or RESA, measuring 150 meters was built. This includes an overrun of 60 meters on both ends of the runway.
The third phase has yet to start, however, as it would depend if the airport traffic would develop as initially planned. If it pushes through, the last stage calls for the construction of a full parallel taxiway system. The terminal building will also be further extended and will be designed to accommodate more jetways and services.