Dutch Antilles Express
|Commenced operations||30 April 2005|
|Ceased operations||19 September 2013|
|Hubs||Hato International Airport|
|Company slogan||Your Caribbean Wings|
|Parent company||Dutch Antilles Express B.V.|
Dutch Antilles Express was an airline of the Dutch country of Curaçao. It operated high-frequency scheduled services in the Dutch Caribbean to United States, Dominican Republic, Colombia, Haiti, and Suriname. Its main base was at Hato International Airport, Curaçao.
Due to an escalating debt from poor market conditions, the government of Curaçao stepped in on May 31, 2011, to keep the airline in the air. The airline has been purchased from Arnold Leonora by the Curaçao government for a cash injection sum of two injections of 1.5m Guilders (approx US$838,000 each).
In August 2013, the company's management and employees approached the Curacao government through various departments for a new loan of 5m Guilders (approx. US$2.8 million) to, among other items, pay employee salaries outstanding from July 2013. The appeal for the loan was denied by the Curacao Parliament on August 16, 2013. The Court of First Instance of Curaçao declared the local airline Dutch Antilles Express (DAE) bankrupt on August 30, 2013.
At the time of its bankruptcy, the airline operated two aircraft Fokker 100, one ATR-42, one ATR-72  and three McDonnell Douglas MD-83 wet-leased from Falcon Air Express. There were plans to eventually replace the Fokker 100s with newer A319-100s and A320-200s.
The airline started operations with a single ATR 42 in 2003 as BonairExel (part of the Exel Aviation Group) and soon expanded to encompass most of the Dutch Antilles and Aruba. Although an Embraer ERJ 145 was used on the Bonaire-Aruba flights, the aircraft was soon disposed of again, returning to Air Exel. Although BonairExel flew its aircraft in the Exel color scheme; operated with Air Exel aircraft; and flew with Air Exel cabin staff; the airline was wholly owned by a Dutch millionaire residing on Bonaire, and operated simply as a franchise carrier. As the local market was rather small, a subsidiary was formed on Curaçao, named Curaçao Exel. Dutch Caribbean Airlines (DCA) declared bankruptcy not long after. Exel Aviation noticed that the Caribbean airlines were very profitable, and set up its own Aruba Exel, causing distress amongst the other franchise carriers.
With the Exel empire expanding too rapidly in Europe and the Caribbean, it was no surprise that the dream would not last long. In a lawsuit against Nick Sandman (owner of Bonaire and Curaçao Exel) to demand back the invested amount, and confiscate back the ATR 42 aircraft, ties dissolved between the Exel Aviation Group and the Caribbean franchise carriers. With minimal funds, the airline made an attempt to distance itself from its partner, changing its names to BonairExpress and CuraçaoExpress. This move permantently broke up the alliance, causing no more profits to go to the ailing Exel Aviation Group. All Exel airlines disappeared, including fellow Aruba Exel.
Previously the airline's head office was in the Plasa Medardo SV Thielman in Kralendijk, Bonaire. In April 2007 the airline moved its head office from Bonaire to Curaçao, where the airline's flight operations have been based. The airline's call centre and its revenue accounting and handling departments remained in Bonaire.
After numerous lawsuits, BonairExel (now called Bonaire Express) and Curaçao Express merged to form Dutch Antilles Express, which started operations on April 30, 2005 with flights between the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba. On 9 December 2005, its first international services to Valencia, Venezuela, were launched.
2013 Bankruptcy and Cessation of Flights
In March 2013, the Venezuela Civil Aviation Authority (INAC) suspended the landing rights of Dutch Antilles Express to Maracaibo based on failure to provide adequate service and accommodation to passengers. During this period, DAE had several aircraft that were undergoing required heavy maintenance, resulting in unavailability of aircraft to perform some scheduled routes. While it is stated in the documents released by INAC that the suspension was temporary until scheduling issues could be resolved, DAE never restarted operations to Maracaibo.
In May 2013, INAC released an order suspending DAE's operating rights within the whole of Venezuela, claiming safety and security violations. These findings were publicly disputed by DAE in the media, particularly by Nelson Ramiz, who was a consultant to DAE, as well as the owner and CEO of Falcon Air Express, which provided wet-leased aircraft to Dutch Antilles Express.
In June 2013, the first ground stop due to non-payment of services occurred in Suriname. This was resolved through the court system by implementing a cash basis payment agreement and services resumed within days.
Also in June, the employees of DAE approached former Curacao Prime Minister Gerrit Schotte to negotiate the lifting of the suspension by the Venezuela government and allow DAE aircraft to once again operate to Venezuelan cities. Shortly after that meeting in Caracas, the Venezuelan government issued a revocation of all operating permits for Dutch Antilles Express aircraft in Venezuela as of June 16, 2013.
In July 2013, management of Dutch Antilles Express approached the Curacao Airport Holdings group regarding a capital loan of 5m Guilders. It became public that DAE's main competitor, Insel Air, had sent correspondence through the government proposing to purchase the government shares of DAE and take over the operations of the company, which was not pursued by the government. At this point it also became public that DAE had received permission from the Curacao government to develop nine new destinations as compensation for the loss of the Venezuelan markets. Curacao Airport Holdings declined to provide assistance; however, the Curacao Parliament took up the question of providing additional public funds to the airline in August, when it became public that employee salaries had not yet been paid for July.
During the first week of August, the St. Maartin airport issued a "ground hold" for all Dutch Antilles Express aircraft landing at the airport. Since St. Maarten and Curacao share a common Civil Aviation department, and since DAE held a valid Air Operator's Certificate issued by Civil Aviation, St. Maarten could not legally prevent Dutch Antilles Express aircraft from landing; however, it could hold that aircraft on the ground as collateral against the arrears. The airport and the airline agreed to enter negotiations and the airport allowed DAE aircraft to depart for several days as "relief" flights. By August 6, 2013, DAE had stopped operating to St. Maarten and the airline was unable to come to an agreement with the airport. Dutch Antilles Express would not service St. Maarten since.
On August 12, 2013, it was reported that one of Dutch Antilles Express's largest creditors, Girobank, had placed liens against the accounts of DAE, effectively stopping any cash flow from the business accounts. The following day, DAE employees assembled at the government offices in Curacao to appeal for the council to reconsider its decision regarding the company. By August 16, the airline was experiencing significant cash flow issues and had to cancel and consolidate flights to minimize fuel expenses.
Also on August 16, the Curacao Parliament discussed the ramifications of Dutch Antilles Express falling into bankruptcy and the economic impact that such an event would have on Curacao. The reviewed finances of the company were reviewed in a closed session and the Parliament decided to decline further assistance to the airline by a vote of 9-9, with 3 absences (simple majority required to pass). The next day, DAE was prevented from using the check-in services of Curacao Hato Airport for a short time and admitted that services to Bonaire had been canceled as of the week before due to non-payment of navigation charges.
On August 24 at 00:01, the Curacao airport placed a departure restriction on all Dutch Antilles Express flights. As all of DAE's flights either originated or arrived at Curacao, this effectively stopped all flight operations. At 01:00, the final Falcon Air Express aircraft departed Curacao for its home base in Miami. Over the following days, all DAE aircraft were returned to their lessors and all flights throughout the network were canceled. Shortly thereafter, IATA withdrew the airline from the Billing and Settlement Plan (BSP), preventing travel agents from selling or refunding tickets of the airline.
Two groups of employees petitioned the Curacao Court of First Instance to declare the airline bankrupt. At a closed hearing on August 30, 2013, a judge issued a preliminary ruling that the company was indeed bankrupt and could not continue. On 11 September, the company appealed the ruling of the bankruptcy judgement.
On September 19, shortly before the scheduled hearing regarding the bankruptcy judgement, Dutch Antilles Express withdrew its objection to the ruling, which reaffirmed the bankruptcy of the company. The Curacao Civil Aviation suspended the Air Operator's Certificate (AOC) for a period of 60 days until final judgement and disposition of the company can be determined by the court. This action likely marked to end of Dutch Antilles Express.
There were several differences in the liveries of Dutch Antilles Express aircraft.
One Fokker 100 was using the newer livery. The other two had the old DAE livery. It is all white and on the tail section it has the DAE logo. The fuselage had the DAE website on it. The planes were planned to be updated with the new livery at the next C-Check.
The McDonnell Douglas MD-83 operated by Falcon Air Express had a newer livery, the fuselage had blue and yellow stripes which represents the waters of the Caribbean from which Curacao forms a part of and the sun, typical of standard Caribbean weather. The engines have Curacao's official logo on it and the aircraft's tail features the O representing the sun from Curacao's logo.
Dutch Antilles Express served the following destinations, as of January 2015:
The Dutch Antilles Express fleet consisted of the following aircraft as of April 2013:
|Aircraft||In Service||On Order||Passengers||Notes|
|Fokker 100||3||0||100||One with C-Check|
|McDonnell Douglas MD83||1||0||152||Operated under wet-lease by Falcon Air Express|
Past aircraft of The Dutch Antilles Express consisted of the following:
|ATR 42-500||1||48||Returned to Lessor on 05/2011|
|ATR 72-200||1||64||Returned to Lessor on 21 Aug 2013|
|McDonnell Douglas MD83||2||152||Operated under wet-lease by Falcon Air Express
Returned to Lessor 08/2013
DAE was the only Fokker 100 operator in the Caribbean.
- "Article luchtvaart nieuws interview minister."
- "Curacao government cash injection."
- "Article curacaochronicle bankruptcy DAE."
- "DAE introduces Karpata". Curaçao Chronicle.
- Falcon Air Express Fleet.
- "Dutch Antilles Express to lease two MD-83s to launch new routes". ch-aviation.
- "DCA ceases all operations"
- "Privacy statement." Dutch Antilles Express. Retrieved on October 30, 2010.
- "DAE wants to be the Antillean Airline Archived 2011-07-16 at the Wayback Machine."
- "DAE will resume its operations to Maracaibo once it can offer the accustomed services". Curaçao Chronicle.
- "DAE's operation into Venezuela has been temporarily and arbitrarily suspended by INAC". Curaçao Chronicle.
- "Extra:'DAE considering legal steps against the Government'". Curaçao Chronicle.
- "INAC's decision ON DAE UNILATERAL AND UNJUSTIFIABLE SUSPENSION expected today". Curaçao Chronicle.
- "Dutch Antilles Express continues with expansion plans". Curaçao Chronicle.
- "DAE forces SLM to provide ground handling services in Zanderij". Curaçao Chronicle.
- "DAE employees deliver a petition to Gerrit Schotte to intermediate to safeguard the company". Curaçao Chronicle.
- "Venezuela revokes Dutch airline operations license".
- "Versgeperst.com CuracaoBrekend: DAE failliet verklaard door rechtbank - Versgeperst.com Curacao". Versgeperst.com Curacao.
- "Dutch Antilles Express invests over 2 million dollars in its Fokker-100 fleet". Curaçao Chronicle.
- "Versgeperst.com CuracaoLandingsverbod DAE in Venezuela - Versgeperst.com Curacao". Versgeperst.com Curacao.
- "Abren 127 procedimientos a aerolíneas en todo el país".
- "DAE's new destination – Port au Prince, Haiti". Curaçao Chronicle.
- Dutch Antilles Express Fleet
Media related to Dutch Antilles Express at Wikimedia Commons