Princess Juliana International Airport

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Princess Juliana
International Airport
Airport, Terminal JP5766234.jpg
Airport type Public
Owner Princess Juliana Int'l Airport Holding Company N.V.
Location Sint Maarten (Saint Martin)
Hub for
Elevation AMSL 14 ft / 4 m
Coordinates 18°02′27″N 063°06′34″W / 18.04083°N 63.10944°W / 18.04083; -63.10944Coordinates: 18°02′27″N 063°06′34″W / 18.04083°N 63.10944°W / 18.04083; -63.10944
SXM is located in Sint Maarten
Location in Sint Maarten
Direction Length Surface
m ft
10/28 2,141 7,024 Asphalt/Concrete

Princess Juliana International Airport (IATA: SXM, ICAO: TNCM) is the main airport on the Caribbean island of Saint Martin, located on the Dutch side of the island in the country of Sint Maarten. In 2015, the airport handled 1,829,543 passengers and around 60,000 aircraft movements.[2] The airport serves as a hub for Windward Islands Airways and is the major gateway for the smaller Leeward Islands, including Anguilla, Saba, St. Barthélemy and St. Eustatius. It is named after Queen Juliana, who landed here while still only heir presumptive in 1944, the year after the airport opened. There is also an airport on the French side of the island, called Aéroport de Grand Case or L'Espérance Airport.

The airport has very low-altitude flyover landing approaches, owing to one end of its runway being extremely close to the shore and Maho Beach.


The airport began as a US military airstrip in 1942 during World War II. The following year, first commercial flight landed on December 3, 1943. Dutch Crown Princess Juliana visited the island using the airport in 1944. Eventually, the airport was named after her.[3]

In 1964 the airport was remodeled and relocated, with a new terminal building and control tower. The facilities were upgraded in 1985 and 2001.

Because of increased passenger traffic and the expected growth of passenger traffic in the near future, Princess Juliana International Airport is being heavily modernized following a three-phased masterplan, commissioned in 1997.[4]

Phase I was a short-term program in order to upgrade existing facilities and improve the level of service at various points. This included widening, strengthening and renovating the runway, increasing the bearing capacity of the taxiways, construction of a new apron and an upgrade of the (old) terminal. Phase I was completed in 2001.[5]

Phase II included the construction of a radar facility and a new air traffic control tower, the construction of a new and more modern, 27,000 square metres (290,000 sq ft), terminal, capable of handling 2.5 million passengers per year, and the construction of a Runway End Safety Area (RESA) of 150 metres (490 ft), including a 60 metres (200 ft) overrun, on both ends of its runway, to comply with ICAO rules. The new air traffic control tower and the radar station commenced operations on 29 March 2004, while the new terminal opened in late October 2006.[6] The terminal has 4 jetways for large aircraft like 747s.

If traffic develops as forecast, Phase III of the masterplan will be executed, consisting of an extension of the new terminal building and the construction of a full parallel taxiway system.[7] The new terminal building will also have more jetways and services etc.

The oil price increases since 2003 began impacting discretionary air travel worldwide by early 2008,[8] however, and the prospect of further price increases[9] threatens to reverse the recent expansion of tourist travel by jet that began with the 1980s oil glut.[10]

Runway after Hurricane Irma

In 1994, the Kingdom of the Netherlands and France signed the Franco-Dutch treaty on Saint Martin border controls, which allows for joint Franco-Dutch border controls on so-called "risk flights". After some delay, the treaty was ratified in November 2006 in the Netherlands, and subsequently entered into force on 1 August 2007.

In July 2016, KLM announced that from October it would serve the airport by direct flights from Amsterdam, instead of by a triangle route via Curaçao. Owing to this change, the airport lost its last regular Boeing 747 service as KLM uses Airbus A330s for the changed schedule.[11] The last arrival of a 747 at the airport took place on 28 October 2016, and Maho beach was almost completely covered with tourists and planespotters to witness the final landing and departure of the aircraft. In September 2017, KLM announced to reinstate the triangle route via Curaçao, and the A330s remain in operation.[12]

On 6 September 2017, the airport suffered significant damage when Hurricane Irma struck the island as a Category 5 hurricane. Video from a Dutch military helicopter showed the roof had been blown off the terminal, the jetways were damaged, and there was a significant amount of sand (blown through the fences from Maho Beach) and flooding on the runway. [13] The airport reopened on 10 October 2017 after repair works commenced.[14]


Warning sign between runway 10 and Maho Beach
Spectators at Maho Beach
Terminal interior


The airport has a single runway numbered 10/28. It was was renumbered from 09/27 in late 2008.[1]

The runway is 45 m wide.

Pilots guided by GPS take a more efficient approach than those operating under VFR.[15] Local airport rules prohibit aircraft from flying lower than 500 feet (150 m)[16]

Arriving aircraft approach the island on the last section of the final approach for Runway 10, following a 3° glide slope flying low over the famous Maho Beach. The proximity of Maho Beach to the runway has made the airport one of the world's favorite places among planespotters despite the dangers.[17] In 2017 a New Zealand woman died from injuries sustained by jet blast from a departing aircraft.[18] Tourists have been often criticised for dangerous behavior on the beach.[19]


The main apron measures 72,500 square metres (780,000 sq ft) with another 5,000 square metres (54,000 sq ft) on Eastern apron. For freight handling a dedicated apron of 7,000 square metres (75,000 sq ft) is available.[20]


Designed to handle some 2.5 million passengers annually, the new four-story terminal building offers 30,500 square metres (328,000 sq ft) of floor space and is fully air-conditioned. Available facilities include 46 check-in desks, 10 transit desks and 13 boarding gates. There are 20 immigration booths for arriving passengers and five exit-control booths for departing passengers.[21] The building also features 40 shops and food & beverage units—some unique to St. Maarten—promoted under the retail theme 'So Much More'.

The structure has been reportedly destroyed by Hurricane Irma on 6 September 2017, with fragments strewn across the runway and a jet bridge snapped in half, before communications were severed by the storm.

General aviation[edit]

To accommodate the growing international and local traffic of private aircraft, PJIA has a Fixed-Base Operator building, offering office space and private lounges with dedicated customs.[20]


Since official opening of the new control tower, PJIA air traffic controllers have two radar systems at their disposal with ranges of 50 nautical miles (93 km) and 250 nautical miles (460 km). PJIA controllers manage 4,000 square NM of airspace known as the Juliana TCA around the airport, roughly between 25 nautical miles (46 km) and 42 nautical miles (78 km) of the St Maarten VOR-DME. Besides providing approach, tower and ground control at PJIA, these controllers also provide approach control for Clayton J. Lloyd International Airport (Anguilla), L'Espérance Airport (French Saint Martin), Gustaf III Airport (St. Barths), F.D. Roosevelt Airport (St. Eustatius) and Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport (Saba).


PJIA is equipped with VOR/DME and NDB. The airport's official operating hours are 07:00–21:00.[20]

Airlines and destinations[edit]

An Air France Airbus A340-300 flying over Maho Beach shortly before touch-down
An Air Caraïbes Airbus A330-300 flying over Maho Beach shortly before touch-down


Air Canada Seasonal: Toronto–Pearson (resumes 15 December 2018)[22]
Air Caraïbes Paris–Orly, Port-au-Prince
Seasonal: Pointe-à-Pitre
Air Century Santo Domingo-La Isabela
Air France Paris-Charles de Gaulle (resumes 28 October 2018)[23]
Air Sunshine Anguilla, Dominica–Douglas–Charles, Nevis, Saint Thomas, San Juan, Tortola, Virgin Gorda
Air Transat Seasonal: Montréal–Trudeau (resumes 22 December 2018), Toronto–Pearson (resumes 22 December 2018)
American Airlines Charlotte, Miami, Philadelphia
Seasonal: New York–JFK (resumes 19 December 2018)[24]
Anguilla Air Services Anguilla, Dominica-Canefield
Aruba Airlines Aruba
Caribbean Airlines Kingston–Norman Manley, Port of Spain
Copa Airlines Panama City
Delta Air Lines Atlanta, New York-JFK (resumes 3 November 2018)
Fly All Ways Charter: Paramaribo
Insel Air Curaçao
InterCaribbean Airways Tortola
JetBlue Airways New York–JFK
Seasonal: Boston (resumes 16 February 2019)[25][26][27]
Joon Paris–Charles de Gaulle (ends 27 October 2018)[28]
KLM Amsterdam1
LIAT Antigua, Saint Kitts, Saint Lucia–Vigie, Tortola
Seaborne Airlines San Juan
Spirit Airlines Fort Lauderdale
St Barth Commuter St. Barthélemy
Sky High Aviation Services Santo Domingo–Las Américas, Santiago De Los Caballeros
Trans Anguilla Airways Anguilla
United Airlines Seasonal: Newark
WestJet Toronto–Pearson
Winair Antigua, Dominica–Canefield, Dominica–Douglas–Charles, Nevis, Pointe-à-Pitre, Saba, Saint Barthélemy, Saint Kitts, Sint Eustatius, Tortola
Operated by Air Antilles
Aruba2, Bonaire3, Curaçao, Dominica–Douglas–Charles, Pointe-à-Pitre, Port au Prince, San Juan, Santo Domingo–Las Américas
  • ^1 Winair operates between Aruba and Sint Maarten but the flight stops in Curaçao on selected days .
  • ^2 Winair operates between Bonaire and Sint Maarten but the flight stops in Curaçao on both trips. The service is provided by Air Antilles and is operated for Rijksdienst Caribisch Nederland's CN-Express.


AmeriflightSan Juan
Amerijet International Miami, Santiago de los Caballeros, Santo Domingo
DHL AviationAntigua
FedEx Feeder
operated by Mountain Air Cargo
San Juan

Accidents and incidents[edit]

  • On 2 May 1970, ALM Flight 980, a McDonnell Douglas DC-9CF crashed into the ocean in bad weather, killing 22 of the 57 passengers in addition to one crew member. The cause was found to be fuel exhaustion, due to several attempts to land the aircraft. The aircraft was not recovered.
  • On 21 December 1972, a De Havilland Canada Twin Otter operated by Air Guadeloupe on behalf of Air France crashed at night into the ocean near Sint Maarten, en route from Guadeloupe; all 11 passengers on board, along with both pilots, died.
  • On 30 October 2014, Skyway Enterprises Flight 7101, a Shorts SD-360 on behalf of FedEx, registration N380MQ performing flight SKZ-7101 from Sint Maarten (Dutch Caribbean) to San Juan (Puerto Rico) with 2 crew, was climbing out of Sint Maarten's runway 28 when the aircraft lost height and impacted waters about 2 nautical miles (3.7 km; 2.3 mi) off the coast (end of runway) at about 18:35L (22:35Z). Both pilots died.[citation needed]
  • On 13 July 2017, a 57-year-old woman from New Zealand was holding on to the fence at Runway 10. A Departing Boeing 737 was lined up on that runway; as it departed, the woman lost her grip on the fence and the plane's jet blast threw her backward, either hitting the asphalt on the traversing roadway behind her or a concrete curb. She died as a result of a fatal head injury. This was the first fatality at the airport from "riding the fence", which is when people hang on to the chain-link fence at the end of Runway 10 as an aircraft departs, attempting to withstand jet blast.[29]

In popular culture[edit]

  • Princess Juliana International Airport is the airport featured in the free demo version of Microsoft Flight Simulator X. In the full version of the program, it is the destination on the mission called "Caribbean Landing" where you land a regional jet on runway 10.
  • The History Channel program Most Extreme Airports ranks Princess Juliana Airport as the 4th most dangerous airport in the world.[30]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b on:Princess Juliana International Airport, visited 20 December 2011
  2. ^ Annual Report 2015, visited 2 March 2016
  3. ^ Sammy Said (25 April 2013). "All About the Princess Juliana International Airport in Saint Martin Island". The Richest. 
  4. ^ Company website with PJIAE Masterplan Archived 20 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine., visited 21 December 2011
  5. ^ Masterplan Phase I: 1997–2001 Archived 7 September 2011 at the Wayback Machine., visited 21 December 2011
  6. ^ PJIAE Masterplan Phase II, visited 21 December 2011
  7. ^ PJIAE Masterplan: Phase III Archived 7 September 2011 at the Wayback Machine., visited 21 December 2011
  8. ^ Adams, Marilyn. "Rising costs reshaping air travel across the USA". USA Today. Retrieved 10 May 2008. 
  9. ^ Lesova, Polya (6 May 2008). "Goldman Sachs: Oil Prices May Hit $150–$200 a Barrel". Fox Business Network. Archived from the original on 11 December 2008. Retrieved 8 May 2008. 
  10. ^ Whipple, Tom. "The Peak Oil Crisis: The Half-Life For Air Travel". Retrieved 10 May 2008. 
  11. ^ - "Cult airport St. Maarten loses Boeing 747" (German) 5 July 2016
  12. ^
  13. ^ - "World famous St Maarten airport destroyed by Hurricane Irma" 6 September 2017
  14. ^ "Rebuilding of SXM Airport Terminal Building Will Commence Soon". Princess Juliana International Airport Operating Company. 5 October 2017. Retrieved 15 October 2017. 
  15. ^ KLM Royal Dutch Airlines (2015-02-02), KLM Cockpit Tales: Part 3 - Big plane, short runway, retrieved 2018-09-17 
  16. ^ "AirNav: TNCM - Princess Juliana International Airport". Retrieved 2018-09-17. 
  17. ^ Soo Kim (4 October 2017). "The Caribbean's most spectacular airport has reopened". Telegraph. 
  18. ^ "Passenger jet blasts boy 10 metres through the air". NewsComAu. Retrieved 2018-09-17. 
  19. ^ Katherine Scott (10 July 2018). "Travellers slammed for 'close call' plane stunt at famous beach". Nine. 
  20. ^ a b c PJIA website: PJIAE Company Profile Archived 4 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine., 2007, visited 20 December 2011
  21. ^ "Princess Juliana International Airport". Retrieved 28 November 2016. 
  22. ^ "Air Canada expands 737 MAX 8 network in W18". 1 August 2018. Retrieved 1 August 2018. 
  23. ^ "Air France to transfer St. Maarten route to Joon". 19 July 2018. Retrieved 2 August 2018. 
  24. ^
  25. ^ "Saint Maarten's New JetBlue Mint Flights are a Big Score for Island, Neighbors". 26 July 2018. Retrieved 28 July 2018. 
  26. ^
  27. ^
  28. ^ "Air France moves St. Maarten service to JOON Aug - Oct 2018". 12 July 2018. Retrieved 2 August 2018. 
  29. ^ "{title}". Archived from the original on 16 July 2017. Retrieved 14 July 2017. 
  30. ^ Most Extreme Airports; The History Channel; 26 August 2010

External links[edit]

Media related to Princess Juliana Airport at Wikimedia Commons