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In this June 2009 issue:
1. INTRO: AirStMaarten Newsletter... A Good Idea!
2. SPECIALS: The Normandie Hotel
3. ARTICLE: Why Fares To St. Barths Are On The Rise (Part I)
4. SPONSOR MESSAGE: Stay at Villa Case et Cuisine
5. NEWS ITEM: Daytrips To Montserrat
6. TRAVEL TIP: How To Travel To St. Barths In Style
7. AGENDA: Blues Festival in St. Barths in November
8. REVIEW: Chez Andy's "The Hideaway Restaurant"
9. CUSTOMER SERVICE: How To Book With AirStMaarten

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INTRO: AirStMaarten Newsletter... A Good Idea!
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Dear friends and clients,

The new May 2009 issue of the AirStMaarten newsletter featuring St. Barths and sent mainly to St. Barths clients and visitors alike was an obvious success looking at the number of positive responses received. Certainly a good idea, I must say.

As you can see in last month's issue I also published the controversial column "How To Travel To St. Maarten For Free" which also generated some interest and notable responses.

One such responsee agreed that the suggestion to use Winair to provide free airlift from the surrounding Caribbean islands to bring tourists, business travelers and shoppers to the island as a way to boost the island's economy in the faltering worldwide financial crisis affecting many travellers' vacation plans was a good idea.

However, the writer offered another good idea that has merits and worthy of a follow-up discussion in this forum. The responsee wrote and I quote:

The idea to try and use Winair is a good one. Certainly with an eye on the future new arrangements in The Kingdom, St. Maarten becoming a 'Land' vis-a-vis Aruba, Curacao and The Netherlands, it would/should be feasible to further develop Winair. If you'd have just one flight per week to Europe, one to Washington DC (or another well chosen port) this would be great. More important, if I could buy a decent flight arrangement in Amsterdam (or somewhere in US) that included 'coupons' for inter-island flights from St. Maarten to surrounding places like St. Barth's, Trinidad, The Dominican Republic and the like, it would enable me to use St. Maarten as a hub for a vacation with one or more day 'excursions' in the Caribbean. Now the ticketprices are prohibitive if the flights are at all available.

That's not only a good idea, that is a great idea: "Coupons for inter-island flights from St. Maarten to surrounding islands like St. Barths".

Obviously this idea needs more research as to its feasibility and practical market implementation to test the pros and cons, but I do like this idea. How about you? Let me know what you think...

In the meantime while I look into this 'coupon' idea you can read the rest of this month's newsletter - especially the first installment on why fares to St. Barths are so expensive.

Happy Readings!

Terrance Rey

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2. SPECIALS: The Normandie Hotel in St. Barths
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If you and your partner are independent travelers looking for a great value and a touch of romance then I have something special for you...

The Normandie Hotel in St. Barths

The Normandie Hotel in St. Barths

Everything old is new again” – and that endearing bon mot is certainly true of the Normandie Hotel. What the French call an auberge antillaise (Antillean inn), it is one of St. Barth’s oldest hostelries. Purchased by a long-time island visitor, Dennis Carlton and his wife Wendy, – and extensively renovated – it has been reborn as a chic and stylish boutique hotel offering hospitality extraordinaire. The property was named by the original owners to honor their roots in Normandy. The Carltons have put their own interpretation on the name by identifying it with the SS Normandie, a famous French ocean liner that sailed in those romantic years of trans-Atlantic travel, between the wars. Colorful posters of the ship draw guests into the spirit of the ambiance the Carltons have channeled. The Normandie found an audience across class lines and offered great value, as had the “old” Normandie Hotel – that continues. If location is everything, then this inn has it all. Centrally situated in Lorient, guests enjoy easy access to fine dining, casual eateries and distinctive island shopping – and it is just a 2-minute walk to the beautiful and perennially popular Lorient Beach.

The inn’s 8 rooms (7 queen and 1 single, with a lovely private terrace) are elegantly simple and sleekly modern with a nice mix of tropical and art deco touches. Amenities include flat screen TVs, WiFi and mini fridges to chill your vino and store all the fixings for a beach picnic. The bathrooms boast vessel sinks and rainhead showers. A delightful swimming pool flanked by chaise lounges, is nestled in a lush garden creating an intimate setting for lolling away an afternoon. Continental breakfast is served poolside each morning and come evening, a glass of wine – compliments of the house – is served to guests who love to gather, relax and share in some conversation before heading out for dinner.

The Normandie Hotel Special for AirStMaarten newsletter readers:

3 days / 2 nights at €311.25 euros with car
or
7 days / 7 nights at €885 euros with car

The thing I love about The Normandie Hotel most of all is its unassuming charm and the fact that it is the source of a great memory for me. Visit The Normandie Hotel for more information on how to book this special offer or click here.

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3. ARTICLE: Why Fares To St. Barths Are On The Rise (Part I)
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To understand why fares to St. Barths are on the rise one first has to understand how airline fares are constructed. That way you would better understand why fares from St. Maarten to St. Barths are so expensive.

Here is an article I wrote specifically to explain how airline fares are constructed. First of all, why are airline airfares always excluding surcharges and taxes? And just what exactly are those surcharges and taxes?

Surcharges are fuel surcharges, ticketing fees, reservation costs and other service fees. Taxes are airport taxes, airport security fees and other government imposed taxes.

The total airfare an airline collect consists of the base fare, the surcharges and the taxes. Airlines either collect these airfares from the passengers directly or from the travel agents, tour operators and other travel providers.

The base fare and the other airline surcharges are revenues for the airline and go directly into the airline's coffers. The taxes are held in separate accounts and remitted directly to the taxing authority. Taxes imposed on passengers by local, federal and foreign governments constitute a substantial portion of an airline ticket fare.

Prior to 2001, airlines had to pay domestic ticket taxes and segment taxes along with taxes on jet fuel and destination taxes for international travel. Since 2001, the airline industry has also begun to pay security surcharges and other security fees.

But why can't the airline offer ticket prices that are all-inclusive?

To answer that question, I must first explain that along with traditional income and payroll taxes, airlines and their customers (passengers and travel agents) pay a number of taxes and fees to a variety of authorities, both at home and abroad. Among the stated purposes of these taxes and fees are airport security, environmental protection, disease control, infrastructure enhancement and improvement, airport and airway operations and maintenance, and agency financing.

Local and foreign taxes have grown in number, amount, and scope since the advent of air transport. The amount a passenger pays in taxes and fees on a ticket varies depending on the passenger's itinerary, including the number of times he/she boards a new flight and where (i.e., at what airports) those boardings occur.

Foreign-levied aviation taxes are numerous and varied. The burden is exacerbated by tax "competition" between the U.S. and foreign governments, as well as local airport authorities, and has grown with the advent of post-September 11 security measures. There are literally hundreds of ticket taxes alone, with rates increasing so quickly that published tables are obsolete almost by definition.

Jacques Chirac's 2005 plan to introduce a levy on airline tickets to fund aid for Africa is a good example of what I am talking about. The French government plans to implement a tax on airline tickets to help fund the global fight against
HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria in Africa. Europe has implemented an 'eco-tax' on airline tickets to fund the environmental cause. This will only continue to increase the final price of airline tickets.

With new plans on the drawing tables to introduce new levies on airline tickets it is simple not possible for an airline to publish a fixed fare. Offering an all-inclusive fare would limit the airlines' legal ability to pass on the incremental costs of these taxes and surcharges entirely to the consumer.

So the next time you see a published fare, remember that this is just the base fare the airline is charging. Your governments and airport authorities still have to impose their own taxes, levies and surcharges on the ticket you will be
buying for that base fare. Therefore it not possible to predict beforehand what the total fare will be until the day you finally decide to purchase the ticket.

Because of all these surcharges, taxes and fees, almost 50% of the fares from St. Maarten to St. Barths consist solely of airport taxes and the obligatory fees the airlines have to pay to the airport authorities. This percentage seems excessive and contributes to the perception that fares to St. Barths are expensive.

More on the breakdown of these taxes and fees in next month's issue.

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4. SPONSOR MESSAGE: STAY AT VILLA "CASE ET CUISINE"
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Villa Case et Cuisine in St. Barths

Villa "Case et Cuisine"

Villa Case et Cuisine has been a long time sponsor of the AirSXM.eu website and particularly our 'Shared Charters' webpage. I have personally stayed at Villa Case et Cuisine and therefore I can confidently recommend you use the the following offer to book a stay at this lovely villa that over the years has been the location of many great cocktail parties (and I have the pictures to prove it :-).

One bedroom / bath:  7 days / 7 nights at $2,100 with car
or
Two bedrooms / baths:  7 days / 7 nights at $2,400 with car

Click here for more information about Villa Case et Cuisine and how to book your next St. Barths villa vacation. Don't forget to host a cocktail party.

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5. NEWS ITEM: DAYTRIPS TO MONTSERRAT
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Montserrat Airways Ltd begins service between Montserrat and most of the popular destinations in the Northeastern Caribbean such as St. Maarten, Antigua, Anguilla, St. Kitts and St. Barths with a BN Islander twin-engine nine-seater aircraft.

Montserrat, famous for the Soufriere volcano that created a modern-day Pompeii in the Caribbean out of the island's old capital, Plymouth, is known as the "Emerald Isle" because of its unique Irish connections dating back centuries.

You can request a private charter or share a charter to Montserrat via www.airsxm.com, but it is recommended you learn more about this lush, green and tropical eco-friendly island by visiting http://www.visitmontserrat.com.

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6. TRAVEL TIP: TRAVEL TO ST. BARTHS IN STYLE
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AirStMaarten also offers jetservice from mainland USA to St. Barths.

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7. AGENDA: Blues Festival in St. Barths in November
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Apparently it will be the first St. Barths Blues Festival. So that is a must see event.

The St. Barths Blues Festival will take place in November 2009 - from the 5th to the 8th - with free concerts given by some well-known artists such as:

  • Corey Harris, hero of Martin Scorsese’s film “From Mali to Mississipi”, renderen blues with African inspirations.
  • James Cotton, a living legend of the Blues, from the famous New Orleans Hall of Fame.
  • Lonie Brooks, with a style sometimes described as “Voodoo Blues” which includes elements of Chicago Blues, Louisiana Blues, Swamp Pop, Rhythm & Blues.
  • Phil Wiggins, a true master of the acoustic blues harp!

The 60th Select Bar Birthday Bash will also take place in Gustavia from November 6th to 8th, 2009.

They say it will be unforgettable music moments to experience. So fly to St. Barths in November and enjoy the sea, sand, sun and music!!! :-)

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8. REVIEW: Chez Andy's "The Hideaway Restaurant"
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You’re going to St. Barths for the incredible beaches, upscale shopping, and haute French cuisine, right? Yeah, me too! So why am I going to tell you about one of my all-time favorite restaurants that bills itself as having “corked wine, warm beer, lousy food, and a view of the car park…”? 

Shhhhhh… because none of it is true! Ok, maybe the view of the car park, that part is true.  But the rest, blissfully, is the happy misrepresentation of the owner, Andy Hall, a man who just doesn’t seem to take himself too seriously.  Well, if you’ve seen his float in the Carnival parade you KNOW the man doesn’t take himself seriously. Lucky for us the same can not be said about the food he serves.

Chez Andy Hall of The Hideaway Restaurant in St. Barths

Upon entering Chez Andy don’t be put off by the miss-matched oilcloth table toppers or the chairs bearing the moniker of a long-forgotten restaurant from the other side of the island, it’s all good. Matter of fact, it’s downright delicious and moderately priced. Andy usually greets his guests personally with a hearty “Hello, mate!” (did I mention he’s English) and a kiss for the ladies. But don’t expect him to wait on you hand and foot. The place is packed, and Andy is in perpetual motion for most of the evening. There may be a special or two or a plat du jour for lunch, but for the most part the menu is predictable, a comfort to those of us who have seen places come and go, concepts change and decor dampen. And the food is consistently good.  Actually very good.

The restaurant bills itself as a pizza place, but the menu offers so much more than that. The salads are huge, and I usually have no problem talking someone into sharing one as a starter. My favorites are the Salade de Gambas (17.50€), with warm shrimps, tomato, walnuts and vinegar and the Salade de Chevre Chaud ($14.00€), a warm, delicious goat cheese salad. Or, if you’re in the mood to start with seafood, try the Gratinee de moules (14.50€), large mussels backed in aniseed butter and Parmesan cheese. Better still, order the Escargots persille (14.50€), the best on the island in my opinion.  Just don’t forget the breath mints on the way back to the villa.

If your looking for an instant party, or just missing the George Foreman back home, try the hot stone griddles (21.50-25.00€). A small hibachi-type grill is presented to your table along with an assortment of goodies like beef, duck, or seafood for do-it-yourself grilling. The Hideaway also has terrific pastas, steaks, and seafood dishes, but, let’s face it, most people come for the pizza.

The pizzas are thin crust and cooked in a wood-fired oven. The best on the island? There are others, and they are pretty good.  But Andy’s is simply the best. You know it’s good when you hear a New Yorker pine for a pizza from the Hideaway. Priced from 10-14€, they are large enough to share, but it’s certainly not uncommon to see a petit size 2 enjoying one of Andy’s masterpieces all to herself! There are several to choose from; traditionalists will enjoy the simplicity of the Marguerita, seafood lovers will thrill to the Fruits de mer, goat cheese enthusiasts will devour the California, and who doesn’t love a good ‘ole pepperoni pizza? Especially when it’s from the Hideaway. 

And, if you are well behaved, finish all of your dinner, and don’t start any fights, throw chairs or give the servers a hassle, Andy has a little surprise for you after dinner. But I’m not divulging all of Andy’s secrets here.  Let’s just finish by saying it’s good, really really good. Just like everything else at The Hideaway.

Chez Andy The Hideaway
Tel: 011-590-590-276362
Lunch: noon-2pm
Dinner: 7pm-10pm
Closed Mondays
Reservations recommended!

Visit DineSBH.com to find out how to get to eat at Chez Andy's Hideaway Restaurant

Review by Wendy S., a frequent St. Barths traveller and blogger.

Visit www.sbhdining.com to also find out how to get to St. Barths to experience fine dining at its best in the Caribbean.

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9. CUSTOMER SERVICE: How To Book With AirStMaarten
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Booking Procedure & Reservation Information

Submit a reservation request online at www.airsxm.com. Once we receive your request, we will send you a Reservation Offer for your consideration. Once you accept our proposal, we will require payment. You can use our credit card form to send us your credit card information. We accept all major credit cards such as Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express. You can also pay by bank transfer, check, cash or Paypal. Once payment is received, we will book the commercial flight or private charter and send you a Reservation Confirmation.

If you have requested additional services such as VIP Transfer Services, we will send you a Final Confirmation containing all details of your travel itinerary and services booked. And that's how you book with AirStMaarten.

Other Customer Service Resources:
Our Shared Charters concept explained in full detail
VIP Transfer Services through Princess Juliana Int'l Airport
Island Concierge Services on St. Maarten and St. Barths
Read what our satisfied clients are saying about our service
Ticket Insurance
We also accept payments via Paypal
St. Maarten Villa Rentals
St. Maarten Yachting and Sailing Charters
Sign up for our email newsletter service

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