Putting Surinam on the map

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Surinam is one of those places you think you know where it is, but can’t quite remember. It’s a quiet country on the north-eastern part of South America, with more affinity with the Caribbean than with its cousins with whom it shares a continent.

The country’s flag carrier is Surinam Airways, a small airline with ambitions to carve out a profitable niche connecting this former Dutch colony with the world.

It is to lease two Boeing 737-300s from AWAS as it looks to build up its network in the Caribbean and Latin America.

Surinam Airways has signed a letter of intent with AWAS covering the aircraft, which are due for delivery in March and April. The new additions are being brought in to replace its single Boeing MD-82 which is on lease from Pegasus unit Pulse 2.

Speaking during the recent Network Latin America event in Aruba, Surinam Airways commercial VP Clyde Cairo said: "We will start with the 737-300s to build up markets, increase frequencies and add destinations, and then go to 737-700s."

The extra capacity will be used to increase frequencies on Surinam Airways' services from the Suriname capital of Paramaribo to Port of Spain, Curacao, Aruba, Miami and Belem in Brazil.

Cairo says: "New destinations we are looking at are Kingston, Jamaica, Georgetown in Barbados and Manaus in Brazil." These will be served from July.

Surinam Airways carries about 85,000 passengers annually and Cairo says the airline will reach a $110 million turnover this year. For the past two years it has not been profitable, but for its financial year to March 2009 it could return to the black.

"We are the only airline in the Caribbean that is not being subsidised by the government," he says. "Surinam Airways is run as a private company and we sometimes think it is unfair that others in the region are bailed out."

Meanwhile Surinam Airways is looking to replace its Boeing 747-300 with a newer widebody, ideally a Boeing 777-200ER, which will be used to operate its flights between Suriname and the Netherlands.

The carrier deploys the ex-KLM 747-300 on its thrice-weekly services between Surinamese capital of Paramaribo and Amsterdam.

Cairo says: "The plan is to lease a 777-200ER, but if we cannot find it the next best choice is the Airbus A340-300. We want to replace the 747 in October and are in discussions with lessors today."

Cairo says Surinam Airways would prefer to secure a General Electric-powered 777, as it wants KLM to maintain the aircraft.

He adds: "We plan to lease the aircraft if the price is right and we can get financing for it. Boeing 777s are very difficult to get, but we do have an option on an aircraft."

When the new aircraft is delivered it will be used to boost frequencies between Paramaribo and Amsterdam to four times a week, rising to a fifth service in July 2010.