Curaçao Island


From KLM to DCA

Antillean Airlines

DC9-32 model/photo Bernard Guthman    

What KLM really wanted with the flight of the Snip was to make Curaçao the hub of their American operations, and provide an American link between the Far East and Europe. KLM incorporated their West-Indisch Bedrijf (West Indies Division) in 1964 in ALM Antilliaanse Luchtvaart Maatschappij Antillean Airlines

KLM Convair ALM Convair
Convair 340 Metropolitan Convair Liner

ALM started operating with three Convair 340 Metropolitans. When the Antillean government took over most shares in 1969, these were replaced with two Fokker F27 Friendships and two Douglas DC9-15s. The Friendships were sold in 1970 and replaced with one more DC9-15. All DC9s were replaced in 1975 with the DC9-32, joined by a fourth in 1977 and by a Boeing 727.

Fokker F27Douglas DC9-30
Fokker F27 Friendship   -   Douglas DC9-30      

Boeing 727
Boeing 727/photo © Alex Alberto

In that same year, ALM bought two Short SD3-30 Islanders.
Windward Islands' WIN-AIR was acquired, with its fleet of De Havilland Twin Otters DHC6-300s, by the Antillean government. Another aircraft in use, among others for director Tawa Yrausquin to fly to Aruba in the week-ends, was a Beachcraft Queenair 80. It ingloriously ended its career in front of videographer Alex Alberto's home.

Beachcraft Alex
Beachcraft Queenair 80

In the years 1973 through 1978, ALM made a total profit of ANG14.3M. Their raison d'être was to maintain airways between the islands of the Netherlands Antilles, and to promote tourist trade by providing transport.

Twin OtterShort
De Havilland Twin Otter    -    Short SD3-30 Islander

But since the infamous Willemstad riots in that same year of 1969, the Antillean government started deteriorating. One result was that ALM was forced to absorb much more personnel than they needed, by politicians rewarding people for having done what was judged to be good work for their parties. Another result likely was that it became much easier and more popular to steal from the airline, not only crumbs and larger bits, but also money and kickbacks. All over Curaçao and the Netherlands Antilles corruption grew rife, with heavy repercussions in the European Lowland mother-country after 2000.


Pride and Glory
Douglas DC-8

In 1978, KLM restarted more extensive cooperation with ALM. 2 DC8s were brought into service and served the route Curaçao-New York JFK, where KLM handled the ground services. KLM was still hoping and trying to build a hub with ALM; KLM flights CUR-AMS often had at least an ALM cabin crew in those years. Meanwhile, American Airlines offered a daily DC-10 flight Curaçao-New York; apart from many other airlines landing in Curaçao, Air Aruba joined the melee around 1990. For a while, ALM Twin Otter flights between AUA-BON-CUR were labeled ABC Commuter.
No doubt the deterioration of the Antillean government was an important factor for Aruba island to opt for a status aparte and leave the Netherlands Antilles, while still remaining Dutch. As a young and ambitious nation, besides their own money they naturally also wanted their own airline. Both wishes have cost the Arubianos and the Antilleans dearly.

nice on tail fin
Ex ALM director Tawa Yrausquin was hired to start the company. They acquired two Mitsubishi prop-jets, which were reconditioned on Aruba airport. After one of these lost a door in flight, some public confidence in Air Aruba flew out at the same time. Their later acquirement of MD80 aircraft didn't help much. Air Aruba folded after about ten years, taking 100M florins with it.
As, all the clamor for a status aparte notwithstanding, there really is not much to choose from between the governments of Aruba and of the Antilles, the reasons for this failure may be just about the same. Air Aruba could have done very well indeed, as there already was an extensive stream of tourists to the island. Another reason Air Aruba didn't make it may have been their wish to compete with ALM on the extremely profitable Aruba-Bonaire-Curaçao circuit, where a passenger routinely paid over $4 per minute in the air.
Shit Service
service aboard was not fecal, really

Although a price war was started between Air Aruba and ALM, this didn't last for long. In a few years, the prices for tickets between the three ABC-islands went back to their original levels, or even higher. With having to share passengers between two competitors, profits on this route dwindled.
Even worse was that the Miami-Curaçao route was also shared. (Air Aruba first flew to Curaçao in the morning, then on to Aruba and Miami, reversing this for the return trip; then, they flew back to Aruba. They left at virtually the same time from Curaçao as ALM, and both aircraft raced each other to Miami. What a way to run an operation!)
In 2004 American Airlines considered CUR-MIA to be their most profitable route.

Dash 8
De Havilland Dash 8

Meanwhile, ALM bought two Fairchild F27 Friendships to replace their Short aircraft, no doubt better to compete with the larger Mitsubishis. The F27s were totally refurbished, which must have cost a fortune.

Fairchild F27

Then, after a mere few years, they were, for extremely doubtable reasons, replaced by De Havilland Dash 8s; no trouble was taken to find buyers for the then still very marketable Friendships, and they were, just like the Snip, abandoned on Hato airport where they're still sitting.
Later, ALM also operated a Lockheed Electra turboprop freighter which was re-possessed by the owner when they didn't pay the lease.

Abandoned Friendship
wasted friendships

Foto Amigoe

In February 2007, one Friendship was sunk
near Playa Kalki as a tourist diving object

The total effect of all this was to eat into both parties' profits. From 1970 through 1982, ALM's average loss was ANG1.2M/year or a total of 15.6M. As 1973-1978 showed a profit, in the remaining years the average loss was 4.3M, and probably heavier in the period after 1978. Profit/loss amounts according to then director Tawa Yrausquin (Amigoe, 2004-07-29), quoting dr. Valdermar Marcha's Airline management in turbulente tijden.

Lockheed Electra II
Lockheed Electra II
By the year 2000, things were so bad that ALM was on the verge of bankruptcy. KLM had stopped participation of ALM on the Amsterdam-Curaçao flights. Worse, the KLM flights Europe-South America now were transferred to Bonaire Flamingo airport, leaving the just opened ALM catering building on Hato unused.

To avoid a total failure, ALM shares were transferred to DC Holding, and operations were taken over by Air ALM. It did not take long before Air ALM in turn had to be taken over by yet another DC Holding subsidiary, DCA Dutch Caribbean Airlines. The story doesn't stop here...

DCA logo
Dutch Caribbean Airlines

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