by Dominique Lescott
St. Kitts Nevis (WINN): Local pilots claim unfair practices in the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and its preventive measures.
Two local pilots claim that the COVID-19 Taskforce is imposing unfair guidelines that apply to the commercial pilots in the Federation but not the passengers who they transport.
Local commercial Air Sunshine pilots Sean Springette and Tedriel Warde have been grounded since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020 and have been working with the Task Force for guidance on how they can safely get back in the air, particularly towards the holiday season.
Springette based in Nevis updated WINN that, “After a lot of back and forth, we managed to get a meeting with the Taskforce”, however, “local pilots haven’t been included in the new regulation”, concluded Springette. “Passengers can arrive without quarantine but not the pilots who bring them,” he said.
Springette informed WINN that the outcome of their meeting with the National COVID-19 Taskforce when restrictions were being removed with regards to vaccinated passengers entering the Federation without quarantine, “There still aren’t any provisions in place for pilots. The Taskforce wants to test us daily and we have refused seeing that there is no science behind daily testing if we are in a bubble.”
Springette said the eased restrictions, “only applies to passengers, that doesn’t apply to pilots. So we still aren’t flying. They [COVID-19 Taskforce] want to do daily testing on us and we told them that is not practical, there is no science behind it.”
“We are in a bubble when we fly, we are in a bubble when we go overseas, if you test us daily it is only going to reflect what is happening in St. Kitts and Nevis, it’s not going to reflect anything overseas and there’s no science behind it”, added Springette.
“The incubation period for COVID is at least seven days, so there’s no science behind that [testing daily]. So what has been happening is that our airline has been flying… We have a crew that is based in St. Maarten but the local pilots aren’t able to go because there’s still restrictions on us going out and coming in,”Springette said.
At the Emergency COVID-19 Press Briefing | The National Emergency Operations (NEOC) on Thursday 30 December, 2021, the question was asked “Can the Task Force say when fully vaccinated locally based pilots will be able to return to work” and the response from Cameron Wilkinson, Medical Chief of Staff at JNF hospital, “that’s something we will have to look into and get back to you because I was of the opinion that they were working already”.
Springette gave an example of the impact of the restrictions in the Federation, he said “One of our aircraft [had] to overnight in St. Kitts because the pilots had some bad weather over the past couple days, so they got into St. Kitts were late and because of the restrictions, they weren’t able to overnight in St. Kitts.”.
“So an aircraft from St. Maarten had to come and get them, take them back to St. Maarten where there are no restrictions, then bring them back to St. Kitts in the morning to collect the aircraft.”
St. Maarten has a high demand for corporate jet parking at Princess Juliana airport and released a press release on Thursday, December 16, 2021 that pilots have to request for parking so that the flow of traffic can be managed. Therefore, due to the last minute change of the pilots needing to overnight in St. Kitts, Springette goes on to say, “That aircraft couldn’t go into St. Maarten because St. Maarten now has restrictions on aircraft that are overnighting because of the large demand for parking space in St. Maarten”.