CAL decision pleases Brac passengers

Customers and staff of the Brac Reef Beach Resort are pleased that Cayman Airways has adapted its summer jet schedule to Cayman Brac from some late evening flights to all early evening flights.

The current summer schedule now includes late night arrivals from Houston into Grand Cayman and from Grand Cayman to Cayman Brac, but these are only effective up to 10 April, after which it reverts back to more or less what it had been last year, as afternoon/early evening flights.

The change is favourable for visitors to Cayman Brac, said Brac Reef Beach Resort Manager Trudy Viers.

‘Brac Reef is very happy to see the Cayman Airways jet schedule being changed back. This will be a benefit to our arriving guests along with running of our business.

‘The past two weeks we have received the late night arrivals and our guests are extremely tired. It is midnight by the time they are settled in their rooms. With the 6:10pm arrival our guests can get settled, have dinner and relax at a reasonable time.’

In February the Sister Islands Tourism Association held a meeting, at which Sister Islands MLA Moses Kirkconnell attended, and a letter was sent to government requesting a change from late evening flights in the summer jet flight schedule by Cayman Airways.

Ms Viers thanked Mr. Kirkconnell and those who assisted to make these changes for jet flights to Cayman Brac.

Scheduling Analyst with Cayman Airways Jean Ritch explained to the Caymanian Compass that the changes came about when the Houston flight into Grand Cayman was scheduled for an arrival of 8.20pm (Mon, Thurs, Sat), and, in order to accommodate these passengers, a later flight from Grand Cayman into Cayman Brac was scheduled for 9pm (Thursday, Saturday). An earlier evening flight was also scheduled for 6.10pm from Grand Cayman to Cayman Brac (Friday, Sunday).

These flight times are now only effective until 10 April.

After this date, the Houston flight arrives into Grand Cayman at 4.55pm in the afternoon, and the jet flights to Cayman Brac depart at 5.55pm Thursday, Friday, Saturdays and Sundays.

Ms Ritch explained that they were trying to connect the late arriving Houston flight to the Brac, but it worked out being too late because the crew have to leave Grand Cayman at 9pm, overnight, and leave Cayman Brac again at 6.10 am in the morning.

The update to the schedule is better, she said, because it involves the Houston flight coming in at 4.55pm to Grand Cayman. An hour later the jet to the Brac leaves Grand Cayman, getting to the Brac at 6.25pm. This allows plenty of rest for the crew before flying out the next morning at 6.10am.

When the new VP Commercial John Wrightington came on board the schedule was looked at and it was decided an earlier jet flight to the Brac was better for connecting passengers coming to Grand Cayman from Miami, Ms Ritch said.

The reason for the changes being brought into the schedule, with the later flights, was because Cayman Airways was going from a four- to three-plane schedule and this was done to make all the flights flow together, she said.

However, from 11 April the scheduling is back similar to what it was last summer.

For Easter, Cayman Express will have a new schedule with additional flights coming on board for both Sister Islands, which is seasonal, said Ms Ritch.

Since excess baggage charges were brought in about four months ago for Cayman Express, some who travel to Grand Cayman from Cayman Brac have complained about being charged for extra baggage when carrying supplies back.

But Ms Ritch asserts, ‘They are finally being charged when they weren’t charged before’.

‘For a long time CAL didn’t charge for excess baggage and we were losing a lot of revenue so that’s why we changed it.’

When travelling to Cayman Brac or Little Cayman via the twin otter service baggage allowance is 55-pounds per person and only one 15-pound carry-on., Excess is charged US50-cents per pound.

At the Cayman Airways press conference on Wednesday to announce the new direct flights between Grand Cayman and New York, Minister for Tourism Charles Clifford said flights to the Sister Islands are as important as anything else, and service has been increased there.

There had been issues with the jet service, he said, but they had been corrected and addressed.

Minister Clifford, when asked, said he had heard nothing about rumours that Spirit Airlines wanted to fly to Cayman Brac.

He said the Sister Islands are not equipped to handle international flights so this would be an issue for any foreign carrier wanting to service the Brac.

Therefore, he said, it is in the best interests of the Sister Islands for infrastructure there to be improved.

Commenting on the lack of direct jet service from Miami into Cayman Brac, Ms Viers said that there really had not been enough passengers travelling to the Brac to make it viable, even when Divi Tiara hotel was in operation.

‘Some days maybe 10 people would get off the flight,’ she said.

Meanwhile, business at the Brac Reef Beach Resort is showing record breaking occupancy levels, said Ms Viers, although she did not wish to disclose any figures.

The closure of Divi Tiara Resort has probably given Brac Reef a little extra business, she admitted, but even before Divi closed last September, business for 2006 was doing superbly for Brac Reef Resort, she said.

But despite business going well for the hotel, she said she really hopes more rooms come available on Cayman Brac and that something happens soon with Divi, which is still unsold. Everyone is affected by the loss of the 56 hotel rooms there, she said. It trickles right through the economy.

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