Inadequate air service to Cayman Brac and Little Cayman is the biggest hindrance to development there, said Sister Islands MLA Moses Kirkconnell on Monday in Legislative Assembly.
‘This obstacle to our social and economic advancement has loomed over us for many years,’ he said, adding that the government needs to find a way of tackling the airlift problem.
New aircraft that would increase the number of passengers and also allow for direct service from a United States gateway to Cayman Brac would be the best solution, Mr. Kirkconnell said.
Cayman Brac gets Cayman Airways 737 jet service four days a week and Cayman Airways Express service seven days a week with the 19-seat turbo-prop Twin Otter aircraft, which also service Little Cayman.
‘The Twin Otters are the most practical plane to fly to Little Cayman with its current airstrip,’ he said.
With construction on a new airport on Little Cayman scheduled to commence next January, Mr. Kirkconnell thinks the future should include larger aircraft to service the Sister Islands, like an ATR-50 or a Dash 8, both of which could handle 50 passengers.
Mr. Kirkconnell believes it is important to have direct flights to Cayman Brac from a U.S. gateway, most likely from Miami or Ft. Lauderdale. He thinks a 50-60 passenger regional jet, similar to what American Eagle flies in the Eastern Caribbean, would probably work well.
‘It must be able to offer direct service four days a week with capacity for the same amount of baggage as people are allowed on full-sized aircraft,’ he said, adding that visitors should not have to pay an additional baggage charge for bringing their dive gear.
Mr. Kirkconnell said the air service had gotten better since Cayman Airways Express took over the route. He noted that the cost for a roundtrip flight to the Brac had gone from $165 two years ago to $132 now.
‘Absolutely, we have better air service today than three years ago,’ he said. ‘Do we have enough airlift? No, but we will.’
Mr. Kirkconnell said Cayman Brac had great infrastructure.
‘But none of that matters without the ability to move freely to and from Cayman Brac,’ he said.
To illustrate the need for more airlift, Mr. Kirkconnell said that if he went to the airport on Grand Cayman and wanted to get a flight to Miami without a reservation, he would feel confident he could get one. However, he said that was not the case with Cayman Brac.
Without better airlift, the Sister Islands will not only be unable to attract more tourists, but it won’t be able to attract the investment it needs to progress.
‘Investors are hindered by the lack of airlift,’ he said. ‘They will not invest without it. It’s that simple.’