Cayman Airways is increasing its service on summer flights such as Jamaica and Tampa routes, with plans for Chicago to come on-stream again this winter as a year-round flight.
Better connection opportunities for visitors have also been made a top priority by the airline recently.
New VP Commercial John Wrightington has been busying himself with instigating these changes since he came on board with the airline in February.
There are nine flights a week to Kingston (some direct, some via Montego Bay) but by 23 June there will be 13 flights a week.
‘There’s a tremendous volume increase in passengers during the summer anyway, but with Jamaica it’s very pronounced,’ Mr. Wrightington said.
The core schedule to Kingston, which is the schedule operated year-round, is also to go from nine to 10 trips a week.
Mr. Wrightington explained that as a lot of traffic from Jamaica is being carried onwards on Cayman Airways to Houston and Havana, Cayman is turning into a little connecting hub.
For the summer Cayman Airways has built up connections from Kingston to Cayman on to Houston, Tampa and Havana.
‘There’s a surprising amount of traffic on them,’ he said, noting that a lot of it has to do with the fact that Air Jamaica does not fly to Houston or to Tampa, and Havana is a very big market anyway.
Tampa is being taken up to six trips a week during the summer, effective 1 June. And it is expected that by next winter it will be a daily flight, effective November 15.
‘Tampa is one of our best markets, not only from Grand Cayman but also from the Brac and so we’ve also had to adjust the Cayman Express schedule to accommodate better connections,’ he said.
‘Traffic to the Brac is just incredibly good right now,’ said Mr. Wrightington.
Cayman Airways is reassessing the frequency over to the Brac to see if it can use the twin otters more effectively, based upon how well the market is doing, he noted.
There are no immediate plans to offer direct air service out of the US to the Brac.
There has been some criticism that CAL hasn’t loaded its Chicago schedule yet for the peak winter.
‘What we’re trying to do is actually look at it more globally in terms of being able to operate Chicago year-round,’ he said.
A decision had previously been made at Cayman Airways to make Chicago a winter-only flight, but Mr. Wrightington said that doesn’t make sense.
‘It’s a very strong market and what we’re trying to do is develop a better relationship with United Airlines, because that’s their major hub. We’re working with them right now and then will be posting our schedule’
He hopes this can be operational by November, and that once it is, it can be operated on a year-round basis, with at least two trips a week.
Mr. Wrightington also said a daily flight to Havana is justified for Cayman Airways’ long-term vision, going on how popular that route is.
However, the Havana schedule is dictated by a bi-lateral agreement between the UK and Cuba and under that, only three weekly frequencies is permitted with the jets.
But with a smaller airplane, like a 50-seat turbo prop or a regional jet unlimited frequency could be operated.
‘So part of the long-term vision is to be able to have that type of aircraft available to allow us to fly daily,’ he said. ‘This would be the quickest and easiest fix to allow us to operate there on a developmental basis.’
He noted that Cuba is more than just Havana, and that a lot of people want to do dual destination vacations: going to Havana for a few days and coming back to Cayman again.
New York flights
The newly announced non-stop flights between Grand Cayman and New York are selling up nicely.
‘People think it’s a market for tourists in the winter. Well, it’s also a wonderful market for the business community,’ Mr. Wrightington said.
June 23 is launch date for the market because there’s a large pool of traffic coming here from the Northeast that time of year with schools in that area out on 22 June. Schools here are also out by that time.
What is interesting about the service is that many people are connecting on to Little Cayman and Cayman Brac, he added.
The New York flight arrives in Grand Cayman at 12.45pm and there’s a 2.40pm flight going to the Sister Islands, and then the flight returns to Grand Cayman ready to connect with the 4.30pm to New York.
In September/October (slow season) the flights will go from three to two trips a week, going back up to at least three for winter. How well the flight performs this summer will give final frequency in peak winter.
Business class is selling well in that market too. ‘A lot of that has to do with the fact that higher end hotels on island and some boutique hotels are driving a lot of marketing toward this flight as well,’ he said.
Changes are also coming in with regard to the Miami offices.
‘The Miami offices used to include the US sales and marketing, pricing, revenue management, interline (CAL’s relationships with other airlines) and administrative functions. We’re gradually moving them down to Grand Cayman, and we’re not moving the people, we’re moving the positions down here,’ said Mr. Wrightington.
Staff will be gradually trained in these functions.
Four of these positions are to be moved here by mid summer.
Cayman Airways now has four jet planes, rather than five, following the recent retirement of one of its 737-200s.
The transition happened very easily because one of the jets was mainly used for charters.
Another 737-200 is to be replaced with a newer, more efficient airplane, a 737-300, in the first quarter of next year.