Cayman Airways is seeking to have four new gateways in place for the upcoming winter season.
‘We’ll be going back into Chicago and we’re exploring Washington and regionally La Ceiba [Honduras] and Panama,’ Chair of the Board of Directors Angelyn Hernandez announced at a press conference Wednesday.
‘So those are the four possible gateways that we will be doing for the winter season starting the middle of December,’ Ms Hernandez said.
Seven new members of the Cayman Airways management team were also introduced to the media.
Meanwhile Cayman Airways is still exploring options to enhance its operations for the upcoming winter season.
The airline is seeking to acquire aircraft on a ‘wet lease’ basis for the winter. This is a lease in which an aircraft, crew, maintenance, and insurance is provided to one airline by another.
The aircraft they are looking at would be in the family type of the Boeing 737 jets, it was confirmed by Ms Hernandez.
‘This is going to be a next couple of challenging months just to get those gateways and to secure the aircraft,’ said Ms Hernandez, but she added that management and staff have been working very hard to achieve this.
‘We have a mission to fulfil as the national airline and we will do that to the best of our ability,’ she said, noting that good commercial decisions would be made.
Ms Hernandez said the Washington [Dulles International] and Chicago [O’Hare] gateways were arrived at after examining all the data with the Department of Tourism and the Ministry of Tourism.
‘As you know, we’ve been into Chicago already and we have wholesalers and contacts there already so it will be easier for us to get back into that market.’
Ms Hernandez noted that Chicago had not previously worked as a route based on the days of the week and times flying in there.
‘The private sector, they have assured us that demand is there. Whilst it didn’t produce profitable figures it also was not a complete failure at all, so I think with just a little bit more effort it can be successful,’ she said.
Speaking on the Washington gateway, she said that research shows it could possibly be a good gateway based on data the airline had collected, along with that of the private sector.
Panama has long been under consideration as a route for Cayman Airways.
‘There is already cargo interest out of Panama and we have passenger interest. We have Caymanians who have invested in Panama over the years and we believe the market is there for it. We will be starting in December and we’ll see how it goes,’ she said.
Paul Tibbetts, VP Finance, said Cayman Airways transports a tremendous number of passengers to Havana in Cuba that travel on to Panama from there.
‘So we have some good stats on the number that are going there. We believe it is a viable market,’ he said.
Built into the forthcoming winter schedule will be a direct flight between Cayman Brac and Miami, Ms Hernandez confirmed. It is to fly from Grand Cayman to the Brac, Brac to Miami back to the Brac and then on to Grand Cayman.
Minister for Tourism Charles Clifford recently announced that the acquisition of two Embraer E-170s had been put on hold for the moment and Ms Hernandez explained that this has been done so the acquisition can be done after further consideration and forward planning.
But she emphasised that the Embraer project has not been abandoned.
‘We do feel that it is probably the equipment and aircraft type that we should be heading with because of our certain market size and because of our own needs.
‘However, for the winter season we are now exploring the acquisition of another aircraft, which will seamlessly blend into our own operational functions right now so as to be able to provide that additional airlift for the winter season,’ said Ms Hernandez.
In terms of the new management team, Acting CEO Gilles Filiatreault will mentor CEO designate Olson Anderson over the next six months. Also on board is a new VP Commerical Paul Mooney; new VP Airports and Customer Service Scott Humphrey; new Commercial Director of Revenue Programs Robert Hartsfield; Caymanian Olivia Scott is new manager Corporate Communications; Caymanian Wendy Jackson is promoted to new Director of Customer Service Delivery.
‘We have here, I think, probably the best management team that the airline has ever had in its history. We have professionals with so much experience. We have made sure that we have recruited properly for these positions and we believe that the airline is ably placed right now to face the difficult times ahead,’ said Ms Hernandez.
Asked about bringing in new gateways in an unfavourable airline climate, Ms Hernandez said as an island in the Caribbean Sea, and with tourism as one of two economic levers to the country, Cayman Airways must fly to bring visitors to these shores.
‘What we have to do is ramp up, explore new markets, make sure we are there and we are flying,’ she said.