CAL soaring despite fuel prices

Cayman Airways has reported record performances despite the continuing impacts of high fuel prices.

CAL VP Finance Paul Tibbetts says the most visible examples of the improvement are the record revenue numbers the company is now producing.

‘Passenger revenue alone for the month of August came in at US$5.8 million, a new record for the airline,’ he announced.

‘Equally impressive is that the record revenue is being accomplished with record load factors. The airline has significantly exceeded average load factors of previous years for eight of the past 12 months,’ he said.

Noting that August’s record-setting revenue had an average load factor of just under 71 per cent, the VP Finance says new route profitability and load monitoring tools now give the airline the ability to plan and evaluate routes effectively.

This past fiscal year (ending June 30, 2008), the airline transported over 427,000 passengers (as compared with just over 364,000 the prior year) – another record for the company.

‘I’d probably say these are the best figures this airline has ever produced,’ said Chair of the Board of Cayman Airways Angelyn Hernandez at a press briefing this week. ‘And we’ve done it in the past two years under difficult circumstances and while trying to tidy up our own house.’

She said she knows there have been sceptics in the past in relation to what was being done at Cayman Airways but that the numbers now speak for themselves and show that the airline’s turnaround plan has worked.

She said: ‘We started out by calling this the ‘turnaround plan’ and we have managed to turn the airline in a positive direction. The numbers are evidence of this. There are many new challenges on the horizon, but because the airline has adapted efficient tools and procedures and continues to seek ways to efficiently operate, the airline stands ready to serve the Cayman Islands and fulfil its mission.’

In addition to revenue and passenger count, the airline has reported improvements and savings in a number of areas.

A centralised purchasing department has already resulted in over US$50,000 of direct savings and much more through the discipline that the function now provides. A review of all contracts, including ground handling contracts for other airlines is also in the works.

Maintenance costs have been reduced by over US$700,000 through improved efficiencies and utilisation of newer ‘sister ship’ aircraft. Communication costs have been reduced by over US$200,000 through new equipment and the benefits of a consolidated central location. A savings on facilities rental through the utilisation of the new headquarter building has produced benefits of over US$200,000.

Even with the devastating impact of record oil prices, the June 2008 fiscal year ended up approximately US$500,000 better than the prior year.

Mr. Tibbetts noted that expenses had gone up this past year.

The airline had to spend $9 million more this past fiscal year on fuel prices alone, for which they received $5 million from the Government and absorbed the extra $4 million themselves. ‘So with our increase in revenue and savings in other areas we were able to stay afloat on our own doing,’ he said.

Ms Hernandez added that the successes have been as a direct result of the hard work and dedication of the most important resource of the company – its staff.

‘Demands have been made on them and it has not always been easy changing established ways of doing business or even adapting to matters, but they rose to the challenges.’

Referring to the difficult aviation climate, Ms Hernandez stated, ‘If we had not started when we started two and a half to three years on this turnaround plan, in this present industry and all that it’s facing I really do not know where Cayman Airways would be right now.’

She said the airline is now prepared with its tools, procedures and excellent management team leading the rest of the company.

‘So I am very confident as is the board that we are well on our way to achieving even more successes for the future.’

The press were also told that Cayman Airways will be up to date with all its financial records by the end of this year.

In July a special Auditor General’s report said that Government entities are so far behind in submitting financial records for audit that the Legislative Assembly had lost effective control of the public purse.

Cayman Airways was identified as one of the worst performing entities when it came to financial accountability.

Ms Hernandez explained, ‘We did inherit several years of audits which were not completed and it was the aim of the Board to ensure we were up to date. By the end of this year we will be up to date with all our audits,’ she said.