Passengers still stranded

More than 100 Honduran passengers remain in Cayman as red tape between Cayman Airways and Rollins Air prevents a chartered flight from ferrying them back home.

The passengers, who originally had tickets on beleaguered Atlantic Air which has failed to carry out any of its flights between Cayman and Honduras in recent weeks, returned to the Legislative Assembly on Monday to again ask the government for help.

Rollins Air representative Romellia Welcome met Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts, and passengers were told they could expect to fly back to Honduras yesterday on a charter flight. However, by noon yesterday, they were still on island and no flight had been scheduled.

With no Atlantic Air flights arriving into or leaving Honduras, there are no direct flights between Honduras and Cayman, and some 200 Caymanian and Honduran passengers have been unable to fly home.

Cayman Airways is planning to launch direct flights to Honduras and is awaiting permits from Honduras to begin running the service. Similarly, Rollins Air is awaiting a permit from the Cayman’s Civil Aviation Authority to operate a regular service to Cayman.

Yesterday the director of the Civil Aviation Authority in Honduras, Boris Ferrera Andrews, wrote to Cayman Airways informing the airline that until it signed a ground handling agreement with Rollins, it would not receive a permit to operate services into Honduras.

He said in the letter, a copy of which was emailed to the Caymanian Compass, ‘If this can be done as soon as possible, we will issue the permit for Cayman Airways to start operations in La Ceiba.’

Mr. Tibbetts, speaking to the travellers in the lobby of the Legislative Assembly Building on Monday, said he had spoken with the CEO designate of Cayman Airways, Olson Anderson, and that the airline was ready to allow its staff to check in the passengers to Tuesday’s flight, once a contract had been signed.

Mr. Tibbetts said he had been told by CAL that staff would be available to handle the travellers on Tuesday on a charter airplane provided by CAL. He told Ms Welcome that she could assist by getting permission from Honduras to land.

‘I have to say I am sorry for whatever disappointments you have suffered,’ he told some 20 Honduran passengers at the LA Building. ‘There are 1,001 reasons for this, including issues with forms and paperwork. We need to get a charter flight and by after lunch [Monday], you should be able to confirm the flight,’ he said.

But Ms Welcome said yesterday that CAL had not provided details of the aircraft until 4.30pm on Monday evening, too late to get the Honduran Civil Aviation Authority to issue a landing permit. ‘How can I be expected to get an answer from the Civil Aviation Authority in half an hour?’ she said.

Cayman Airways denied in a statement that it was in any way responsible for the passengers being stranded.

Cayman Airways CEO Designate Olson Anderson said: ‘It is unfortunate that Rollins Air has sought to misrepresent the facts for their own benefit at the expense of CAL’s reputation, causing great distress to our staff. We are working to assist Rollins Air in moving their passengers.

‘However, before we can commit, Rollins Air has to show some responsibility and provide the proper documentation.’

Mr. Anderson said a handling contract was received from Rollins Air by email on Saturday evening, 13 December, and that a request for a charter was only received after 8am on Monday morning.

‘Since receipt of this necessary paperwork CAL has been doing everything within its operational allowances to accommodate the passengers who have been inconvenienced by Rollins Air and others,’ a statement by CAL read.

The statement issued by the Honduran Civil Aviation Authority followed a meeting yesterday between the director of the authority and president of Rollins Air, Claudius Rollins.

Mr. Rollins, speaking from Honduras yesterday morning, said that Rollins had agreed to be CAL’s handling agent in Honduras and was awaiting CAL’s agreement to act as Rollins’ agent in Cayman,

‘In this case, Cayman’s Civil Aviation Authority will not issue me a permit because I don’t have a handling agent in Cayman,’ he said, adding that he had instructed his staff to give refunds on all flights to Cayman for which passengers had paid.

Some passengers in Cayman have been stranded for three weeks and have been making daily trips to the airport to try to get information on when they might able to fly home.

Atlantic Air was due to lose its operating licence on 10 December, according to media reports in Honduras.