Cayman Airways’ scheduled chartered flights from Cayman to Honduras, due to begin yesterday, have been removed from the airline’s schedule.
Cayman Airways had been planning to launch the route to La Ceiba, Honduras, and was awaiting a permit from the Honduran Civil Aviation Authority to begin operations.
However, the CAA in Honduras notified Cayman Airways earlier this week that unless it signed a ground handling agreement with Honduran charter airline Rollins Air, it would not receive the permit.
A statement from CAL read: ‘When this permission is obtained, CAL will make their charter schedule known to the general public.’
CAL CEO Designate Olson Anderson said: “These scheduled charters were set to begin tomorrow, 18 December, 2008, but because of matters beyond our control we have removed them from our schedule until further notice”.
The director of the Civil Aviation Authority in Honduras, Boris Ferrera Andrews, issued a letter to Cayman Airways on Tuesday saying that until CAL signed a ground handling contract with Rollins, it would not receive a permit to start operations into La Ceiba.
Tourism minister Charles Clifford last week said the new route to Honduras was ready to launch, and that it was only awaiting permits from Honduras.
The Honduran route is one of a number of new routes CAL plans to launch. It is also expecting to run new routes to Panama, Mr. Clifford said.
President of Rollins Air in Honduras, Claudius Rollins, said his airline, which is trying to secure a regular route between Honduras and Cayman, said no Rollins Air flights would be taking off until a bilateral ground handling agreement was signed between Cayman Air and Rollins.
‘We have to have a bilateral agreement between the two countries. In this case, Cayman Civil Aviation Authority will not issue me a permit because we do not have a handling agent in Cayman,’ he said. Rollins has asked Cayman Airways to be its handling agent in Cayman.
He said Rollins Air had refunded the cost of all tickets to its passengers and he had told his Cayman representative to do the same.
Mr. Rollins said CAL had inspected his operations in Honduras and had seemed satisfied with his ground handling arrangements.
‘Cayman Airways has to have a handling agent here. I am willing to do that and work with those guys. I want to cooperate and work to bring passengers from Honduras to Cayman and from Cayman to Honduras,’ he said.
‘I am a professional. I have 10 years experience. I want the people of Cayman to know we are not jokers,’ he said.
Richard Smith, director of the Cayman’s Civil Aviation Authority said Rollins Air had not yet met all the requirements to be granted a landing permit at Owen Roberts International Airport.
‘We have had an application from Rollins Air. There are certain requirements that have yet to be met. Rollins Air knows what they need to do. It is up to them to provide what we need and we will consider the application,’ he said.
Mr. Smith refused on comment on whether one of the outstanding requirements was a ground handling agreement with CAL.
The standoff between the two airlines meant that no flight could be organised to transport Honduran passengers in Cayman and Caymanian passengers in Honduras stranded when Atlantic Air failed to run its scheduled flights over the past three weeks.
However, following a resumption of operations by Atlantic Air this week, the stranded passengers have been returning to Honduras. Cayman’s Civil Aviation Authority granted the airline a landing permit on Tuesday and Atlantic Air ran flights on Wednesday and Thursday this week, bringing passengers back to Cayman and Honduras.
The passengers had been congregating daily at the airport and at Atlantic Air’s office. Twice in the past week, more than 20 of the passengers and Rollins Air representative Romellia Welcome have descended on the Legislative Assembly to demand help from politicians.