Honduran carrier Atlantic Airlines announced at the weekend that it was resuming its route between Cayman and Honduras after passengers had controversially been stranded for several weeks.
In a statement released on Saturday, the airline’s vice president of planning and marketing, Bill Lara, said Atlantic Air had been forced to make ‘some abrupt changes’ as part of a redesign of its services.
He apologised for inconvenience caused to passengers, some of whom said they had been stranded in Cayman for up to three weeks.
The Atlantic Airways office in Cayman confirmed that flights would be departing Cayman on Mondays and Fridays at 1pm, but said flights for the rest of December were fully booked.
Atlantic is the only airline with a scheduled service between Honduras and Cayman.
Cayman Airways has applied for a licence to service that route, but last week announced it was postponing the launch of that service while it resolved some outstanding issues.
Atlantic Airlines sought to dispel rumours it claimed were spread by ‘ill-intentioned competitors attempting to misinform the public in the hopes of absconding with routes traditionally dominated by Atlantic Airlines’.
Mr. Lara said: ‘The reality is that, given the market stress in our industry in the past few months, Atlantic Airlines International decided to take the initiative and redesign itself to better serve its loyal customers and the public at large.’
He said the airline fully supported Cayman Airways’ application to operate a route to Honduras.
‘Atlantic Airlines International will back Cayman Airways’ application to operate to the Honduran government, at any time now or in the future that they may choose to apply.’
In his statement, Mr. Lara also stressed that Atlantic Airlines was not affiliated with Rollins Air and both airlines were distinct and unrelated corporations.
Rollins Air had sought to transport stranded passengers back to Honduras, but efforts to run a charter flight for the 106 passengers failed when the airline could not secure ground-handling arrangements with Cayman Airways at Owen Roberts International Airport.
Stranded passengers descended on Atlantic Airways offices, at the airport, and the Legislative Assembly Building in the past two weeks to try to secure help to get home. Most flew back to Honduras last week when Atlantic Airlines resumed service.
Cayman Islands Civil Aviation Authority Director Richard Smith said Monday that Rollins Air still had outstanding requirements that needed to be met before it could get permission to run a route into Cayman.
Mr. Smith added that Atlantic Airlines had secured a permit from Cayman’s CAA to operate routes out of Cayman.
He said that Atlantic’s operation would not impact Rollins’ application and there was no barrier to two Honduran airlines running similar routes into and out of Cayman. ‘As long as they meet the standards and the requirements, the numbers do not really matter,’ he said.
Meanwhile, the Honduran Civil Aviation Authority notified Cayman Airways last week that it could not secure landing rights in La Ceiba until it signed a bilateral ground-handling agreement with Rollins Air.
Cayman Airways was due to launch its Honduran route on 18 December, but announced last week it was removing those charter flights from its schedule until further notice.