Direct flights to Toronto this year

Schedule to be released on Wednesday

Direct flights three times weekly
between Grand Cayman and Toronto are scheduled to start in December.

The flights will be operated by
WestJet from Owen Roberts International Airport, subject to the conclusion of
negotiations, Premier McKeeva Bush said in a speech in the Legislative Assembly
last week.

“This possibility of three weekly
nonstop flights from Toronto would be a significant boost to our airlift offering
from Canada and provide some competition on the route,” he said.

Discussions have been led on behalf
of the government by the Ministerial Council for Tourism and Development and
the marketing body, the Department of Tourism, he added.

Risk mitigation

Pilar Bush of the Ministerial
Council for Tourism and Development, which is formulating a tourism plan on
behalf of the government, has been engaged in multiple negotiation rounds and
is close to reaching an agreement with WestJet, which has asked for risk
mitigation in the event that the route underperforms. Discussions on this
matter are ongoing, she said.

The premier had previously told the
Legislative Assembly that it was Cayman Islands policy not to offer operating
subsidies for foreign carriers.

“Details have not been finalised
but foreign airlines usually want performance guarantee of some sort, such as a
minimum revenue guarantee or a minimum profitability margin in order to commit
to new service. A significant part of the negotiation is to demonstrate that
Cayman can help support the performance of the route through our marketing
efforts and generating demand in Canada for the Cayman Islands,” said Pilar
Bush.

“To give some context to the
discussions, consider that one example of a close working relationship might be
to look at schedule connectivity in Tampa, allowing Canadian visitors to
connect with Cayman Airways at its Tampa gateway on days that WestJet did not
operate the nonstop service. Another example is facilitating the sale of
inter-island tickets by WestJet for Canadian visitors wanting to travel through
to Cayman Brac or Little Cayman and another example is to ensure web links
between the two airlines’ websites.”

In his speech, Mr. Bush said the
Toronto route was one that could enhance tourism arrivals.

“Canada has demonstrated strong
growth potential for the Cayman Islands and it is a market I believe can
provide significant new visitors to the Cayman Islands, both as incremental
leisure tourists and as persons visiting friends and family who live and work
here. We will require the full support of the local tourism industry and the
Canadians who reside here to ensure the success of the route,” he noted.

Robert Palmer of WestJet said the
company could not provide any schedule or seasonal information at this time,
but that the WestJet winter schedule would be released on 30 June.

Growth markets

The Canadian market comprises
around 8 per cent of monthly tourist arrivals. At the moment, said Ms Bush of the
Ministerial Council, the Department of Tourism is in the process of analysing
the sector to identify any targets for growth that might be feasible. Canada is
not the only route that is being explored for possible future expansion, she
said.

“We are actively evaluating the
source markets that have the best potential to support nonstop service, and
these discussions have been initiated with Cayman Airways. We intend to discuss
these options with other carriers as well in those instances when Cayman Airways
may not be best suited to provide the service.

“However,” she said, “Cayman
Airways remains our first choice and starting point, as an investment with [the
national carrier] has a greater multiplier effect on the local economy.”

Ms Bush said the resumption of the
nonstop service to John F. Kennedy International Airport by Delta Airlines
after an absence of five years, plus Cayman Airways’ own New York services
pointed to the city’s importance as a source market.

Discussions with multiple carriers
will also include routes to Europe, she said.

“The government meets twice
annually with British Airways and always with a view to improving, or increasing
the frequency of service to Cayman. Last year, the premier initiated
discussions with Virgin Atlantic about transatlantic service and these discussions
are scheduled to resume in the summer or early fall,” she said.

 

Learn more about Cayman’s tourism industry