New flights to Kingston, Havana mooted

Air Turks & Caicos apply for routes

Air Turks & Caicos has applied
to operate routes between Grand Cayman, Havana and Kingston.

Chairman of Air Turks & Caicos,
Lyndon Gardiner, told reporters that it was part of the company’s strategy to
increase services throughout the Caribbean, enabling connections with major
European and Russian markets and promoting island-hopping capabilities in the
region.

“Our strategy is to encourage more
multi-destination stays in the Caribbean and specifically the TCI… most of
those tourists travel or would travel for several weeks at a time; it is a long
way to come to only visit one country,” said Mr. Gardiner.

Five-year agreement

Should the application be granted,
passenger, mail and freight services could begin immediately under a five-year
agreement.

Flights would be five times weekly
on Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Provisionally, flights
would leave Kingston at midday to arrive at Grand Cayman at 1pm. A flight would
leave Grand Cayman at 1.45pm to reach Havana at 2.45pm. The return from Havana
to Cayman would leave at 3.45pm and reach Cayman at 4.45pm. Flights to Kingston
from Grand Cayman would depart at 5.30pm and reach their destination at 6.30pm.

The aircraft listed to operate on
the routes include Embraer EMB-120, deHavilland Twin Otter, Cessna Citation
C550 and Beechcraft.

Harry Lalli of the Cayman Islands
Tourism Association, which represents more than 200 tourism-related businesses,
said that additional airlift was always welcomed as it brought people to the island.
There are other benefits to multi-destination flights, he added.

“There is a big population of
Jamaican students that go to school in the University of Havana, so a
Havana-Cayman-Kingston route should be fairly successful, particularly if Air
Jamaica is no longer operating a direct flight.

“From a tourism point of view, if
one can work with an airline there would also be a three-island tourism
opportunity,” said the tourism association president.

Major Player

In a press release, the airline,
which bought out competitor SkyKing in 2008, stated it intended to become a
“major player” in providing regional air services within the Caribbean.

“Air Turks and Caicos has recently
applied for an operating license to take over routes from Air Jamaica Express
and plans to operate from a hub in Kingston, Jamaica. The new routes will
include Kingston to Port Au Prince, Havana and Santo Domingo, with schedules
co-ordinated to connect with long haul flights, offering more connections and
cheaper options.

“Air Turks and Caicos has recently
purchased two additional 30 passenger aircraft to assist in the development of
the new routes and has plans to acquire more and larger aircraft in the near
future.  [The company] currently operates
flights between the islands of Providenciales, Grand Turk and South Caicos with
international routes to the Bahamas, Haiti, Jamaica and the Dominican
Republic,” said the carrier.

Objections to the license must be
made in duplicate to the Air Transport Licensing Authority of the Cayman
Islands by Tuesday, 21 September and any notice requiring the holding of an
enquiry in public to determine the application must be received on or before
Tuesday, 5 October.

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