4,500 additional inbound seats per week
Cayman has three new connections with the United Kingdom following a link-up between Cayman Airways and Virgin Atlantic.
The three new routes – which are now operating – connect Cayman Airways flights with Virgin departures to and from London via Kingston, Montego Bay, Havana and Miami. This adds to the current British Airways connection through Nassau, Bahamas, to Heathrow, and significantly increases long-haul capacity, said Fabian Whorms, chief executive officer of Cayman Airways.
“Virgin operates Boeing 747-400 aircraft of 400-plus seats into Montego Bay, Kingston and Havana and operates Airbus 346 aircraft [of more than 300 seats each] into Miami. These large long haul aircraft allow adequate seats for feed onto connecting Cayman Airways flights.
“The number of seats available to be used by passengers continuing onward to the Cayman Islands is not constrained – it will be a matter of demand for the Cayman Islands and the advance timing of the passenger or travel agent making the reservation,” he explained.
Harry Lalli, president of the Cayman Islands Tourism Association, said any additional airlift could only be beneficial to the tourism sector.
“I believe that this connection will definitely help to make the fares in and out of Europe more competitive. The air passenger duty is higher for Caribbean destinations than for American destinations which may make significant savings for the passenger [connecting through Miami],” he said.
Although currently European arrivals m
ake up only around 7 per cent of Cayman’s visitors by air, Mr. Lalli said that the private sector would be sitting down to discuss how they may take advantage of the new Virgin links.
“Any additional airlift into Grand Cayman is a more than welcome sign [as we seek] to increase our stayover visitor numbers,” he said.
Pilar Bush of the Ministerial Council for Tourism and Development explained that discussions had been initiated by Premier McKeeva Bush in December 2009 and then advanced by the Department of Tourism and Cayman Airways during 2010. These discussions are ongoing, she
“The Ministerial Council for Tourism and Development is keen to maintain and enhance its good relationships with both BA and with Virgin Atlantic, to help give visitors to the Cayman Islands improved choices for air travel.
“Airlift from the key markets is a critical success factor for any leisure destination and the Ministerial Council considers airlift one of the single most important components to the success of Cayman’s tourism industry. Working with the National Airline, existing airline and partners and actively seeking new airlift that will positively contribute incremental visitors to the Cayman Islands has been a priority for us,” noted the tourism expert.
She added that talks were ongoing between the Ministerial Council, the Tourism Advisory Council, the Department of Tourism and Cayman Airways to evaluate what additional airport may enhance the ability to generate incremental visitors for summer 2011, and which new routes may be considered for the winter season of 2011/2012.
The interline partnership between Virgin and Cayman Airways L
td is not limited seasonally or by time frame, she added, revealing that both airlines will be working together to enhance connection options to and from the Cayman Islands and to market this to potential travellers. Cayman Airways has rescheduled a handful of its flights to Jamaica in order to provide better connection options for travellers, said Ms Bush.
“This enhanced potential capacity can help European based visitors [and the travel trade]
to have greater choices in routes, schedules, connectivity and pricing for travel to the Cayman Islands which should make it easier and more attractive for European based visitors to the choose the Cayman Islands. We expect that this will be a welcome addition to the list of options for getting to the Cayman Islands, and we expect that with time this will help generate additional European visitors to Cayman.”
There are connections directly from London Heathrow through Miami every day. Other flights connect to London Gatwick on Tuesdays and Fridays through Montego Bay, via Kingston are on Mondays and Thursdays and via Havana, Cuba on Wednesdays and Sundays. Mr. Whorms said that depending on the direction of travel, overnight stays may be required to ensure connection.
“The interline partnership allows one conjunctive ticket to be issued for both carriers from origin to destination. This conjunctive ticket provides a greater level of protection for travellers as through the combined contract of carriage – carriers are obligated to get the passenger to their destination. Passengers are able to have their bags tagged all the way through to their final destination when they first check-in.
“Due to travel through other countries [such as] Jamaica, those countries still require the collection of bags and clearing of Customs and Immigration, but the conjunctive ticket and destination checked bags allow for simply dropping the bags off when checking in with the other carrier. Currently there is a slight variation in bag fee policy – Cayman Airways has no fees for first two bags – which we are working to streamline,” said the chief executive.