A Central American airline is looking to establish passenger service between Grand Cayman and Honduras, hoping to add another layer of reliability to a historically troubled route.
Aerolineas Sosa, a domestic carrier based in La Ceiba, Honduras, has announced plans to fly three times a week to Owen Roberts International Airport in Grand Cayman from its hub in Central America, according to a spokesman here in Grand Cayman.
The flights are scheduled to depart Golosón International Airport in La Ceiba at 10am on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays, said Bob Connor, an agent for Aerolineas Sosa in the Cayman Islands. Return flights are scheduled to leave Grand Cayman at noon each of those days.
Flight time is about one hour and there is a one hour time difference between locations.
Mr. Connor said the airline hopes to begin service Friday, 19 August. He said the airline initially plans to offer round-trip airfare for US$169.
Nikki McCoy, director of commercial affairs and regulation for the Civil Aviation Authority of the Cayman Islands, has confirmed the regulatory body has issued an operating permit for Aerolineas Sosa to fly the route.
On Monday, the Cayman Islands Airports Authority, which owns and operates Owen Roberts International Airport, did not confirm the startup of the new airline. The CIAA referred operational questions to Aerolineas Sosa.
According to the Aerolineas Sosa website, the airline lists Grand Cayman as one of its destinations and tickets between the two countries are available for purchase online.
Mr. Connor said Tuesday “everything is OK at the moment” and the flights are scheduled to begin Friday. Mr. Connor said Cayman Airways crews would be handling ground operations for the fledgling service.
Calls and emails to Cayman Airways for confirmation were not to responded to by press time Tuesday.
“This has always been a route for airlines through the years,” Mr. Connor said. “This means a lot to the Honduran community. A lot of people from the Bay Islands (Honduras) have relatives here. There is demand for this service.”
Airlines have long operated between Grand Cayman and Honduras, but each carrier has had its troubles and only Cayman Airways continues to this day.
Two years ago, Atlantic Airlines de Honduras stopped flying between Grand Cayman and Honduras after the operator went bankrupt. In the months before its final flight between the countries in early 2009, Atlantic – which had been plagued by corruption and security problems – twice stranded passengers in Grand Cayman and also in Honduras after its operations were temporarily suspended due to licensing and logistical problems. Another Honduran carrier, Isleña Airlines, began operating flights in 2009, but has since halted its service between Grand Cayman and Honduras.
A third airline, Honduras-based Rollins Air, tried but never received local regulatory approval to operate in the Cayman Islands.
Meanwhile, Cayman Airways instituted its twice-weekly service to La Ceiba in 2009. The national carrier of the Cayman Islands offers nonstop round-trip jet service to Golosón International Airport on Mondays and Fridays.
“After Cayman Airways introduced jet service, the others couldn’t compete,” Mr. Connor said. “They pulled out.”
Aerolineas Sosa plans to fly the Grand Cayman-Honduras route with a Bombardier CRJ200 regional jet, Mr. Connor said. The aircraft seats 50 passengers and is a staple of regional air transport service throughout the world.
Aerolineas Sosa was established in 1984 and operates domestic passenger and charter service throughout Honduras. The flights to Grand Cayman will be the carrier’s first international service.
Staff writer Stuart Wilson contributed to this article.