Cayman Airways is in the midst of establishing arrangements to add two destinations to its international repertoire, including fulfilling a long-standing desire to tap a potentially lucrative and expanding commercial passenger market in Panama.
Twice-weekly seasonal service to Tocumen International Airport in Panama City, Panama, as well as seasonal operations to Dallas, Texas, have been in the works for months. But service by the national flag carrier of the Cayman Islands to both markets appears to be nearing fruition with flights tentatively slated to begin to both locations this year.
Fabian Whorms, president and chief executive officer of Cayman Airways Limited, said the government-owned airline intends to begin twice-weekly roundtrip flights between Grand Cayman and Tocumen International Airport – Central America’s busiest airport by passenger traffic – in April and continue through August.
“The schedule is not quite finalised as yet, but we are focusing on late morning and early afternoon time slots to allow for optimised connections on Mondays and Thursdays,” Mr. Whorms said. “We are also looking at Fridays as an option, instead of Thursdays.”
Meanwhile, the potential for Cayman Airways to offer seasonal service to and from Dallas also remains in the formative stages. Cayman Islands Premier McKeeva Bush said last week during a business conference he anticipated those flights would follow suit this summer.
“CAL is currently working through the logistics of scheduling for both Panama and Dallas … and will have more information in the coming weeks,” Mr. Whorms said.
Mr. Whorms said Cayman Airways’ flight schedule to and from Tocumen International Airport would highlight an interlining agreement it shares with Panama’s national flag carrier Copa Airlines, a carrier that has grown rapidly during recent years on rising demand for air transport within Latin America and the Caribbean.
Interlining is a commercial agreement between airlines to handle passengers travelling on itineraries requiring multiple airlines. In the case of Cayman Airways, the Cayman Islands economy and its connection to Panama, this could help serve as a gateway to the lucrative South American market, especially Brazil, as Copa is well-positioned to benefit from continued growth in Latin America.
“Service will be to the Tocumen International Airport, a major connecting hub for South and Central America and our flights will be timed to connect to key flight banks into and out of Panama with our interline partners, including Copa,” Mr. Whorms said. “Through this gateway, the Cayman Islands hopes to benefit from an expanded tourism base and enhanced connectivity for the financial and commercial sectors of our community. Individuals with connections to Central and South America will now find it much easier to travel back and forth.”
Flight time between Owen Roberts International Airport in Grand Cayman and Tocumen International Airport in Panama is about two hours – a connection the Cayman Islands Government and tourism industry officials have long eyed as facilitating a potential economic windfall.
The Panamanian economy is the fastest growing in all of Latin America, driven by the expansion of the Panama Canal and other major infrastructure projects, according to a Centre for Aviation report issued last month. Panama is expected to record gross domestic product growth of 8 to 9 per cent in 2011 when the final figures are released, as well as GDP growth approaching 10 per cent in 2012.
Panama’s economy is expected to be the fastest growing in Latin America during the next five years, the report read.
As for the regional air transport market, the international intra-Latin America passenger market grew by 14 per cent in 2010 and by another 9 per cent through the first 10 months of this year, according to data from Latin American airline association ALTA. The region – of which Panama is a central hub and Tocumen International Airport a driving force with more than five million passengers annually – is expected to continue to be one of the world’s hottest growth markets in coming years.
“We are now in process of working closely with the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism, the Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce, the Cayman Islands Department of Commerce and Investment and other relevant stakeholders to ensure the route has the maximum potential for success,” Mr. Whorms said.
Meanwhile, the prospect of Cayman Airways establishing nonstop seasonal service to and from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport also has been viewed in Cayman as instrumental for local economic growth given its potential as a springboard in facilitating passenger traffic to Grand Cayman from the US west coast. Dallas/Fort Worth was the eighth busiest airport in the world in 2010 with nearly 57 million passengers and, as a major hub for both American Airlines and cargo carrier UPS, direct service by Cayman Airways would allow the Cayman Islands increased access to its most important feeder market – the US.
Flight time between Grand Cayman and Dallas/Fort Worth is about three hours.
Cayman Airways Limited, a wholly-owned government company, leases four 737-300 jet airplanes and provides commercial passenger service between Grand Cayman and Miami, Tampa, New York, Chicago, Washington DC, Havana (Cuba), Kingston (Jamaica), Montego Bay (Jamaica), La Ceiba (Honduras) and the Sister Island of Cayman Brac. Cayman Airways Express, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Cayman Airways Limited, owns two Twin Otter propeller planes, which provide service to the Sister Islands of Cayman Brac and Little Cayman.