Cayman Islands government officials announced the commencement of terminal expansion work at the international airport in Cayman Brac, as well as the renaming of the facility, during a groundbreaking ceremony held last weekend that touted the redevelopment as a boost to the local economy.
Gerrard-Smith International Airport in West End in Cayman Brac has been renamed Charles Kirkconnell International Airport in memory of the late Captain Charles Leonard Kirkconnell, a prominent local businessman with strong ties to the Sister Islands.
Local dignitaries and representatives from the Cayman Islands Airports Authority and the Ministry of Tourism, Finance and Development, including Cayman Islands Premier McKeeva Bush, celebrated the announcement Saturday, 14 July by paying homage to Captain Charles while also lauding the redevelopment work as a boost to the Sister Islands’ economy and its growing tourism product.
Total cost projections were not immediately available, but airports authority officials said the coming months will see various phases of the project enacted, including tender selection and construction. Jeremy Jackson, chief executive officer of the airports authority, said the airports authority is funding the project.
The terminal building will be extended in both directions and there will be some temporary relocation of functions to allow for refurbishments on the existing facility.
The terminal facility is to remain operational during the construction phase. The work is tentatively scheduled for completion next year.
Officials said the airports authority’s redevelopment of Charles Kirkconnell International Airport will facilitate nonstop international flights by increasing operations and services. At the moment, national flag carrier Cayman Airways operates a flight on Saturdays to Cayman Brac from Miami. However, the flight must return to the United States by flying through Owen Roberts International Airport in Grand Cayman to fulfil customs and immigration requirements.
Phase one of the project will accommodate a larger ticketing hall, enhanced passenger and baggage screening facilities, and the addition of outgoing immigration counters. The departure lounge will also be expanded to create additional retail space and a larger restaurant. Office space is also being created for Cayman Airways as well as airport security.
Phase two of the project will see enhancements to the arrivals hall – namely the immigration and customs areas – as well as the addition of space for public health and agriculture department personnel.
Mr. Jackson said, “The expansion of the Brac terminal is being funded by the Cayman Islands Airports Authority and the project will undoubtedly provide a much-needed boost to the Brac’s economy, which has seen its fair share of challenges since the passing of the devastating Hurricane Paloma in November 2008.
“We are confident that the ability to attract direct international flights, without the stopover in Grand Cayman, will provide even greater opportunities for local businesses in the years ahead,” Mr. Jackson added. “The CIAA looks forward to playing its role in the continued economic development of Cayman Brac and Little Cayman.”
Richard “Dick” Arch, chairman of the airports authority’s board of directors, said portions of the project still await approval from the Central Planning Authority.
Meanwhile, Premier Bush said the late Captain Charles was a prominent and well-liked local businessman whose great-grandfather had settled in the Cayman Islands in the early 1840s.
“He served as an elected representative for Cayman Brac and Little Cayman for three consecutive terms from 1976 to 1988 and served as the Executive Council Member responsible for Communication, Works & District Administration,” Mr. Bush said. “This redevelopment of the Cayman Brac airport will greatly enhance comfort and ease of use – which is how a port of entry should be. We are pleased as a government to complement the infrastructure of the Sister Islands in this way. To also commit to renaming this airport to honour the memory of the late Captain Charles Kirkconnell is most fitting, given all of his valuable contributions, including his leadership in the building of this very airport. Visitors and residents alike should welcome the changes.”
Deputy Premier Juliana O’Connor-Connolly, also a Member of the Legislative Assembly from the Sister Islands, said, “It may have seemed like a tall order when we were in the initial stages of this process but considering the broad implications that the expansion will bring to Cayman Brac and perhaps even spin off to Little Cayman the upgrades were born out of necessity. We are building a nation and expanding the airport will give Cayman Brac more accessibility to the wider world if we are to move our tourism product forward.
“Now that Cayman Airways has a direct international flight these renovations and enhancements are very necessary in making the facility more user friendly. I look forward to more nonstop flights from the United States, the Caribbean and the rest of the world. The expansion will be good for the Brac’s economy both in short and long term,” she said.