Commercial airlines flying to and from the Cayman Islands say they haven’t yet been adversely affected by weather on those routes as Tropical Storm Isaac begins to tear through the heart of the Caribbean. But carriers that serve airports in Grand Cayman and also the Sister Islands of Cayman Brac and Little Cayman remain on the lookout for a change in conditions that would warrant action.
Cayman Airways and American Airlines, both of which provide multiple daily flights between Owen Roberts International Airport in Grand Cayman and the United States mainland, reported no issues or cancellations early Thursday afternoon with their flights originating in or destined for the Western Caribbean territory. British Airways, which serves Grand Cayman four times a week with flights to London, also said its route to the Cayman Islands hadn’t been affected.
All airlines continue to urge the public to monitor their websites for potential updates and changes to flight itineraries.
The storm was projected to head toward Florida as a hurricane by Monday, but the US National Hurricane Center in Miami said some forecast models show it could go further west into the Gulf of Mexico. Isaac was centred 165 miles south of Puerto Rico early Thursday afternoon, with maximum sustained winds of 40 miles per hour. It was moving west at 15 mph, according to the hurricane centre.
The storm is expected to pass well north of all three Cayman Islands. However, its footprint is still forecast to bring rain and windy conditions over the weekend, with possible flooding of low-lying areas on Sunday.*
Regardless how close the storm passes to the Cayman Islands, it is inevitable that airline passengers travelling to and from Grand Cayman and the Sister Islands will be affected during the coming days as the ripple effect of flight delays and cancellations throughout the region takes hold.
“The storm is still more than 48 hours away from potentially impacting our operations,” said Kathryn Walsh, interim marketing manager for Cayman Airways. “We continue to monitor the progress of the storm, our preparedness plans and teams are on standby. We will be reviewing the situation again at 5pm today [Thursday} to re-evaluate and act, as circumstances require. The media and public should refer to www.caymanairways.com for latest information.”
American Airlines and its subsidiary American Eagle, which on Wednesday cancelled some flights as Isaac crossed the Leeward Islands on a path into the Caribbean Sea, said some additional routes had witnessed cancellations on Thursday, but nothing directly impacting travel to the Cayman Islands.
“American’s operations in Grand Cayman haven’t been impacted by Isaac,” read an e-mail response from the airline’s media relations office. “This may change in the next day or two, but as of [Thursday] morning we haven’t cancelled anything.”
“As of this morning, we’ve had just a couple of dozen flights cancelled between American and American Eagle in the Caribbean,” the statement read. “So far none of them have impacted the Caymans.”
Jane van der Bol, executive director of the Cayman Islands Tourism Association, said businesses in the Cayman Islands were optimistic the storm would veer north, as computer models projected, ensuring sectors of the economy dependant on tourism dollars would face minimal adverse effects. She cited the concern over lost revenue for hotels, restaurants, attractions and water sport activities, as well as lost government revenues via airline, cruise passenger and hotel taxes.
“At this time we hope Issac will continue its northward path and do as little damage to our region as possible,” Ms van der Bol said. “The Cayman Islands are not, at this time, listed in the projected cone and we are encouraging visitors to keep their reservations and enjoy the Cayman Islands.”