Owen Roberts International Airport is operating at double its capacity during peak times, says Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell.
Speaking at the Cayman Islands Tourism Association’s annual general meeting, Mr. Kirkconnell said overcrowding at the airport was a problem that needed to be quickly fixed, along with inadequate staffing levels.
He said operating six out of 12 immigration lines during peak times was “absolutely not acceptable.”
“Owen Roberts International airport – the main gateway to our islands – was built to accommodate 500,000 passengers and is now operating at double its capacity,” Mr. Kirkconnell said.
“Not surprisingly, this is resulting in congestion and overcrowding, particularly at peak travel times.”
Mr. Kirkconnell said government had issued a policy directive to enhance existing facilities at all three of the islands’ airports, including baggage X-ray screening equipment compliant with international standards at Cayman Brac to enable direct flights to and from the United States and Cuba.
“Later this month, we expect to receive PWC’s analysis of the various redevelopment options submitted for their consideration; along with a business case outlining their recommendations,” Mr. Kirkconnell said.
“In the meantime, a series of critical upgrades have been completed at Owen Roberts to manage the higher passenger quotas and provide more comfort and convenience for travelers.”
Tina Choy, fire safety inspector for the Cayman Islands Fire Department, confirmed there was a maximum legal capacity for the airport in the conditions of its certificate of occupancy.
A spokeswoman for the Central Planning Authority said she could not discuss the occupancy certificate because it was currently under review.
Cayman Islands Airport Authority acting chief of customer and commercial services, Bianca Moore-Downey, said the authority was in the final stages of developing an Airport Master Plan that would determine short-term, medium-term and long-term action.
“When that is complete, we will know what options we can do, and what we can afford, to expand the terminal building,” Ms. Moore-Downey said. “This need has been here for several years.”
She said the authority had been using extra staff since December and continued to increase staff levels on weekends. In recent months, the airport has been packed over the weekends, forcing the airports authority to erect tents and open up additional areas to accommodate travelers leaving or arriving at the Owen Roberts International Airport.