Airport upgrade paves way for flights to Cuba and Miami
Direct flights between Cayman Brac, Miami and eastern Cuba could be scheduled by June following a $1 million upgrade to the island’s airport.
The official opening last week of the expanded airport on the Brac, which features new baggage screening equipment, paves the way for the destination to service international flights for the first time since new security requirements were introduced in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States.
Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell said Cayman Airways is in the process of securing certification to introduce international flights to and from the U.S., as well as the city of Holguin, Cuba.
“International commercial flights can now fly directly to and from Cayman Brac, which is a fundamental change that allows us to significantly broaden our horizons,” he said at the opening on Thursday.
Currently, Cayman Airways runs a Saturday flight direct from Miami to the Brac. But the return leg has had to stop in Grand Cayman because the Charles Kirkconnell airport did not have the necessary baggage screening technology.
That route is likely to be replaced in June with a direct flight from Miami to the Brac and on to Cuba, returning via the same route.
“The addition of state-of-the-art baggage screening equipment has effectively linked the Charles Kirkconnell International Airport to other international gateways and to new opportunities that exist beyond our shores,” Mr. Kirkconnell said.
He said the link with Holguin means flights to the Brac could be buffered by transit traffic between the U.S. and Cuba. He added that the city, not previously serviced by any airline in Cayman, has transit links to Europe and South America.
He said direct international flights are fundamental to increasing tourism in the Brac, and suggested the airport enhancements would provide a shot in the arm to the economy.
“You have to make it easy for tourists to get to your island. Non-stop flights are key.”
He said the policy of using Cayman Airways strategically to make it easy to get to and from the Cayman Islands is paying off, with arrival figures peaking at a record 380,000 last year.
The addition of a new 30-seater Embraer aircraft between Grand Cayman and the Brac has already had an impact on tourist arrival figures, he said.
The minister, also MLA for the Sister Islands, believes new international flights will fuel an upturn in the island’s economy, which is heavily dependent on the public sector.
Upgrades to the airport include an expansion of the arrivals hall and departure lounge. The facility can now accommodate 170 passengers.
Albert Anderson, CEO of the Cayman Islands Airports Authority, said the conveyor belt has also been extended and a covered baggage area introduced.
He said the major works on the Brac are now complete, and the focus of upgrades is moving to the Owen Roberts International Airport. The expansion to Grand Cayman’s main airport will double the capacity of the facility and take around three-and-a-half years to complete, he said.