New airport design more than doubles size


Airport officials unveiled the new design for Owen Roberts International Airport this week. The airport will more than double in size and in the amount of passengers it can comfortably handle.

Airport representatives and architects working on the new $55-million airport say the new building will be constructed in four phases, allowing the airport to stay in continuous operation throughout the project. The new building will have more than 200,000 square feet and triple the space for public areas in the terminals, a new air-conditioned indoor waiting area for arrivals, and more space for retail and food vendors.

Steve Harrill, an architect with U.S.-based design firm RS&H, said this week that the design is 30 percent complete. “There are a lot of details that aren’t worked out, but a lot of the big picture items are,” he said. He expects to begin construction late this summer on the first phase of the project. If things stay on schedule, the completed airport could be ready in the first half of 2018.

Mr. Harrill said the building, which currently has capacity for 1 million annual travelers, will be able to host 2.7 million annual passengers comfortably, which would be large enough to meet demand for 20-year estimates on how many passengers could pass through Owen Roberts.

When designing an airport or similar building, Mr. Harrill said, “It’s all about putting the right space in the right place.” Airports have public areas, a secure area for after the public goes through screening, and secure areas for baggage handling and other operations.

Christina Ghets, the lead designer on the project with RS&H, said the design was meant to “reflect the distinct character of the Cayman Islands.” After studying Cayman’s cultural heritage and natural history, she said, they decided on a design based around the shape of a green sea turtle, what she called “a very elegant shape.”

She said the design also preserves the prominent A-frames in the current building and adds two smaller A-frames to each side of the main terminal, representing Grand Cayman and the sister islands with the triangles facing out to the tarmac and towards the parking lot.

Mr. Harrill said they have hired several local firms for the construction work.

Funding for the redesign comes from a $13 fee paid by each passenger who passes through the airport, which the Cayman Islands Airports Authority collects from airlines.

Consultants looking at the project earlier said that Cayman Airways owed more than $10 million in unpaid passenger fees, but earlier this year a CIAA representative said the two organizations had reached a deal to repay the debt.

RS&H has been involved in designing numerous airports, including in New Orleans, Palm Springs, Lisbon and San Antonio.


This architect’s rendering shows the airside of the new airport.


This architect’s rendering of the new airport plans shows the landside of the site.


This architect’s rendering shows an aerial view of the planned new airport building at Owen Roberts International Airport.

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  1. Good, I believe this is long over due, and being twice the size as the older one, we can accept that. Everything seems to have gotten bigger in Cayman lately so I guess we will have to maximize on many things.

  2. Congratulations to RSH for their fine redesign of Owen Roberts International Airport! It evokes memories of the great Eero Saarinen TWA terminal at New York’s Idlewild Airport (now JFK international Airport)constructed from 1956-62. Soaring wings. A tortoise shell roof. Accommodating another million passengers.

  3. A larger airport is welcome, but if this is the design, I surely miss standing outside under the covered A frame and the joy of greeting my arriving family. (Or waving goodbye) There’s a charm you feel standing up there that reflects Cayman. I’ll be sad to see it go.

  4. Looks very nice and this will definitely be a welcomed update. I must say I’m a little disappointed it could not include jet-ways. Traveling to and from Cayman for the elderly or those who are disabled is very difficult and stressful. It is too bad we can’t somehow incorporate jet-ways into the design like most other modern airport designs.

  5. I thought the new airport was supposed to bring us into the 21st century not keep us in the past. Still no jet ways etc Who do they think like to remain on a plane while it rains or attempt to come off and run through the rain to the immigration. If this is the future it sure looks sad. what a joke!!

  6. Yes all fair enough, but the fact they can’t sort out the parking machines in 3 years leads me to doubt their ability to deliver this project on budget or time. Who picks up the tab for the inevitable cost over-runs?

  7. No jetways is an issue. Perhaps they can buy a couple of those airport buses that can rise up to the high of the airplane doors. I have seen them used at Washington DC airport.

    But better to have jetways.

  8. Is this what a new state of the art airport looks like? You will still have to walk out in the sun and the rain to get on and off the plane. You’d think they could at least include some awnings into the design to help keep people cool and dry..

    I will only believe it when I see it anyway, I will bet anyone that the temporary structure will most likely need to last the next ten years or more.

  9. The best improvement they could make to most travelers’ experience would be to introduce US customs and immigration here – in the same way as has been done in Bahamas and elsewhere.

    That and a longer runway, of course.

  10. Having just flown out a few days ago, Capacity is defintely a challenge for the airport. While I was waiting to board, we had 9 planes lined up outside which is the most I have ever seen at one time. The major issues with the airport in the current state involve the security check-in lines and the waiting area. While waiting, we were so cramped in like hearded cattle, with noplace to walk around and bathroom lines down the hall. The expansion should help relieve some of the capacity issue and hopefully should address some of these other concerns but just make sure that the improvements that are made are modern enough so that once the facility is built, you are not already 15 years behind everyone else. Build and design based on the future expectations and now simply what is needed today. And yes, a jetway would be nice for those days that are rainy and nasty.