Airport project focuses on capacity issues
Boarding bridges that allow travelers to walk directly from planes to the terminal would have added more than $20 million to the cost of the planned Owen Roberts International Airport redevelopment, airport officials said.
The Cayman Islands Airports Authority unveiled the initial designs on Monday for the US$55 million project, confirming that passengers would still be required to disembark via stairs to the tarmac and walk to the terminal.
Airport bosses acknowledge that boarding bridges, also known as jetways, would add to passenger convenience and comfort, particularly with an expected influx of medical tourists as Health City Cayman Islands grows.
They have not ruled out adding them in future, but say it is simply too expensive right now.
An expansion to the runway at the airport to accommodate long-haul flights was also ruled out as too expensive and not currently supported by airline demand.
The new design will mean the outdoor “waving gallery” where friends and relatives greet arriving passengers will be no more. Currently, people waiting for arriving friends and relatives can take up positions on the second floor, under a wooden A-frame, to wave at those walking from the plane to the terminal building.
“Although we realize that this unique feature was very popular with Caymanian travelers and their families, it is a sad fact that the world today demands that much more stringent security regulations need to be implemented to meet world class standards,” the authority said in a statement.
“Jetways are something we would like to do, but we simply cannot make them work within the budget we have,” said Albert Anderson, chief executive officer of the Airports Authority.
“The estimated cost is CI$20.5 million for the jetways and the infrastructure that supports them, including elevators, escalators and the like,” he said. “This amounts to approximately 40 percent of our overall budget and they do not address the main issue we have, which is terminal congestion. They are also very costly to maintain.”
The designs announced Monday were based on an action plan laid out in a business case produced last year outlining the options for the airport.
That business case suggested that the project should be funded through CIAA revenues, primarily the $13 passenger facilities charge.
It concluded that expanding the terminal building was the top priority for Owen Roberts airport, which was said to be operating at double its intended capacity.
The plans announced Monday triple the space for public areas inside the terminal and increase the number of passengers that can be comfortably handled annually at the facility to 2.7 million.
Mr. Anderson said the Cayman Islands Airports Authority is looking at other options to better deal with disabled passengers.
The report by PwC suggested that a “mobile solution” at a cost of $1 million would be sufficient, based on current budget and demand.
It suggested that as Health City grows and passenger volumes increase, boarding bridges could be reconsidered.
“Given that boarding bridges are primarily targeted at passenger convenience, rather than resolving capacity issues, the level of cost would put considerable pressure on overall project affordability,” the report said.
“However, it is important to ensure that the infrastructure adequately supports the Health City initiative, given the potentially transformative impact on the Cayman Islands economy,” the report said.