Airports boss: Jetways 'too expensive'

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. 


  1. An improved, presumably up to date airport terminal is welcome in Cayman. Surely it is needed desperately. An airport without jetways, is like a car without tires. This is not just a convenience, but a necessity to elderly, handicapped and anyone else who simply cannot make the stairs from the plane to the tarmac. This must be analyzed again, as many individuals are affected negatively by deleting this important airport feature.

  2. More space will be great but to the tune of 55 million, I am not very impressed with this design. As far as I understand the primary reason for this was to accommodate more flyers and make the customer experience better, as well as be prepared to handle an influx of medical tourists. They could have at least incorporated some awnings to walk under from the planes. There’s plenty of types from stationary to mobile and I don’t think that they would cost an extra 20 Million.

    There also doesn’t seem to be much parking either. While you’re at it why not incorporate a solar panel covered parking lot to reduce the cost of energy for the airport, this is supposed to be state of the art and modern right. I think Cayman needs an airport that really makes a statement an is representative of High End destination.

    I am also curious about the fact that the runway may very likely need to be lengthened, Where will it go ?

  3. Airport boss come clean to the people to the cost of the new airport cost, please don’t tell me that the jet ways would cost almost half of what the new terminal would cost to build, and the cost to do anything do not go down in the future, it goes up.

  4. I fully endorse Michael Davis’ comments on covered walways. I was scheduled to leave on American to Miami last Monday but there was a long delay as there was a heavy rainstorm. Courtesy of the airport authority the incoming American flight had to park 150 yards from the arrivals area and some 80 yards beyond the covered walkway. This meant the incoming passengers had to sit on the plane for 15 minutes after the plane was parked, waiting for the rain to stop, before they could deplane. We then had to wait for the aircraft to be serviced before we could board and eventually left long after scheduled departure time.
    This problem is much worse in the rainy season and as usual the authorities do nothing to address this situation.. The cost of covered walkways is minimal compared to jet bridges and needs to be addressed immediately.
    Goverment crows about increased air and cruise ship traffic but treats these golden geese with disdain. Look at the harbour where you see long lines containing hundreds of passengers queueing out in the open in the broiling sun and/or pouring rain waiting for the tenders to return to their ships.Government built a new terminal, not to address this problem, but only to satisfy the demands of local businesses to extract more dollars from the visitors by providing retail outlets and little else.
    If we want more revenue from tourism then Goverment needs to be proactive, rather than reactive as it usually is. We have thousands of civil servants so surely some of them can be assigned to addressing these problems before they become chronic.

  5. @ Lukishi Brown

    I don’t think the lack of airbridges, jetways or whatever else you want to call them is a huge issue. In the UK neither London City Airport nor London Luton Airport have them. I’ve also been through major airports in Germany with walk out gates like the ones ORIA currently has. Even Heathrow T5 has remote stands accessed by buses.

    Bottom line is that jetbridges are expensive, complicated (as in needing skilled maintenance and operation) and if they go tech on you the whole gate gets shut down and nothing moves. Better to design the airport without them and find alternative options to deal with passengers needing assistance.

  6. Micheal Davies provided an interesting link to the mobile walkways developed for Branson Airport.

    I can’t imagine they would cost more than a few thousand dollars to construct. And they could be moved from plane to plane as needed.

  7. Perhaps 20,000,000.00 is a little lofty a price. Jetways are too important a feature to dismiss. Those who come to Cayman for surgery or treatment at the new Health City Hospital, can’t be expected to travel up and down stairs to a plane. Nor should any tourist. With the influx of new hotels on Cayman, bringing more tourism dollars, it only make sense to accommodate these welcome folks in an up to date airport facility.

  8. The authority says it is too expensive to do now, I am sure they are in the best position to assess the Value for money part of this design.. When you step off that plane and that Cayman atmosphere hit you in the face, yes’ you in the Caribbean. It’s like a first taste. We can put walkways on the airport which needs to be built in Breakers to serve the medical tourism, and our back-up landing site.

  9. My biggest concern is, how do you build a huge building over an old building while still using it? If you knock down a 1/4 of the building it will take 6-12 months unless prefabricated.
    What about delays from rain? What about delays from emergency ( cargo plane landed on one engine)
    I believe we are building an airport that should be used by private and cargo jets.
    Why not build a completely new airport east you would save time and money. You could build a second runway for such emergencies.
    The same story with the cruise ship piers. This is like a renovation, it takes time to knock down, remove, then build new. I think this will have cost overruns like the school and turtle farm. In my opinion that is.

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