Cannot be disclosed, deputy premier says
The cost of operating new, larger Cayman Airways flights between Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac cannot be disclosed because it is considered commercially sensitive information, Cayman Islands Deputy Premier Moses Kirkconnell said Thursday.
Mr. Kirkconnell made the statement in response to a parliamentary question from North Side MLA Ezzard Miller, who asked government how much it was costing, per day, to operate Embraer turboprop flights to Cayman Brac, how many “paying passengers” were required for the airline to break even on each flight, and the average number of passengers per flight since operations began.
The deputy premier said that responding to Mr. Miller’s questions in a public forum would put Cayman Airways “at a competitive disadvantage.”
The new flights with the larger, 30-seat Embraer aircraft, began in October 2014. The larger planes offer flight attendant service and have lavatory facilities, unlike the smaller Twin Otter aircraft, Cayman Airways Chief Executive Fabian Whorms said at the time.
The introduction of the larger planes was expected to allow the smaller turboprops to be used for service between Little Cayman and Cayman Brac.
No other airline in the world flies between Grand Cayman and its two smaller Sister Islands, a fact that left East End MLA Arden McLean wondering at Mr. Kirkconnell’s response to the question.
“What is commercially sensitive … when we do not have any competition in that arena?” Mr. McLean asked.
Mr. Kirkconnell rose to respond, but was cut off by Speaker of the House Juliana O’Connor-Connolly, who noted that under Legislative Assembly Standing Orders, the deputy premier had determined the question could not be answered in open parliament and did not have to explain himself further.
Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush asked if Mr. Kirkconnell could brief legislators in private about the flight costs, if he did not want to discuss the matter openly. Mr. Kirkconnell said he would be willing to release a copy of the business plan for the Embraer planes.
Mr. Bush said he also wanted information about the lease agreement for the planes.
However, Mr. Miller declined any offer to be briefed in private by government members about the cost and passenger loads on the flights because “somebody [is] going to be accused of leaking [the information] out.”
“I don’t want [there] to be a party of us going behind locked doors and sharing information that is to be kept confidential,” Mr. Miller said.
Deputy Premier Kirkconnell said in October that the larger Embraer planes would increase available seats going to and from the Brac, boosting not only the local tourism product but also the island’s general economy.
“Cayman Airways has been able to time the flights of the 30-seater to also connect with Little Cayman flights on the Twin Otter and many other international flights into and out of Grand Cayman,” Mr. Kirkconnell said.
The Embraer 120 aircraft were initially scheduled to fly twice a day to and from Cayman Brac, except Tuesdays when they are down for routine maintenance. Additional flights will be added on heavier demand days, the airline said.