If you’re flying most airlines out of Grand Cayman and leaving the three-island chain, outbound passenger immigration checks are now a thing of the past.
However, Cayman Islands Immigration Department officials said Monday that Cayman Airways passengers will still face outbound checks on some flights due to security issues with the airline’s Advanced Passenger Information System.
The matter was raised after East End MLA Arden McLean questioned lawmakers during Legislative Assembly Finance Committee proceedings concerning why some passengers were still having to face outbound immigration checks.
“It’s a little complicated,” Premier Alden McLaughlin said in response.
In August 2013, following up on a program started by the former United Democratic Party government, the Cayman Islands airport system started a pilot project that sought to eliminate the need for outbound immigration checks for departing passengers. The move would save time for travelers and mean less staffing requirement for immigration officers at Owen Roberts International Airport on Grand Cayman, the government said.
Acting Chief Immigration Officer Bruce Smith said Cayman was essentially piggybacking on an automated passenger pre-screening process that had been adopted throughout many places in the world, known as APIS or the Advanced Passenger Information System.
The APIS allows airlines to do a pre-screen on passengers on flights leaving their jurisdictions to determine, for instance, whether those passengers might be wanted on local arrest warrants. If that was the case, Mr. Smith said, those particular passengers would be flagged and not allowed to leave the jurisdiction.
Mr. Smith said a number of “technical tests” were performed to ensure that passenger data coming from the airlines was consistent and that information could be obtained in time, in case there was a problem.
Every single irline coming in and out of Owen Roberts Airport is now participating in outbound pre-clearance, including some Cayman Airways flights, Mr. Smith said.
However, Cayman Airways does not have every destination included in the pre-screening process, he said.
“Whilst we were rooting for Cayman Airways to be one of the first [to implement APIS], that didn’t work out,” Mr. Smith said.
Once Cayman Airways can provide outbound pre-checks error-free to the standards immigration has established, all CAL flights will be able to eliminate the outbound passenger screening process. In cases where they can’t, the manual checks are still used.
“Security had to be in the forefront of our mission,” he said. “There was no real room for error.”