Cayman Airways drops Panama route

Cayman Airways has dropped its seasonal flight to Panama, with government signaling a switch in policy from attempting to attract new tourists from South America.

Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell said the country was focusing on its core markets as well as attempting to open up access, through Dallas, to “pockets of wealth” on the west coast of the U.S.

He said the tourism budget had been cut by 30 percent and the funds were not available to make speculation in South America successful.

“Strategically we would like to be reaching out to that new South American market, but for the next 12-month period we have taken our resources and we are looking at strengthening our core market,” he said during a Finance Committee hearing on Cayman Airways annual budget.

He suggested that tourism industry figureheads, who partner with the DoT, on marketing and promotion of the island were currently more interested in tapping into the U.S. west coast market.

The Panama flight ran at a small $60,000 profit, Mr. Kirkconnell said in response to questions from opposition leader McKeeva Bush.

“We believe we can take that plane and move it to another gateway and have a better return on investment for the country,” Mr. Kirkconnell said.

He acknowledged that American Airlines was now opening a route from Dallas into Grand Cayman on Saturdays – the same day as Cayman Airways. He said CAL’s schedule was already in place and could not be changed in response, though that could happen eventually.

He said the route was good news because the aim was to maximize flights from Dallas to increase profits for the island.

Cayman Airways plans to start running direct flights between Miami, Cayman Brac and the coastal city of Holguin in eastern Cuba, in the next financial year.

Fabian Whorms, president of the airline, said he did not believe the thawing of relations between the U.S. and Cuba would negatively impact plans to open up the route.

He said the number of seats available for people in the U.S. to get to Cuba was currently at less than 10 percent of the demand.

“It is actually an early stage in the game,” said Mr. Whorms.

He said any easing of travel restrictions between the U.S. and Cuba would actually work in CAL’s favor in the short term because larger airlines would not be able to “switch capacity” to meet demand. Mr. Kirkconnell said the route would help Cayman attract new business from tourists making dual destination trips.

Legislators approved a total of $22 million in appropriations to the airline. These include $2.85 million for the domestic service to the Brac and Little Cayman, $14.5 million for “strategic tourism” routes and a $5.1 million equity injection to help address past debt.



  1. What always amazes me with discussions involving CAL is how much complete and utter rubbish they seem to contain.

    Maybe I just fail to grasp the jargon but quite how this change will maximize flights from Dallas to increase profits for the island without any tie in with other airlines using that hub escapes me. If CAL really want to maximize the benefits of using Dallas they need to be working with other airlines who are already flying passengers there. CAL needs to get their identity on the big carriers websites as a partner or code sharer. Going it alone on a route like this in the current airline market doesn’t work.

    With AA flying every Saturday CAL should simply be code-sharing that service with them and then picking up on the mid-week passengers rather than competing.

    Similarly, I am confused about the suggestion that larger airlines might find it difficult to switch capacity to meet demand as Cuba opens up. One thing major airlines are not short of is either capacity or the means of increasing it.

    Unlike CAL they can just put bigger aircraft on the route or increase the frequency of the service. If you look at how many flights are already operating to Cuba from the USA (a service from New York starts on July 3) any contribution CAL may make is rapidly becoming a drop in the proverbial ocean.

    The projections are that 1 million US citizens will legally visit Cuba in 2015, the vast majority of them travelling on scheduled charter flights from the USA.

    Reading this it yet again looks like everybody involved in running CAL is living in airy-fairy land.

  2. I had always been under the impression that Panama was part of Central America, not South America. As for the $60,000 "profit" I find that hard to believe and I would be very interested to see what the average load factors were on this route.
    The whole concept of attracting tourists from anywhere in the South/Central American region was fanciful in the extreme. Latin Americans are primarily interested in shopping and spend vast amounts in Florida which also has far more beach resorts than we do.
    As for the Saturday route to Dallas it would have been obvious to a kindergarten student that American with their Dallas hub would match this immediately.
    Rather than opening new routes of dubious profitability Cayman Airways need to look at offering more competitive fares. As it stands passengers flying in and out of these islands pay some of the highest $ per mile rates of any airline anywhere.

  3. Why isn’t Cayman Airways looking at Canadian destinations. If they can’t compete with flights into Toronto, then try Hamilton, Ontario, 15 minutes away. The Canadian dollar is low against the CI$ and there is lots of shopping and entertainment in Toronto. Also there are lots of Canadians here that want to visit ”home”.

  4. That’s a good point on the Canadian route but you have to remember Air Canada are currently flying Toronto to ORIA via Houston using United for the final leg, which suggests to me they don’t think direct flights are worth scheduling.

    Also CAL are operating three pretty well used 737-300s. Toronto is a 1700 mile flight with potential range and fuel load issues so I doubt it’s doable on a regular basis without newer equipment.

    Really we again come back to the code-sharing issue. If there is a potential market here why is CAL not trying to form a working partnership with Air Canada to exploit this market? Right now the only tie in CAL has with Air Canada involves routing through Kingston with a 22 hour journey time.

    The other harsh reality is if you look at the arrivals figures from Canada they’re pretty static so the exchange rate isn’t all good news, particularly when Canadians can go to Cuba for a fraction of the cost of a trip to Grand Cayman.