Officials formally broke ground on the $55 million airport project in mid-September. … But hold on a minute before take off. We know the shovels are already turning over dirt, but this project is not yet “shovel-ready.”
The missing piece of the airport project is, of course, proper jetways to protect our visitors (and residents) from the sun, heat and rain, and also to accommodate travelers who are weary, burdened with luggage, or unable to walk unassisted.
Cayman Islands Airports Authority CEO Albert Anderson has explained that the government elected not to include jetways (also called boarding bridges) out of concern for costs.
We understand that the jetways aren’t cheap (the price tag to incorporate them into the building design is roughly $20.5 million), but in this instance, that would be money well spent. We therefore urge government – not to stop, pause or delay – but to pursue the Owen Roberts expansion in earnest, with jetways included. In brief, jetways should be classified as a “need,” not a “want.”
In the editorial that appeared in last Friday’s Compass, we outlined four general principles that should be followed in regard to the cruise port project. Those, we believe, are applicable to any major capital project, including the airport expansion.
Those principles are: 1) speed, 2) quality, 3) financing, and 4) context.
In our opinion, the inclusion of jetways can (indeed, should) be done in furtherance of those principles.
The new airport design, while it does not include jetways, does not preclude the addition of jetways in the future. So let us speed up the future into the present, or at least bring our airport of the past into the modern age, and simply build the new airport with jetways, instead of holding out for the possibility of adding them at some later date. While it may take longer to complete a larger airport expansion, the addition of jetways need not “delay” the project.
We made a statement in Friday’s editorial in relation to the cruise dock project that holds true to the airport expansion: “When Cayman sets out to build something of this magnitude, especially in the tourism sector, it must be of the highest quality. Our country deserves nothing less than a world-class project, something that is not only eminently functional but also aesthetically pleasing.”
While our officials seem to have experienced “sticker shock” at the $20.5 million cost of jetways, we believe that, over the 20-year lifespan of the project, that amount, though significant, isn’t prohibitive. Surely our government can find those funds somewhere amid its $850 million-per-year budget. (One could, for example, subtract $1 million a year from the Cayman Turtle Farm’s $10 million annual subsidy … )
In the context of our stay-over visitors’ time in Grand Cayman, the airport is their first and last impression of our country. No matter how marvelous a trip a traveler may have in between, all that becomes somewhat sullied by inconvenience at the airport.
Not only should our tourists be looking forward to being in Cayman again, the prospect of transitioning to and from our country again should incite a similar sentiment of pleasant anticipation – as opposed to dread.
Impressions are important, and appearances are everything. Without jetways, a new airport appears to be an obviously unfinished and incomplete project.
(In a future editorial, we will address another critical transportation issue: the lengthening of the runway.)