Flights between Cayman Brac and the coastal city of Holguin in eastern Cuba begin next month, with Cayman Airways officials confident the Cuba connection will continue to pay dividends.
Several international carriers are reportedly getting ready to run scheduled flights between the U.S. mainland and Cuba in anticipation of a further thaw in relations between the two countries. But CAL boss Fabian Whorms says demand through Cayman is likely to remain strong for the foreseeable future.
He said the Holguin flight, originating in Miami and transiting through Cayman Brac, has been added to meet growing demand for travel between Cuba and the U.S., through the territory. Officials hope it will also bring “dual destination” travel to Cayman Brac and Cuba.
The first flight will take off from the Brac’s Charles Kirkconnell International Airport on Nov. 28, a Saturday.
Mr. Whorms acknowledged the anticipated opening up of Cuba, after a 54-year trade embargo with the U.S., would potentially bring extra supply, in the form of scheduled flights from the U.S. to Cuba. But he said it would be some time before U.S. airlines are able to ramp up their operations to meet increased demand. For the time being, he believes there is still plenty of opportunity for Cayman in the Cuba market.
“While there are many passengers currently able to legally travel between the Cuba and the U.S., the tremendous increase in passenger volumes through unrestricted travel could represent extra business for Cayman Airways and extra business for our airports in Cayman, even with them never setting foot in Cayman,” he said.
“In a nutshell, the opening up of Cuba could potentially bring extra demand which will not be met by a corresponding increase in supply in the form of scheduled flights from the U.S. to Cuba.”
The payoff for the Cayman Islands in transiting Cubans through the territory is the ability to schedule flights that would otherwise be economically unsustainable.
“The ability to carry a few more passengers can mean the ultimate success or failure of a route. More demand to or from Cuba means more frequent flights for the Miami route, ultimately benefiting overall connectivity to the Cayman Islands,” said Mr. Whorms.
The Holguin flight will be the first international return flight in and out of Cayman Brac’s newly refurbished international airport. The route also involves a return flight to Miami from the Brac.
Mr. Whorms added, “Holguin is Cuba’s fourth most populous city and was selected due to its close proximity to Santiago de Cuba and Camaguey, Cuba’s second and third most populous cities, respectively.
“It is also anticipated that many of the airline’s existing Havana passengers, many of whom are from Cuba’s eastern towns, will be able to utilize this direct service and avoid lengthy travel between the capital city and their hometowns.” While Cuba-bound travelers may provide the economic rationale for the route, it is hoped that the route will also attract new tourists to the Brac.
Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell said Holguin is a popular resort area for Europeans and Canadians.
“CAL’s new flights to Holguin will provide connectivity as well as dual destination opportunities for Canadian and European travelers, which is excellent for Cayman,” he added.
When the new Saturday service begins, flight KX842 will depart Cayman Brac at 1:30 p.m., arriving in Holguin at 2:30 p.m. From Holguin to the Brac, flight KX843 will depart at 3:30 p.m. and arrive at 4:30 p.m.