Jetways off table for airport

Jetways off table for airport

Boarding ramps and portable “box tunnels” will be used at the Owen Roberts International Airport as an alternative to the passenger boarding bridges, left out of the $55 million redevelopment plan for Grand Cayman’s airport. 

Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell said Friday there were no immediate plans to add boarding bridges, known as jetways, which he said would cost an additional $20m. 

Mr. Kirkconnell, answering questions the Legislative Assembly from former Premier McKeeva Bush, said the option to add jetways remained part of the overall master plan for Grand Cayman’s airports and may be possible at a later date. But he said the immediate priority, with the funds available, was the expansion of the severely overcrowded terminal building. 

He acknowledged that jetways added an extra level of convenience for the elderly and for medical tourists. 

He said, “Given the affordability constraints and the fact that jetways do not contribute to any of the needs priorities, they are not currently included in the terminal plan, although it is recognized they do represent benefit for visitors in terms of convenience.” 

He added, “Provision has been made to add them at a later date as funds become available.” 

As an interim measure, he said Cayman Airways has purchased boarding ramps for elderly and disabled passengers and the Cayman Islands Airports Authority is looking at purchasing “box tunnels” – expandable, vinyl coverings – to protect passengers from the rain. 

He said the cost of the boarding ramps was $50,000 for the jets, and $25,000 for the Saab aircraft, scheduled to be used on the Cayman Brac commuter route. 

He said adding capacity for jetways – elevated boarding bridges which allow passengers to walk directly from the plane to the arrivals hall – would involve additional costs associated with adapting the terminal building to facilitate passenger arrivals on the upper floor. 

“The scale of the cost is completely different,” he said. 

Another idea that remains off the agenda for the airport redevelopment, at least for now, is extending the runway to facilitate long haul flights. Fielding questions from Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush, Mr. Kirkconnell said there were significant environmental and logistical constraints to any runway expansion. 

He said the runway, at its current length, was sufficient for all the planes coming into the island. 

“No airlines have currently indicated a future commitment to long haul routes, particularly out of Europe,” he added. 

Mr. Bush said he was unimpressed with the airport plans. He told the Cayman Compass he did not believe that proper jetways would cost as much as $20 million. 

He believes government needs to look again at the airport plans. 

“I think we need to plan for the future. This town can’t be revitalized the way it should be if they don’t have a proper airport. We need to provide the same level of service as other countries are doing.” 

Mr. Bush believes a more radical plan is needed, including building an entirely new airport, elsewhere on the island and using the current site for the expansion of George Town.  

Mr. Kirkconnell

Mr. Kirkconnell


  1. Penny-wise, pound foolish re not providing jetways to protect arriving and departing passengers at rebuilt ORIA. Rented blue vinyl "box tunnels" will remind Caymanians of all those blue tarp rooves after Hurricanes Ivan and Paloma. Hats off to Moses I. Kirkconnell, our excellent Deputy Prime Minister for his sterling efforts of upgrading the airport terminals in George Town and Cayman Brac. On the fervent wish-list of all Caymanians, removal of huge dumps, Mt. Trashmore and Mini Mt. Trashmore, from their present locations.

  2. There will be a larger terminal. For what??????? Just add some more restrooms and chairs, and call it a day. Enabling and encouraging larger aircraft to land at Owen Roberts is off the table. Jetways projected cost is ridiculous at $20 million. Get another bid. One that is realistic. That is also off the table. Here is another example of management not clearly identifying the future needs of a country who rely on tourism dollars. That is too bad for Cayman.

  3. Many contributors have rightly commented previously on this subject that jetways are simply out of the question due to the cost. I suggest Mr Bush will benefit from using the stairs.
    As for building a new airport elsewhere, where does he think the money would come from, unless it grows on the trees in West Bay.

  4. Quite agree that jetways would be just too pricey. Also they get jammed on a regular basis in major international airports.
    So more complexity and more unreliability in our very humid conditions.

    Thinking outside the box, would it be possible to design some sort of safely enclosed box for wheelchair passengers that could be lifted from the ground to the top of the runway stairs using a forklift truck?
    There would have to be windows and the enclosed platform would be the size of a regular pallet. But I think it could be done.

  5. People screaming for jetways should consider this – passengers arriving at Heathrow T5 today (20 Oct) on BA252 from GCM and NAS deplaned at a remote stand and were taken in by bus. If BA can do that and conform with the disability access requirements in the UK then you do not need jetways at ORIA.

    Taking that fact aside, the problem with jetways in a small airport like ORIA is that they create major traffic management problems inside the terminal because you have inbound and outbound passengers using just one route. A re-vamp at ORIA including jetways would have to be at least two-storey with contingency arrangements to cater for break downs and emergencies – you do not just bolt them to the outside wall of the building. 20 million is probably a very conservative estimate of the cost.

  6. I agree with the comments of Nan Socolow, "Pennywise, Pound foolish re not providing jetways…". As a pro-development individual myself, I am pleased that the CIAA is expected to begin work on ORIA in January 2016, to be completed in the first half of 2018. It is regretted, however, that the PPM Government has decided not to include jetways. The Deputy Premier has acknowledged the jetways would add "an extra level of convenience for the elderly and for medical tourists", but appears to have disregarded this fact as not being important enough for inclusion in the airport redevelopment plan.

    I could hardly believe my eyes when I read the further comments of the Hon. Minister with responsibility for this subject, when he states, "Given the affordability constraints and the fact that jetways do not contribute to any of the needs priorities, they are not currently in the terminal plan, although it is recognized they do represent benefit for visitors in terms of convenience". My question is, how can the Hon. Minister state that "jetways do not contribute to any of the needs priorities". Is he oblivious to the needs of the travelling public, including: the sick, infirm, and disable individuals–it is not just "visitors in terms of convenience" that we are concerned about!

    Further, the Hon. Minister has stated that, "Provision has been made to add them at a later date as funds become available". Another question to the Hon. Minister is: What are the details of the provisions to which he refers? Do these include necessary infrastructure to the building to accommodate jetways?

  7. @ Norman Linton

    Check out Lift-A-Lot. ORIA should have had wheelchair handling equipment like this years ago and it is an absolute disgrace that nothing has ever been done about it.

  8. No jetways….doesn’t really matter. Dredge the harbour, destroy the coral, kill the marine life, cover the Cali…. build a cruise ship berthing facility and you won”t need jetways.