Earlier plan involved three jetways
An earlier plan for the expansion of the Owen Roberts International Airport included three passenger boarding bridges at an estimated cost of $4.65 million.
Boarding bridges, also known as jetways, were left out of the current $55 million expansion of the airport because they were deemed to be too costly.
Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell and airport boss Albert Anderson cited an expected $20 million price tag for the jetways, which allow passengers to walk directly from the departure lounge onto the plane.
Former Tourism Minister McKeeva Bush said the old plan, which was being circulated in April 2012, offered “more for less” than the current project. He said the plan showed boarding bridges, considered important for medical tourists, could be included at a much lower cost than government was suggesting.
The Outline Business Case for the airport expansion, which broke ground last month, indicates a $20.5 million cost for 10 boarding bridges.
Albert Anderson, CEO of the Cayman Islands Airports Authority, said that estimate actually offered better value once the second-floor construction costs were factored in. He said 10 boarding bridges, rather than three, would be more in line with the operational requirements of the airport.
The April 2012 plan proposed an expansion of the ground floor departure lounge and the creation of a new upper floor departure lounge, VIP area and concessions. It outlined costs of $13.125 million for the work, with an additional $4.65 million for three jetways.
The cost estimates in the document, produced by Arch and Godfrey, also indicate that the runway could be extended 1,500 feet into the North Sound for $22 million.
The document, a presentation by the firm to the previous CIAA board, is an outline plan dated April 2012.
Current tourism leaders appeared to be unaware of the plan. A separate, much more detailed master plan was produced in 2013 by consultants the WSP Group as part of an Outline Business Case for the redevelopment of Cayman’s three airports over the next 20 years.
That plan highlighted the expansion of the terminal building as the most urgent priority for Owen Roberts.
A key difference in the WSP proposal, being carried forward by the CIAA, is for the departure lounge to remain on the ground floor rather than expanding to become a two-story building.
The implications of that decision appear to make boarding bridges an all-or-nothing proposition which would require the installation of an otherwise redundant second floor.
An alternative, cheaper proposal, involves the use of ramps to enable jetways to be used from the ground floor terminal. Ultimately, the consultants concluded that boarding bridges were not financially possible immediately and should take second place to the more pressing need to expand the terminal. They suggested they could be added at a later date, particularly if Health City Cayman Islands proves to be a success and more medical tourists are using the airport.
They wrote, “As part of the expansion of the Owen Roberts International Airport terminal, WSP concludes that it would be possible to provide boarding bridges via a second walkway for an estimated cost of circa CI$20.4m. Alternatively, ground loaded boarding bridges could be provided for a lower cost of circa CI$12m. Given that boarding bridges are primarily targeted at passenger convenience, rather than resolving capacity issues, this level of cost would put considerable pressure on overall project affordability.”