Cayman Airways to replace fleet

Cayman Airways’ Boeing 737-300 planes will be replaced by the next generation Boeing 737-8Max aircraft. – PHOTO: TANEOS RAMSAY

Cayman Airways will replace its fleet of aging jets with four new “state of the art” aircraft over the next four years.

Government has approved a “fleet modernization plan” for the national airline to replace the four 737-300 jets, which are between 15 and 20 years old, with new 737-8Max planes, straight off the Boeing production line.

Tourism and airline leaders said the switch would essentially pay for itself and will not result in any increase in the government contributions to Cayman Airways, which totaled $23 million at the last budget.

Cayman Airways CEO Fabian Whorms said the superior fuel efficiency, lower operational costs and greater passenger capacity of the new planes made the switch affordable.

Philip Rankin, chairman of the airline’s board of directors, added, “Based on our projections, from maintenance savings and fuel alone we can more than pay for the lease on these aircraft.”

The 737-8Max planes have 40 more seats and burn 20 percent less fuel than the 300-series, according to Mr. Whorms.

Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell said the new jets would significantly expand the reach of the airline, potentially enabling it to open up new routes, direct from the west coast of the U.S.

He said upgrading the fleet would position Cayman Airways to take advantage of an anticipated boom in tourism arrivals and improve its bottom line.

With new developments, including the Kimpton Hotel, Margaritaville and Dart’s planned five-star hotel on Seven Mile Beach in the works, he said there was a 20 percent increase in “room stock” expected.

He added, “We want to put them in a position to be successful for the growth that is coming.”

Neither Mr. Kirkconnell nor Mr. Rankin would say how much they expect the annual lease arrangement to cost in advance of the procurement process, through the Central Tenders Committee. The planes cost between $90 and $110 million to buy, according to Boeing’s website.

Mr. Whorms said the technical advances made by Boeing in developing the next generation of 737 aircraft made the arrangement possible.

“We are at a time in history where technology is bringing costs down and we are able to take advantage of that,” he said.

“These planes are completely state of the art.”

He said the model was designed to deliver a level of reliability that was unprecedented.

Cayman Airways has been plagued by delays in recent years, largely caused by maintenance issues with its fleet. Mr. Whorms said the new aircraft would mean a “75 percent reduction” in delays.

“This positions us at the front of the pack when it comes to equipment … Because of the significant improvement in reliability, we will be able to do a lot more with less.”

He said the additional cargo space also created potential business opportunities for Cayman Airways.

The airline will bring a different Boeing 800 series plane into service in November as an interim measure, and intends to replace the full fleet of 737-300s on a phased timetable between 2018 and 2020.

By 2020, the airline will have a full fleet of four 737-8Max aircraft.

Cayman Airways purchased three of its 737-300 aircraft, which it had previously leased, in 2014. Mr. Rankin said the decision made sense at that time because the cost to buy the planes was significantly lower than the lease cost over a five-year period.

He said it had always been the plan to replace the planes with more modern aircraft as they were due for “retirement,” though he said there was still interest from other airlines in purchasing them from CAL.

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  1. Good news, they were long over due; now what they also need to do is to replace all those old wear out patched up boats they have running at the RCIP Marine, expecting police to perform miracles in them.
    Bodden Town police station could do with an extra motor vehicle, some furniture and a good paint job to the station.
    If a hurricane comes this year, and destroys Bodden Town again we all will have to close down the Primary school once more to live in, because Politically grievances, for a measly little $115, 000. the government will NOT finish the Hurricane shelter in this Town. How sad.

  2. I’d be interested to see the business case for this and get some idea of what CAL’s current load factors are with the existing fleet before getting to excited. A 737-8Max may carry 40 more passengers and burn 20% less fuel but that doesn’t mean very much if you can’t fill those seats.

    I don’t have figures for 737-8Max but about four years ago a new 737-800 cost just over half-a-million a month to lease plus an initial down payment of three-and-a-half-million, those figure are in US$. That’s a heck of a lot of money to cover flying passengers on what is a fairly limited route network, particularly when you’re competing with major US carriers on the much of it.

    I don’t believe CAL has the business to justify this move and it worries me that if this is, as I suspect it may be, over-ambitious they’ll again come crying to CIG to cover their losses. Bearing in mind that air travel in this region is in the process of a very dramatic change as Cuba opens up I’d treat this with extreme caution because if they’ve got it wrong the losses are going to be substantial.

    As the 737-300 fleet approaches retirement it would have made much more sense for CAL to start down-sizing and entering into code share agreements with the big US carriers to cover their routes. That way they’d still have the business but wouldn’t have the fleet and staffing overheads.

  3. Two words in the dictionary I love very much, one is “Encouragement, and the other is Team”.
    Those two words put together can move mountains. Take for instance you have a pool of secretaries, and some are good, some not too good. That is expected; but unless we make everyone feel they are special we will not get “Team work”
    Coming into the Cayman Islands, we have aircrafts from many places. Yes we are free to choose what ever airline we want to fly, which ever supermarket we want to shop, and which ever pub we want to hang out in; but have you considered that if we as foreigners who live here do not see it fit to support the airlines of the place we call home, we are not being fair.
    So as I see it here, there are so many persons who have gained Caymanian statuses but they do not have a bit of heart in their bodies with sympathy as to weather the Island sink or float.
    Some keep referring to Cuba. Why continue try to threaten us about Cuba. You do not know about how Cuba is run, and if any of you think that the Cuban Government is going to “Lay down arms” for any outside country I am sorry for you. Cuba wants your money, and I do not blame her one bit. It has much to see and offer, much more than what we have here, but they want it in Cuba; and the Cubans who have built up Miami and other parts of USA are NOT ever going to move business back to Cuba, Believe me on that. So persons who try to threaten us about Cuba but is making their money living in Cayman need to take a “Leap of Faith to invest in Cuba”
    When we get a new fleet of airlines at Cayman Airways; for Pete’s sake support and fly them instead of crying them down before they even get off the ground.

  4. I hope this is not another case of government being suckered in by super salesmen. I wonder what qualifications Mr Rankin has in the airline industry?. Did they approach Airbus to see what they could offer, we all know there is cutthroat competition between these two manufacturers. As for our aging existing fleet, it seems strange we purchased them less than 2 years ago as we now have the problem of trying to sell them.

  5. Twyla, if CAL get this wrong it will potentially cost you, your children and your grandchildren $millions that could be better spent on things like schools, welfare and job creation. This isn’t a game and you need to wake up to that. Last year you tried to tell me that AA didn’t fly into Cuba because you’d never seen their planes there – you were completely wrong then and I’m afraid you just don’t understand where any of this could be going.

    Roger Davis, you got that spot on. I still dispute the whole re-equipment concept anyway but the Airbus A320 series would (based on the figures I have) be a cheaper option and Airbus are desperate to get ahead of Boeing so there was plenty of scope for a bit of horse trading here. As for the decision to buy the 737-300s? Two of them are now over 23 years old and the other two are just on 20 years old. When ILFC disposed of them these aircraft were already on a countdown to the boneyard. CAL claims they have other operators lining up to buy them but the market is currently flooded so I’d be very cautious about that – these are parts aircraft, nothing more. At the time the deal was made it may have looked good on paper but the fact is that after the initial saving on leasing costs these aircraft are rapidly be coming an expensive liability.

  6. David I do not know how much time you spent in Cuba, but I lived where planes don’t fly. When I want to fly to Cayman I fly on Cayman Airways and take Via Azul or Taxi for 8 hours to travel to Havana. I know where all the airports in Cuba is, Military and otherwise. Air marshals, Hospitals, military doctors, immigration and secret police. I know about many the countries that fly airlines there and the people who visit there. Please show me where I told you that AA does not fly into Cuba last year. Would gladly appreciate a refresh on that. I am acquainted with the prison, service, the orphanages, churches, art work shops, and the list go on. It would surprise you to know how much and who my associates there are.
    But that is not the point. What I am trying to say is this, we are trying to get Cayman Airways a fleet of Airplanes, that is needed, so why would we do not want to assist and say let us give support, that is what I cannot understand.
    So am I to understand that you and Roger are saying that we keep the old ones rather than get new ones, or are you saying that we do not need any at all and should cut out Cayman Airways and only have foreign aircraft fly. I just want to know where is your support. Because the fact you and Roger has lived here for many many years, my expectations are that you would be having discussion with the persons who plan to buy these crafts with the intention of giving some very good advice on the does and don’ts. If you know of a problem share it with them so that they do not make a mistake, that is what I would do. Anyway what I want to see is people who have been living here for donkey years, and have good advice to offer, give it to the right persons; don’t be critical, , just take some time helping us along with what you know to make Cayman a better place for all of us to live.