British Airways’ new Boeing 777 aircraft will offer increased luxury and added capacity into the Cayman Islands from the U.K., officials said Friday.
The new plane was greeted by a coterie of politicians, airline executives and airplane enthusiasts as it touched down at the Owen Roberts International Airport on Friday afternoon.
Diane Corrie, British Airways’ commercial manager for the Caribbean, said the plane has capacity for 1,100 inbound seats per week, a 16 percent increase on the old 767 plane, which is being phased out of service by the airline.
She said the new aircraft has a far greater percentage of business and premium economy seats and would provide better service to “the corporate community, including the business and finance sector, insurance companies and law firms and residents of Cayman who travel frequently to London and beyond.”
Premier Alden McLaughlin said some passengers previously chose to fly through Miami because of a lack of business class seats available on the route.
“I think the London route is very popular. What we are doing is meeting demand in a better way on a bigger aircraft with more premium seats available,” he said.
The Cayman Islands Airports Authority is planning work to reinforce the runway to handle the larger, heavier planes over the long term.
The British Airways flight will still be routed through the Bahamas, and a runway extension is still considered necessary to facilitate direct flights from the U.K.
Tourism counselor Joey Hew said the extra capacity on the new jets would help boost tourism from the U.K.
“Air arrivals from the U.K. and Ireland are going up year on year and we are cautiously optimistic that the numbers will continue to hold steady,” he said, “Visitors from the U.K. travel more than 4,000 miles for our sun, sea and sand and to experience something we refer to locally as Cayman Kind.”
Dignitaries, including Rosa Harris, the director of tourism, and Stran Bodden, chief officer in the Ministry of Tourism, were given a tour of the new plane before it left Cayman on Friday.