CAL to get new fleet of 737s

A new Boeing 737 Max 8 takes off from La Paz airport in Bolivia in May. Cayman Airways will be leasing four of the aircraft. - PHOTO: MONICA M. WEHRI

Cayman Airways has inked a deal with U.S.-based Air Lease Corp. to replace its fleet of aging jets with the next generation Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft.

The new planes will come straight off the Boeing production line and into service on Cayman Airways routes between late 2018 and 2020.

Air Lease Corp. announced this week that it had won the contract to supply the planes on a long-term lease arrangement.

Cayman’s national carrier will be retiring its Boeing 737-300 planes, which are between 15 and 20 years old, over the next few years. Tourism and airline officials say the new planes could open up new routes, potentially including direct service from the West Coast of the U.S. They claim the planes’ added fuel efficiency will help offset the costs.

In addition to leasing the four new aircraft, which will operate on all Cayman Airways international routes, the airline will also lease an earlier model Boeing 737-800 from Air Lease Corp. as an interim measure to replace the oldest of its current jets later this year.

That plane will be replaced with the newer aircraft when it becomes available two years later, according to a press release from the leasing company this week.

“Cayman Airways is the national flag carrier for the Cayman Islands, and we at ALC are pleased with being selected by the airline, after an open tendering process, to expand and modernize their jet fleet. The new technologies in the MAX 8 aircraft will bring a new level of efficiency and passenger comfort to Cayman Airways that will greatly enhance the airline’s competitive capabilities,” said Steven Udvar-Házy, executive chairman of Air Lease Corp.

Airline and tourism officials claimed the new leasing arrangement would essentially pay for itself and would not require any increase in government’s contributions to Cayman Airways.

Fabian Whorms, CEO of Cayman Airways, said earlier this year that the aircraft had been selected as the best option because of its superior fuel efficiency, lower operational costs and greater passenger capacity.

Cayman Airways Board Chairman Philip Rankin said the deal represents a “monumental step” forward for the airline.

“The technological advancements and passenger comfort features inherent with Boeing 737-8 MAX aircraft are key to the Cayman Airways’ fleet modernization program,” Mr. Rankin said in a statement this week.

He added that the new planes would help improve reliability and customer service.

Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell said the new aircraft could open up new direct routes, which were not achievable with the old jets.

“This is a milestone in the history of Cayman Airways and the Cayman Islands. The national airline is a fundamental part of our tourism industry and a huge part of our islands’ social fabric. The new aircraft will not only enhance our service levels, but will create new gateway possibilities from which the Cayman Islands tourism industry can benefit, such as the U.S. West Coast.”

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  1. I think that this is a bad decision by the Government to sign this contract today 2016 .
    With the new Brexit , and Cuba just opened up to tourism, and Cayman not knowing the impact of both , and the Cayman Islands with no good Tourism strategy in place to capture their fair share of the market .
    The Government should not think that the Cayman Islands are untouchable.

  2. @ Ron Clair Ebanks

    You’ve got that right. One of the things the new Auditor General needs to look at is the financing of CAL because to many people it looks like throwing money down a bottomless pit. In fact CAL should have been forced to publish the business case for the new aircraft before committing everyone to what could be a very questionable investment.

    The harsh reality is that the Cayman Islands economy is too small to support a national airline and it would be far more sensible to hand the US routes over to code sharing agreements with the major carriers like AA than try to run them ourselves. That would then release resources that could be invested in regional services using twin-turbo-prop aircraft. If CAL tried really hard they might even pick up business from serious UK and European carriers like BA and Virgin by offering connecting flights into ORIA and the Brac using that type of aircraft.

    The 737-800 and the Max 8 are great aircraft but we can’t afford them and CAL cannot in a million years justify this move in simple financial terms.

  3. Of course it is hard or perhaps impossible for a tiny airline like Cayman Airways to make money.

    But what happens if we turn the international routes over to the major US airlines and one day they just decide to eliminate them?
    It certainly would not be the first time big airlines have done this to communities that relied on them.

    And how do we evacuate people in advance of a hurricane?

    We always fly Cayman Airways whenever we can. It is our pride to support our national carrier and I respectfully suggest that everyone living in these islands consider doing the same.

    You will find that Cayman Airways doesn’t “nickel and dime” you with extra charges for checked baggage, two are carried free. And the staff are always charming and helpful.

  4. Mr Linton , while I agree that Cayman Islands should have a national airline for the security of the people and the Islands.
    But like I said the timing of this massive contract for 4 brand new airplanes, should not have been at this time, due to all the uncertainty in England and Cuba . I think that it would have been wise to have waited a little longer and used the old plane longer.