Around 100 former Cayman Airways board members and their dependents were awarded unlimited free flights for life as compensation for their services, Chief Financial Officer Paul Tibbetts told a meeting of the Public Accounts Committee.
The policy was tweaked in 2009, so board members who took office after that date no longer enjoy a lifetime of free flights. They still get the benefit for the duration of their service on the board and for the equivalent length of time after they retire.
Quizzed about the flight benefits program during the committee’s examination of the airline’s 2013/14 audited accounts, Mr. Tibbetts said he believed around 100 people had been granted unlimited free flights under the old policy. He said fewer than 30 people got free flights under the terms of the 2009 amendment.
On average, 250 free tickets each year are taken by board members, retired board members and their dependents, Mr. Tibbetts said.
“Board members get no monetary compensation,” he said. “In exchange for their serving they get flight benefits.”
There are no limits on how many flights current and former board members can take with the airline each year. Though the fare is free, they are responsible for paying the taxes, Mr. Tibbetts said.
The airline’s staff also get free flights, though these are allocated on a standby basis, meaning they are canceled if the flight is full with paying passengers.
Mr. Tibbetts said such benefits are typical across the airline industry.
“It is a way to provide benefits without incurring a lot of additional costs,” he said.
On average, 3,000 free tickets are taken each year by staff, dependents and retired staff, who also get a 25 percent discount on confirmed seats.
Answering legislators’ questions on the program, Mr. Tibbetts said it was difficult to say precisely what the cost of providing the package of flight benefits was to the airline.
For staff with standby tickets, he said, there is really no cost. “It doesn’t incur any additional costs because the plane was going to fly anyway. Once the plane takes off, those seats are wasted.”
Asked if there was any concern about the possibility of staff making reservations under fictitious names and canceling them at the last minute so they could ensure there was space available on their chosen flights, Mr. Tibbetts said he was not aware of this happening.
“If somebody was doing that they would permanently lose their flight benefits – that is strongly looked down on throughout the industry,” he said.