Cayman Airways did not pay more than $450,000 in government fines and fees levied against it in 2016, some of which were imposed on the airline for bringing in passengers who boarded without valid entry documents.
The Immigration Department can fine any airline up to $2,000 for each passenger transported to Cayman who does not have the required valid entry visa or proof of citizenship. The fines are called carrier liability fees.
According to an internal audit report completed in March, about 41 percent of all carrier liability fees assessed to airlines landing at Cayman Islands airports during 2015-2016 were charged to Cayman Airways.
“[Those charges] as of at the audit date, remained unpaid,” the audit service noted.
Cayman Airways was not the only airline operating in Cayman that did not pay. Auditors noted that only about one-third of the carrier liability fines for the year had been paid as of June 30, 2016 – the end of the government’s budget year. However, CAL represented the largest delinquency in the fees by far.
“We further noted that receivables from [Cayman Airways] for procedural fines have been outstanding from the time each penalty was levied,” the audit report noted.
When contacted for a response to the audit, Cayman Airways officials noted that the airline was “researching” the amounts assessed and that it would pay any outstanding amounts.
“Any delay in payment of fines has not been intentional and CAL is working to quickly address its obligations in that regard,” a statement from the airline noted.
Cayman Airways transports more than 200,000 passengers to the islands from 10 airports. The airline contracts with third-party companies to provide airline staff at the counters in nine of those locations, officials said.
“Those contracted staff, along with CAL’s own staff, undergo rigorous company training, addressing general Cayman Islands immigration requirements and providing guidance as to where additional detail can be obtained when necessary,” the CAL statement continued. “Of the few violation[s] incurred, included are in-transit passengers travelling from one country to another through Cayman, but being from a country that local immigration regulations nonetheless require a Cayman Islands entry visa.”
In the future, the airline said, CAL would invest in a third-party system to provide automated confirmation of visa requirements at check in to “ensure 100 percent compliance.”
The other portion of the fines levied against Cayman Airways involve what are referred to as “abnormal hours fees.” These accounted for the lion’s share of the fines ($368,000) that auditors said had not been paid by CAL.
These are charges fairly recently added by immigration to flight operations at Cayman airports that occur before 7 a.m. and after 9:30 p.m. The only airline that operates at local airports after those hours is Cayman Airways, excepting circumstances when a U.S.-based flight arrives later than scheduled.
According to CAL, the Immigration Department “imposed” these charges in 2015 to offset the costs of its staff officers working after hours.
“CAL has been forced to adjust its schedule to operate as much as possible within the 7 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. time slot, having a negative impact on its overall operation and the passenger experience,” the airline statement noted.