Some of the first visitors through the Cayman Island’s new airport arrivals hall waited for hours in immigration lines that stretched from the steps of the plane to the new building.

Tourists arriving on Saturday were forced to line up inside and outside the airport to get through immigration, baggage claim and customs.

Photographs sent to the Cayman Compass show a line of more than a hundred people waiting just to get into the new building on Saturday afternoon.

One passenger claimed to have waited for several hours on Saturday to get through the whole process after arriving from Miami.

The Cayman Islands Airports Authority opened the new arrivals hall on Wednesday last week.

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Albert Anderson, CEO of the Authority, said the wait times were closer to two hours.

“This was the first Saturday using the new area,” he said. “We don’t have all the space that we are going to get.

“Until the immigration area is complete, the space we have is about the same as it was in the old building.”

He said there was no covered area outside the new building, however, meaning tourists had to line up in the sun.

Mr. Anderson added that there were around six planes arriving at the same time on Saturday afternoon.

“At the end of the day, there is always going to be a long line, whatever we do, it’s a question of how long you have to wait in line and how comfortable you are.

“We are working on the comfort side and we will make some changes that I hope will improve that and we will work with border patrol to get passengers through as quick as possible.”

The new arrivals wing of the Owen Roberts International Airport opened last week. – PHOTO: ALVARO SEREY

Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell said he was monitoring the situation over the weekend.

He said the island is dealing with record numbers of arriving tourists and attempting to manage a gradual shift to a new modern airport at the same time.

“This was the first weekend with the new arrivals hall,” he said. “Sunday was better than Saturday and it will continue to get better as we work with customs, immigration and the airports authority on managing these lines.”

He added, “It is a good thing for the island that we are getting a new airport and we are getting it open as quickly as possible but we are having to jump through some hoops as we go through that process, particularly during busy season.”

He added that if more immigration or customs officers were needed to speed up the arrivals process, they would be seconded to the airport.

Several passengers wrote to the Compass to comment on the long waits at the weekend.

Samantha Wiff, who flew in from Miami around 2 p.m. Friday, said it took about an hour to deplane and get through the line.

“At the time of landing, there were several other planes. One must have just landed before us, as the arrivals room was full and they had us all queue outside,” she said. “They allowed residents and Caymanians through first and then groups of tourists inside, a few at a time.”

She said the immigration staff were friendly and helpful but the desks appeared to be understaffed.

She said she was disappointed with the experience at the new wing.

“They have a long way to go. It has tons of potential. I hope they do right by the space,” she said.

Another woman, who asked not to be named, said she waited for two hours on Saturday to collect a friend from the airport.

She said she had expected it to be better, following the opening of the new arrivals hall. “Having a grand entrance with the same narrow lines is narrow thinking. I will hope for the best,” she added.

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  1. I can only remember one time in 24 years where we had a swift passage through immigration. That was when a kind worker allowed us through the “residents only” line.

    There never seems to be enough immigration personnel. That’s where the pipe gets clogged.

    2 hours on line?

  2. So often there are not enough immigration and customs staff, although they can see how many planes are scheduled in, they do not accomodate the rush hours.What happens if there is torrental rain, the only option is to keep the passengers from deplaning, and then this causes delays for outgoing passengers.
    If as Mr Anderson says “there’s always going to be a long line”, what was the point of all these airport “improvements”. Has it crossed his mind and the minds of the Heads of Customs and Immigration that having to wait 2 hours and queuing in the rain/sun is the quickest way to discourage visitors from returning?.

  3. The photo and that long wait line, really says a lot for progress and improvements. To me that’s like spending a 100 thousand dollars on your landscape, but inside the house look like a junk yard . Or is that long line wait is to get everyone sunburn before they get to the hotel .

    I would have thought that improved training would have done along with the improvement of the Airport . And who authorize the scheduling of flights to Cayman Islands ? Lots more work and planning is needed Mr Anderson and Mr Kirkconnell to make the services look like NEW AIRPORT .

  4. Why can’t the Authorities take responsibility for anything ? They said Sunday situation was better than Saturday , but this situation is about Sunday not Saturday . They shouldn’t sit down and let these situations work it self out . They will never , that’s for management and heads to do .

  5. I agree with Mr Davies and Mr Ebanks: this is not rocket science. There are pinch points in terms of arrivals and the staffing needs to reflect that with some standby in case of issues, delays, etc. It is NOT good enough to say “there will always be a line”. These are the very people who keep Cayman’s tax free existence alive and when you don’t cater for them, then they go elsewhere.

    In terms of who schedules the flights, I’ll bet (sorry, forgot gambling was illegal in CI!) Cayman’s Civil Aviation Authority has very little to do with it and it is driven by the airlines who want to maximise the usage of their aircraft and who pander to the passengers who want to leave mid morning and arrive early afternoon or, for the return, early afternoon for an evening arrival at their home airport, as it is destinations such as the Caribbean which frees up the aircraft for the milk runs inter city USA in the early morning and early/mid evening.

  6. @ John Ashley

    Or MIA, ATL and LAX. I’ve stood for over two hours in line at all three but at least you’re under cover and in the a/c.

    What I also heard at all three airports was comments from UK visitors along the lines of, ‘Never again,’ and that’s the big danger here. If this isn’t fixed ASAP you can kiss headlines like, ‘Record arrivals,’ goodbye. The other problem, as another comment has noted, is that on bad weather days passengers will have to be held on board the aircraft – you can bet the airlines won’t be too happy about that and it may even force them to reconsider future services.

    At the end of the of the day this is simply CIG doing what it always does best – screwing up.

    • @ David Williams

      Tip when flying into one of the busy US hubs – book a ticket which includes an onward flight within 2 hours of your scheduled arrival. Staff with your airline will ensure you are fast tracked through. It doesn’t need to be an expensive onward connection. Sometimes it only adds a few dollars to your fare to ORD.

  7. I have a couple of destinations on my “never again” list as well.

    Also, assuming that all people on the photo are strong enough to stand even one hour in the Caribbean heat and humidity is wrong. Why not offer umbrellas, water and portable chairs?

    P.S.The voting buttons work beautifully, thank you Compass.