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.
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.”
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.