Owen Roberts International Airport has been undergoing extensive renovation and expansion work. - PHOTO: ALVARO SEREY

Airport bosses will introduce expanded covered waiting areas in anticipation of another busy weekend at the facility.

Albert Anderson, CEO of the Cayman Islands Airports Authority, said staff were doing their best to cope with an increasing number of passengers amid space restrictions caused by the ongoing renovation of the airport.

He said the situation last Saturday, which saw visitors stuck in long lines outside the new Arrivals Hall, was unusual because of a sharp spike in arrival figures. But he warned further long lines were possible during what is expected to be Cayman’s busiest ever tourism season.

Even in the context of record arrival numbers, last weekend was exceptionally busy.

Saturday saw 2,900 visitors arrive in Grand Cayman, compared with 1,600 the previous Saturday.

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There were 32 flights during the course of the day on Saturday, including six jets that touched down between midday and 12:41 p.m., and another six between 1 p.m. and 1:49 p.m., according to arrivals data from the Cayman Islands Airports Authority.

Mr. Anderson said the number of incoming flights had not increased significantly, but more planes were arriving with full loads.

“One or two airlines may have added an additional flight but it is not significantly different, it is more about passenger loads,” said Mr. Anderson.

“We suspect a lot of traffic that would have gone to the eastern Caribbean is coming here instead.”

He said airport staff were in discussions with various airlines this week in an effort to better manage the situation and find out ahead of time the likely numbers of arriving passengers.

He added that with so many flights coming in at once, lines were inevitable.

“We are going to have queues,” he said. “There is no question we are going to have queues.

“We are trying to find more covered space, more people that can work the lines and bring people water and stuff like that.

“Ourselves, customs and immigration are working together. For us, it is about making the passengers as comfortable as possible, and for customs and immigration, it is a case of processing passengers as quickly as possible, without impacting border security.”

He said staggering flight arrivals was a longer-term conversation for tourism officials but he believes the airlines set their schedules to meet the demands of the industry, including resort packages which typically run from one weekend to the next.

He said there had also been long wait times on certain peak days over Christmas. However, the arriving passengers were able to wait in a tented area, adjoining the old immigration hall.

The new immigration hall opened last week Wednesday, but until construction is complete it remains roughly the same size as the old hall and lacks the adjoining tented area. It is currently only half the size it will be once completed.

“I hope this Saturday it will be a lot better,” said Mr. Anderson. “We are creating more covered space outside which will replicate as far as possible what we had before. We just have to make it as comfortable as possible for the people that have to wait.”

In the long term, he said, a project to allow passengers arriving from Miami to pre-clear customs and immigration in the U.S. could help alleviate congestion, if a trial run proves successful.

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  1. It was always my understanding that the main purpose of renovations/expansion of the airport facilities was to cater to the great increase in passenger traffic, not to make it look “nicer”. We have for some years had a large number of flights over the weekend in the tourist season arriving between 12 and 2.00pm. Mr Anderson is saying there is no question we are going to have queues, but surely if the airport improvements are fit for purpose then the queues should be a lot shorter than previously, not a lot longer.