Hundreds of departing passengers were told to wait in a tented seating area outside Grand Cayman’s Owen Roberts International Airport terminal Saturday afternoon because the indoor waiting area was too full.

Meanwhile, the check-in line for departing flights extended down the sidewalk from the door, across Owen Roberts Drive to the rental car area parking lot on the other side of the street during the early afternoon, according to several passengers who spoke to the Cayman Compass.

The line for security checks during the same time went from inside the passenger ticketing area, back outside onto the airport building sidewalk and then back into the airport building.

The situation lasted from around noon to about 2 p.m. Saturday, when the airport was at its peak traffic period.

“You couldn’t see the sidewalk for all the people,” said Nancy Rusinko, a first time visitor who was waiting with about 40 other people under a tent set up on the sidewalk. “The line carried out to the street, it was just ridiculous. And it’s hot today.”

Cayman Islands Emergency Medical Services Director Stephen Duval, who was stuck in the waiting line Saturday, described the same situation, calling it “deplorable.”

The tented waiting area was set up for early arrivals who apparently could not be allowed into the passenger departures hall because it was crammed full of people waiting to leave on earlier flights.

Ms. Rusinko, who arrived at the airport during the noon hour, said her flight was not scheduled to leave until about 4:40 p.m.

These departing passengers waited outside Owen Roberts Airport Saturday afternoon because the inside departure lounge was “too full.” – Photo: Brent Fuller

“I know I’m here early, but they wouldn’t check my bags until after 1 p.m.. They wouldn’t let me go through security until a certain time,” she said. “So that’s why it’s a little perturbing.”

Long-time Cayman visitor Guy DeRossi of Virginia, U.S., described the exact same situation. He said he was turned away at the security entrance because he had arrived about four hours early for a 4:30 p.m. flight.

Mr. DeRossi said there was a “huge line out to the street” for the passenger ticketing area and that he was told that “we can’t go inside because it’s too crowded.”

The American said the wait was inconvenient, but that it was very comfortable under the tent area outside the airport and that airport personnel were making the best of a hectic situation.

“The staff, the personnel, they have been very nice,” Mr. DeRossi said, adding that he would continue to come back for vacations. “The islands are a wonderful place. We’ve been coming for 26 years.”

The Owen Roberts airport, currently undergoing a $55 million renovation, has struggled in recent weeks with long wait times in both the departures and the arrivals area. Earlier this year, there were two-hour wait times reported from passengers who were getting off arriving flights and going through immigration and customs.

The problems appear to have occurred mainly on Saturdays, when thousands of people arrive during the busy tourism season between late December and April. On some Saturdays, the small airport has to accommodate more than a dozen flights arriving within two hours.

Deputy Premier Moses Kirkconnell warned in February that “growing pains” at the remodeled airport would be a challenge through 2018, but would eventually lead to an improved customer product.

“We are moving as fast as we can to complete the airport, so there are going to be issues from now until when we complete it in December,” the deputy premier said in early February. “There’s nothing we can do with the bricks and mortar [referring to the airport construction phase]. We’re moving as fast as we can. But with the human capital, you learn from experience and you adjust what you do.”

1 COMMENT

  1. With high temperatures, long lines snaking slowly, old and young, this is a recipe for medical problems, that airport officials will be responsible for. Obtain more airport scanners, and people to run them, add more temporary airline counter employees. There are things officials at Owen Roberts airport can do. Even with the renovations, enough Mr. Kirkconnell, is not being done to aid and move the lines faster and offer comfort to the tourists.

  2. The problem of flight congestion on Saturdays in the tourist season has existed for years and I doubt that the physical terminal improvements will sufficiently address this. Ms Brown quite rightly mentions some action that can be taken to alleviate the long lines for departure, but we also need action to cater for the arrivals. who have the same problems.
    The D.P. seems to recognise the limited effect of the “bricks and mortar” improvements for this time specific congestion and rightly refers to tackling it with adjusting the use of human capital. What we now need both from Mr Kirkconnell and the CIAA are the specific steps they will be taking with staffing and related issues to alleviate the “Saturday Shambles”.

  3. What I don’t understand is, why can’t the airport authorities do something about spacing the flight times further apart? They need to be more proactive about negotiating with the airlines concerning this problem. It would benefit them as well since it would make for happier customers.

  4. Easy enough to fix the line through airport security.
    Just recognize the USA TSA pre-check system and allow them through the scanners as they do in the USA without removing computers etc. from hand baggage.

    Next establish a similar system for our own residents. Police clearance certificate required for application and proof of residence.

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