Last year, 61 million people flew in and out of the Denver International Airport – that is more than 167,000 per day. Next year, if discussions go well, some of those travelers will be heading to or from the Cayman Islands, on board our national carrier Cayman Airways.
Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell told business leaders Wednesday that Cayman Airways is “very close” to announcing a direct service to a new gateway city “in the western part of the United States.” The Compass understands that Denver – home to the United States’ sixth-busiest airport – is one of the cities under consideration.
If the deal goes through, we predict scores of “Mile-High City” travelers will flock to our low-lying islands for a taste of the good life down here at sea level. If they get homesick for heights, we recommend taking in the breathtaking sea-to-sound panorama from the 75-foot-tall Camana Bay Observation Tower … or if they are more adventurous, perhaps scaling the island’s newest “tower” – the 70-foot-high stack of containers going up at the Port Authority’s Cargo Distribution Centre on North Sound Road. (We’re joking, of course; don’t even consider it.)
Even if Denver turns out not to be the “mystery” airport being wooed by our national airline, we are glad to see Cayman Airways “spreading its wings” to unlock tourism potential from prosperous western markets, from Los Angeles to Vancouver, and every point in between.
“We want to open the west coast because we believe it is an under-served market for Cayman,” Mr. Kirkconnell told business leaders at a recent Chamber of Commerce breakfast briefing. That seems wise, given the Midwest-to-Eastern tilt of current scheduled flights.
In addition to Cayman Airways’ direct flights to Miami, New York, Tampa, Chicago and Dallas (not to mention Kingston, Montego Bay, Havana, La Ceiba and Roatan), other airlines currently offer service to London (via Nassau), Toronto, and U.S. cities such as Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte, Detroit, Houston, Minneapolis and Washington, D.C.
But, as of today, no commercial traveler starting west of Dallas can sink their toes in Cayman’s white sands without juggling connecting flights.
The untapped potential is enormous: More than 50 million people live on America’s west coast, alone. Cayman Airways is right to identify this as a potentially fruitful market.
When Cayman Airways was launched in 1968, it was with the recognition that Cayman’s fledgling tourism industry would struggle if visitors struggled to arrive on our shores. The airline’s primary mission, therefore, was not to make a profit, but to facilitate the free and easy flow of travel.
Over the years, the national airline’s “prime directive” has sometimes led to operational deficits that demanded significant infusion of government funds. Ideally, Cayman Airways would “break even” while breaking new ground by demonstrating the viability of new markets – enticing commercial airlines to follow its lead.
In the airline’s 50th year, that purpose is no less important. As we mentioned in Wednesday’s editorial, there are dozens of exciting development projects under way, including several luxury hotels and condominiums, along with our expanded airport. Cayman Airways can help ensure those rooms are filled. Over the next 50 years, airlift capacity will continue to play a central role in fueling Cayman’s economy.
The best scenario would be one in which Cayman Airways continues to identify new, profitable routes, enticing commercial carriers to add Cayman to their flight plans.
As more airlines make further connections to Cayman and the Caribbean, adjustments will continually have to be made to keep Cayman Airways ahead of the curve, and keep our little islands “one stop away” from the rest of the world.