A group of aviation officials and media squeezed their way through a crowded Owen Roberts International Airport terminal on their way to observe the landing of Southwest Airlines’ first flight here from Houston on Saturday.
“It’s good that business is so good,” Southwest spokesman Brad Hawkins remarked on the hundreds of travelers packed in the departure area.
The influx of air passengers – a record 39,185 people touched down at Grand Cayman’s airport in January – is a major reason why Southwest is offering its new Saturday service between Cayman and Houston that will run through summer, said Mr. Hawkins.
“We know where people are flying,” he said. “So we’re looking for opportunities where fares are high and customer service might not be up to the level of what we can provide.”
If Cayman remains this busy, the service may last past summer. Mr. Hawkins said the seasonal service is “a way for us to dip our toes in the water” to see how tenable the service is.
The spokesman said the new route will offer Cayman residents quick trips to downtown Houston, as well as faster trips to other popular destinations like Denver, Phoenix and Las Vegas.
While there are other carriers that fly to Houston, Mr. Hawkins said, Southwest stands apart because it does not charge baggage or change fees.
Those features have helped Southwest have a successful first year in Cayman, the spokesman added. The airline started daily flights to Fort Lauderdale on June 4, 2017.
Official flight statistics have not been published yet, but Mr. Hawkins said Southwest is “trending towards” carrying about 70,000 people in its first full year of service between here and Fort Lauderdale.
“That’s a healthy start,” he said.