Royal couple opens ‘bigger, better’ airport

Prince Charles and Camilla touch down in Cayman for ceremony

Duchess Camilla and Prince Charles unveil the plaque dedicating the newly renovated Owen Roberts International Airport. – Photo: Stephen Clarke

The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall officially opened Cayman’s new airport terminal in front of a large crowd of dignitaries and well wishers Wednesday afternoon.

The royal couple unveiled a plaque in front of the glass façade of the new terminal, commemorating both the visit and the official opening of the revamped Owen Roberts International Airport.

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Prince Charles and his wife Camilla touched down in Grand Cayman on the Royal Air Force ‘Voyager’  jet just before 4 p.m. where they were greeted by Premier Alden McLaughlin and Governor Martyn Roper. The royal couple inspected a police guard of honour on the tarmac before being ferried to the terminal building for the airport opening ceremony in the governor’s white Jaguar.

Prince Charles and Duchess Camilla upon their arrival in Grand Cayman – Photo: Stephen Clarke

The couple, flanked by a team of a security guards, walked the red carpet into the terminal, pausing to chat with schoolchildren who waved British flags and posters while a steel pan band played. Camilla was presented with a bouquet of flowers and a balloon, commemorating the couple’s upcoming wedding anniversary on April 9, as she made her way into the terminal.

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Premier Alden McLaughlin gave a brief welcome speech in front of a small gathering of politicians, civil servants and special guests gathered inside the terminal.

“Thank you for your graciousness in accepting our invitation to not only visit our beautiful Cayman Islands but also for agreeing to officially reopen our airport here in Grand Cayman,” he told Prince Charles and Camilla.

“The improvements we have made to our airport are to carry us through the next few decades as tourism numbers continue to soar,” he said.

“It is my sincere hope you both enjoy your time here and return home with fond memories of these islands and our people. Your presence affirms the strong relationship between the U.K. and the Cayman Islands. On behalf of our people, welcome, welcome, welcome.”

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The Owen Roberts International Airport terminal has undergone a massive redevelopment over the past three years. Though the final price tag for the project has yet to be confirmed and there is still some work to finish on the shops inside the terminal, the upgrade is substantially complete.

Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell said the project had been paid for largely through airport revenues.

He said, “It is a very gratifying day because our pledge to provide the Cayman Islands with a world-class airport has been fulfilled. As well as signifying our progress as a modern progressive nation, this bigger, better airport is the standard bearer for the Caymankind brand.

Prince Charles and Duchess Camilla deplane in George Town. – Photo: Taneos Ramsay

“This outstanding facility has been built from cash, requiring no loans and is 100-percent owned by the people of the Cayman Islands. We can truly say it is the people’s airport.”

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The royal party then moved outside where a larger crowd was waiting to witness the unveiling. After a few words from airports authority CEO Albert Anderson, Prince Charles and Camilla pulled back the velvet curtain to reveal the plaque.

The couple took some time to talk to schoolchildren before being driven to Government House for a welcome reception.

Anderson said the airport upgrade had more than quadrupled the capacity of the airport terminal, which was originally built for 500,000 passengers a year.

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“ORIA has now grown from a fledgling wooden structure in the 1950s to a complex facility that is designed to  handle 2.7 million passengers per annum,” he said.

Anderson delivered a vote of thanks to the construction workers and airport staff that have worked on the facility for more than three years. He acknowledged there had been hiccups along the way and said more work would be done to improve the facility. But he said it had been nothing short of a miracle for the airport to cope with record tourism arrivals and cause minimum disruption to passengers during a lengthy construction process.

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