Upgrades at Owen Roberts International Airport are nearing the final stage before work begins on a new terminal, said Transport Minister Moses Kirkconnell.
Lengthening of the runway, under way now, will be the final project before focussing on the terminal.
“Land was left for the greenfield expansion, and that brings in a new terminal, new apron, runway considerations and the jet bridges that everybody wants,” Kirkconnell told the Cayman Compass during the Caribbean Travel Marketplace in Nassau last month.
Greenfield refers to development on land that has previously not been built on.
Current work on the runway is expected to be completed by June.
“We have [Boeing] 777s that land from British Airways. So we had to strengthen the runway,” the minister said.
“The lengthening of the runway will take care of us in the medium term, but there certainly has to be a consideration for a longer runway in the long term.”
He addressed criticism that the newly upgraded airport, with an annual capacity of 2.5 million passengers, has already neared capacity on heavy traffic days.
“People said, we should have built it bigger. But I tell you this straight, 15 years people talked about building that airport and nothing happened until I got elected and was put in that position as a minister,” Kirkconnell said.
“And our team has finished it to that point. So my answer to them is, we’re moving forward with the business case, but what would have happened if we hadn’t done it then and we were still talking about it?”
To alleviate crowding in the short term, he said more seating will be added to the second floor.
He highlighted changes to customs and immigration processes, such as a ‘green channel’ for travellers with no goods to declare, and additional staff training as steps taken to improve the passenger experience.
For stayover visitors, the airport is their first and last impression of the jurisdiction, he said, emphasising the importance of the islands’ travel infrastructure.
“It’s the first place that you come when you get to Cayman. I think it’s a good representation of a successful, small island nation,” he said.
“You get a lasting impression that it’s an island that is doing work and it’s doing the work in the right places. It’s improving its infrastructure and it’s a sophisticated destination.”
Kirkconnell added that Cayman Airways is considering the addition of a location on the US West Coast for direct flights to Grand Cayman.