In further attempts to strengthen air connectivity within the Caribbean, regional carrier Caribbean Airlines (CAL) has now begun direct flights between Kingston, Jamaica and Grand Cayman. The non-stop service will operate twice weekly, every Tuesday and Saturday. A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held for the maiden flight at the Norman Manley International Airport (NMIA) on Tuesday (December 17), where representatives from Caribbean airlines and specially invited guests flew to Owen Roberts International Airport in Grand Cayman, where another ribbon-cutting ceremony was conducted.
Upon arrival at Grand Cayman, a water cannon salute was done to celebrate the aviation milestone.
“What this means is the expansion of air connectivity within the Caribbean area, which is so important to us to grow the tourism activities. The Caribbean now for Jamaica represents a six per cent growth area, but it can grow much more,” Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett said while congratulating CAL at the launch of its inaugural flight at NMIA.
“In fact, Jamaica is a really desirable destination within the Caribbean archipelago of countries, but we have suffered greatly from the lack of air connectivity. This offers a good opportunity for multiple destination activities in the Caribbean space. Also, it’s making Kingston a growing destination as a hub for air connectivity in the northern Caribbean, and we’re excited about that,” he continued.
Earlier this year, CAL was granted approval of a route to Kingston, Jamaica, from the Civil Aviation Authority of the Cayman Islands. However, the permission was granted for the route to run July 14 to January 13, 2020.
Board director of CAL, Zachary Harding told the Jamaica Observer that the delay was due to “a complicated and technical process”.
“With all of these types of flights, we have to make sure that all of the paperwork is done and everything is in order. In Cayman, you have to have a company set up and registered and the directors have to go in and get it registered, and so it took a little bit more time than expected, but everything is done now and formalised. [The period] was just set that way, initially, as a start period,” Harding explained to the Caribbean Business Report .
He added that even though the service began late, CAL will reapply for an extension for the route. This, he assured, will be a simpler process.
According to Harding, the times of the operation of the service was determined by extensive research conducted by CAL.
“With all of the routes, we look at demand and we try to make a calculated estimate, because we don’t want planes that are flying empty. Based on research, it was determined that Tuesdays and Saturdays were the best days. Typically people like to go to [Grand Cayman] and spend a few days and then come back, and as that starts to evolve then we’ll see if the flight starts to get 100 per cent capacity and if we’re getting demands for other days then we can expand and add other planes,” he stated.
“When we add new routes, it’s really a question of redeploying aircraft or optimising the use of aircraft, so it’s not a specific cash investment. We have assets and the way that you make an aircraft profitable in summary — keep the planes flying. We’re trying to optimise the fleet, to make sure that we’re in the air as much as possible. We don’t add routes unless we believe that they’re going to be profitable,” he continued.
In November, Caribbean Airlines had announced seasonal twice weekly flights between Kingston and Havana, Cuba, to start on December 13, 2019 — but the service was cancelled.
Harding revealed that similar circumstances that caused the delayed start of the Grand Cayman service are to blame.
“The processing of paperwork is just taking a little bit more time. Once we get everything in order then those flights will commence. It’s kind of a complicated process and figuring out what’s possible logistically”.
“When we plan a route, we have to pick a date, so if we say we’re going from Kingston to Haiti and we say we’re going to do that by July next year, for example, and we work towards that, but very often the date may change for a number of reasons. We wouldn’t prematurely mention a destination unless we are certain that we are going to go to there and launch it,” he assured.
Trudy Chin, acting general manager of CAL, Jamaica added that CAL is currently making arrangements for provisions for customers who had booked the flight announced in November.
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