Grand Cayman’s Airport Redevelopment Takes Flight
Klaus Dengler, Managing Director Europoles Suisse GmbH), René Vuillemin, (Managing Director Europoles Suisse GmbH)
It’s onwards and upwards for the Owen Roberts International Airport. Work on the $55 million terminal redevelopment project is on track, to be completed in the beginning of 2019.
“We are pleased with the progress that is being made,” says Albert Anderson, Chief Executive Officer of the Cayman Islands Airports Authority (CIAA), which owns and operates the terminal. “The overall redevelopment will greatly improve passenger flow and enhance the travel experience.”
The current facility, constructed in the early 1980s, was built to accommodate 500,000 passengers. “Today, we’re processing more than double that capacity – close to 1.2 million passengers,” says Anderson. “Once complete, the airport will be able to accommodate 2.5 million passengers per year.” The expansion will almost triple the airport’s size to 208,000 square feet from 77,000 square feet.
Anderson says the world-class facility is being completed in two main phases.
Phase one, which was completed in 2016, included an area for a future baggage handling and screening area, new airline administrative offices and a second-floor mechanical room.
Phase Two covers the rest of the project in a number of sub-phases. Phase Two A included expanding the ticketing area and arrivals hall, including immigration, baggage claim, the customs hall and employee parking. Much of this work will be completed by the end of the year.
Phase Two B, to be completed in early 2019, includes an expanded departures hall, a food court, duty-free shopping mall, retail concessions, a play area for kids and a nursing room for new mothers. Additionally, the central security screening checkpoint will be expanded from three to five lanes. Digital flight and baggage information display systems and self-service check-in kiosks will also enhance the passenger experience.
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The airport project got its wings with the commissioning of a master plan in 2013. It was approved by cabinet in 2014, with the design and construction phase kicking off in 2015. The design concept by Florida firm RS&H is inspired by Cayman’s iconic symbol, the green sea turtle, with the exterior shaped like a shell. The A-frame entrance design is a nod to the beloved open-air ‘waving gallery’ that had to be closed to meet international security regulations. The CIAA is also working with the National Gallery of the Cayman Islands to incorporate traditional artwork as part of the decor to help preserve Caymanian culture, heritage and history, as well as collaborating with the Cayman Music & Entertainment Association (CMEA) to provide background music throughout the terminal performed by local artists.
The expansion project has been a long awaited one as Cayman’s tourism sector and population continue to grow. By the end of this year, a record number of tourist air arrivals is expected and anticipated to continue in 2019. “The increase in airport infrastructure alongside the increase in hotel room stock, restaurants and roads all come together to enable Cayman to actively pursue growth in visitor air arrivals and is the result of much collaboration between the relevant entities,” says Anderson. He notes the CIAA works particularly close with the Department of Tourism and airlines to stimulate the tourism sector. “This infrastructure will give us the capacity we need to chase that growth and to successfully compete in the regional and global tourism market and enhance our core business of domestic and international passenger airline service.” The redevelopment has tested some patience, but Anderson says passengers, airport partners and staff have been understanding through the growing pains. “Everyone has been really cooperative,” he says. “They have their eye on what will certainly be a groundbreaking milestone for the Cayman Islands as a major tourism destination. It’s going to be worth the wait, as we are committed to providing an exceptional airport experience to all of our travellers.”
High-density seating makes more floor space available while providing up to 50% more seats. There’s more space for commercial traffic and far less congestion at gates.