As published in the Cayman Compass: TUESDAY DECEMBER 18, 2014
The temporary extension of the departure lounge at Owen Roberts International Airport, left, will accommodate an additional 229 passengers when it opens in early January. – Photo: Cayman Islands Airports Authority
Work has begun on a temporary extension to the departure lounge at Owen Roberts International Airport.
Planning approval was granted last week for the 3,600-square-foot, pre-built, departure hall.
The hall will add capacity for another 229 passengers, easing congestion in the severely overcrowded departure lounge.
The Cayman Islands Airports Authority plans to have it in place by Jan. 5, in time for the start of the busy tourist season.
The $300,000 project is a temporary fix ahead of a long-awaited expansion to the terminal buildings at Owen Roberts International Airport, which is operating at twice its intended capacity.
The building itself is already in place, under a green tent adjacent to the current departure lounge. Flooring still has to be installed, along with air conditioning, bathrooms and a PA system, before it becomes fully functional.
The development will allow for the addition of three new departure gates.
Overcrowding in the terminal has long been a source of frustration for travelers, with long lines and congestion in the crammed departure lounge at peak travel times.
Albert Anderson, CEO of the airports authority, acknowledged that the temporary extension is not the “perfect solution.” But he said it would make life better for tourists until the long-term development of the airport is completed.
“We are excited about the imminent launch of this new interim facility at ORIA that will enable us to provide a more comfortable departure experience for our passengers while the permanent works to expand the terminal building are completed,” he said.
“We want to ensure that our passengers do not have a negative experience at our airport after the positive experience of vacationing in the Cayman Islands, and while it is not the perfect solution, at this time, it is a great temporary solution until we can fulfil our longer term goal.”
Kafara Augustine, marketing and business manager at the airport, said the authority is moving fast to have the temporary extension in place for the busy season.
The decision was made in August after consultation with industry leaders. The ready built, glass-walled unit was ordered, and work began last Thursday immediately following the planning approval.
“We have hit the ground running because busy season will soon be upon us. We have to get the PA system and the AC in place, but the aim is to have it in use by January 5.”
Mr. Anderson previously acknowledged there had been customer complaints over the last several years about overcrowding at the airport. He said the situation had reached the point where the CIAA can no longer wait for the permanent expansion of the terminal building – a multimillion-dollar project that could take up to three years to complete.
Earlier this year. Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell said the airport had been built to accommodate 500,000 passengers annually and is now operating at double that capacity.