A newly launched airline plans to offer flights from Grand Cayman to destinations in Central and South America, as well as the Caribbean.
If approved, Cayman Islands-based BlueSky Airlines will fly to Colombia, Costa Rica, Panama and Mexico, as well as the Dominican Republic, British Virgin Islands, Jamaica and the Bahamas, according to a proposed timetable published by the Air Transport Licensing Authority.
The airline will operate two medium-range Bombardier Dash-8 Q400 turboprop planes with 64 economy class seats and seven first class seats. The bulk of the routes will operate four times a week, according to the timetable, published as part of the regulatory approval process.
Mark Ellinger, chief commercial officer for the airline, said the aim is to begin flying in the summer.
No US plans
He said the airline has no plans to fly to the U.S. and would enable travelers within the region to bypass Miami, currently the connection hub for travel to most of the destinations BlueSky will service.
He said all the destinations, with the exception of Nassau, Bahamas and Montego Bay, Jamaica, are new routes for Grand Cayman and would bring new tourists to the island, as well as create travel opportunities for residents here.
He said the route to Tortola, stopping off at Santa Domingo in the Dominican Republic, would also facilitate much faster travel for business traffic between Grand Cayman and the British Virgin Islands.
Mr. Ellinger added, “People in Central and Latin America are traveling in much greater numbers, and the projections for the next 15 to 20 years are very strong.”
He said 150,000 people visited the Caribbean from Colombia last year, the majority going to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic and Cancun, Mexico.
“They are looking for new upscale tourism destinations,” he added.
He said BlueSky is going through the regulatory process to obtain an Air Operator’s License in the nine destinations it will service.
Once the airline is fully operational, Mr. Ellinger estimates it will create around 100 jobs locally, including pilots, flight crew and sales and marketing staff. He said ticket sales would begin around 60 days before the first flights.
“This is going to have a very significant impact for Cayman, for tourism, for business and investment,” he added.
He said all the flights will be direct, with the exception of Tortola, San Jose, Costa Rica and Bogota, Colombia.
Even those flights would be quicker and more convenient than traveling through Miami and having to clear customs in the U.S., he added.
Mr. Ellinger said the routes would also allow international travelers to bypass Miami by connecting with flights to Europe through Cancun or Panama City. The airline will also run direct flights to the Bahamas on Sundays, timed to link with the British Airways flight out of Nassau. He said “extensive research” went into developing the timetable.
“We are not depending fully on the Cayman market. We expect to bring a lot of tourist and business traffic into Grand Cayman,” he added.
BlueSky Airlines is owned by the Paramount Group. Kenny Rankin is listed as the company’s chief executive officer, with Paul Rankin as the chief financial officer.
Other directors include former Cayman Airways pilot Peter Schmid, and Edward Jerrard, an aviation expert who teaches air transport management at the University College of the Cayman Islands.