As published in the Caymanian Compass – WEDNESDAY 23 OCTOBER 2013
A new Cayman Islands-based airline is planning to run scheduled flights connecting to the Caribbean and Latin America.
BlueSky Airlines has already launched an “executive jet” service aimed at high-end clients in the business world.
The service, which allows executives to take day trips on private planes to meetings in the region, will also target exclusive leisure travelers.
The next and more ambitious phase of expansion for the fledgling company will be commercial routes, bypassing the U.S., and linking Grand Cayman to islands around the Caribbean, as well as central and South America.
The airline’s directors say they are still finalizing regulatory approvals and other details before announcing a timeline for the opening of the new routes.
They plan to use a 70-seater Dash 8 Q400 aircraft, which can reach cruising speeds of nearly 435 miles an hour – similar to a Boeing 737, to run island-hopping multi-destination routes connecting to hubs in Latin America.
Potential routes could include a British Virgin Islands-Grand Cayman-Costa Rica link.
Other potential destinations include the Dominican Republic and Colombia, though the exact schedule has not been finalized.
Aviation expert Edward Jerrard, who is a consultant for the company, said it would complement rather than compete with Cayman Airways, bringing in passengers from around the region who could then access the national airline’s routes to destinations like Cuba and New York.
The airline will initially lease pilots and crew with the aircraft but ultimately aims to recruit and train a locally based workforce of around 50 employees.
Mr. Jerrard said the company aimed to exploit a gap in the market for travelers looking to skip the headache of traveling through Miami and connect to Latin America and beyond. He said it would also link in with other airlines within the Caribbean to facilitate smoother travel within the region.
“The whole idea is a smaller airline, smaller fuel-efficient aircraft that will provide that network of connections between eastern Caribbean, western Caribbean and Latin America for both passengers and product.
“The key is bypassing Miami. For a lot of people with visa problems, for example, the issue of getting to somewhere else in the Caribbean is a nightmare at the moment.
“For us, the market is the entire Caribbean from BVI west; we are looking at the whole region, not just one territory.”
He said the connections to central and South America would open up the possibility of traveling to Australia or Europe without having to connect through the U.S.
“This will aim to make Cayman more in touch with the world,” Mr. Jerrard said.
“We have 150 nationalities represented on this island and pretty much one destination. This will enable a much greater penetration of the world business market and leisure market into Cayman.”
The directors say they are undeterred by the financial struggles of Cayman Airways, pointing out the national airline’s mandate to increase tourism arrivals for government is an entirely different business model.
BlueSky spokesman Mark Ellinger added, “BlueSky is uniquely positioned as it will not compete with Cayman Airways or any of the other carriers into the Cayman Islands.
“We have carefully identified other routes to destinations commonly traveled by people moving in and out of the Cayman Islands. We have designed our offering to take advantage of large hubs in South America. If you want to fly to South Africa, why would you opt to first fly north?”
The idea of “skipping Miami” is also the concept behind BlueSky’s Executive Jet service, which has been operating quietly for the past few months ahead of a “soft launch” this week.
The service targets business and high-end leisure travelers who want to hire private planes for a quick trip, usually to neighboring countries like Trinidad or Barbados, but potentially to anywhere in the world.
“Our research shows there is a market for people who need to get to these destinations quickly. At the moment, they all have to go through Miami to transfer and we all know the time taken and the problems that creates,” Mr. Jerrard said.
“Some of these business people and lawyers are charging these clients a considerable amount of money and the time taken to get there is all added to the bill.”
He said the company could get almost any aircraft for the trip at a moment’s notice. A day trip on a Learjet for five people to Jamaica would cost around $1,600 per person, he said.
“It is also for those people who want to go for a day to Cuba or go and play a round of golf in Punta Cana or Dominican Republic.”
He said the company planned further expansions, carrying cargo and organizing and planning holidays for travelers on both the private jets and the scheduled routes.
“BlueSky Holidays and BlueSky Cargo will be established to open up new sources of tourism, trade and commerce for the Cayman Islands and the wider Caribbean,” the company added in a press statement.