Querying cost of flight to Little Cayman

| 05/03/2018

Ask Auntie, CNS Local Life, Caymanian statusPlease find out why Cayman Airways Express Service charges more to fly to Little Cayman than to Cayman Brac. As far I know, Grand Cayman to Little Cayman is a shorter distance, and Cayman Airways does not pay any landing fees for Little Cayman but do pay for Cayman Brac (or is supposed to).

Auntie’s answer: It may have taken some time, but I have managed to get the information you requested. An official with Cayman Airways explained that there were three main reasons why the airfare from Grand Cayman to Little Cayman is higher than to Cayman Brac.

The first two causes have to do with the aircraft used on those routes. Most of the passengers between Grand Cayman to Cayman Brac are flown on the Saab 340B+, “which inherently has a lower cost of operation (per seat) than the de Havilland Twin Otter aircraft used for all Little Cayman operations”.

And, fair enough, this lower cost translates into lower airfares for the Grand Cayman to Cayman Brac flights. In case you’re thinking that the airline should use a more fuel-efficient plane, “the Edward Bodden Airfield in Little Cayman is not configured, equipped or certified to accept any aircraft larger than” the aforementioned Twin Otters.

In addition, I was told that these smaller aircraft on the Little Cayman route have higher-than-normal operating costs because there are no re-fuelling facilities in Little Cayman. The CAL representative explained, “This means that flights between Grand Cayman and Little Cayman have to depart Grand Cayman with enough fuel for the round trip, which limits the number of seats that can be sold to recover the costs to operate the flight.”

The last reason has to do with passenger flows on the two different routes, which affect both efficiency and cost of flights. “With Little Cayman being primarily a tourist destination, passengers travel heavily in only one direction at different times of the day, while the flights in the other direction have low loads,” the official said.

More specifically, it was explained, “very few passengers travel to Little Cayman from Grand Cayman before noon”, but flights in the opposite direction have “good loads of tourists departing to Grand Cayman for onward international connections”. In the afternoons, though, the situation is reversed, meaning flights heading to Little Cayman have “good loads of arriving tourists, while the return flights back to Grand Cayman have low loads”.

And what all of that last part means regarding your question is that “to cover the costs of operating both the full and empty legs, the airfares have to be higher than would be the case if all the flights had good passenger loads in both directions”.

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Category: Airport Questions, Ask Auntie

Comments (7)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Cayman Air bought the Saab planes because they are more efficient than the otters. It cost about the same amount to fly the Saab with 30 people as it does to fly the otter with 12, so it is more expensive per seat to fly the twin otter. Little cayman runway is too small for the saab so you have to fly the otter, hence the more expensive ticket. It is my understanding that Cayman Air still loses money to little because of the cost to fly so really the ticket should be more expensive.

    • Anonymous says:

      In any normal country cayman airways would not be flying these loss making flights to the sister islands or elsewhere but of course once the tax payer agrees to keep it going or, more likely, has no idea of the costs, no point in complaining.

      • Anonymous says:

        Most normal countries do provide subsidised or nationalised transport aimed at providing a public service rather than lining corporate executive and shareholder pockets.

      • Anonymous says:

        Flights within the United States and United Kingdom which are considered essential but not economically viable are highly subsidized by the respective governments. Either you do not know anything about the airline industry or do not consider these countries “normal”.

    • Avguy says:

      Cayman Airways needs to be properly manage. The SAAB 340 is a very unsafe and out of production aircraft and not very effecient. CA needs to purchase an embraer 175 and fly it into CKIA and use the twin otter for the 5 minute flight to little. Then government would not have to spend the 10 million to upgrade the Edward Bodden Airfield and leave Little Cayman (charming) just like how it is. The 175 is very economical and overall a great aircraft. It would reduce the congestion at ORIA where all intertional passengers have to pass through to the sister islandS except on Saturdays.
      Come on CA think outside the box for once. By the way the cost to lease the 4 new 737 max will bankrupt the Cayman Islands. CA only needs two 737 max, two Embraer 175, and two twin otters to fly to Little from CB ( one Otter as a back up.) I understand it is quite high.

      • No max says:

        I understand that it cost 375,000 us per month per airplane which is 18 million per year to lease the four new 737 max.

      • Anonymous says:

        It’s also worth remembering that the ‘return’ on having a higher capacity of 4 x 737s isn’t all about the airline cost. Every person that flies here spends money here well beyond the airline. Otherwise, very much agree with intelligent thoughts about LC and The Brac.