Immigration battles queues during airport upgrade

| 09/02/2018 | 50 Comments
Cayman News Service

Owen Roberts International Airport (ORIA) with expansion work underway

(CNS): The Department of Immigration is trying to address the growing queues of arriving passengers at Owen Roberts International Airport (ORIA) during the continued work on upgrading the facility. But with 26 inbound commercial flights on Saturday alone during the second weekend that the new hall was open, while still in peak season, it has been rearranged in an effort to accommodate the numbers and improve the experience. Acting Chief Immigration Officer Bruce Smith said 2,913 passengers arrived on Saturday and 2,665 travellers left.

“As this was the second Saturday in the new hall, we wanted to address some of  the frustrations of the travelling public, who have had to contend with excessive waiting periods emanating from long lines and passenger overflow from our hall,” Smith explained. “So we wanted to ensure operations continue to run smoothly in the future, as we welcome the increase of arriving passengers during the high season.”

To accommodate more passengers indoors and allow for shorter lines for the arriving passengers, the immigration hall was rearranged. CIAA customer service staff also ensured queuing passengers from the tarmac were waiting comfortably with a covered walkway, access to restroom facilities and refreshments.

“We ask the travelling public for their continued patience as critical works continue at ORIA,” Smith said. “Once the essential ongoing construction in the baggage area of the former arrivals hall is completed, significant space will be available for passenger movement within the immigration hall.”

DOI officials said they are working on several other initiatives, including deploying additional staff at all 12 booths during the 11am-3pm peak arrival period. The department has also hired three ambassadors to assist with facilitating smooth passenger flow, and there are now mandatory lines for special needs passengers who require additional assistance as well as the elderly and passengers travelling with infants.

CIAA CEO Albert Anderson said customer satisfaction is at the core of the CIAA, as the airport is the first place visitors see. “As the renovation project progresses, all prospective agencies will continue to work closely together as a team to provide a high-quality guest experience to all airport users.”

The recently announced fast track procedure in Miami will begin in March, which officials hope will have a significant impact on streamlining airport procedures.

Chief Officer for the Ministry of District, Administration, Tourism and Transport Stran Bodden described the efforts by immigration and the airport to help address the queues during the work as “tremendous”.

“The renovation of ORIA is intended to turn the Cayman Islands into a major gateway for the region, so as well as catering for increased passengers and visitors, the expansion is also about enhancing their experience,” he added.

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  1. Fred the Piemaker says:

    Having left on Saturday lunchtime can tell you it’s as bad going out. The queue for security went all the way to the far end of the building then doubled back on itself, and there was literally standing room only in departures- so crowded that people were standing in the aisles leading to the gates and blocking those trying to queue to board. Great final impression for our visitors. And whilst expanding the departure will help it doesn’t explain why it’s taking so long to get through security – current number of X-ray machines and staff and/ or procedures just cannot handle the peak volumes.

    • Anonymous says:

      Archaic security procedures most likely the cause. Not really Caymans fault I don’t suspect. The constant bailing up of people for toothpaste and eye drops for their contact lenses tends to become harassment , once you have had to go through the drill enough times. They are just doing what they are told also, so cant blame the personnel manning the X ray machines and 2nd inspection. Still…enough comment on this situation to make one wonder, are we [ still ] dealing with the old mind-set of ‘ You will wait as long as we feel necessary for you to wait ‘ attitude. I am also not blaming the airport staff either here, I’ve had a couple of 2.5 hour arrival times for government procedures in U.S. airports the past 12 months too. Its enough to make someone stay at home . #Staycation In Cayman 2018.

  2. Anonymous says:

    On Saturday I arrived during the peak times and the lines was long, it was hot at times but I thinks the Immigration Officers was working as fast as the could and they all seem to be working in a professional manner, however there was persons who was very upset about the wait. It was during this time that I notice that person leaving one particular Immigration Officer counter all looked so much happier and I wondered why? I was lucky enough to have the same Officer, and then I knew why others was leaving this counter feeling so good. The friendly, calm, compassionate and professional manner in which this officer displaced himself I felt the true spirit of “Cayman kind”, Thanks Mr A. Powery, keep up the good work as you are an ambassador for this Island.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Check CIAA website; they keep (or used to ) stats

  4. Anonymous says:

    Cayman Airways provides better on-time service than American Airlines (please check the stats) and far, far better customer service!

  5. Anonymous says:

    There were only 2 immigration officers for the hoards of tourists when I came in last week. Maybe they need to bring back the other officers under investigation on paid leave.

    • In the eye of blind the one eye man is king says:

      Arrive today Saturday. New area very dark with poor lighting with very few and small windows. In addition not very good signage. Waited a while because only one baggage carousel. Nice area for tours and taxis to meet their pre-book passengers. overall 5 out of 10.
      I did notice a lot persons on the ramp for baggage and directing passengers about 50 in total which was almost as confusing as the round a-bouts.
      I wonder how much were Caymanians and if not why are we not hiring more Caymanians John John?

  6. Anon says:

    Couldn’t travelers answer the necessary questions online before arriving? If a passenger buys the ticket with his credit card it seems like any credit bureau could supply all of the information necessary to screen out the passengers who need to be questioned. Any time spent interacting with a USA born 45+ year old from Iowa with an established good credit record is a total waste of time that should be spent scrutinizing persons with no history, or a history that raises actual questions and issues that need resolution.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Why does it take 5 mins. to process a person from large countries? (USA, Canada, Great Britain, etc) They have a passport? Are they on an alert? Then stamp it and say Welcome to the Cayman Islands.

  8. Anonymous says:

    A culturally appropriate welcome to Absurdistan.

  9. Richard says:

    The CIAA screwed up. They should have stuck to the plans that were approved in 2012. Those plans more than quadrupled the passenger services areas as well as allowed for jet-ways which would have cost under US $400,000 each. We now have the most modern third world rated airport in the world.

    • Anonymous says:

      Are you referring to the $200,000,000 design? The one that didn’t get built because we couldn’t afford it?

  10. Bobo says:

    The problem is flight timing yes but also that for job protection both customs and immigration want to process every person. Also think about immigration in mia now…..if you go through the esta lines they have maybe 2 or 3 officers for what is way more volume than gcm. By the time I land in Mia now I am outside in about 20 to 25 mins. It’s far too slow and customs doesn’t need to process every person.

  11. Anonymous says:

    I don’t understand why it took this happening for them to realise that more immigration staff should be scheduled for peak arrival times. That should be standard operating procedure.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Do not fear as Honorable Premier and the Unity team will get this resolved. They are hard at work to sort out all our problems. 4 more years!

  13. West bay Premier says:

    We might as well quit trying to sort the Airport problems out . Because we can make all the sense in the world , but they would still hire consultants to figure out the problems.

  14. Anonymous says:

    From what I see CIAA is far from an authority on airports. Time to get some leadership in there that can really advance our airport services.

    • Anonymous says:

      let’s back track here…2 weeks ago there were long lines reported and passengers taking as long as two hours to be processed through immigration…Mr Smith reported that 11 of the 12 immigration booths were being worked.. Last week all 12 positions were filled and all went well, No long wait times. Can some one explain why having only one additional position, eliminated the long wait time. Oh wait, maybe I should not suggest that as it will require another consultant to help them explain it.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Anyone been in yet? Hardly the modern impressive experience Cayman deserves. I appreciate it is not yet finished but for example the new immigration desks are cheap and tasteless. Such a disappointment.

    • Anonymous says:

      I totally agree. Who did the interior design? It is absolutely terrible. Even the new departure desks are huge, ugly and look nothing like the modern ones in airports nowadays..Why spend all this money on this ugly dysfunctional crap!

      What a waste of money!

      Heads need to roll..

    • Anonymous says:

      and no bathrooms! why did they not think people would want to go to the bathroom after a flight! 1 bathroom for women to serve 300 off a plane! oh please.. now that was careful planning!

      • Anonymous says:

        They don’t want you throwing the ‘ Marital Aids ‘ and Caviar away…..No Bathroom For You !!!

  16. Commercial Pilot says:

    Why allow so many flights to arrive in such a short space of time? Does our airport have to fit in with the schedules of every airport in the U.S.? American Airlines already has a flight arriving in late afternoon, the other carriers can be allocated arrival slots spread evenly throughout the day and it will be up to them to work backwards and time their departures appropriately.

    • Anonymous says:

      It is not up to CIAA to decide. Have you just came out of the cave?

      • Fred the Piemaker says:

        Actually it is CIAAs responsibility. Do you think an airline can just turn up and land whenever it wants? The local aviation authority grants a landing and take off slot time as part of the route agreement.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Why whine over a little bit of inconvenience. It is only for awhile. Count your blessings instead. Too much griping over what is inevitable.

    • Anonymous says:

      Just the result of piss poor planning. Tourism and the airport have known for perhaps as long as a year what the incoming scheduled flights would be. They also knew what the construction dates were for different sections of the airport expansion – but nobody bothered to calculate whether the largest numbers of arriving passengers would clash with the reduced area in the immigration hall. Not rocket science, but they therefore never considered the possibility of long queues of people outside, with no protection from sun, or rain.

    • Anonymous says:

      It’s not inevitable it’s easily fixed.

    • Diogenes says:

      Everyone is fine with being inconvenienced from afar,
      if it was you stuck in those lines, I guarantee you’d be singing a different tune

      The point of highlighting this issue is not to take joy of the many failings of our government it is to ensure that the problem is resolved and that no one ( including the persons who whine about persons whining, such as yourself) don’t have to experience this


    • Anonymous says:

      What is inevitable is that after waiting years for a new airport, it’s still not going to function any better than the previous at a cost of $55 million.

  18. Anonymous says:

    So how did the section process for the Duty Free and Food Vendors go. I read in the RFP that the companies would be chosen in July… But I was pretty sure it July 2017. I must have been mistaken.

  19. Anonymous says:

    In the bank (my longest regular que) I figure 5 minutes per person ahead of me. Given the numbers in the article it sounds like Immigration are doing a good job moving people along.

    2,913 passengers x 5 minutes = 14,565 minutes
    14,565 minutes divided by 12 booths = 1,213.75 minutes per booth/line per day
    1,213.75 minutes divided by 60 minutes = 20 hours
    So by my estimate my bank would have taken 20 hours to process all of those persons, I don’t think Immigration took that long.

    • Anonymous says:

      When’s the last time you turned up at your bank and the queue was out the door and round the carpark, leaving you queuing in the sun.

      • Anonymous says:

        Immaterial. Since if the bank que is too long I can leave but if the Immigration que is too long I can’t back on the airplane. – I’m not saying the long lines are acceptable, but noting that you can’t blame the immigration officers for it.

    • Anonymous says:

      @2:09 pm
      It is not about the speed with which immigration works, but about time spent by visitors standing outside in lines under hot Caribbean sun.
      Banks waiting areas are inside, air-conditioned and there are benches to sit on, should you start feeling dizzy.

      • Anonymous says:

        No, the point of the post was – don’t lambaste Immigration for what is apparently a design flaw.

  20. West bay Premier says:

    Is all of these problems caused by each department trying to figure out their own problem ? I have always believed that two heads are better than one head . Why don’t Mr Kirkconnell get all of the heads of the Departments for one full day meeting to make solutions for all possible problems at the Airport .

    • Anonymous says:

      Because the bottleneck sounds to be how many immigration booths there are an how many planes are scheduled close together. Really only need one non-Govt. agency to sort that one out in advance.

  21. Anonymous says:

    I think it’s quite hilarious how they are blaming this on Immigration when the fact of the matter is CIAA is the one truly responsible for this mess. This arrivals hall is not big enough to deal with all passengers coming off of the flights. CIAA knows this! CIAA should of provided shade for the passengers, water for the passengers, bathroom facilities for the passengers and places to put the passengers when all of the airlines are landing within half an hour of each other. 26 flights is quite a lot of passengers with each aircraft holding approx 120 to150 passengers and 5 or 6 flights arriving at the same time anyone with any sense could and should of anticipated this problem. However, why not blame Immigration cause they are the easy scapegoat. It’s not Immigration that schedules the flights coming in. It’s not Immigration that manages the airport. It’s not Immigration that opened up a new area which wasn’t ready for the amount of passengers and had nowhere to put them. The fault truly lies with CIAA. Is everyone so blind to the fact that Saturdays are the busiest time at the airport? This is not new news everyone. The old arrival hall is smaller than this new one however there were places for the passengers to line up in the shade with bathrooms, fans and access to water as this was provided usually. So how come all of a sudden now this is Immigration’s problem? This is not their fault it is poor planning and not anticipating the needs of the passengers by CIAA. I’m assuming that the opening of a new arrivals hall completely blinded them to the fact that the new area is not finished properly and there was no where to put the passengers when the flights came in as there was in the other area. Surprise!! If proper reporting by the news outlets and a little research was done they could of seen that the blame for this was truly CIAA and not Immigration. It’s good to see that it has improved somewhat from the first Saturday. The question is why wasn’t this done initially? Instead CIAA was ill prepared and instead of stepping up to the plate and taking responsibility for their failings they and everyone else blames Immigration. Par for the course I guess.

  22. Anonymous says:

    Sort. Out. The. Flight. Schedules.

    • Anonymous says:

      That shows you have no idea how the aviation industry works. We’re not Heathrow where slots get limited and airlines also use other airports (Gatwick, Stanstead, Luton). We only have one airport and American Airlines et al aren’t going to somehow fit in their connection schedules elsewhere with the balls up that lies at the feet of the CIAA.

      I arrived last night from Miami coming into the Immigration Hall for the first time. Exactly how many extra desks are there compared to the old hall – not many if you add them up. Also nice to have to walk all the way round the outside of the hall as a Caymanian or Resident to get to you desk. Lighting was shocking too, same in the Customs Hall. Vampires must live in the new sections.

      Also how many extra customs desks compared to before? None! Same number! But now 4 carousels eventually. Recipe for disaster.

      First impressions from a frequent flyer – Poor, extremely poor, and from the looks of it that it as far as the new arrival improvements are concerned.

  23. Anonymous says:

    not helped when cayman airways couldn’t care less about sticking to their arrival schedules….

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