Airport OBC makes no case for runway

| 31/07/2023 | 98 Comments
Long-term vision of ORIA in 2041, Cayman News Service
Long-term vision of ORIA in 2041

(CNS): The outline business case that Tourism Minister Kenneth Bryan is using to justify the continued development of Cayman’s airports makes no case for the $27 million runway expansion. The decision to extend the runway at Owen Roberts International Airport into the North Sound is part of a plan to upgrade Grand Cayman’s airport, but there is only one line in the 270-page document that says this is to attract long-distance carriers, leaving little, if any, basis for the costly and controversial plan.

The lengthy document mentions the runway in passing but offers no justification for it or explains what benefits will come from this significant and controversial investment, given the environmental concerns surrounding it. Although the runway makes up more than one-third of the costs of the next $76 million phase of the airport plan, it does not seem to be at the top of the Cayman Islands Airport Authority’s list.

The project will be financed by an increase in the airport terminal tax to CI$5 and the creation of a new airport development fee of CI$15 during the period of construction.

The proposal to increase the runway by 1,900 feet is one of a number of sub-projects in the long-term revised masterplan, which includes upgrades and expansions to the current airside and landside infrastructure to cater for the expected growth in passengers in the coming years.

But the consultants engaged by the CIAA to write the OBC barely addressed the case for a longer runway. Instead, the document focuses on the movements of planes and passengers, inefficiencies, security concerns, the lack of capacity and the problem of heavy traffic over the weekends.

Out of the options assessed, Bryan chose Option 4 for the ORIA main terminal, and this choice has since been supported by Cabinet. Then, from a long list of potential works falling within that project, he selected the runway, despite the lack of detail to support that choice.

The document stresses the need to increase capacity at the terminal to allow for the expected growth in passenger numbers and to improve the movement of people around the facility.

In the section listing the current problems at ORIA, the authors list dozens of areas that would benefit from improvements, such as peak hour queuing, the resulting poor service and safety concerns. Also listed as problematic are air traffic congestion and the cumulative delays, the inefficiency of the building and the distance passengers must walk after landing (much of which is outside), and the lack of jetways.

The report states that the mixing of domestic and international passengers as they arrive and depart leads to confusion, and inadequate facilities lead to poor user experiences.

The OBC stresses the need for a new control tower, a taxiway to improve runway capacity in peak hours and an expanded apron parking for aircraft, and notes the insufficient infrastructure to support passenger growth. However, the length of the runway is not mentioned at all in this list of current problems.

Although major renovations to ORIA were completed in 2019, the report focuses heavily on the capacity constraints before the COVID pandemic. One of the major problems is that during peak times, the new airport is already struggling to cope with the number of people passing through. Improving the airport layout and security issues are the other two major focus points in the OBC.

The document is being used to support the government’s planned multi-million dollar investment in the runway, a new general aviation terminal and upgrades to both the Charles Kirkconnell International Airport on Cayman Brac and the airfield on Little Cayman. But nowhere in the OBC is there any information about the urgency of a longer runway or how a longer runway would attract bigger planes and more airlines.

The OBC does talk about the runway’s future in the face of rising sea levels, but these concerns are dismissed, despite indicating that extending the runway at ORIA would require reclaiming land from the sea. The option of raising the runways was explored, but the consultants concluded that “based upon current elevation”, none of the airport facilities and runways proposed on all three islands would “need to be raised to accommodate potential sea level rises in the near term”.

The ORIA terminal is 8.5ft above sea level, which is only susceptible to partial flooding in extreme circumstances,” the authors stated. Despite the problems that Cayman will face in the long-term with rising sea levels, increasing risk of intense storms and more frequent king tides, raising the runway was “beyond the airport master planning horizon of twenty years”.

The OBC points out that the government must consider the cost and solutions for rising sea levels with future infrastructure development.

At a press conference in May to announce the redevelopment project, Bryan stated that a decision had been made to focus on the runway and the general aviation terminal because these two upgrades would increase revenue for the airport.

Although no airlines have made any commitments concerning long-haul flights to Grand Cayman, Bryan said a longer runway would enable larger aircraft to land here, and this would attract long-haul flights and, by implication, more passengers.

Proposed runway for ORIA – Option 4 (click to enlarge)

See the full airport press conference on CIGTV below and the OBC in the CNS Library:


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Category: development, Local News, Travel

Comments (98)

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  1. M Richie says:

    A costly and controversial plan indeed and very controversial when it comes to the potentially irreversible long term effects that this could have on the North Sound and the flora and fauna that live in that lagoon – and not just sea grass as was stated in the initial environmental assessment. There is a plethora of marine life there including Cayman Green Sea Turtles that can be seen in the lagoon every morning and evening coming to and from the mangroves in front of the airport. There are also Eagle Rays, Star Fish, Lobsters, Shrimp and endangered Parrot Fish that can be seen early in the morning and late at night in the very area being proposed for this extension. I am very saddened and confused as to how this proposal has been entertained and approved thus far.

  2. Anonymous says:

    9:46, You are right, we love getting wet here when we take off and arrive here in the rainy season.

    World class all the way.

  3. Anonymous says:

    From the look of these comments I have not read one person that is really in favor of this project. If there are people in favor…where are they? Perhaps it should be a vote with the next election and let’s see how Cayman really feels. Kenneth if you represent the people you don’t seem to be listening very well. Stop looking for what is good for Tourism only and overlooking what the people who live here need or don’t need. There is a balance you know.

    – The traffic is ready out of control, you want to bring in more people?

    – The beaches that everyone comes to visit are disappearing as we speak. Anyone who doesn’t know what I’m talking about take a walk south down 7 mile past Royal Palm…. oh wait you can’t, there is no beach. We now are 6 mile Beach. We show all the new tourists

    – The cost of living and/or Cayman people unable to survive yet you want to take care of the tourists. Time to take care of your own people.

    – The crime that has gotten so out of control probably because of the above topic. It’s a chain reaction. Maybe the tourists can fix it.

    – We don’t need time wasted on another port like debate while you build and disrupt the North Sound. The sea life has spoken with its bleached coral and rising levels, it doesn’t want your project either.

    – The large group of people in the Grand Harbour area that will loose value in their properties? Kenneth are you paying them? Or are the new tourists paying them? You cannot just remove peoples unobstructed views and start flying planes all over. This is now Crazy Town.

    Why on Earth are you doing this? Cayman it’s time to put our feet down and say no, this isn’t what the people asked for and it isn’t what the people want.

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  4. Come On Man says:

    At airport. Wi-Fi will not connect as signal too weak. Is this the same group we want to give $100’s of millions of dollars?? Leave runway extension alone and improve experience at airport for travelers. Simple.

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    • Sir Humphrey says:

      Kenny, FIX the friggin Wi-Fi at the airport.

      Go to Bermuda to see how an island airport can be run.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Kenny is certainly “blooming” with all these expensive CIG-spending ideas: LAX route, Barbados route, $35,000 Scranton Wishing Well, ORIA Runway Expansion

    All of this spending of CIG money with very little or no benefit to the general public, but a great benefit to his sponsor

    Auditor General, where are you?

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  6. GMD says:

    Improvement of the airport terminal is needed but it is unfortunate that the $100 million spent within the last few years seems to have been inadequate and really not a lasting benefit. What was the business case for that?? The runway extension definitely not justified. A few low cost carriers weekly (apparently increasing stay over travelers by less than 2 per cent) is inconsequential when weighed against the cost, damage to the environment, negative impact on surrounding community, noise and downward pressure on real estate. No more sailing club and on and on. Please leave the north sound alone. We don’t need it!!!

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  7. Anonymous says:

    like i said! Dart can built a hotel, complete with world class imported fixtures and furniture for 5 to 10 million to but concrete extensions take 27 million for the government. hahahahaha Caymanians are world class alright. thats all i’ll say

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    • Anonymous says:

      He most probably does 9:26, and we should be proud, – all done with with Govt concessions 🤡🙄

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  8. Anonymous says:

    Cayman tries to solve every problem with concrete. Focus on guest experience – how about more than American fast food in the airport terminal? How about more CBC officers on duty at any one time? How about fixing public transport so tourists can more easily get around our island? How about protecting our beaches and our culture instead of paving and seawalling?

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    • Anonymous says:

      How about really cleaning up 7-Mile Public Beach and bringing it back to the time before vendors were allowed to haggle their wares/services on this beach? Highend public beaches on our Caribbean islands provide a better experience than what tourists get at 7-mile Public Beach now. It is filthy, noisy, and anything you probably don’t want is “in your face” for sale there.

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    • Anonymous says:

      You need to be Premier.

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  9. Anonymous says:

    in the meantime more and more people can’t survive anymore from 6$ an hour and rising cost of living.
    uncontrolled increases of rent puts people on the street.
    Shouldn’t that be addressed first ?

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  10. Anonymous says:

    There is no need for a runway expansion at all! We can already land all the planes we need. We do not need low cost European airlines and it doesn’t seem like they even want to come here!!

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  11. Anonymous says:

    Kenny’s gone rogue, Kenny is a rogue, rogue is a well suited definition of all things Kenny

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    • Anonymous says:

      What has he ever managed before? We really need to put a stop to electing such persons to make them learn on the job, and be faced with the first time with multimillion dollars decisions.

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  12. Anonymous says:

    Wayne you have a responsibility to remove this moron! You wanted to be the leader? Well… lead for once!

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  13. Anonymous says:

    If sea levels and temperatures are rising why are we trying to attract more people while consistently elevating prices, particularly in beachfront properties? Id be grateful if one of our knowledgeable realtors would answer.

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  14. Anonymous says:

    We need the cricket field. LOL

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    • Anonymous says:

      CIAA another CIG entity run by a private sector board. I say no more.

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      • Anonymous says:

        Passing over the fact that the board is appointed by the government, and the project is initially funded by government – the hoped for recovery from future passenger tax isn’t going to pay the contractors now, and that the plan is being signed of on by government ( the reference to Kenny deciding which options is a bit of a give away). But sure, you go in telling yourself it’s all the private deco fault if it makes you feel better.

    • Anonymous says:

      Can’t host a pitch anywhere else, apparently.

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  15. Green Hornet says:

    All the climate change predictions are based on conservative IPCC projections. With current patterns these are now seen to be completely unrealistic as they have not factored in the rapidly expanding closed loop systems. Anyone (aka the airport expansion boondoggle proponents) who thinks that sea level rise threats are 20 years away needs to get a new brain. Like phasing out fossil fuels by 2050….damn they closed the gate after the bull bolted…

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    • Anonymous says:

      Yes, sea level rise will continue, imperceptibly gradual, but it won’t be a headline problem for a lifetime. Few of us will have energy to care that sea levels are 2” higher by 2050 (NASA est), we will be so deeply buried in other survival problems. Eg. Fresh water crisis (underway) crop failures (underway), global war (brewing, with Taiwan invasion DoD est <3yrs), fisheries collapse (underway), over a billion human climate migrants on the move (est 2040). Super-fires, desertification, dust storms, clean air. Superstorms ending risk coverage. The western economic system almost ended in 2009, and there may be a credit retest in years ahead. Chinese critical material export bans and supply chain paralysis (already in the works). Better to see what’s unfolding now and plan for these more immediate probabilities.

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      • Anonymous says:

        You sound fun

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      • Miami Dave says:

        Won’t be a problem for a lifetime? Look just north of here in the Florida Keys where sea level rise is a major problem now. 10 years ago people there said the same thing as you. Now no more.

        Suggest you take a trip there and see our future first hand.

        You cannot bury your head in the sand for too much longer as you are going to drown.

  16. Peter says:

    Be better to do something to improve the “passenger experience” in one of the lousiest receiving airports ever, access to and from planes, line ups in Customs/Immigration, surly reception.

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  17. Anonymous says:

    “Bryan chose Option 4” so someone who just a few hundred people voted for controls our entire future?

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  18. Anonymous says:

    Kenny is out of control and hasn’t a clue. Megalomaniac.

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  19. Anonymous says:

    Spot on CNS…this so called “business case” doesn’t have a single ounce of rationale for investing $27 million of the public’s money in the expansion of the runway.

    Something else that doesn’t add up: the image from the OBC and included in the article shows a significantly shorter runway than the graphic Kenny so proudly showed in the press conference (that also ran in the Compass on May 30th). Look at 58:00 in the video – the runway goes much farther into the North Sound – all the way to the north of Bimini Drive. What length runway did Cabinet actually approve in the OBC? The consultant notes the extension hasn’t yet been designed, so what length was used to calculate the $27 million estimate?

    This runway proposal fails miserably on being Accountable, Competent or Transparent. As does Kenny.

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    • Anonymous says:

      It’s page one in the CI Politician pro-development playbook. Any time there is a project involving untracked aggregate requisition and movements, the politicians get their pile, and the public pays twice. ACC should drill into DCI registries of contracted winning bidders, match requisitioned awards to payments, and delivered volume, noting those undertaking UBOs, and their registered office proximity to MP district offices. Interesting reading the looked at in context, including large decimal errors on last airport project.

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  20. Anonymous says:

    Televison reporter to Air travel /Tourism industry expert, just like that.

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  21. Sir Seymour Bodden says:

    Com’n now Kenny if ya gonna spend that much dough at least install a first class KFC diner at Owen Roberts Airport for Caymanians to receive dare healthy nutrients for da day. Just tink about it would ya!

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  22. Anonymous says:

    With the amount of money being spent, I don’t understand why they just don’t build a new airport in East End fit for purpose for the next 25 years. Too many people were promised contracts.

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    • Anonymous says:

      There is no need and has never been a business case or justification to build a new Owen Roberts airport anywhere on grand cayman. Or to upgrade the airport beyond its current state. Pie in the sky thinking.

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    • Anonymous says:

      I think this is the ploy. Make everyone so mad about this project that it will seem like a brilliant idea when they want to move it. And when they move it we will have a private airport for the Uber rich jets and celebrities coming in and out and another one for the rest of us. Otherwise the stupidity makes no sense as if anyone thought it was a good idea to spend this amount of money, extending into the water for planes that may or may not come while blocking the view of all of those on the North Sound that paid for unobstructed views seems unfathomable. Maybe we need to be looking into other things like the sea levels taking the beach from Royal Palms on and Dart not doing anything about his garbage spilling into the ocean.

  23. Anonymous says:

    There goes the reduction in the Grand Harbour property prices

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    • Anonymous says:

      The houses there already have 12 inch thick poured walls and thicker storm-rated glass to keep the noise of leaf blowers out, as well as such other undesirable nuisances like jet engine noise, which will now be further tested.
      Especially when Kennys [future]787 Dreamliners start to land & take-off.

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      • Anonymous says:

        How can you just block people’s once unobstructed views without a notice from planning? Every person along the shoreline and the developments behind should have an opportunity to object this though planning. I mean if it was done the correct way that is….

  24. Anonymous says:

    Illegal Billboards.
    Cruise Ship Port expansion.
    Airport expansion.
    Cayman Style Entertainment Restaurant.
    Cayman Airways Expansion.
    Collusion with other Caribbean Nation leaders.
    Constant trips abroad paid for by US.
    New flight routes to LA and Barbados.

    Sound like the only way KennyB can justify his existence in CIG is to spend our money.

    How about use all that cash to:

    FIX THE DUMP
    FINISH THE ROADS
    FIX THE RCIPS
    IMPROVEMENTS ON OUR EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM
    BUILD A DIVERS EDUCATIONAL AND EXAM FACILTY WITH STRINGENT TESTING

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  25. Anonymous says:

    Cayman please protest this as much as possible! How dare they ask us to pay for a facility only the rich will get to use.

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    • Anonymous says:

      We need to get the airport to come out as gay before anyone will protest against its development

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  26. Anonymous says:

    What we should have done was built a new airport in East End, one with actual airbridges and used the current airport land for purposely built affordable housing etc.

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  27. Anonymous says:

    Kenny has no idea what he is doing !

    If there was a case for a runway expansion it should be over the dry land – onto the cricket pitch etc not over a fragile ecosystem next to a residential zone. And modern planes do not need this extra runway space in any event!

    This man is a buffoon!

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    • Anonymous says:

      Like the Barbados flight, it service the Kenneth given that he is Chairman of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation. It’s ridiculous! Who wants to go to Barbados. Chuh!

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      • Anonymous says:

        They appointed/ voted him as chairman of Caribbean Tourism Organization just because they realise that he is not so bright and they can con him and sponge off him. Certainly not for his ability. He sees it as “boy they like me” while they encourage him to waste our money to help them. My grandpa used to say “a fool and his money will soon be parted” however in this case it is the Cayman Islands money. Please anyone out there who has any power , whether the Premier, the Governor or the Airport Authority do something to stop this nonsense. It will be a dereliction of duty if he is not reigned in.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Found the Grand Harbour owner.

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  28. Anonymous says:

    I can’t believe they looking to increase airport fees and the airport doesn’t even have a proper functioning open WI-FI system for travellers. Plus they have outgrown their seating capacity for travellers even on the less busy days!

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    • Anonymous says:

      That’s because they lump the bulk of international flights into 2x 2hr windows everyday. Outside of those times the airport is a ghost town of inter-island puddle jump shuttles.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Exactly I agree 100% all they did was build into the existing space that was there, No expansion for the betterment of travellers was done but yer again people in positions @ CIAA who has no experience in Aviation

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  29. Anonymous says:

    Scrap the $42M general aviation terminal. Nobody in the right mind whether you’re flying private or commercial wants to spend time in an airport terminal you simply want to get to your destination asap. I would guess 90% of the private planes arriving at ORIA are there simply to drop-off or pickup passengers few stay over night with the exception of the Christmas Holiday season. Dial the GA terminal back and save some money a totally foreign concept to Kenny and CIG. 🤪🤪🤪

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    • Anonymous says:

      I know, based on Kenneth’s deficit in understanding consultations, strategies, economics or anything that real intellectuals understand this will be an almost near impossible feat but someone really needs to sit him down and tell him that this runway is not needed, unaffordable and will not happen. Please do not leave this up to Kenneth Bryan to decide. AIrport authority should not, must not stroke his ego by allowing this. He needs to get down from his high horse and listen to those who know. After all it is not his money.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Spot on! Scrap the airport plan and use that money for a flyover at Grand Harbour roundabout.

  30. Anonymous says:

    A longer runway has military and drug running applications. If there’s a military case (and there might be), then let’s see it. Mother and NATO can pay for it, build a military hanger, staff and provide air defenses. Modern Civilian aircraft don’t need this extension.

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    • Anonymous says:

      The military aircraft operating in drug interdiction, surveillance, and weather can all operate off the current airfield. The argument for a longer runway is abut larger wide bodied airline aircraft – even the 777 BA operates can only operate here with a light load and a refueling stop elsewhere. Whether or not anyone would fly 777s, Airbus 340s and and 787s here non stop from Europe and Latin America is an entirely different question.

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      • Anonymous says:

        Actually the 777 has flown direct to LGW and LHR from here with heavy loads, and the 787 can easily do it.

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      • Laura says:

        BA took off here direct from and to London during COVID with no problem. Usually FULL of people both ways. Try again with that argument.

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        • Anonymous says:

          Take off requirement for a 777-200 at maximum take off weight is 8300 ft per the manual at sea level. Owen Roberts is less than 8000. Maybe you should try again.

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          • Anonymous says:

            no 777-200 needs maximum weight to fly to LHR from here direct, fuel requirements are less when flying east across the pond

      • Anonymous says:

        There’s no business case for long haul tourist flights from anywhere else, because:

        1. Those flights will be more expensive than existing warm weather options, so tourists won’t be interested.

        2. Cayman is already too expensive for most tourists, in large part because a bloated, incompetent and probably corrupt CIG and civil service/de facto welfare scheme are funded by 20%/22% import taxes on everything entering.

        3. Cayman is now a [far] more expensive version of Miami. If tourists want that, they can go to Miami; if they want undeveloped islands, there are cheaper options. Cayman should forget tourism, and focus on increasing offshore work. The government haven’t screwed that up yet.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Mother is busy in Europe now.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Right up his alley!

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  31. Anonymous says:

    Collecting the full landing fees and passenger taxes assessed by CAL would contribute to airport revenue.

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    • Anonymous says:

      It would contribute exactly zero. You understand that between CIG, CIAA and CAL you are just shuffling the same money from one pocket to the other. CIG subsidizes CAL that then pays the fees to CIAA. In my close to 30 years in Cayman I have not seen a single CIG project that came in on time or on budget.

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    • Anonymous says:

      CAL do not pay their bills and owe the airport millions but have been protected by the Ministry of Tourism and government for decades.
      What is clear CAL is not run like a business so standards and rules do not apply. It is the biggest drain on the public purse and a poorly run entity. Time to reset and fire the management team in order to refocus what the definition of a viable business should mean to CIG.

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  32. Anonymous says:

    “He who provides the funds calls the tune”

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    • Diogenes says:

      Unfortunately its the public that provide the funds and Kenny that calls the tune. The fundamental problem with Cayman Government – who pays, who benefits and who decides. Tax payers pay, but those that decide are more interested in themselves or those that benefit.

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  33. Anonymous says:

    This is all about Kenny Bryan’s vision and agenda.
    Cabinet supported it and voted on funding the projects so it’s political in nature.

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  34. Anonymous says:

    The new Kenny & Rosa rich people terminal will be a terrific boost to the economy, I can hardly wait. Lets spend-spend-spend like the tree will never stop dropping dollars!

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  35. Anonymous says:

    Quick, Honey Chile, activate the Spin Zone!

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  36. Johnny Canuck says:

    With the way this would be financed with additional airport traveller fees and the new fee for the new private jet terminal fee we would become the most expensive airport to fly out of in the Caribbean.

    So much for us to be competitive in the Caribbean tourism market.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Wait Kenny & Rosa will waive all fees for the rich people as we need them to fly the private jets here.

  37. Miami Dave says:

    Should have gone with the Canadian proposal 10 years ago and then we would have been set for the next 15 to 20 years.

    This incremental bit by bit airport expansion plan is ridiculous, however, great for local contractors and local airport equipment importers who are feeding at the CIG trough continually.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Canada has the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act which rendered any Canadian business ineligible for CIG contracts.

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      • A. Caymanian says:

        Get real corruption is very real here.
        Many Canadians in Cayman are involved in and facilitate corruption in the Caymans every year in many types of projects that they benefit from financially. Canada is a mess it has high taxes and lots of corruption.
        It is important to understand Government employees, MLA’s and public officers cannot bribe themselves there must be active participation from other parties in the private sector including Canadian nationals who are the sneakiest set of people to ever come to these islands yet desperate to get Cayman status.

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        • Miami Dave says:

          A. Caymanian,

          Enlighten me. Show me where the corruption is at the new Canadian built airport in Bermuda?

          Bet you are one of those feeding at the CIG trough.

          Pivoting all the time.

    • Sir Humphrey says:

      I have flown through the new Canadian Airport in Bermuda a couple of times on business the past year. Magnificent facility. I shed a little tear on what we could have had here on Grand Cayman.

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      • Anonymous says:

        See what happens when people think, plan, and execute accordingly. Instead we just plan according to what our fortune cookies read.

  38. Anonymous says:

    The runway take-off extension at ORIA done a couple years ago is enough, even for trans-Atlantic flights from here. Considering what no one in politics has a clue about – new aircraft technology. BA has been waiting for upgrades to CI Fire Service’s airport coverage for years (and still are) to fly their B787s (Dreamliners) here, the same ones which overfly us to/from Cancun…a route they want to share with Cayman. They have not been waiting for extra runway but the take-off addition certainly helps. Granted, CIFS had its focus on reorganizing and stabilizing management rather than operational expansion.

    Also, CI DoT has not created any significant form of European marketing strategy, it hasn’t committed to European marketing for years. “If we build it they will come” mentality should not apply here.

    In short, longer runway is not needed; it’s just political grandstanding at the public expense.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Wow, that is very interesting information. I think you’re being too polite in letting the CIFS off the hook, but that also includes political will as well of course.

      As for the European marketing strategy, why do we need that when we have King Kenny and Portsmouth FC…….

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  39. Anonymous says:

    What do you expect from Kenneth and the PACT

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  40. Anonymous says:

    Line 2 of paragraph 11, ‘runaway’ – I assume you are referring to the costs rather than the concrete thing the planes land and take off from!

    CNS: Fixed the typo.

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  41. SemSem says:

    Extending the runway simply seems an overpriced and unnecessary project compared to much needed jetways and terminal capacity extension. The runway project may go ahead at some later stage, but certainly not a priority.

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