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CAYMAN AIRWAYS REOPENS PANAMA ROUTE

Front Pages 13 Feb, 2023 Follow News

CAYMAN AIRWAYS REOPENS PANAMA ROUTE

CAL Relaunches Panama City Route_(l-r) Paul Tibbetts Fabian Whorms Hon. Kenneth Bryan Kris Bergstrom

After a nine-year hiatus, Cayman Airways is reopening its route to Panama. Direct flights will resume on Monday 26th June between Grand Cayman’s Owen Roberts International Airport and Panama’s Tocumen International Airport in Panama City.

Making the announcement during a joint press conference with Cayman Airways CEO Fabian Whorms and Deputy Chairman of the Board Chris Bergstrom, Hon. Minister of Tourism Kenneth Bryan said it was the second major launch between Grand Cayman and a major international gateway in the short span of six months. The other was the opening of the route to LAX in Los Angeles.

The resumption of the direct airlink to Panama City, Min. Bryan said, comes on the back of several new opportunities which were not available when the route was closed in 2014.

Tourism, trade and seamless in-transit connectivity via the Panama City hub with other Latin American and US cities are among the key benefits he said that were driving the decision.

Calling it a strategic move from both a tourism and business perspective, Min. Bryan noted that last year Cayman received a total of 6488 visitors from the Latin American market, just 2500 down from pre-pandemic in 2019.

“With the direct service available to travellers, we are anticipating seeing more positive growth from this region...The relaunching of the Panama service, along with the recent introduction of the LAX route fulfills my ministry's objectives to expand into new markets and grow visitation outside of the Cayman Islands' typical source markets."

Mr Bryan also said the Panama City route will serve as a gateway from the surrounding markets such as Brazil, Argentina and Colombia, “making it easier for travellers from those regions to access our beautiful country.”

Cayman’s growing health tourism industry is also being factored into the marketing plans for the service, targeting wealthy Latin Americans who would seek specialist medical care in the Cayman Islands.

Mr Bryan also said he is holding talks with Cabinet colleagues and the Governor’s Office regarding the possibility of relaxing visa requirements, an issue outside his portfolio.

Highlighting the trade potential, he pointed to opportunities for business out of the Free Trade Zone located in Colon, less than 50 miles from Panama City and the largest free port in the Americas.

“There are more than 3000 established companies in the zone, representing an attractive option for travellers from a trade and business perspective,” Mr Bryan noted. “There are several Caymanian companies which conduct business through Panama, Having the convenient option for transporting products could lead to the reduction in the cost of living for many Caymanians and would allow Cayman Airways to benefit from the sale of seats and cargo.”

The benefits highlighted by Min. Bryan were echoed by the CEO of Cayman Airways Fabian Whorms.

“Serving Panama is not just about serving Panama,” he explained.

“The Tocumen airport is one of the best hubs in the world when it comes to connectivity and in transit travel…So I think the residents of the Cayman Island as well as new visitors to the Cayman Islands can look forward to this now brilliant hub to connect. And it goes beyond just Latin America, even Europe, almost every corner of the globe. Panama serves as a really really, really good hub.”

Cayman Airways will also re-establish a partnership with the Panamanian national airline Copa, which itself is part of the United Airlines network and will benefit from its links throughout Latin America.

The potential for more cargo capacity is another advantage for the relaunched service that was not possible previously, according to CEO Whorms.

“The equipment being the 737-8 is in a larger aircraft. The cargo carrying capacity is 50% more than the equipment we used to have. So that obviously means we also have 50% more capacity to carry more cargo now than we did then. So that ties in with what the minister said about the drive for cargo,” he said, reminding that “the Colon FreeZone is trader's haven so we're really looking to capitalize on the cargo element.”

Meanwhile, Kris Bergstrom, the deputy chairman of the Cayman Airways board, also expressed their enthusiasm for the relaunch of the Panama connection.

“As part of our growth plan for the airline. It is very timely, as the CEO has said so we're very excited to launch this service. The great thing about having new equipment, it provides us with a high level of reliability. But it also provides us with a much bigger area of opportunity in which we can operate so I look forward to many, many exciting things to come from the airline. And Panama is just one step in that path.”

When the service resumes Cayman Airways will operate a twice weekly service to Panama on Mondays and Thursdays with flights timed to facilitate passenger connections inbound to Cayman via Panama and passengers from Cayman heading to other destinations via Panama.

The reopening of the Panama link comes as Cayman Airways is reviewing its schedule which entails scaling back the number of flights to some destinations including Cuba.


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