British Airways introduces new Boeing 777 service to Cayman
British Airways (BA) introduced its new Boeing 777 commercial service to the Cayman Islands on Friday, 1 July. The new aircraft made its inaugural flight into the Cayman Islands on Friday and drew a large crowd of spectators eager to see the behemoth on the Owen Roberts International Airport (ORIA) tarmac for the second time. The first time an aircraft of this size landed in the Cayman Islands was in the mid 1990’s.
The aircraft is intended to service BA’s direct route between London Heathrow, Nassau and the Cayman Islands, and according to BA the new service will bring a 16 per cent increase in passenger numbers, which will likely have a dramatic impact on the small tourism-based economies of both Cayman and the Bahamas.
The change in plane by BA comes after the on-going expansion of the Owen Roberts International Airport which enables the airline to continue its journey on to Nassau, Bahamas. The three-year $55m ORIA development includes a larger terminal to accommodate the higher volume of passengers and a reinforced runway to accommodate the 777.
Diane Corrie, British Airways’ commercial manager for the Caribbean, said in January when the plane upgrade was announced that “The larger aircraft will be welcomed by the business communities on both islands including executives of the banking and finance sector, insurance companies and law firms and residents of The Bahamas who travel frequently to London and beyond on British Airways. The additional seats available in the premium cabins will also help to boost visitor arrivals from the UK and Europe to the island.”
Speaking to The Cayman Reporter, Kafara Augustine, Business Development and Marketing Manager for the Cayman Islands Airports Authority (CIAA) said, “With this being the second time that British Airways has operated the B777-200 into Owen Roberts, the physical upgrades were initially conducted in the mid to late 1990’s, most notably the addition of a widened turning bay at both ends of the runway to accommodate the much larger turning radius”
Other changes to accommodate the larger aircraft include the designation of a specific parking stand reserved solely for this aircraft and operational ground procedures for the service providers to strictly adhere to and includes everything from baggage service, staff, caterers, marshallers, and refuelling bowzers .
While the terminal upgrades are still on-going, Ms Augustine stated that “Due to the scheduled time of the British Airways flight, the terminal is generally in a period of low occupancy levels, therefore no added spacing is required to accommodate the passengers.”
This allows ORIA to handle both the increased size of the new, larger aircraft and still manage the passenger movements of both BA and the other regularly scheduled aircraft arrivals without delays or mass confusion and discomfort. This of course, would improve as the ORIA new developments come online.
According to the Airports Authority, no major emergency upgrades were required as the Cayman Islands Fire Service already meets the required standard for Airport Rescue/Fire Fighting services as mandated by the International Civil Aviation Organization for the operation of the B777-200ER, however according to a spokesperson, “The Fire Service recently underwent a refresher training for this particular aircraft in order to ensure familiarity.”
The larger aircraft will offer additional seats, especially in the premium cabins, and will continue to operate four times per week, flying on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.
The 777 aircraft will offer a choice of three cabins – Club World, World Traveler Plus and World Traveler and according to Marcia Erskine, the Public Relations Consultant for British Airways in the Caribbean, “This means the Boeing 777 will offer 62 per cent more premium seats per week and 15 per cent more World Traveler” seats. This will potentially help to attract a wealthier demographic”
The former BA 767 had seating for 189 passengers overall, with 141 in world traveler, 24 in world traveler plus and 24 in club class. The 777 has room for 275, with 203 in world traveler, 24 in world traveler plus and 48 in club class.
Another distinct advantage is one of aesthetics.
“The B777-200 is a ‘younger’ aircraft, with an amazing dispatch rate, thus reducing any delays due to maintenance issues” according to the CIAA. “Although larger, it offers greater efficiency over the B767 due largely to the fact that it has benefitted from the general improvement of design technology that did not exist at the time of the manufacturing of the B767. This is a great addition for our mutual customer, ‘Joe Traveller’, to be offered the very best form of conveyance to and from the Cayman Islands.”