Cayman Airways to begin Fort Lauderdale flights; could affect Miami service
By Frank Norton
Cayman Airways plans to begin daily flights to Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International in April, possibly shifting some services from Miami in the future, officials from the Caribbean airline said.
Founded in 1968, Cayman currently flies Boeing 737-200 jets connecting the Cayman Islands and Jamaica with Miami, Tampa and Houston.
Cayman marketing director Rick Blake said this week the airline, which operates an 11-person sales office in Doral, could more conveniently serve growing customer bases in Broward and Palm Beach counties with a Fort Lauderdale gateway.
Also, airline-operating costs are lower at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International than in Miami, Mr. Blake said, where facility rentals and landing fees are higher.
Indeed, enplaning costs, a proxy for assessing operating costs, is $13 per passenger at Miami International compared to about $4 at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood, said Miguel Southwell, assistant director for business development at Miami-Dade Aviation Department. But, he said, that disparity is overstated since baggage handling and other costs not factored into the equation are borne by the airport in Miami and by the carriers in Fort Lauderdale.
Still, Miami's heavier international traffic pushes overall costs above those in Fort Lauderdale.
Cayman Airways operates 15 to 20 round trips per week out of Miami compared with about four from Tampa and Houston. The Cayman Island Government-owned company said it has no immediate plans to decrease services in Miami but will explore that option in future cost/benefit analyses.
As for its shifting customer base, officials said Broward County's growing Caribbean populations could be driving demand from that area faster than in Miami.
"We know from our arrival statistics there is a considerable number of people that live in Broward and Palm Beach and travel frequently to the Cayman Islands," Mr. Blake said. "This will just be a more convenient airport for them to use."
The company also looks to tap growing feeder traffic from small carriers like Spirit Airways, JetBlue Airways and AirTran Airways that offer more service to Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood than to Miami.
That is not surprising, Mr. Southwell said, since lower-fare flyers seek lower-cost gateways.
"You have one airport that is very mature and another still in the growth stages," with the latter attracting more low-fare and discount carriers, he said, referring to Fort Lauderdale International.
But as Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood adds more international service, its operating costs will rise commensurately due to added security and customs expenditures, he said.
"We're not competing with Fort Lauderdale," Mr. Southwell said, "We're just seeing the national evolution of airports."
Cayman Airlines, Mr. Blake said, is to formally announce the new service later this month and begin by April.