Passengers arriving in Grand Cayman from Miami at peak times will soon enjoy a new set of streamlined airport procedures. Government announced the changes late Tuesday afternoon at a press briefing.
The changes are relatively simple. Cayman Customs and Immigration staff will be available to pre-clear passengers at the Cayman Airways gate at Miami International Airport before they even get on the airplane.
The pilot programme was heralded by US Customs and Border Protection Senior Staffer Todd Owen as the first such arrangement the US has entered into. He noted a track record of collaboration in the US/Cayman relationship, and said he believes this fast track programme could become a model in the region to enhance aviation security.
As far as the price tag for Cayman goes, Immigration Ministry Chief Officer Wesley Howell said it will be low overhead.
“Salaries are sunk cost, we are using existing staff, with Cayman Airways we are partnering with them to use non-revenue seats so we are not displacing passengers when we fly our officers up, so this is a very, the recurring cost is a very low threshold, and this is a pilot, we are reviewing after the first 30 days to examine how the operations go.
The MOU was signed by Deputy Governor Franz Manderson and Mr. Owen on the US side.
Premier Alden McLaughlin, who spoke briefly at the press event, said the implementation of this measure he first announced last year at the Fidelity CEO conference was delayed slightly to an active tropical weather season.
Matthew Forbes of the Governor’s Office noted the pilot programme will start first with Cayman Airways for logistics reasons, but revealed talks were in the works with American Airlines to explore the feasibility of joining in this programme.
The big question: will there be reciprocal pre-clearance for passengers originating in Cayman? The one word answer is no, and it all boils down to numbers. Mr. McLaughlin said with such a small population, it’s simply not financially feasible to absorb that type of recurring cost.