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  • Writer's pictureGeorge Nicon Andritsakis

Making Better Memories in Tinseltown: Cayman Airways to Los Angeles

Updated: Dec 9, 2022

Your friendly Travel Genius has just returned from a very memorable trip I never thought I'd ever have a chance to take, nor did I ever think a route like this would exist. In fact, the last time I flew Cayman Airways was on a 737-300 from Houston back in 1998 (why did I think it was a 727 all these years? I blame old age on that one), as a one-off flight just to say I've been to the West Indies.

Enter the 21st Century. Cayman Airways has been on the move. The Boeing 737-300's and 737-400's were retired and the airline became the first airline in the Caribbean with the Boeing 737 MAX 8. They began services to further and further destinations like Chicago, seasonal service to Denver, and now announced nonstop service to Los Angeles, which is where this tale literally takes off.

I decided to begin this trip from Tampa, Florida, as I wanted to experience a true Cayman Airways service without the added pomp and circumstance of an inaugural flight. You know, just a regular run of the mill, day in-day out flight.

Made it to the airport with barely an hour to spare, the folks at the ticket counter expeditiously checked me in and took my bag while giving me directions to the TSA Precheck line upstairs.

My aircraft for the flight down was the 3 year old Boeing 737 MAX 8 VP-CIY, delivered to Cayman Airways brand new from Boeing on March 28, 2021. She's got a very spartan layout of 16 Business Class seats with a seat pitch of 38", and 144 in Economy with a standard pitch of 32". I was booked in Business Class on both flights and I made myself at home in seat 2A for the short 1 hour and 55 minute hop down.

Now, I'm known for my dozens of trips across the Atlantic, but I've spent very little time in the Caribbean. I do have to admit, it is absolutely gorgeous scenery from above. The flight went by smoothly and the 6 of us in the Business Class cabin were well looked after and fed a very basic, but tasty, charcuterie tray with assorted meats, cheeses, grapes, and grilled bread. On a short flight like this, I don't expect much in the way of presentation, but in Business Class, you still expect something that is presented with a bit more than what is normally offered to Economy Class passengers on other carriers. The cardboard trays look exactly like the type Alaska Airlines uses for it's Cheese & Fruit Tray on longer flights in the Main Cabin. Still, I wasn't all that perturbed by it, considering the length of the flight.

Before we knew it, the Cayman Islands gradually came into view and we began our descent. This is where I was impressed and taken aback. The approach into Owen Roberts Airport on Grand Cayman is one of the most picturesque and gorgeous arrivals I've ever flown (I don't even remember it from my first flight on KX all those years ago). Almost beats out the iconic approaches at St. Maarten or Skiathos. ALMOST. Landing was quick and feather-soft (first time I've EVER said that about a 737 landing in my life, swear to God!). Pulling off the active I saw why we exited the runway so fast, a British Airways 777 was right behind us on the approach.

There are no jetways or jetbridges at Owen Roberts Airport, so deplaning is done by mobile ramp. I love this, no matter what airport I'm at. It reminds me of when I was a kid, boarding or deplaning via the old school stairs at Athens' old Hellenikon Airport. The terminal itself is on the smaller size, but thats to be expected on such a small island with less service than some of its neighbors. Clearing customs was relatively quick and painless, and since I had nothing to declare, I moved on to claim my bag and hustle out to re-check and connect to the maiden flight to LAX.

Getting myself re-checked at the ticket counter was quick and since I was in Business Class, was given a pass to the Sir Turtle Club Lounge, but I just didn't have time and I wanted to be at the festivites gateside to begin with. I'm definintely going to plan another trip to the islands and try the lounge out then.

Approaching the gate I could tell the party was massive. The waiting area was festooned with red carpets, press-on Walk of Fame Stars, Hollywood backdrops, and a giant backdrop of the Cayman Airways 737 MAX 8. Speeches were made by dignitaries and airline leadership, with final remarks by CEO Fabian Whorms. I had emailed the airline days ago about early access to the plane as it sat empty so I could get a few photos, and they happily obliged me once I presented myself to the gate agents. I (having scanned my boarding pass at the gate at the same time), along with other media types and photographers were led onto the ramp and I took a few pics that werent being photobombed by others before heading up the ramp and onto the the plane itself, which was the same MAX 8 that brought my down from Tampa, VP-CIY. We're becoming fast friends apparantly.

I didn't take long taking my photos, but was taken aback when one of the flight attendants recognized me and said she follows me on Instagram. Awesome! So if you're reading this, it was great to meet you and loved watching you at work. She then advised me that boarding had begun, and to wrap up my photo taking and take my seat. Luckily, 3A was right there waiting for me, so I made myself at home for the duration.

The passengers began to board, and from what I recall looking at loads the day before, there weren't too many fare paying passengers on this flight (the return flight however was loaded), and most of the folks aboard were airline employees or Cayman Tourism officials heading to LA to boost tourism there. Even Miss World Cayman Islands 2022 Leanni Tibbetts and the Runner up were on board (I was lucky enough to snag a selfie with Leanni in the gate are and have a small conversation with her. Turns out she also flies for Cayman Airways as well!)

Departure time came and we pushed back, getting a salute from what seemed to be the entire carrier's remaining ground staff before we made our way out to the departure end and a very cool water cannon salute baptizing the MAX with water from the airport's fire equipment. Definitely a great start to the flight as we powered out of Grand Cayman and turned West for the just under 6 hour flight to Los Angeles.

Speeches were kept to a minimum and the in-flight service began. I was seriously expecting something a bit more lavish in the service in Business Class (especially considering how much the fare is running on the route now). Beverages came out and we were all served the carrier's signature Seven Fathoms Rum Punch (reminds me a lot of the old Volcano Punch on Western Airlines' Hawaii flights). I thought that was a neat start, and the punch was really, really good.

The Dinner service though was a pure let down. The flight attendant in our cabin tried saying it was some kind of beef stroganoff, but clearly it wasnt. It looked like something that was served on TowerAir charter flights back in the 1990's to an all Economy Classs 747. If Cayman Airways is to succeed in this, or any other long haul prestige route, it's going to have to step up its game in making that front cabin and the service in it more appealing for the cost of the ticket. You gotta make the passenger WANT to spend that money, time and time again. Heck, there's not even the ability for in-seat power, nor is there wi-fi available. The wi-fi doesnt bug me as much as not having in-seat power, as flights this long almost make it a necessity nowadays. Once the service was done, the lights were dimmed further and I settled back with my tunes blasting in my ears as the MAX 8 cruised the night skies over the US-Mexico border on our way to the West Coast.

The flight itself was smooth and flawless. We flew right out to San Diego before turning to the North and beginning our rapid decent in to the Los Angeles arrival pattern. This was my very first time ever coming from the South, and it was a trip seeing Orange County come up and then turning left onto final for LAX's runway 25L. Another smooth landing, and we made our way to the mid-field concourse for the Tom Bradley International Terminal. It took a little bit of waiting for the ground crew to get the plane marshalled in and the jetway attached, so a few words were made by CEO Whorms welcoming us to Los Angeles and his hopes for the success of the flight. The door was opened by the time he finished and off we went to make the long trek to customs and baggage claim at the main TBIT concourse (y'all think the trek between Concourse A and B in Salt Lake City is insane, try walking the walkway between the midfield concourse and the TBIT...oof!).

The Travel Genius Opinion:

Cayman Airways has put a lot of effort into thew launch of this service, but it really needs to look at the front end of the plane and redo their long-haul service strategy there. There is so much potential for this flight, it would pain me to see it go away because of lack of J Class traffic. Right now it is the only link from LAX to the Western Caribbean, and it deserves every chance to thrive and mature. Aside from that, it is a fantastic service, and I'm glad the higher ups at KX (Cayman's 2-letter IATA code) chose this route for their flagship MAX 8's. If the runway at Owen Roberts gets extended, you just might see these colorful birds alight in places like London (via Bermuda), San Francisco, Vancouver, or even Las Vegas. I certainly hope nothing but the best for them.

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