If The Ritz-Carlton Ran the Airport …

Mr. Manners, as you might surmise, is a frequent flyer. Half the time (perhaps more), he’s not even sure where he is, what time zone he’s in, or what language he should be speaking.

Those fancy watches with more dials than the aircraft dashboard (is that what it’s called?) that is transporting him are far beyond his abilities (or his eyesight) to master. And besides, do we really need to know the hour and the minute on Mars?

Nevertheless, because he is on a first-name basis with immigration officials, customs gendarmes, and airport porters (the only class of people he is convinced get a free pass past the Pearly Gates – no passport required), he has a thought or two about what’s right (not much) and what’s wrong (plenty) with our world’s airports.

Cayman is no exception, although readers who turn to Page 64 will be delighted to learn that help is on the way. The airport you are in today will not be the same airport you’ll be schlepping through in about a year. An upgrade (Would a downgrade even be possible?) is on the way.

The design has been done, the financing is in place, and the ground has been broken. Our only quibble is that the new facilities don’t include jetways (meaning those tunnel-like enclosures that keep us dry when our planes arrive, or depart, mid-monsoon season).

We’ll still be schlepping (there’s that word again) our way across the tarmac and up those steep stairs, lugging our carry-ons which, alas, are no longer full of stacks (on arrival) of fresh, unmarked, hundred dollar bills, far from the sight of nosey tax collectors. Oh, how we long for earlier times.

But we’re not morose. Cayman’s new airport will be, well, both airy and porty. Perhaps because we spend so much time at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman bar, the thought occurred to us one recent evening how great it would be if the Cayman government, or, more specifically, the CIAA which runs the airport, were to contract with The Ritz to provide customer service instruction.

The director of the CIAA is a fellow named Albert Anderson and the Managing Director of The Ritz is a nice guy named Marc Langevin. By chance, Mr. Manners knows them both and would be delighted to do a bit of civic duty and introduce these two. (Mr. Manners hasn’t done much in the way of “community service” since he was shanghaied by his Rotary Club into painting the Pines nearly two decades ago. Mr. Manners will never understand why people of his privileged ilk, when confronted with do-gooders who want him to paint one thing or another, won’t allow him simply to hire a painter. Painting is what painters do, what they are paid to do, and some actually do it quite well. Virtually ALL of them do it better than Mr. Manners).

But I’m getting off my theme. The Anderson/Langevin duo could perform wonders at Owen Roberts. From the moment an arriving passenger approaches the top of that gangplank and those perilous tiny descending steps (Were they designed by Mayans who had, as we all know, remarkably small feet; ever try to make your way up their temples at Chichen Itza or Uxmal?), he or she would be greeted by Caymanians in local dress with welcoming smiles.

They would relieve passengers of their carry-on luggage and assist them down the treacherous stairway. (Do you think arriving guests at The Ritz ever carry their own bags?)

Upon touching terra firma, all arriving passengers would be welcomed with steel-pan music and, if they wished, some sort of rum concoction to fortify them for the rite of passage through Immigration and Customs. We haven’t checked with Robbie Hamaty (of Tortuga Rum), but we’ve already put him down for donating the drinks. Trust us. He’ll do it. Robbie is generous (and the best marketer in the Cayman Islands).

If we’re going to use actual Ritz employees to man the Customs check-out, some retraining might be in order. They are conditioned to be discreet and would never (we don’t think) ruffle through their guests’ suitcases, pawing through frilly things and Heaven knows what else. No, they’re going to need to become a bit more inquisitive, always on the lookout for an undeclared wedding dress or a stray bullet.

At the transportation pickup area outside, we’re going to need some additional options. Certainly valet service with some of those snazzy white Ritz BMWs would be a start. When the current airport parking lot eventually disappears, Mr. Manners is predicting a precipitous drop in suicide statistics.

One of our columnists, Barefoot Man (who, as far as we know, has never set foot in The Ritz), nevertheless offers a one-word solution to many of our airport issues: “Simply smile.” (Yes, dear reader, we know, that’s two words. Hold the hate mail.)

Let us conclude: A new airport. The Ritz-Carlton. And smiles all around. Now that’s CaymanKind as it was meant to be!