Check-in area of the new international terminal at NAS – Photo: Blaine Nickeson | AirlineReporter.com
This is the second installment in my visit to The Bahamas. For Part 1, covering my inbound travel “experience” and amazing first-night welcome, click here.
Our first scheduled event for the day, and main reason for my visit, was a tour of the brand-new Lynden Pindling International Airport International Terminal. No, this isn’t the terminal you’ll use for U.S.-bound flights; those operate out of their own (although also very new) terminal, which has a CBP Pre-Clearance facility. Rather, the new terminal supports all non-U.S. international flights, primarily to Canada and the U.K., and also flights to the “Family Islands” of The Bahamas.
Even in The Bahamas, the view is always better with AirlineReporter! And no, I did not end up vandalizing the hotel – Photo: Blaine Nickeson | AirlineReporter.com
Recently, the Nassau Airport Development authority in The Bahamas opened a new $83.5 million terminal to serve all non-US international destinations, as well as “Family Island” domestic travel (a new US-preclearance terminal opened a few years ago). AirlineReporter.com was invited by the Bahamian Ministry of Tourism to come tour the new airport and view the sites and some new developments in Nassau (including the $3.5 billion – with a “B” – Baha Mar development project). Note: While I was a guest of the Ministry of Tourism on this trip, all opinions are my own.
In this part, I will cover the “experience” of getting to Nassau, as well as the amazing cultural exchange opportunity I was afforded on the night of my arrival.
The Bahamas puts the “blue” into JetBlue.
JETBLUE ECONOMY REVIEW BASICS:
Aircraft: Embraer E-190 N317JB, Deja Blue
Departed: Lynden Pindling International Airport (NAS)
Arrived: Boston Logan International Airport (BOS)
Cheers: Great little bonuses: full soda can, free TV, lots of snacks and one free checked bag.
Jeers: Wish there was some Wi-Fi — it is coming soon.
Bottom Line: JetBlue does not feel like a low-cost airline
Taxiing at NAS towards the runway. There is a Bahamasair Boeing 737-500 in the background.
FULL JETBLUE ECONOMY REVIEW:
Being based in Seattle, I do not get the opportunity to fly JetBlue very often. It has been a few years since I have experienced one of their flights and I was excited to see I was flying them home after a recent press trip to The Bahamas (note: The Bahamas Tourism paid for my ticket on JetBlue).
I have only flown the E-190 once before in a business class flight on Air Canada from Toronto to Seattle. I was impressed with the larger seats up front on my Air Canada flight, but I have been wanting to try out what it is like sitting in the back of the E-190 and this flight gave me the opportunity.
JetBlue E190s are configured with 32″ seat pitch, but if that is not enough for you, then you can upgrade to Even More Space, which gives you (wait for it…) even more space. Rows one, 12, 13 and 14 offer 6-7 inches of additional space and give priority boarding for an extra charge. The aircraft is set up in a 2-2 layout with 100 seats — this means aisle and window seats for everyone.
The E-190 provides a window or aisle seat for every passenger.
The flight was only about half full, so after allowing passengers with Even More Space seats and those who need additional assistance to board, everyone else was allowed to board in one group.
I normally try to take photos of the aircraft before I board, but NAS does not offer great photo angles from the airport. However, the photos after take-off more than make up for it.
The overhead bins on the E-190 are not too large, so I planned ahead and checked my larger carry-on bag. Extra bonus: JetBlue allows you to check one bag for free. Was kind of a pain to haul my camera, laptop and chargers around Boston (where I had my layover), but I managed.
No matter what seat you are sitting in, you will get free TV with 37 channels of entertainment. There are also three additional channels that play movies and for international flights (which mine was), the movies are free. If you are on a domestic flight, the premium entertainment will cost you $5.99 to watch a movie. Make sure to bring your own headphones or purchase one for $2 once you board the aircraft, because the movies start shortly after leaving the gate. I made the mistake of waiting to buy after taking off and I missed 10 minutes of Batman: The Dark Knight (luckily I had seen it previously).
I paid for the beer, but everything else was free and good.
Jetblue offers complimentary non-alcoholic beverages and a nice selection of free snacks including, blue potato chips, chocolate chip cookies, animal crackers and more.
If you want something a bit more substantial, four different “EATUP boxes” are offered for $5.99 each. There is also a decent selection of alcoholic beverages for $6.99 each, except for Bud Light which goes for $5.99. Being a fiscally responsible travel blogger, I went for a few snack selections and the cheaper beer.
If you have money burning a hole in your pocket, you can also purchase a head pillow for $5.99 or a blanket for $4.99 that you get to keep. Make sure to bring a credit or debit cards, since JetBlue does not accept cash.
Each seat has its own TV with free entertainment.
Right after passing 10,000 feet, one flight attendant walked down the aisle selling food and non-food products. After that, another came through to get drink orders. I was confused when I got my beer and was not charged. Turns out that the flight attendant comes through at the end of the flight to do just one charge at the end — makes sense. However, on my next leg from Boston to Seattle, the flight attendant charged me right away for my food.
It was very easy for me to work on my laptop, while watching TV, which is not something I can say on other domestic products. It also helped that the seat next to me was empty.
I had to take this photo in Boston, since NAS did not have any place to take a photo.
Since NAS offers pre-clearence for US Customs, I was able to quickly catch my connecting flight from Boston to Seattle without having to go through much hassel.
What would make the flight more enjoyable would be Wi-Fi. The airline is staying pretty quiet about their game plan, but are publicly stating that Wi-Fi should start showing up in JetBlue’s fleet starting in “early 2013.” JetBlue is planning to provide a Ka-band satelite solution through their own subsidiary, LiveTV.
I have to say that I really enjoyed the E-190/JetBlue combination and can’t wait for my next flight on either.
ADDITIONAL JETBLUE E-190 TRIP PHOTOS:
||This story written by…
David Parker Brown, Editor & Founder. David started AirlineReporter.com in the summer of 2008, but has had a passion for aviation since he was a kid. Born and raised in the Seattle area (where he is currently based) has surely had an influence and he couldn’t imagine living anywhere else in the world.
@AirlineReporter | Flickr | YouTube
Bahamasair Dash 8 300 at Fort Lauderdale.
Who wouldn’t be excited about taking a press trip to the Bahamas? Of course, for an AvGeek, getting there is half the fun. I wasn’t super excited about my red-eye from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) to Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL). I was excited about flying on Bahamasair from FLL to Lynden Pindling International Airport (NAS). This was the first time flying on Bahamasair and I hadn’t been on a Boeing 737-500 in quite sometime (note: The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism, which also oversees the airline, covered the cost of my trip).
Before leaving Seattle, I did some research on the airline and found that many passengers have publicly complained about their flights being consistently delayed. Many of the reviews were older and the airline had recently upgraded from the very aged Boeing 737-200 to the newer (but still old) 737-500 and I was hoping most of these issues would have been resolved (foreshadowing? yup).
Trying to find an outlet and being able to hear announcements was not easy. I ended up sitting on the floor in a busy hallway, but whatever.
By the time my flight landed at FLL, I was pretty tired from getting three hours of sleep. It was about 7am and I was supposed to have a two hour layover before heading to the Bahamas and it was time for me to find my way to my new gate.
I had to transfer terminals at FLL, which requires a short shuttle ride that was supposed to run every 15 minutes, but I ended up waiting almost 30. This was not a huge deal since I had the time, but if my connection was close, that would have surely caused additional stress.
Once getting off the shuttle I had to wait in a short line to check in at the ticket counter since the airline does not currently have a web check-in option. I received my boarding pass and then had the “privilege” of going through security for the second time that morning.
After finding my gate, I moved down towards the end of the terminal to try to get a good photo of the 737-500 taxiing. The flight status board showed the arriving flight was on-time, but time passed and no plane showed. The status board continued to show “on time,” even after it reached 8:55am, when my flight was supposed to be departing. Odd.
How many Dash 8’s does it take to replace a Boeing 737? Two. The first one wasn’t as colorful as the second (this is the 1st). Notice the air stairs going up to the jetway.
I can handle flights being late. However, I have less patience for lack of communication. The fact that there was not even a gate agent present was pretty bad. Needless to say, there were quite a few passengers pacing around who were getting quite frustrated.
Time kept rolling along before the board finally showed our new departure time was at 11:30am. Our gate had also changed from E3 to E1 where amazingly there was a gate agent there. I had no connecting flights to make, so I wasn’t too worried about the delays. Unfortunately this was the time that I really started to regret my decision to put my laptop in my checked bag — I could have been blogging.
After a while, it was announced that our Boeing 737-500 had broken down and they were trying to get two Bombardier Dash 8 300s to FLL. Some passengers showed their anger that they now had to fly on a small prop plane instead of a jet. As an AvGeek, I was pretty excited for the wings being up high, flying lower, no middle seat, and tarmac boarding.
Not the most spacious, but for a 45min flight, it does the job.
At about 11:30am the first Dash 8 showed up. It was announced that people with connections, people with kids and those who needed additional assistance could board plane 1 and the rest would take plane 2.
As our flights (plural now) became more delayed, some passengers got very angry and unfortunately took it out on the gate agents. It is best to judge an airline’s employees not when things are going smoothly, but when things are going wrong. Yes, they dropped the ball by not being at the gate during the initial delay, but their ability to handle the angry passengers in a calm manner was quite impressive.
The four gate agents worked non-stop for hours trying to help while keeping their cool, manually boarding passengers one-by-one for the first flight and then they re-booked everyone for the second flight. They also had to work with those who would miss their connections getting them on alternative flights.
At around 12:15pm (3hrs 20min after original departure time), when the first Dash 8 left the gate, most of the remaining passengers were calm. Those who were previously upset has already missed their connecting flights and were finally ready to accept reality and chill out.
After a short 45min flight (made shorter by sleep), we were flying close over the blue waters and landing at NAS.
At about 1pm (4hrs 5min late) I boarded the second Dash 8 (which had the more colorful livery). Most people boarding with me felt like they just had one of the most horrid experiences known to man. By no means is sitting around in E-Terminal, at FLL for almost six hours, enjoyable, but this stuff happens and getting angry doesn’t make things any easier.
I had a window seat secured on the original 737 flight and got another one for the Dash 8 — seat 8A. I was hoping to get some amazing photos with the high-wing and flying low, but was disappointed to see that the windows were dirty (I assume from salt water). At 1:20pm, we (finally) took off from FLL, heading to paradise.
Previously, I have flown on Alaska Airlines and Porter Airlines Bombardier Q400s (the newest version of the Dash 8) and the difference in age and cabin interiors showed. The only carry-on that I had was my camera bag and it even had a hard time fitting in the crazy-small overhead bin (it is free to check in your first bag on Bahamasair).
Yes. A pirate in the airport welcomed me to The Bahamas. How cool is that?
I was hoping to enjoy the blue waters during the flight, but with my lack of sleep I quickly passed out and woke up just in time to enjoy the view during landing.
I deplaned on the tarmac and was able to walk through the new international terminal at NAS. Before hitting customs, I was greeted by a pirate (yea, a frek’n pirate) who was more than happy to have his photo taken.
When dealing with a challenging travel scenario, I find it always important to find the positives. I was now in the Bahamas, I just met a pirate and my bag had made it on the first Dash 8, so it was waiting for me when I arrived at baggage claim.
My original schedule was to interview the man in charge of the airline, Van Diah, 4.5 hours earlier and I wasn’t sure if he would still was able to meet with me. I felt very privileged that he was able to work me into his packed schedule to sit down and talk about his airline. Obviously one of the big questions on my mind at the time was the airline’s reliability and on-time performance. Surprisingly, he was more than happy to discuss these and other aspects that I will share in a future story.
I have to say that just a few short minutes of getting away from the airport and seeing the beautiful blue ocean quickly made me forget the long journey it took for me to get there. I felt like the difficulties might have been worth it and I was looking forward to exploring Nassau (which will also be shared in future stories).
ADDITIONAL PHOTOS OF MY BAHAMASAIR FLIGHT