Aruba Airlines A319 A4-AAE lands at Oranjestad Queen Beatrix International Airport – Click photo to enlarge
Greetings from Aruba! Visiting the “one happy island” (as they market it) has been on my to-do list since Southwest started service here a few years back via integration of AirTran’s ops into their own. As luck would have it, my newly minted AvGeek wife was amenable to a honeymoon visit. SXM, the AvGeek Mecca, would have been our first choice, but that island is still in repair mode from extensive damage inflicted by Hurricane Irma in September 2017.
PlaneSpotting in Aruba: Hotel private island south of Oranjestad Queen Beatrix International Airport – Image: Flightradar24.com
While researching PlaneSpotting in Aruba, I was delighted to learn that two local hotels share a private island which runs alongside Aruba’s airport – Oranjestad Queen Beatrix International Airport. While no #MahoBeach, this would certainly fit the bill for running away from the already cold (and falling) Kansas City temps to enjoy some tropical weather, and allowing us to check out some planes. Bonus points for wild iguanas, pelicans, and an occasional flamingo as well.
The island is only accessible via 10-minute boat ride, and is exclusive to guests of one of two Renaissance properties in Aruba. As a sort of deterrent to outsiders, the boat captains ask each passenger for their keycard and insert it into what is almost certainly a phony offline card reader. In any case, should you plan to visit, stay at one of the two properties or call ahead to make other arrangements. We heard twice that non-customers can purchase a day pass to the island depending on availability. Being that this was our honeymoon and I recently achieved lifetime Marriott platinum status, it seemed appropriate to stay at one of the upscale properties.
We spent most of the day on the island, hopping in and out of the ocean between active and inactive arrival periods. For any other relationship or honeymoon, this wouldn’t be tolerated, but thankfully my AvGeek wife was fully on board with my desire to strike a balance between unwinding while on Caribbean vacation and maintaining a healthy dose of plane spotting in Aruba. Click through to see the day’s catch…
View of American’s terminal operations from the Boston lounge
One dubious perk of my choice to take the long way home and try American Airlines’ First Class offering was the opportunity to experience the Admirals Club lounges, American’s airport oases from the chaos of travel. I don’t get a lot of opportunities to check out the big international lounges like Hong Kong Airlines or Etihad has on offer, so I jumped at the chance to hit three different Admirals Clubs in a day.
First, for anyone whose travel itinerary involves a lot of layovers, the Admirals Clubs represent a great deal. A day pass costs $59, and is good across the American network. In my case, this allowed me to check into Boston for a couple of hours before my first flight, pop into the lounge in Charlotte for a quick refresher, then planespot in Chicago over appetizers.
It didn’t take me long to agree to work as Press for PAX East (if you’re not sure what that is, check the link ahead). After last year’s adventure in San Antonio for PAX South, I was eager to experience the last major PAX event that I hadn’t yet been to. Besides, I’d never visited Boston before.
American, Delta, United, Frontier, and Allegiant all operate flights out of my local airport, either directly or through a regional subcontract. While I prefer to fly Delta, they were significantly more expensive than American for an early April round trip to Boston. Neither Frontier nor Allegiant fly into Boston’s Logan International, which put them out of the running. American it was! Given that I expected to come back from Boston with two checked bags plus a carryon, a back-to-front (Economy to Boston, First Class home) flight plan almost paid for itself in bag fees. At least, as long as I didn’t mind flying Boston to Sioux Falls via Charlotte and Chicago.
Unlike Delta, which runs its FSD-MSP feeder flights on mainline A320 or B717 aircraft, American contracts with Air Wisconsin to feed their Chicago-O’Hare hub with CRJ-200 flights. These aircraft are all single class 2-2 configuration. As I would find out, no booking consideration is given to First Class on other legs. Anyone wanting one of the few prefered seats on the -200 is going to have to pay for it.
“Ah, I’m sorry, you’re gonna have to get out of the car,” the Delta Air Lines security guard said as he peered farther into the window of the Uber I had taken to the northern edge of Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. Distracted, as I had been staring at a 757–200 beautifully adorned in Delta’s classic widget livery until about five seconds prior, I could only muster a perplexed, “uh, okay.” There really was no sense in arguing with the guy. I acquiesced, slightly annoyed, thanked my driver, and hopped out of the car.
Classic Widget Delta 757 – Photo: Jake Grant
I stayed mad for, oh, five seconds at the most. You see, at the Delta Flight Museum, the exhibits begin in the parking lot, a stone’s throw from both arrivals on the northern runway 8L/26R into Delta’s biggest fortress hub and Delta’s brick castle of a headquarters down the street. Due to the preservation efforts of Delta’s 80,000-strong workforce, the museum’s outdoor exhibit highlights a trio of classic airliners; the 757, a Douglas DC-9, the short-haul workhorse for the better part of four decades, and the first Boeing 747–400 built, with a display plaza being pieced together around the Queen of the Skies.
DC-9! Woo – Photo: Jake Grant
A note on the plaza: I ended up taking my tour before it opened at the end of March. It’ll definitely be worth a visit by any Atlantians or folks with long layovers. The 747 and the plaza taking shape around it were primarily funded by Delta employees. This is a recurring theme of the Delta Flight Museum. The inside of the 747 is an extension of the two hangars full of Delta relics across the parking lot. This writer certainly intends to check out the finished project when he gets the opportunity.