JetBlue’s Mint premium service is available on flights from Florida to Barbados and includes lie-flat seats. // © 2016 JetBlue
Feature image (above): Increased airlift to the Caribbean from the West Coast points to the population of the destination. // © 2016 Para La Naturaleza
The Caribbean has recently seen a flurry of new flights from carriers in the U.S. While some of these are to be expected, pegged as they are to the Caribbean’s high season, some are truly surprising. No matter how you parse it, these new flights point to the continuing — and perhaps growing — popularity of the Caribbean as a travel destination.
The biggest splash of all was made by American Airlines, which announced its nonstop service from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) to Montego Bay, Jamaica, which the carrier began last December. As a frequent flier from the West Coast to Jamaica, I’ve had to contend with many a red-eye flight from LAX, which usually put me in Miami at dawn, with, more often than not, a three-hour layover before my connecting flight to Jamaica. Needless to say, this left me arriving on island in the afternoon, none too fresh.
Your clients won’t have to contend with this any longer. Instead, they can book a flight on American’s twice-weekly service to Jamaica from LAX on Fridays and Saturdays. The six-hour flights depart LAX at 10:59 p.m. and arrive at Montego Bay’s Sangster International Airport (MBJ) at 7:40 a.m. the next day. The return flights depart MBJ at 10 a.m. and arrive in Los Angeles at 1:21 p.m. Fliers travel onboard a Boeing 737-800 aircraft, configured with 16 seats in first class and 144 seats in the main cabin.
Jamaica is an island with a world-famous mystique that is a perfect fit for the California demographic. Expect interest in Jamaica from the West Coast to spike, especially from experienced travelers who have done Hawaii and Los Cabos and are looking for a fresh beach-vacation destination.
Additionally, Southwest Airlines is now flying daily nonstop service between Houston and Montego Bay. The flights are between Hobby International Airport (HOU) and MBJ. The new daily flights depart HOU at 10:35 a.m. and arrive at MBJ at 2:50 p.m. The return flights depart MBJ at 3:45 p.m. and arrive in HOU at 6:15 p.m.
If there were a heavyweight contender for out-of-the-box Caribbean flights, the championship belt would have to be awarded to JetBlue. Its addition of new flights to Caribbean destinations continues, with its recent announcement of once-daily roundtrip service between Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL) and Barbados' Grantley Adams International Airport (BGI). The flights will begin April 28, onboard 150-seat Airbus A320 aircraft. Flight 385 will depart Fort Lauderdale at 8 a.m. and arrive in Barbados at 11:49 a.m. Return flight 386 will depart Barbados at 12:45 p.m. and land in Fort Lauderdale at 4:50 p.m.
Consider JetBlue’s Mint premium service on the Barbados flight for an added perk. The Mint service includes lie-flat seats and a tapas-style menu by New York restaurant Saxon + Parole, a cappuccino and amenity kits from beauty subscription service Birchbox. Returning from Barbados, passengers will able to keep the vacation vibe going with regional Barbados cuisine, such as pan-seared flying fish accompanied by a rum cocktail.
JetBlue is making the case that the new Fort Lauderdale-Barbados route will allow for convenient connections from the JetBlue network, including Los Angeles, San Francisco and Las Vegas.
For some time, JetBlue has been servicing Puerto Rico from New York and Orlando, Fla. Beginning May 5, the airline will add a new daily route between FLL and Rafael Hernandez Airport in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico. The flights will be onboard JetBlue’s Embraer 190 aircraft.
Back in December, United Airlines launched its first maiden flight from Newark, N.J. to St. Kitts. The flight operates weekly on Saturdays. United has also begun offering two nonstop flights to St. Lucia from two separate destinations in the U.S.; a nonstop flight from Chicago, operating on Saturdays; and an additional weekly flight from Newark to St. Lucia, operating on Sundays. The company now also offers nonstop service from Chicago to Grand Cayman on Saturdays, along with four-times-weekly service from Washington Dulles International Airport to Grand Cayman. These flights will all be utilizing Boeing 737 aircraft.
Another long-awaited option is in the works for the British Virgin Islands (BVI). Up to now, there were no direct, nonstop flights to BVI from the U.S. This will change when BVI Airways begins its direct, nonstop service between Terrance B. Lettsome International Airport on Beef Island, east of Tortola, and Miami International Airport. The 2.5 hour flights are on track to begin in the fall, utilizing converted RJ85 regional jet aircraft capable of carrying 86 passengers.