Inter-Island Jet-Setting

Between work, fun, and competing in triathlons, I find myself flying to other islands quite frequently. I travel so much that when filling out the required immigration documents, I often run out of room in the itty bitty space that follows the question, Where have you visited in the last six weeks? This is not a problem I’m complaining about, let me just stress that – travel off my island (even if it is just to visit another island) does wonders for keeping Rock Fever at bay.

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When most people hear about my frequent jet setting, their reactions are generally rooted in envy: How marvelous! How glamorous! What a lucky lady you are!  And I will not argue there; I am lucky. Though I must be honest – the term “glamorous” is not really accurate, mostly because we are quite limited in our airline choices down here when trying to get from island to island.

Essentially, there is only one main airline that services the southern Caribbean islands. Sure, if you are traveling to a much bigger island (say, the United Kingdom), you’ve got British Airways and Virgin Airlines to take you there; and if you are headed stateside, American Airlines or Delta will do the trick. So yes, we do have large airlines that fly out of here. But the type of travel I do mostly – the decidedly unglamorous kind – is rock to rock and for that, you are sort of stuck. There is but the one. This marvelous airline is known affectionately as “Leave Island Any Time”, or “Lots of Islands All the Time” or, the less affectionate, “Luggage Is Anywhere Today”.

Flying with this airline is always a bit of an adventure. Questions that normally would not cross your mind on regular flights keep you on your toes throughout your island travel day:

Will I reach my destination today?
Will my luggage?
How many islands will we be stopping at before we reach the one on my ticket?
Does the aerosol spray that they spray down the aisles actually do anything?
Is it sprayed truly to kill creepy crawlies, or is it a secret anti-fart formula?

Only recently did they institute an assigned seating policy. Historically, it was a random free-for-all. You’d be wrestling your carry-on down the narrow aisle, scanning the rows in desperation for a place to park. Empty seats were inevitably at the other end of the plane, already crowded with hand baggage and often could not be reached without crawling over a sleeping passenger.

My most memorable trip was the year two of us decided to journey from Grenada to Antigua. We were headed there to race aboard the Petite Martinique sloop Saavy at the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta. For those of you that are a little rusty on your Caribbean island geography, Antigua is 342 miles to the north of Grenada. Most seasoned air travelers would expect a total travel time of about an hour – tops. And yet, it took us about nine. It is true we spent a solid four of them chilling on the ground in St. Vincent, but we were also treated to stopovers in Barbados and St. Lucia (New passengers! New friends!) before finally touching down in Antigua. Let’s just say it’s a good thing we hadn’t checked any bags.

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Recently, my island hopping has been centered around traveling to compete in a couple of triathlons. Trust me when I say, adding a bicycle to the island flying experience is a whole new level of stress. If I am to successfully compete in a triathlon, it is pretty imperative to have my bike make it to the same island as I do. This wouldn’t be nearly as stressful if I were traveling to more bike-friendly cities, but alas, in the Caribbean, bikes aren’t easy to come by. Therefore, if the bike doesn’t make it, my trip is essentially for naught before I’ve even heard the starter’s horn. (This may finally offer an explanation to those of you that travel in this region who may have seen minor celebrations happening when some seemingly normal adults see their bike box on the baggage carousels!)

Considering this, you’d probably think that other sports that only require the presence of the athlete alone would be better suited to the Caribbean. This should not be too difficult, you might think. After all, besides island hopping and baggage woes, the people still get to the destinations on their tickets, right? Well, that’s a yes and sometimes, a no.

I attended an inter-island boxing championship last weekend, which ran into a little bit of a hitch – the boxers from Antigua and Barbuda were MIA. Where might they be? Did they feel that the competition was so tough that they should just stay home? Did they get lost from the airport to the ring? No, not quite. More like LIAT left them at some obscure island en route. My money is on St. Vincent.

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Inga Emma

About Inga Emma

Inga has lived on Grenada for a few years now and has reached that elusive level where her hairdresser tells her that she sounds like a West Indian who is trying not to sound like a West Indian! She spends a lot of time waiting patiently for goats to clear the roads that she drives on and yelling at potholes that threaten to swallow her Suzuki whole. She came to Grenada the first time to follow her dream of becoming a veterinarian and has since returned to help others reach that same goal. She is lucky to teach those that are so passionate about becoming veterinarians that they also decided to become rock dwellers for a few years.

When she’s not teaching, she finds time for sport. This might be the sport of cycling through speeding rasta buses, whilst simultaneously avoiding pedestrians, the aforementioned goats, potholes, and the occasional tourist. Other sports include swimming, running, and sailing. If she’s feeling particularly adventurous, she joins the Grenada Hash House Harriers for a traipse through some of the more inaccessible parts of the island. This group of people might be the craziest she has found, whose love of running is only eclipsed by their love of beer. On that note, it might be time for a cold Stag…

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10 thoughts on “Inter-Island Jet-Setting

  1. My husband flies all the time for work with the same airline you mentioned. Last week, going to Barbados they were sat on one runway only to be told the plane was broken. Then they flew onto Dominica for 3 hours where he learned they use British plugs so he couldn’t even charge his phone. Just like you’ve described he only uses carry on.
    Regularly at conferences people turn up disheveled with shorts and a t-shirt because the same airline has lost their bags. It’s so accepted here that the customer service is so ghastly people don’t even attempt to complain. They’re just grateful the flight actually goes because he’s even been at the gate to be told the flight is cancelled and your connections are not our problem.
    Like you, he says it sounds glamourous but in reality he hates it.
    Great writing in regards to inter island travel. 🙂

    • Your poor husband – arriving and being told the airline has no regard for your connections is angering – and something I’ve experienced too. Here’s hoping his carry-on gets magically larger, Harry Potter-style someday 😉

  2. Ahhh, memories! I remember that 30 some odd years ago…”Luggage in Another Town” was the only airline flying from Antigua to Barbuda. I worked on both islands and was blessed to have a boss with a private plane, but on some occasions I had to fly “commercial”. If the planes were not bad enough, a couple of the pilots could put me into constant prayer through the few minutes it took to get me home. Some of the seats were loose and shifted a bit upon take off and landing, and one particular pilot seemed to have taken astronaut training for take offs nearly straight up. The seat would bump backwards and the force would make it impossible to move, feeling glued to the spot from the centrifugal force of take off. After taking a few hours of pilot training myself and finding out what a “stall” was, I’d spend the night on another island before getting on a flight he was piloting! I don’t know how it is today, but in Barbuda in the 80’s it was often necessary to make a low swoop over the grass and dirt airport , to scare the goats off the runway first, then the seats bumped forward upon landing and my prayers ended with a solemn “Amen! THANK YOU Jesus!” each time. Oh yes, it was a faith builder everyday, but the sunrises and sunsets were incredible from the air!!! Can’t believe that airline is still going!! God bless you, Island Girl!

  3. Lately, I’ve heard people mention different airlines – Tradewinds, Caribbean Helicopters (flying fixed wing planes), and maybe even a couple of others. Anyone have any experience with them?

  4. You’ve published a topic that I bet everyone in this group can relate to. We are all stuck with the same government owned airline (says it all..). We can only hope they go belly up soon and a new regional operator steps in. My money is on Seaborne which currently operates regular routes throughout the northern islands (as far south as Dominica) and charters to other destinations but they’re doing a great job so far. They just linked up with JetBlue as well to provide codeshare and connections from some US points. I know of other investor/operators looking at this opportunity as well so keep your fingers crossed. Maybe someday we can get to another island in less time than it takes to sail there?

  5. And you forgot to mention the air fare. My daughter recently went from Tortola to St. Vincent. Afterwards she researched a trip to Nairobi and for an additional $ 100.00 she could fly out of St. Thomas return to Kenya. Since American Eagle abandoned us the 60 mile fare from Tortola to San Juan is about $ 500.00. 36 years ago I was able to fly that route with an Industry-fare of $ 70.00 on Crown Air (long gone).

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