When we were planning our hops around the ABC Islands, I was hoping to fly into one island, then to the next, then the next, and then out to somewhere in northern south america to continue the trip. The main challenge, however, was that once you were in the islands, all flights seemed to go via Curaçao. However, a bit of research turned up a small airline called Tiara Air who flew nonstop from Aruba to Bonaire, and then we could easily fly on to Curaçao and out to Caracas or Bogotá. Easy choice!
Booking Tiara Air was also pretty easy. Their website was quite easy to use and user-friendly, and soon we were confirmed at times that worked perfectly with our schedule. The big drama came when I checked my AmEx, and there was a strange charge from some company in Peru. I’ve never been to peru, and was pretty sure something was up so I called to have AmEx look into it. About 6 weeks later they e-mailed me a PDF of my Tiara Air tickets. Why they billed from Peru is beyond me – so just something to be alert to.
One thing I was pretty excited about was the plane. Tiara flies a fleet of Shorts 360 aircraft (also known as the SD3-60) which are manufactured in Northern Ireland and can hold up to 36 passengers. We’d flown planes made in the US, Canada, Brazil, Russia, China, the Netherlands to date, but definitely nothing from Northern Ireland – this was going to be fun!
Check-in was quick and efficient in Aruba, and the “non-US” check-in area was in a room which could double as a walk-in freezer it was so cold. Then, it was on to a connecting area outside which took us to the main terminal and immigration. Our incoming flight was late, so we ended up boarding and leaving about 15 minutes late.
Tiara Air (3P) Flight 303
Aruba to Bonaire
Shorts 360 – Seat 7A – Registration P4-TIA, date of manufacture unknown
Depart: 9:10 Arrive: 10:00, actual arrival 10:10
Boarding the plane, we were glad (since we were both in A seats) to find the configuration was 12 rows with 1 seat on the left/A side and 2 on the right side. The interior was quite amusing and boxy, and we weren’t completely sure there were doors on the cockpit. Turned out there were, but they didn’t seem to lock. Another interesting thing is that the cabin wasn’t pressurized at all, but I’m pretty sure we didn’t get much about 6-7,000 feet tops.
One interesting thing was that even on this short flight, everyone was offered a strawberry/peach nectar drink box – imagine a US airline serving drinks on such a short flight! Total flight time was about 40 minutes for the 121 miles from Aruba to Bonaire, and soon we were nosediving into Flamingo International Airport, Bonaire.