Washington National (DCA) to Georgetown, Guyana (GEO) on American and Caribbean Airlines
Originally, this trip was prompted by a sale that Delta was having to Georgetown. Sale + country I haven’t been to = instant interest to me. However, when I discovered the Delta flight was a redeye in both directions, combined with the fact I have little interest in accumulating more Delta miles, meant I wasn’t as interested. However, I had the Guyana-bug now, and started looking for options. American had a fantastic discount business fare into the country next door of Trinidad and Tobago, so after a little exploring and figuring it out, I booked it. I would also help me towards the 55,000 elite qualifying points I would need to requalify for American Executive Platinum for 2013, so it was a no brainer. Flights booked, I was set.
Morning came way too early (I know DCA is only 2 miles from home, but seriously, why do I keep booking these 7am flights in 2012? I know I’m trying to conserve leave time, but really….) and I was off to DCA with plenty of time to spare. After only three visits so far, the AAdmirals Club agent recognized me, which I was pretty impressed with. At the new United, you’re lucky to get a grunt as they let you in, the American agents have genuinely thanked me for my business, and truly seemed appreciative. I know I’m always saying the airlines are all the same, but honestly, American seems to be making a real effort to thank customers. It’s not going unnoticed!
So, before you ask about the routing – yeah, the point of Dallas was to maximize miles. Fare was only a few dollars more, and the cost of 3-4 hours of sleep, but with only 4 months left to earn elite points, I needed the extra routing. Figured I could always sleep on the plane if needed.
American Airlines Flight 467
Washington National (DCA) to Dallas (DFW)
Depart 7:10, Arrive 9:15, Flight Time 3:05
Boeing 737-800, Registration N845NN, Manufactured 2010, Seat 5E
Great flight, decent crew, first meal choice. Other than that, there’s not too much to say. Flight had GoGo Wifi, but chose not to use it and slept most of the flight. Also the first time in eons that I actually had an airline breakfast that I chose to not only eat…but almost enjoyed. It was quite tasty! Mmmm….biscuits!
Landing was about 15 minutes late due to ATC, no excitement, and a short walk from one end of the D-terminal to the other, and I reached my gate just as boarding had started. I know some people think DFW is like MSP in that your walk can be FOREVER if you get unlucky, but fortunately on this occasion mine was short, and there was zero drama.
American Airlines Flight 2074
Dallas (DFW) to Miami (MIA)
Depart 10:20, Arrive 14:10, Flight Time 2:50
Boeing 757-200, Registration N635AA, Manufactured 1990, Seat 2E
Relatively short flight without too much to say. This was a lunch flight, and it was another excellent crew. Arrival was on time, got first meal choice, and really that’s all there is to say!
I know some folks feel the need to be “wined and dined” when they fly first, but I actually appreciate American’s relatively light lunch salads. Just enough to fill you up without making you feel gross.
I had about four hours to kill in Miami, so I did some e-mail and work in the lounge, and then decided since I was in Miami that I needed to have a bit of Cuban…so it was off to La Carretta for lunch. Delicious Cuban Sandwich (I can see this becoming a regular obsession in the future when I fly through MIA) and soon it was time to board the flight to Port of Spain.
American Airlines Flight 1819
Miami (MIA) to Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago (POS)
Depart 18:05, Arrive 21:50, Flight Time 3:45
Boeing 757-200, Registration N652AA, Manufactured 1991, Seat 4E
I don’t remember why, but decided not to take any meal photos. It was a generic mid-con type domestic meal, a generic chicken or pasta choice…and the chicken was actually quite tasty. Also on offer were fresh cookies before landing. Requested (and got) the “big boy” glass of red wine, which the excellent crew kept well-filled until landing in Trinidad. Killed most of the flight catching up on tv on my iPad – one of the best things I ever did was get rid of cable and just start subscribing to tv series that I like on iTunes. This way, I never waste evenings waiting for shows to come on, and I can just watch them when flying and I’d be doing nothing else anyways.
Transit airside is not possible in Port of Spain, so had to wait in a 5 minute queue for immigration, cleared with no drama, and then did the short walk to the departures area to check in for my flight with Caribbean. Had plenty of time, absolutely no drama whatsoever, and soon was in the security line to get back into the departures hall. A few notes: 1) Port of Spain has two terminals/wings, each with their own security. There was a 20 minute wait for security in the terminal I needed to go into, but zero in the other. Go figure. 2) Trinidad and Tobago has very strict laws against wearing camoflage clothing of all colours. Don’t even try it or customs will nail you. 3) Don’t count on lounge access. One of the two wings has a Caribbean Airlines lounge you can use if you’re in their business class or an elite in their frequent flier program, the other has a Priority Pass lounge….yeah, I was in the wrong one, and wasn’t going to pay $200+ more for business class on a 1 hour flight at 1am that I would likely crash on anyways.
Caribbean Airlines Flight 525
Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago (POS) to Georgetown, Guyana (GEO)
Depart 00:25, Arrive 1:35, Flight Time 1:10
Boeing 737-800, Registration 9Y-JMA, Manufactured 2002, Seat 5C
That said, time went by quickly, I managed to get a bulkhead aisle seat, and all was good. Beverage service was offered, and a beer was just what the doctor ordered. Landed on time in Guyana, and little to say here again. Immigration and customs were quite quick and efficient, I was one of the first through, and was out into the taxi queue in less than 10 minutes. Had a bit of a hard time finding the driver the hotel had sent (yeah, they said he would have a sign, but he didn’t….and he had no interest in searching me out. I was literally walking up to random people asking if they were him…and that’s how I eventually found him.)
But even then…he wasn’t going to drive me. He was “maybe waiting for someone else” so he pawned me off on some friend of his. Now, I’m going to be politically incorrect a second, but I was a bit nervous about the minivan he put me into. My driver was a spitting sterotypical image of Aunt Jemima, right down to the big flowing dress and mile-high do-rag. I was once told in DC that “do-rag” is an offensive term, but when wandering Guyana the next day I actually saw a vendor with a sign that said “DO RAGS $400” – so, I figure it’s at least the local term in Guyana! She was driving the minivan with her mid-teens friend/son/etc, and they refused to acknowledge that they spoke English, speaking in a very rapid creole.
All was fine, however, and 30-40 minutes later I was at my hotel, the Herdmanston Lodge. The night manager was waiting for me, quickly walked me to my room, got me bottled water, and left me alone – just what I needed at 2am! It was time to crash, and sleep a few hours to enjoy the very early morning daytrip I had booked the next day.
One correction: if you are transiting POS on a Caribbean Airlines connection (given that this is their hub airport), it is possible to do an airside transit without clearing immigration (having done so myself on a trip back from Suriname to JFK). Basically, after checking your name on a list, they escort you to an elevator which takes you upstairs to center of the departure hall (pre-security).
I suspect that only Caribbean Airlines offers such a service, however, and only for passengers booked on connecting itineraries (meaning if you booked your flights on end-to-end tickets, you would have to clear immigration).
Yeah, I suspect it’s only Caribbean as well. I asked a Caribbean employee who was hanging out in the immigration hall, and they told me that since I was arriving on American and transferring to Caribbean I needed to clear immigration.