A few months back when American not only offered to match by United status by giving me American Executive Platinum status for the balance of 2012, but also offered to let me keep it for 2013 if I flew only 55,000 elite qualifying points…well, immediate I started scheming how to get 100,000 elite qualifying miles on United as well as 55,000 EQP on American. It wasn’t going to be easy (and I’m still 15-20,000 short in planning on both with just over three months to go) but I knew I could figure it out. That said, when I found out American had a pretty good business fare to Haïti (a country I hadn’t been to) and that it made an easy four day weekend trip…well, I was curious.
See, one thing the last few years have travel have taught me is it’s just possible…maybe…that I don’t get the whole story about the world from CNN, Fox News, etc. I mean, it’s possible that the horrors they tell me about Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Somalia, North Korea are, well, maybe not exactly how day to day life unfolds there. Having been to all those places, and having learnt that basically what the media shows is maybe 2% of the real story, well, I was definitely interested in getting a bit more of the real story about Haïti for myself. To hear them tell it, Haïti is miles upon miles of never ending tent cities with people dying of cholera left and right. There are giant fissures in the ground from the Earthquake, and nothing resembling normality exists. Is it true? I had to see for myself. Flights booked, and I was off.
I’m going to split this report into four parts:
Part 1: The flights (this part)
Part 2: The hotel
Part 3: The sights, and what I saw
Part 4: The restaurants, food, groceries, etc
When I booked the trip, I had planned to fly all the way from DCA-DFW-MIA-FLL on the same day. However, a change in schedules made this impossible since the later Miami to Port-au-Prince flight was eliminated. I had two choices: go direct DCA-Miami-Haiti and lose approximately 2,100 elite qualifying points, or overnight in Dallas and then continue in the morning. I have a good friend I haven’t seen for a while in Dallas, so my choice was obvious! I’d take a late DC-Dallas flight after work, and then continue in the morning. The agent I spoke to on the phone was more than happy to make the change, and I was all set.
Got to the airport about 75 minutes before the flight, and TSA was relatively empty. Quick stop in the AAdmirals Club, where I had the most attentive bartender ever. He actually wandered the club with wine bottles, proactively offering refills to people where they sat. I’ve never had this before, and I’ve also never tipped as much for free drinks. He was absolutely fantastic!
American Airlines Flight 2021
Washington, DC National (DCA) to Dallas/Fort-Worth (DFW)
Depart 18:15, Arrive 20:30, Flight Time 3:15
Boeing 737-800, Registration N930AN, Manufactured 2000, Seat 5E
There’s not too much to say about this flight. Typical mid-con dinner, although service was pretty poor. Crew disappeared as soon as possible, and we didn’t see them for the rest of the flight. I seriously thought I was back on United again! Arrived about 20 minutes late due to a detour around weather, but I was reminded how I love Dallas as an arrivals airport because I was curbside and meeting a friend for dinner in under five minutes. Absolutely fantastic!
American Airlines Flight 1442
Dallas/Fort-Worth (DFW) to Miami (MIA)
Depart 7:30, Arrive 11:15, Flight Time 2:45
Boeing 767-300, Registration N39365, Manufactured 1988, Seat 3D
TSA line in the morning was quite short, even though for the 8th of 8 times with American I was denied Pre-Check. 6 of the 8 flights have been on international itineraries (which are rumoured to be ineligible for pre-check) but the other two I got denied as well. I think TSA hates me. Actually, I think TSA hates everyone, but that’s beside the point.
Once through security at oh-dark-thirty, it was time to wait in line for Starbucks. I saw a sign that a new Starbucks is being built in terminal D, which is fortunate, because the line at this tiny one inside a bookstore took nearly 30 minutes to clear the line at 6:30am. Don’t they know that people are dying a slow death while awaiting their caffeine transfusion? I mean seriously, people! At least it gave me a chance to check out the local Texas literature. I was afraid…very afraid! Please, let me have my caffeine and move on!
Flight to Miami was on a 767, which I was very interested to see. See, so far in all my flights with American I’d only been on domestic aircraft. Despite the majority of my trips being international, they were all in the Caribbean/South America, so no international planes. I knew this was a 767, but based on the United 767s known as the “ghetto birds” I didn’t have high hopes. I was actually surprised! It was a true international plane, although something straight out of 10-15 years ago. Seats were recliner-style sloped seats, and while decent for a domestic flight, I’d hate to be in these internationally. Oh well, I guess this is why international upgrades are (relatively) easy on American compared to United!
Arrived in Miami on time, and had a couple hours to kill, so was off to La Carreta for a delicious lunch. I’m going to have to completely stop skipping meals on flights into Miami, because the food at La Carreta is so delicious. Living in DC, I don’t get awesome Cuban food often, so La Carreta is a bit of a treat. I highly recommend their Cuban sandwich – it’s not only delicious, but also super inexpensive. Plus, you can get Materva! Mmmm!
Soon it was time to board the flight to Port-au-Prince, and the gate area was definitely a fascinating people-watching experience. It was split evenly between tall blonde Minnesotans on missionary trips, and people of Haitian decent returning home. I definitely felt like a bit of an outsider! The skies were looking a bit ominous as we boarded, and I was convinced the skies were about to open up.
American Airlines Flight 833
Miami (MIA) to Port-au-Prince, Haiti (PAP)
Depart 14:00, Arrive 15:55, Flight Time 1:55
Boeing 757-200, Registration N678AN, Manufactured 1998, Seat 5E
Shortly after boarding, Tripit pinged me with a 30 minute delay, then 60, then 90. I’m still not sure why I’m not getting flight updates from American, and I can’t find anywhere on my online profile to set it. I guess it doesn’t really matter – I don’t need multiples as long as Tripit is keeping me in the loop. As usual, I had to inform the flight attendants of the delay, since they were completely unaware. I swear, the airlines should pay me for providing this service! Heavy rains moved in, and finally just over 1:15 late we finally pulled away from the gate, and were underway.
Nothing too much to say about the flight. We ended up with a relatively tasty snack for such a short flight. There was no choice, it was salad, salad, or salad!
Arrival in Port-au-Prince was relatively uneventful. I was actually sort of surprised to see there was actually a jetway for us. Walked up it, down the hall maybe 2-3 minutes and down an escalator where….it dropped us at a bus! LOL! This is definitely the first time I’ve ever been teased with a jetway and terminal, only to be dumped at a bus when you went through them. After loading, we were driven a few minutes to what looked like a small makeshift building which appeared to only house immigration and baggage, and was covered in ads for American and cell phone companies. I found out later American had paid for the renovation of this building (and much of the airport) after the earthquake (gee, wonder who’s making a killing on this route) and thus almost seemed to “own” parts of the airport. A quick shot of the makeshift immigration hall:
After immigration, a welcome to Haïti from the local cellphone mafia:
Outside arrivals, where I waited for my driver:
On the way back, the driver tried to (once again) convince me I needed to be at the airport three hours before departure. Um, no. No way. I told him to pick me up at 7:15am (to give me time for some coffee first) and we’d be there by 7:45 for a 9:20 flight. Plenty of time. As predicted, arrived at 7:45, and immediately were surrounded by porters grabbing at my bags. I waved them all off, but they were persistent, all trying to get a hand on the bags to justify a few dollars tip. While I felt a bit obligated to stimulate the local economy, these people were clearly not hurting too much. With a steady stream of much more gullible visitors, I didn’t feel too obligated to let them assist me.
The whole terminal was operated by American, and it was just for their flights. The check-in line for economy appeared to be at least 30 minutes, but for business (which I had to ask for – there were no signs) there was only one person in front of me. The terminal was air conditioned, security and immigration were quick, and arriving at 7:45 was plenty of time.
American Airlines Flight 1608
Port-au-Prince, Haiti (PAP) to Miami (MIA)
Depart 9:20, Arrive 11:25, Flight Time 2:05
Boeing 737-800, Registration N833NN, Manufactured 2010, Seat 4E
Extremely uneventful flight, and nothing really to add here. Typical light morning breakfast/snack which I skipped, and before you know it, it was time to experience my first Miami arrivals. Walked a bit, took an escalator, took a train, walked some more, and was finally in the immigration hall. It was almost as bad as Dulles, but not entirely. Global Entry was a breeze, and there was also a special Global Entry customs line. Got the usual dirty looks from other passengers, and was through quickly, and ready to connect to my next flight. Grabbed a quick shower in the AAdmirals Club to wash off the morning sweat from Haïti, and onwards!
American Airlines Flight 2307
Miami (MIA) to Dallas/Fort-Worth (DFW)
Depart 13:35, Arrive 15:40, Flight Time 3:05
Boeing 757-200, Registration N638AA, Manufactured 1991, Seat 3E
Another very uneventful flight – again, the best kind! Nothing to really say, so not going to say much. We were about 30 minutes late due to diverting around weather, but my arrival and connection were both in terminal C at Dallas, so it was very easy to make it.
American Airlines Flight 2442
Dallas/Fort-Worth (DFW) to Washington, DC National (DCA)
Depart 16:55, Arrive 20:35, Flight Time 2:40
Boeing 737-800, Registration N867NN, Manufactured 2011, Seat 4E
Again, a very uneventful flight with a good crew. Unfortunately, about 90 minutes into the flight I started feeling a bit “off” which I’d later find out was food poisoning. Not sure if it came from Haïti, or if it came from the grilled shrimp salad on the Miami to Dallas segment, but either way I woke up about 8 hours later at home feeling like absolute death which stuck with me for a few days. Oh well, small price to pay for an awesome adventure!
Great reports! Where is the report on North Korea?
David the North Korea trip was before I started this blog. One day I’ll come back to it and try and post a bit along with some photos.
Look forward to the Haiti report. I went over Columbus Day 2009 and visited PAP and Jacmel (2hrs south). Three months later the earthquake destroyed the country. When I was there I didn’t see any other tourists just some American missionaries. When my Delta flight landed from JFK at PAP I just stepped off the jet and right into the terminal and got stamped in immediately without a single word (I guess things are way busier now with aid work). I left the country taking a Caribe Bus from PAP to Santo Domingo, which took 11hrs to cross the island city to city including the chaotic Haiti/DR border.