Dec 232015
 

Dropoff by my taxi at Havana Airport was simple, but one word of advice is to check out which terminal you depart from. I had arrived at Terminal 3 with Avianca, which is the main terminal handling international flights. According to wikipedia, Cayman Airways uses Terminal 3 like all the other international airlines, but fortunately my taxi driver thought to ask some people and turns out they use Terminal 2. Other than Cayman Airways, Terminal 2 is used primarily for the charter flights to Miami, New York, and Fort Lauderdale operated under the OFAC license. Fortunately, my driver asked. One note, Condor was also using the terminal for flights to Frankfurt, so definitely don’t trust what wikipedia says.

No security at all to get into the check-in area, and the first counter I saw brought back memories:

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I could have been anywhere in the US, except all the flights were pretty much to Miami:

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Check-in was simple, I changed the last of my convertible pesos back into euros (no receipts needed) and headed to immigration. Had a nice chat with the friendly immigration officer who asked how I enjoyed Cuba, and then asked me if he could stamp my passport. I’d been told they always stamp now no matter what, but I didn’t get a stamp on the way in, and was given the option on the way out.

Security was on the other side of immigration, and a pretty simple affair. Terminal 2 is just one big open waiting hall, with a few hundred chairs and no jetbridges. You either walk to your plane, or are taken on a bus. Shockingly, there was actually a VIP Lounge upstairs, which I had access to with business class. It was a pretty quiet affair, with just me and two self-important people loudly telling everyone in the world on their cell phones that they were off to Miami. The lounge had serve-yourself beer and wine, and lounge staff would (in theory) make you other drinks if asked. There were some bowls of nuts and crackers, but that was it for food. I tried to get some pictures of the lounge, but was scolded, so gave up trying.

Soon, about 30 minutes after scheduled departure time, we were allowed to board our plane:

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There were only two of us in business class for the short hop, so I decided to take the window seat and enjoy the views.

Cayman Airways flight 833
Havana, Cuba (HAV) to George Town, Cayman Islands (GCM)
Depart 15:20, Arrive 16:20, Flight Time: 1:00
Boeing 737-300, Registration VP-CAY, Manufactured 1993, Seat 2F
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 121,566
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,160,533

Great bulkhead art…He Hath Founded It Upon the Seas!

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PDB was…a mini bottle of water. At least I was offered a second one?

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Hasta Luego, Havana!

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Taxiing out for takeoff, we passed this beauty. Not sure the old Eastern ever operated 737s, but was still awesome to see!

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The in-flight magazine boasted they were the only airline in the world to offer complimentary rum punch to all passengers, so how could I turn that down? It even came with a mini “just in case it’s not strong enough for you.” Now that’s service! I chatted with the flight attendant a bit, and she was from Jamaica and used her benefits with Cayman Airways to fly all over the world. She’d been all over Asia, Europe, Australia, and really was interesting on top of being really service oriented. For a flight that was maybe 45 minutes in the air, she did an amazing job.

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Amazing views of the setting sun in flight:

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On approach to Grand Cayman:

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Was first off the plane when we taxied in, which meant first to immigration as well. All transfers go through immigration in the Cayman Islands. Not sure if you can transit without a visa if you need one, but when I told them what I was doing they quickly stamped me in and directed me outside to the check-in counters. Fortunately, I was familiar with the airport and had no trouble finding them.

When I got to the BA counter, they even addressed me by name, since I was the one connecting passenger they were waiting for. I guess this isn’t a very common connection? Quickly checked in, and since there’s no lounge, I was given a $10 coupon to use at the bar in the departures area. Can’t complain about that!

Security was super quick, and I was through to the departures hall in just about five minutes. Just like Havana, the departures area in Grand Cayman is just one large room, and there wasn’t too much to do. Fortunately, I only had about 30 minutes before boarding. I¬†really wanted a Diet Coke, but when I walked up to the bar this is where things got a bit interesting. After I ordered the Diet Coke, a, um, “rather nice English lady of the mature variety” chatted me up, and had some rather unflattering things to say about my manhood for ordering a Diet Coke. She insisted I join her in doing rum shots…and ordered four right away. Apparently her “friends” were boring and had left the day before to go back to work so she was flying back to London all alone.

Fortunately, before she could order any more drinks, they paged business class for boarding. I excused myself, thanked her for the rum, and was met with “business class? well aren’t WE fancy?!” Hahaha, one of those great random travel experiences.

Boarding tonight was walking out onto the tarmac, and to the plane. She definitely looked majestic from this angle:

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British Airways flight 252
George Town, Cayman Islands (GCM) to Nassau, Bahamas (NAS)
Depart 19:15, Arrive 20:45, Flight Time: 1:30
Boeing 767-300, Registration G-BNWM, Manufactured 1991, Seat 1E
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 122,033
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,161,000

Literally within a minute of boarding, I’d been brought bubbles. This flight was looking pretty good for my first BA flight in 25 years!

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But seriously, this is a business class seat? Not only was it completely open (so I can look right at the dude in the next row), but that’s a footrest? I don’t think I want to try putting this into flat bed mode…

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Empower?! What is this, 2002?

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But hey, the upside was definitely the crew, who insisted I needed a second pre-departure bubbles, no matter what I said:

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Couple of thoughts on the seat. The design of the tiny little flimsy tray below holding my water is really really bad and easy to bump. Like with your knee to the point you knock your champagne glass on the ground and break it. Not that I would do that of course….

So, yes, it’s a 90 minute flight, but snacks of a bag of M&Ms and some candied nuts? I was a bit unimpressed.

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It was great to have a 767 on such a short flight, and really nice having real business class. Combine that with the fact that the crew was awesome, helpful, and friendly, and it went a long way to making this a really good experience. However, if I’d been going to London, I would be super disappointed.

I know everyone thinks United is pretty rotten, and yes, they have middle seats in business class on some planes, but lately OneWorld has really disappointed me. I think we can all agree that in both alliances Cathay, Singapore, ANA, and JAL are in a league of their own, well above most members of their respective alliances.

However, when you move down a tier, you start comparing Lufthansa to BA and United to American. Let’s assume service is roughly equal on all of them, and think about the hard product. BA flies these awful open seats where you look right at someone else on some routes, and AA is still flying 777s that don’t even have lie-flat seats! Even the hard product on United isn’t that good. Plus, from what I’ve seen, BA is nowhere near the quality of Lufthansa’s new international product. (Now that they’ve finally gotten rid of those awful sloping seats). Thoughts? I guess with both alliances it still means in the middle you really have to pay attention to which plane you’re flying.

Landed right on time in the Bahamas, maybe 10% of the plane got off with the rest continuing to London, and it was time to visit my 185th country…the Bahamas!


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