The Big Question: If I spring for a private charter, will I save money? Is it Cheaper?
The short answer is: NO!
Sorry about that. The fact is that it is more expensive. Basically even with 8 people in a Cessna Caravan at $2995 each way or about roughly $6000 both ways winds up being about $750 per person. So after adding savings of about $100 to $200 by avoiding going to SXM as well as another 300 for local puddle jumper - it still costs about another 250-350 more person..
Can you get close if you are 8 persons and get a fabulous Jet Blue fare? Of like $300 RT - Yes! Here are the numbers = (8 X 300 + 6000) = 8400/8 = $1050 per person. How likely are you to get that Jet Blue fare - Well that's the rub. During the week of August 14-17 2006, it was possible FOR $129 each way in January. (JFK-SJU); More likely tho' its another 100-150 RT.
So why should I bother? - Well for one thing it's your vacation! You are probably splurging for a lot of other things, and splurging for one of the most comfortable charter planes anywhere in the Caribbean may just be worth it.
And if you have properly tagged your bags - The ground folks in SJU will collect your bags at the same time as you are being escorted over to your waiting plane, which means your luggage will get to SBH at the same time you do! (Now there's a plus! - We all, regulars as it were, have had the experience of arriving into SBH hours or sometimes days before our bags.)
The seats on these planes are truly first class, more first class than your American or Continental First Class. So pop open the complimentary split of Champers, or a cold water and relax.
And; Oh and by the way, these planes are Air-conditioned. Yep. That makes a difference... An hour of quiet peaceful air-conditioned splendor in a plane designed to allow you to arrive in St. Bart's rested and un-hassled - As opposed to that little St. Martin experience which somehow after a long early morning tends to take some of the joy out of the trip, means your are going to be in a great mood!. Plus, as rumor has it, the old Transit gate in SXM will no longer be operational in the New SXM airport - Not that it made that much difference since you still had to go through SXM Security anyway.
And talking about avoiding the St. Maarten airport experience - As you think about your return flight you can think about the idea of leaving when you want!! "Leave when I want? - un-hunh - Think I'll take that evening Jet Blue flight back to NYC from SJU and have my last lunch at Eden Rock and wander over to the Airport and hop my Charter flight .." Oh yeah and here's another 'by the way' - Skip SXM and skip security, which means just once in SJU.
So let's see what were the benefits of a Charter flight? Go when I want to go.. at my speed.. . cool, escorted, and most importantly - I get to feel important!! Oops. No. I get to avoid the St Maarten Airport Transit & luggage experience.
On the other hand...
"Oh tough - so you have to sweat it a little...that's part of the fun, Dude" - Well the "fun" can get "old." Your choice...
Ok - So here is the so-called fine print - Don't have 8 people in your group and still wanna save and still fly in comfort ? - Book your Jet Blue tix NOW on the lowest off-peak rate you can get - Like 129 each way for January - And book the Tradewind scheduled service 990 RT PP. That's basically 260 plus 990 = 1250 per person RT. - CAVEAT - You have to pick up your bags at the baggage claim when flying on the Tradewind scheduled service - Sorry.
Call Ann or Michael in WIMCO's Air Department - 888-817-9924 - to arrange your scheduled or private charter flight via Tradewind Aviation from San Juan to St. Barts.
The Cessna Grand Caravan
Cessna Grand Caravan interior
The Pilatus 12
Pilatus 12 interior