Island Hopping

  • author Mark Nestmann
  • calendar September 23, 2010

Depending upon where you live in the Caribbean region, travel can  often be an ordeal.  This means that some access and connections are  easy; others are not.

While The Commonwealth of Dominica is centrally located in the Lesser Antilles, air access to and from the island can be tricky at times.   This is due to the fact that no large jets touch down at Dominica's Melville Hall Airport, and certainly not at Canefield Airport, which has a very short runway.  Onward connections from Antigua, Barbados or San Juan is almost essential if you're not traveling to one of those three places.

(Editor's Note: It's somewhat easier to get to the Federation of St. Kitts & Nevis.  Direct service to from the Robert L. Bradshaw International Airport in St. Kitts is the major gateway for air travel to the confederation.  There are direct flights five days a week from Miami and once weekly from Philadelphia and Charlotte.  Frequent charter flights from Toronto to St. Kitts are also available.)

Some islands, such as Puerto Rico, St. Maarten, Antigua, Barbados,  Trinidad and Curacao act as inter-island hubs. Mostly, small aircraft are utilized, which limits weight and baggage size.  If you plan to travel in the region, be sure to pack as lightly as possible!

In this region, LIAT, American Eagle, Caribbean Airlines and Insel Air are large players.  LIAT is based at V.C. Bird International Airport in Antigua and LIAT serves most of the Caribbean, including the Dominican Republic and Curacao.  Caribbean Airlines is based at Piarco International Airport in Trinidad.  Others include Aruba based Tiara Air, St. Maarten based Winair, Curacao based Dutch Antilles Express and Air Caraibes, which serves the French West Indies and Guyane Francaise.

As the region is not largely liberalized and deregulated as in the USA,  Canada and Europe, airfares are relatively expensive.  In most cases, only one airline serves a particular route and airfares are quite high.  Even when multiple airlines serve a route (such as between Aruba and Curacao) minimum fares are set by the civil aviation authorities in both jurisdictions.

Transferring baggage between carriers is a rare luxury.  This means that you must go through passport control , claim your baggage, clear customs and schlep your bags to the ticket counter of the connecting airline. Then, you must clear security, go back through passport control, and finally proceed to your boarding gate. Often, an overnight connection is required if you travel between, say, Antigua or St. Lucia and the ABC Islands.

When island hopping in the Caribbean, book online directly with the airline of your choice.  Internet travel sites frequently omit connections from smaller airlines and in virtually all cases require connections through U.S. airports.  This in turn requires that you deal with intrusive U.S. customs and security personnel. Avoid U.S. connections, if at all possible.

Happy traveling!!

(P.T. Freeman is a friend and business partner, and a former U.S. citizen)

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