Cape Air – Cessna 402C: Boston to Provincetown

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Date: 18. August 2016.
Departure: 19h35.
Arrival: 20h00.
Flight time: 25 minutes.
Seat: 3A, as we board we are given specific instructions to take the front seat for balance.

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Introduciton

I spend a lovely day in Boston. In the morning I head for MIT in Cambridge to do a few laps in the pool of the Zesinger Center and then head back into town for some sightseeing and lunch. By 16h00 I am back at the Hostel and fit to drop. Time to move on.

Getting to the Airport

Transport: Sliver Line Bus, route 1.
Journey time: Roughly 30 minutes depending on traffic.
Departs from: South Station.
Arrives: Arrival level of Terminal C.
Cost: USD 2.75 per person.

The Silver Line is probably the most convenient way to get to Logan airport using public transport. Travelling by underground from downtown to the airport requires a change of trains and another transfer to a bus which then connects the rail station to the airport terminal area.

There is always the possibility to take the water taxi to the airport, which will pick you up from different locations around town. But this may be cumbersome too if you are travelling with a lot of luggage and also requires a transfer to a shuttle but to take you from the wharf to the terminal area.

Check-in

Location: Terminal C.
Facilities: Only airport check-in is available.
Counters: There are two counters.

By the time I reach the counter, it is 17h40. My flight to Provincetown will not be leaving until 20h11. More out of curiosity than anything else I ask the check-in agent if by any chance there might be an earlier flight available. She tells me the 18h27 still has seats available and rebooks me on to that flight straight away.

The check-in experience with Cape Air is interesting. It is the first time an airline has ever wanted to know my body weight for the pilot to properly calculate the aircraft’s weight and balance.

From check-in I head for security. I better get a move on because the flight should start boarding at 18h15.

Boarding

There are five passengers on the 18h27 service to Provincetown. The flight is called and all passengers are invited to stand in queue. Once everybody has appeared, passengers are invited to head downstairs and wait to be picked up by a Cape Air ramp agent. We are also given clear instructions not to open the door by ourselves, as this will trip the alarm.

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After only a short wait a young lady opens the door from the outside and asks us ‘you guys all heading for P-Town’? All five of us nod and then she walks us across the apron.

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You may carry your luggage all the way to the aircraft’s door. But once there, you will have to hand over everything to the ramp agent because the aircraft’s cabin simply is not big enough to hold any luggage.

The Cabin

Configuration: 1 + 1.
Seat: The seat is comfy enough. My only complaint is that the seat back has a fairly steep recline. Legroom is good though and probably better than what you get on some carriers on an aircraft the size of an A 320 or so.
Facilities: There is an air vent.

The cabin is fairly hot. It is still warm at this time of day. The pilot’s solution is simple and old fashioned: he just opens the window to let in some fresh air – although the term ‘fresh’ should probably be used liberally here: the queue for departure is huge and we are queuing behind eleven large jets. With the pilot’s window open, the jet blast is blowing straight into the cabin. Admittedly, I have a fetish for anything to do with airplanes, but I’m not so sure what the other passengers are thinking…

Eventually, we take off after waiting in line for about 45 minutes. The flight time is advised as 25 minutes. It is a nice flight across the water to Provincetown and the setting sun provides a very poetic atmosphere. I check the altimeter and see that we’re cruising at 1000 feet!

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Arrival

All too soon we are turning onto the approach. We land and taxi past a line of light aircraft. It really is a matter of reference. Here in Provincetown the Cessna 402C is certainly the big guy on the ramp.

And that is when I spot the terminal, which is dinky. I really have no other way to describe it – so cute! The ramper opens the door and welcomes us to Cape Cod. We then step onto the patio and wait for the luggage to be off loaded and brought over to us.

As I step outside the terminal, one of the passengers from my flight is about the depart in a taxi and there does not seem to be another one waiting. But that’s okay. The driver asks me if I want to hop on, and off we go.

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The charge from the airport to the town centre is a flat charge of USD9.- per passenger.

MINT by Jetblue, First Class – Airbus A 321: San Francisco to Boston

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Date: 18 August 2016
Departure: 12:55
Arrival: 21:30
Flight time: 5 hours and 10 minutes
Seat: 3C, aisle on the port side

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Introduction

I first visited San Francisco in 2008. I was on a round the world trip and arrived from Tokyo. It must have been some time around January. I remember the weather was awful, cold and wet. I did not manage to see the Golden Gate Bridge that time, because it was shrouded in dense fog all the time I was there. And it’s been bugging me ever since!

But this time, finally, after eight years I finally get to see and cross the famous Golden Gate Bridge. Granted, the weather is not much better this time round, but at least I can still see the city in the distance.

So now that has been taken care of and I can finally strike another item of the bucket list, I figure I might as well move on…

Getting to the Airport

Transport: Car rental.
Journey time: 55 minutes on local roads or 35 minutes on the highway.
Driving in the US really is rather cool. They have these enormous roads with four or six lanes in each direction. What is even more impressive though, is that despite the wide roads they still seem to have way too many cars on the road.

From the car rental drop off station it takes about five minutes to the terminal complex using the fully automated AirTrain. The views from the AirTrain are excellent by the way!

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Check-in

Location: International Terminal A, row 10.
Facilities: Web check-in, App check-in, self-service check-in or check-in at the counter.
Counters: There are two counters for JetBlue Mosaic and Mint customers and three counters for Economy Class passengers.

Airside

Alas, JetBlue does not operate a lounge at SFO and does not use any contractor lounge either. But that is really quite okay. Complimentary wifi is available in the terminal building and the view from gate A3A, from where my flight will be boarding, is simply excellent. I even get to witness a Virgin America A 320 executing a rejected take-off due to conflicting traffic on the crossing arriving runway.

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Boarding

Mint passengers are invited to board after passengers with special needs.

Something tells me this flight is going to be just brilliant, if the first impression I get from the gate agent is anything to go by. The guy obviously takes his job seriously and makes a point of keeping passengers informed about the entire boarding process. He also strictly enforces the boarding sequence.

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The Cabin

Configuration: 2 + 2 and 1 + 1.
Seat: Jetblue operates the A 321 in two configurations. The aircraft used in transcontinental services are branded as MINT by Jetblue. The aircraft have a seating capacity of 158, with 16 seats in Business Class. Rows 1, 3 and 5 are in a 2 + 2 configuration, while rows 2 and 4 are in a 1 + 1 configuration. The seats on the even numbered rows are referred to as the Business Suites. They have slightly greater pitch and more privacy, including a rather superfluous and useless sliding door. The suites are available on a first come first served basis.
Pitch: 60 inches.
Length as a bed: 80 inches.
Width: 22 inches.
Facilities:

  1. There are two 110 volt power ports and USB ports at each seat.
  2. Complimentary wifi is available on board and there are various price plans should you require more capacity.

Audio and Video:

  1. 15 inch LCD screen.
  2. There are more than 100 online radio programmes.
  3. There are 100 television programmes and a selection of films on flights longer than two hours.
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Seatmap courtesy of seatguru.com

The Crew

I reach my seat and there is a card welcoming me on board that has been signed by the two cabin crew working the forward cabin. In addition, the crew make a point of stopping at every seat to welcome every passenger on board individually. They explain the features of the seat, what the service is going to be like and then take orders for a welcome drink before handing every passenger the menu for the flight.

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I think what impresses me most about the crew is that they genuinely seem to enjoy their job and their interaction with the passengers seems authentic.

After take-off the crew distribute earphone and vanity kits, which are really nice, even if they do not really contain anything you might need during the flight. However, toothbrushes and toothpaste are available on request.

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The Meal

Welcome drink on the ground: Honey infused limeade and fresh mint.
Towel before the meal: Hot towel, not scented.
Pre-meal drink:
Another honey infused limeade, served with artichoke and avocado dip and taro chips.
Choice:
Passengers are invited to choose three dishes from a selection five, which includes two cold and three hot dishes.
Delivery:
Individual tray service.
Type of meal:
Late lunch.
Meal:

  1. Herby lentil salad with baby romaine, haricots verts, avocado, toasted pecans and pomegranate molasses vinaigrette.
  2. Lobster risotto with crimini mushrooms, Swiss cheese and herb breadcrumbs.
  3. Turkey chilli with avocado, cherry tomatoes and cotija cheese.
  4. Seasonal fruit salad.
  5. Organic blue marble ice cream.
  6. Tea or coffee.

I think it is safe to say that this must be one of the best airline meals I have ever had. Firstly, all the dishes are still hot when the tray arrives. But apart from that, the quality and the taste of the food is excellent. The chilli is nice and spicy and the lobster risotto is just lovely. The dessert at the end is good too.

Throughout the flight the crew pass through the cabin, making sure all passengers have everything they need. In addition, there is a self-service bar at the rear of the First Class cabin, which is stocked with soft drinks and a selection of snacks – things like crisps or Pretzels.

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Arrival

Eventually we start our descent into Boston. The crew make another round with hot towels for passengers to freshen up. After that, the purser comes through the cabin with a selection of cookies and personally thanks ever passenger for flying JetBlue. He even makes a point of addressing every passenger by name!

Conclusion

I think this flight on JetBlue was absolutely bloody brilliant! These guys are really giving the likes of Virgin America or American Airlines a good run for their money. And in fact, although this service was ‘only’ a regular domestic First Class service, I think it is way better than the American Airlines experience I had from New York to Los Angeles.

Of course, there are certain shortcomings, such as the lack of a dedicated lounge on the ground in San Francisco. And perhaps the tray the meal is served on is not quite so fancy. But I think what this flight really shows is that it really is the crew that makes the experience. And today’s crew – Derek and Margaret – were just excellent and demonstrated some great hospitality! I like.