Of course, I have to start this report with a few planespotting photos. I got a brand new DSLR with two new lenses for this trip, so I was very excited to take some pictures.
A great story is behind this photo. I was messing around on FlightRadar24, and saw that Roman Abramovich's 767-300ER (the bandit!) was 5 minutes from landing. In a normal situation, I would've been super mad, but crazily, the condo I was staying at had an airport view, so I jumped up, put the longer lens on my camera, went onto the balcony, and here it is!
Now for the actual report! This was my first ever flight in business class, so I was very excited (although it was sad to be leaving).
The captain on our JetBlue flight told us we had to arrive ar the airport 3 hours before departure. I was a bit skeptical, but we arrived at 9:30.
While we waited for my dad to drop the car off, I attempted to figure out our boarding pass situation. Of the 4 people on the trip, 2 people checked in online and got boarding passes, 1 person checked in online but their boarding pass had to be printed at the airport, and 1 person couldn't even check in online. Great work, AA.
Once my dad arrived 20 minutes later, we went to drop our bags. Of course, nobody else on this flight had been informed to arrive 3 hours prior to departure, so we were literally the only people in the line. It only took 2 minutes.
After that, we made our way towards security (with no signage for where to go…).
Similar to something I experienced at Amsterdam at few months ago, they checked our passports not once, not twice, but three times before we got through! Must be a Dutch thing…
Although we were mixed in with a busy Sunwing flight to Toronto, it still only took 12 minutes to complete security.
Once through security, there was a myriad of stores to choose from…
…complete with a shiny camel!
We set up shop at this cafe but took a look at the prices. A general note about St. Maarten - food prices are ASTRONOMICAL. Everything in the grocery stores was double (or more) the price of food in the US. A gallon tub of ice cream was over $20!! In terms of the cafe, a slice of cake and a coffee was over $10. No thanks.
A view of the apron from the terminal.
Not sure why this massive (tv placed for comparison) ad was inside the passenger terminal.
After a failed breakfast, we walked across the terminal towards the B gates (our flight was at gate B2).
We were met with this sign - saying we could only access the gates an hour before departure.
We found some seats near a JetBlue flight that was boarding.
I also found the lounge. Interesting that business class pax couldn't enter for free. Even so, there was a steady stream of people going in and out.
Some spotting from the terminal. I was too lazy to get my DSLR out, which is why the pictures aren't good quality.
Finally, our plane arrived. There are announcements throughout the terminal saying that the inbound plane of a flight has arrived - interesting concept.
The announcements were one of the worst parts of the terminal. Not only were they extremely loud, every announcement made was broadcast throughout the ENTIRE terminal. Thanks, but I don't need to know that rows 1-5 are boarding on Winair flight 664 on the other side of the terminal.
We finally made our way downstairs at 11:30. I'm not sure why we weren't allowed down before, as there was PLENTY of extra seating.
Boarding began at 11:54, and was a disaster. Gate B2 is a bus gate. Boarding started with those seated in business class, but since the rest of my family was in Y, I decided to stay with them. Group 4 was then called, followed by group 1, then group 2, then group 3. To make things more complicated, the rest of my family was in seats 32ABC, but seats B and C were in group 2, and seat A was in group 3! Nice work, AA.
Me and my dad were also selected for additional security screening, so we were the last ones on the final bus. This just consisted of opening up all of our carry on luggage and patting us down.
Finally, an airplane! I guess boarding on a remote stand has its advantages. Today's plane was N188AN, a 14 year old, internationally configured 757-200.
I got on board at 12:15, and went to turn left to get to business class, but a flight attendant was blocking the way. I stated that I was in row 3, and without even verifying, she let me past with a smile.
The guy in 3E was already comfortable in his seat, so I did some acrobatics and settled into a surprisingly comfortable 3F. (travel backpack made another appearance!)
The back of the seat in front of me. Small TV and big tray table made for a strange appearance.
A blanket awaited me, but I didn't bother even unwrapping it as it was 85 degrees outside and equally as hot inside the plane, plus I was wearing jeans anticipating it to be cold in NYC. I had read a review of an AA 757-200 international service which said Bose noise canceling headphone were provided. I had buried my own headphones in the bottom of my backpack, so I waited and waited and waited for the headphones to be provided, but no such luck. Lesson learned - don't trust everything you see on the internet.
The FA came over and offered me a cup of orange juice or water. I was the last person in my seat, and yet, she still had a tray with at least 4 cups of each. OJ for me.
I opened up my window shade to take one of my final glimpses of paradise.
Once the main door was closed, the main FA welcomed us on board our flight to "New York's International airport". Hm…which one? JFK? LGA? EWR?
We pushed back at 12:35 - ahead of schedule! The TVs powered on shortly after that. The screens were touchscreen, but they were a long way away so I just used the remote instead. I also found it interesting that the screens were in English and Spanish, and the flight was from an island where Dutch and French are spoken. Then again, everyone I met spoke English, and the majority of the pax on the flight are from the states, not St. Maarten.
Our captain announced the flying time to be 3h48m, and that we'd be cruising at 38,000 feet.
Still on the ground (not moving), the flight attendant took our orders for lunch and drinks. There was no menu, but our options were ravioli with white sauce or pecan crusted chicken. I almost went for the chicken, but then remembered my experience on VX a few years prior when I ordered a yogurt parfait which did not specify that it had walnuts in it (I'm allergic), and that did not make for a fun flight. I played it safe and ordered the ravioli. Daniel: 1, Allergies: 0
We began our taxi towards runway 10 at 12:43. If you were wondering, the buildings all the way to the left of the picture housed the condo that I stayed at with the airport view.
It was funny seeing Maho Beach from the airplane side, having spent so much time there during the previous 8 days.
We lined up and shot down the runway at 12:46, only 6 minutes behind schedule.
Goodbye St. Maarten!
I started playing around with the seat controls, which proved to be a bit confusing. It took me a while to figure out that you had to hold down the buttons to get it to move to the preset positions, instead of just simply pressing it once.
My seatmate got up to use the bathroom, so I quickly snapped a picture of the seat, as I had failed to do so getting on the plane.
Our flight attendant distributed a hot 'towel' before bringing out the food. Not the nicest quality…
Some warm nuts were distributed at 1:09, and remembering to check, sure enough, there was a lone walnut in my dish. I ate around it, and everything else was tasty. Daniel: 2, Allergies: 0
2 minutes later, my glass of sprite that I ordered before takeoff arrived.
I decided to investigate the IFE before my main meal arrived. Video, Audio, Games, Flight Path, and… Survey? That's new (more on that later). There was an excellent selection of Movies as well as TV shows, music, and more games than I've ever seen on an airplane before.
I rigged up a movie and waited for my meal to arrive. See what I mean about the small screen looking a bit weird with all that space?
I guess the only good thing about not having a menu is the surprise of what else comes with your meal. My ravioli arrived at 1:29, accompanied with shrimp, a salad, and another sprite.
Despite not being particularly pleasing to the eye, all of the food was quite tasty. The ravioli was good, but lacked a bit of flavor, and the tomatoes mixed with the white sauce didn't really work. Decide AA - white sauce or tomato sauce? The shrimp and marinara sauce was delicious, and the salad was above average by airplane standards. The FA also offered a mini baguette or pretzel roll. The mini baguette was actually really nice, like something you'd get in a bakery.
I savored my meal, and once the FA cleared my tray away, she brought back a piece of carrot cake.
Reminding myself that carrot cake normally has walnuts in it, I slice it open, and sure enough - walnuts! I picked them out, but the cake was meh at best. Daniel: 3, Allergies: 0. I think AA is out to get me.
I let my food digest while finishing my movie, then put my seat all the way flat (angle flat, that it, put my headphones on, and closed my eyes for a while.
Speaking of the seat, I found it to be very comfortable. I've seen a lot of complaints about angle flat versus lie flat, but I personally had no problem with it. What I did have a problem with was storage. I kept my backpack with my anticipating that there would be space to put it, but when reclined, the space in front of me was gone, so i had to keep the backpack on top of the seat, reducing the area I had to move around. My only other complaint would be that there wasn't enough room for your feet when the seat was fully flat.
Zooming over the Atlantic.
In terms of service, there was only one flight attendant for the entire 16 person J cabin. She was nice and very professional, so no complaints in that field.
Some more ocean.
I got up to check out the bathroom about an hour before landing, but it was just the standard bathroom.
I didn't expect more food before landing, but I was a bit hopeful. My expectations were correct, and all we got was a mint.
As the flight winded down, I decided to click on the survey. Sure enough, a very long survey appeared asking you to rate every single aspect of the flight. I completed it, but it glitched out at the end and deleted everything I wrote. So much for that.
We began our descent at 4:00, and much to my excitement, followed the Canarsie approach to runway 13L (this is the best approach to JFK, with a turn right before the runway).
We touched down at 4:35 - a full 47 minutes ahead of schedule.
We taxied towards T8, but stopped short. Our captain announced that since we had been so early, our gate had not been vacated. I took advantage of the seat and reclined a bit, and we eventually hooked up to the gate at 5:01.
I got off the plane quickly. Thanks for the ride N188AN!
Unfortunately, the worst part of the trip was the last one. Security was an absolute mess. There was no clear indication of what line different people should be in, and more importantly, nobody telling you where to go. It took for ever, and customs took equally as long. In total, the mess took 1h10m. It almost ruined a very positive trip back.
That's all for this set of reports!
Thanks for reading, and feel free to leave a comment - I love reading and responding to them!
Future reports to look out for - a possible trip to Chicago in June, a trip to South Africa in July, and a trip to Europe and Senegal in August. See you then!
Saint Martin - SXM
New York - JFK
SXM Terminal - Clean and modern, lots of shops, loud announcements, crazy boarding
Seats - Comfortable, plenty of space, good for sleeping, poor storage space
Food - Great overall
Crew - Only one for J class, professional and smiley
IFE - Great selection on a poor quality, small screen
JFK Terminal 8 - SLOOOOWWW and unorganized
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