WA727 From United States of America, joined Feb 2005, 174 posts, RR: 0 Posted (8 years 9 months 4 weeks 1 day 13 hours ago) and read 14451 times:
My GF and I took a much anticipated trip to the beautiful island of Antigua in the British West Indies. Our travel plans involved flying on US and AA, connections in PHL and SJU on the outbound and SJU and DFW on the return. Highlights of the trip were an unexpected first class upgrade on the US leg from PHL to SJU and an amazing helicopter ride around the active Soufriere Hills volcano on the island of Montserrat, which included flying over the abandoned W.H. Bramble International airport (MNI).
October 13, 2006
US 250 PHX-PHL, still operated by HP
A320, Seat 8F
A319, Seat 3D
Dep: 5:50pm (about 20 minutes late)
Arr: 9:46pm (about 15 minutes late)
LF: Was in F, so who cares?
We took off from runway 7L which is the usual departure runway at PHX in the morning. After ordering two pay for meals, we watched The Breakup. The croissant sandwich was so-so and the fruit and cheese platter, with sour apple wedges and dried out cheese, was lousy, but was at least something to get us by until a cheese steak in PHL. After circling for a few minutes, we landed from the east on runway 27R and made our way into concourse B. Our flight to SJU was in the same concourse, so we decided to find a place to eat and drink for the next hour and a half. PHL is an older crowded airport, hemmed in on all sides by manmade and natural features. While they’ve made efforts to make the terminal better for passengers, the narrow concourses were crowded on a busy Friday afternoon. After passing several crowded bars and eateries, we found a fast food place in Concourse C, split a cheese steak and fries, and made our way back to B to find a place to sit down and have a drink. The Samuel Adams pub and other bars were standing room only, so with some time to kill, and facing another 4 hours on a plane, we walked to concourse A to see if things were better. They weren’t, but we squeezed into a little place and had a beverage. Back in B, we saw that the aircraft for our flight was not yet at the gate, meaning we’d be boarding late. So, we ducked into an Italian place called Cibo for a glass of wine. The jet way for our gate was outside the window, so we could see the plane arrive. Had we known what would happen next, we would have skipped the drinks. We approached the gate and watched the last of the pax get off the arriving aircraft. An agent announced the names of a handful of departing pax to approach the gate for seat reassignment due to change of aircraft. I joked with my GF that maybe we’d get an upgrade. The agent took our existing boarding passes, informed us our new ones were being printed, and then nonchalantly handed them to us. I looked down. Seats 3C and D in the forward cabin of the A319. We stepped away to privately rejoice and not make a big deal out of it , since we didn’t know why we’d been upgraded. The agent then called for pre-boarding, and since there weren’t any, we were first to board. First class on US to San Juan, Puerto Rice (SJU) is a domestic flight and basically, free drinks and some food. However, we enjoyed a pre departure drink, a decent spinach/chicken/pasta salad meal, a few more beverages of our choice and a viewing of The Lake House. The best part of F on this flight was the seating comfort and first on, first off benefit. We later figured out that the since the aircraft was downgraded from an A320 to A319, they probably moved some Dividend Miles members to F and gave our seats in coach to others. I still wondered though, because we don’t have any kind of elite status and there are only 12 F seats on the A319.
We landed in SJU on runway 8 since 10 was being resurfaced. We returned the next morning for our international flight on AA to Antigua (ANU). AA dominates at SJU with B757 and A300 flights to cities on the US mainland and many ATR flights to other Caribbean islands. Our flight was a 757, but the route is also served by ATRs. The flight was short with no in-flight service as the FAs didn’t leave their jump seats.
October 14, 2006
AA 891 SJU-ANU
B752, Seat 14A
The flight began boarding about 40 minutes prior to departure, and although we were boarding group 6, were sitting in our seats with about 20 minutes before pull back. We left about 5 minutes early and took off on runway 8. Island viewing from my port window seat was obscured by clouds most of the time, but I was still able to spot the islands of Saba, St. Eustatius and Nevis. Due to an aircraft ahead of us, the pilot did a clockwise turn off shore from the port city of St. John’s and we landed at V.C. Bird International (ANU) on the 7 of the single runway (7/25). We landed not long after a VS 744 from LGW, an AC 319 from YYZ, and just before a DL 738 from ATL and a CO 737 from EWR. A BA 777 from Heathrow also landed soon after and dropped off pax before heading on to Tobago (TAB). BA also serves St. Lucia (UVF) and Grenada (GND) on other days of the week via ANU. With all the traffic coming in such a short time, immigration and customs took over an hour.
Here’s my GF with our plane at ANU and a shot of VS showing aft disembark from our plane.
Antigua is a beautiful island nation in the British West Indies. We stayed at Cocobay on the east side of the island. Our resort was all inclusive with great food and unlimited drinks. Ninety five percent of the guests were from the UK and we enjoyed chatting with them at the bar, on the beach and during afternoon tea. BA, VS, BD and BW all offer nonstop flights from the UK as well as charter carriers. Here’s a view from our hotel bar.
A few days prior to leaving the island of Antigua, we took an amazing trip with www.caribbeanhelicopters.com to view the Soufriere Hills volcano that has been erupting on Montserrat for over 10 years. Much of the island’s residents left for the UK or nearby islands following devastating pyroclastic eruptions (explosive ash and gas) and subsequent lahars (mudflows) that destroyed Plymouth and other towns as well as the former airport. However, residents now live outside the exclusion zone and the island is making a comeback. The new Gerald’s Airport (MNI) is relocated, and with a short (approximately 600 meter) runway, is limited to DH-6s for now. The abandoned, former WH Bramble Airport could handle DH-8s with an approximate 1037 meter (3,402 feet) runway.
Here are shots of the abandoned airport and terminal along with a shot of the volcano that made it so. The site of an erupting volcano as well as the destruction on all sides was jaw dropping. There are no plans to restore the old airport or any areas in the exclusion zone. The eruptions are predicted to continue for years with subseqent monitoring and exclusion zone restrictions indefinitely. The volcano website has more detail. http://www.mvo.ms/
October 21, 2006
AA 792 ANU-SJU
Upon our departure from ANU, I was able to get blurry, rainy shots of flights I’d seen a week before; AC 960 from YYZ, VS 33 from LGW and BA 2157 taxing for a runway 25 departure to TAB. Also, a shot of SJU from the air with a resurfaced, but not yet finished Runway 10.
October 22, 2006
AA 1549 SJU-DFW
LF: Not full, but close
We took off from SJU and started our trip home. I didn’t realize the flight from San Juan to Dallas was over 4 ½ hours, but was able to pass the time and soon we were landing at DFW and taxied to Terminal D. We took the monorail over to the inferior terminal C and did an obligatory visit to the TGI Friday’s and watched some NFL before catching our flight home to PHX.
BA777 From United Kingdom, joined Jun 2001, 2190 posts, RR: 7
Reply 12, posted (8 years 9 months 3 weeks 5 days 19 hours ago) and read 13145 times:
I've been to ANU 3 times on FCA, BAW and VIR so you could say I'm a regular! Nice shots from Monserrat, I went on the heli tour too with my family and it was quite something (well it was my first heli ride too, something special!)
Trintocan From United Kingdom, joined Apr 2000, 3287 posts, RR: 4
Reply 17, posted (8 years 9 months 1 week ago) and read 12333 times:
A great trip report. I loved those pictures too WA727. I have been to Antigua twice (1981 and 1999) - it is certainly a beach-lover's paradise with 365 beaches around its coast. It is also very beautiful if somewhat drier than many of the other Lesser Antilles. I have never been to Montserrat but it is visible from Shirley Heights and on the last time I was there the volcanic activity was very much in evidence, a jet of hot ash still discharging. Guadeloupe was also visible to the South.
I am glad that you and your girlfriend enjoyed your visit to the Caribbean.
Wa727 From United States of America, joined Feb 2005, 174 posts, RR: 0
Reply 18, posted (8 years 9 months 6 days 19 hours ago) and read 12293 times:
Quoting JamesJimlb (Reply 16): am glad that you and your girlfriend enjoyed your visit to the Caribbean.
Thank you TrinToCan and all who've replied to my trip report. Antigua is a great place to visit and we plan on going back. I really want to visit St. Maarten and spend some time at that beach bar at the end of the runway!
N174UA From United States of America, joined Jun 2006, 994 posts, RR: 0
Reply 20, posted (8 years 9 months 5 days 13 hours ago) and read 12140 times:
Quoting WA727 (Thread starter): While they’ve made efforts to make the terminal better for passengers, the narrow concourses were crowded on a busy Friday afternoon. After passing several crowded bars and eateries, we found a fast food place in Concourse C, split a cheese steak and fries, and made our way back to B to find a place to sit down and have a drink. The Samuel Adams pub and other bars were standing room only
PHL's international terminal is really, really nice...passed through on my way to/from FCO. The C concourse is left to be desired...reminds me of the days before UA moved into T1/T2 at ORD.
I had lunch at the Sam Adams bar after I got in from FCO. I had this nasty Pilsener made by some brewery in PA at another bar at PHL, worst beer I've ever had.
Quoting WA727 (Thread starter): following devastating pyroclastic eruptions (explosive ash and gas) and subsequent lahars (mudflows)
Wow...looks amazing! Reminds me of the Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic monument, I place I love to keep going back to again and again. Visit it if you're ever up in the PDX/SEA area. About a 3 hour drive from either city.
A simple Kodak Easyshare C643 to be specific. The bright sunshine and water reflection in the Caribbean is a challenge when using a basic camera, but the colors came through most of the time.
And, I must correct another mistake in my original post. Cocobay Resort is on the west side of Antigua, not the east.
Quoting N174UA (Reply 20): Reminds me of the Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic monument, I place I love to keep going back to again and again. Visit it if you're ever up in the PDX/SEA area. About a 3 hour drive from either city.
I visited Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic monument two years ago and found it fascinating, even in the spring when part of the volcano was shrouded in fog.