A little background on the trip. My partner and I got a great deal buying a week at a timeshare in Cocoa Beach, Fla. at the Beach Island Resort. It’s a small place (just 20 units), but right smack on the beach, beautiful pool and a great view of Space Shuttle launches at the Kennedy Space Center just up the coast a bit (which we missed by three weeks or so). Very highly recommend this cute little place and the Cocoa Beach/Cape Canaveral area in general for a laid back beach vacation. Considering it was hurricane season (thus the great rates!), we did have a bit of a worry with all the hurricanes (like Ike) and tropical storms (like Fay) messing with us a little pretty close to our departure date, but it turned out to be absolutely great weather the entire time. There were six of us total; my partner and his parents, myself and my brother.
We booked via the jetBlue website and got an incredible fare of $153.00 per person, round trip. I’m still baffled by the terrific fares out of White Plains, NY (even lower than what was offered for the same dates out of JFK/LGA). White Plains is in ‘Martha Stewart country’. By that I mean upper-crust Westchester County, NY. In fact part of the airfield borders Greenwich (clench your teeth when you say that), CT. and those high powered neighbors exert a huge amount of pressure on local government to keep that airport difficult -and expensive- for airlines to operate from. They all have to duke it out in a slot-lottery each month, from what I understand, in order to schedule their flights and maximum number of passenger movements. So it still strikes me as strange that the jetBlues and AirTrans are operating in such a big way there. In fact they operate the largest planes there too. All our so-called “legacy” carriers send their Express divisions there now. So, go figure, HPN is dominated by the LCCs now. And I’m not complaining. It’s 45 minutes from my home near New Haven, CT and these fares make me very happy and will keep us traveling!
Sorry to bore you with all that prelim stuff .. Now, on to the trip!
September 13 (SAT)
B6 595 HPN-MCO
N637JB “Big Blue Bus”
Photo © Jason Whitebird
Yes, you read that correctly. Five hours and twenty five minutes departure delay., We got dropped off at HPN by a friend (never ever ever park there if you can avoid it -- garage is $28 a day -no long-term parking- and is often full) at 1:30. Check-in was done quickly by an efficient, if un-smiling, agent and in no time we were sitting upstairs at the bar/restaurant. Had some lunch and a little cocktail to toast the trip and watched our plane, an A320, land right on time. Went downstairs and cleared security rapidly (very courteous TSA people at HPN) and waited by the doorway. The CSA at the podium noticed my brother in the WCHR and called me over to ask if we’d like to be moved from row 7 up to Row 1 for ease of boarding/deplaning. That was very sweet of her and, of course, we accepted. At this point, I will also mention that I used to work in the airline biz back in the 90s. I was a Passenger Service Supervisor for US in New Haven, CT, from 91 to 98. Prior to that, I was a F/A for another regional carrier (no longer with us) so like many of you other former airline employees, my sixth sense is still with me, and I was beginning to sense that something wasn’t right. The agents slipped out from behind the podium out to the ramp. Something definitely wasn’t right. Now departure time came and just about went when the agent reappeared and made the announcement that there was a minor mechanical problem and that boarding would be delayed. About ten minutes later, she announced that they had to change a tire - but they had a tire and a mechanic there at HPN to do it. Hmmmm Didn’t sound that likely, but we were at their mercy, so we waited. Well, apparently the tire they had there was still not one that the captain was comfortable with once it was mounted on the aircraft. So we were then told that they were driving another tire with some additional mechanics up to HPN from JFK to continue the process, To their credit, even though for a couple of hours, they had nothing encouraging to say, the agents would re-appear and apologize for the delay, pass out snacks and water in the gate area and reassure passengers that the flight would still operate, as late as it might get. At about 6:00, a supervisor named Irwin came in from the ramp and offered passengers an option to take a bus to LGA for a 9:00pm jetBlue flight from there. At this point, even though the mechanics and tire from JFK had arrived, they were working on the aircraft and were estimating that the tire change and safety checks could mean as late as a 10-or-11:00 departure! Irwin was honest in telling passengers that if they took the re-route to LGA, since our luggage would not be off-loaded from the A320 here in HPN that it would be necessary to file Delayed Baggage claims upon arrival in MCO and have their luggage delivered the next day. I hated that idea because again, since were traveling with a handicapped person and some of his special stuff packed in his bag, and staying about an hour away from MCO (and also having worked in the airline business!), I knew that we’d be waiting a looooooong time for our bags to ever be delivered to Cocoa Beach. By this point, my partner's parents were approaching wig-out level, so before making the decision to jump ship and get on the bus, I got Irwin alone and asked him to re-assure me that if we waited in HPN with “our” aircraft, that the flight would indeed go. I didn’t want us sitting there for potentially another 5 or so hours only to be told that we missed the airport curfew for departures or that the crew had run out of duty time. We chatted for a few minutes and I was confident that he was telling us the truth about the fact that the flight would actually run. Well, the overwhelming majority of the passengers did end up taking the busses to LGA and about 20 of us stayed in HPN. Lo and behold, at 7:30, Irwin came back in to us all and informed us that they were wrapping up the tire swap and that we’d be leaving in about an hour. BINGO! I was so glad I trusted my instinct (and Irwin) and stayed. We started boarding at about 8:20, just after a heavily loaded A320 bound for PBI boarded up and were airborne at 8:55.
That lightly loaded A320 climbed like a rocket - it was amazing. We were right up front in Row 1 and I have to say what an amazing product B6 has with the Live TV. I’ve flown them in the past and am always amazed at how the time flies with the comfy leather seats and the TV/movie/music selections they offer (not to mention the Dunkin Donuts coffee they brew on board too!). I’m a true B6 fan, no matter the bashing they sometimes they take on this site! However, I do have to be a bit truthful here about one thing - the cabin crews I have encountered at B6. This is where -in my experiences with B6- they sometimes lack. On each flight I’ve taken, the ratio of good to not-so-good has been 1 out of 3 - tops. They just seem very young and un-seasoned. For example, the lead F/A on this flight was this prissy little black queen who raced like a cracked out drag queen through his announcements. It was really very annoying and tacky. All of the announcements too- not just the safety ones, but all the inflight and arrival ones too. To the point where a passenger sitting near us asked him kiddingly if he was the guy who used to do the FedEx commercials. The F/A was like ..”uh….. Uxxxcyuuuuuuse me?” They’ve never been mean or nasty, just a bit unprofessional and provided bare minumums in terms of service. Like on this flight, there were maybe 20 passengers on board. They did only one drink run-period. The rest of the flight they disappeared in the front galley and yak-yakked all the way to MCO. I was also a bit surprised that given the fact that we had a 5+ hour delay that no apologies were made by any crewmember and , no free round of cocktails were offered. They did, however, give us free movies and they kept their word about getting us to MCO that night. And that was the single most important thing to us at that point! All in all it was a really nice comfortable and quick flight and we were all very glad to have arrived.
We got to the gate at 11:15 - just enough time for my partner to jump off first and run like hell ahead of us to claim our car at Enterprise - which closed at their offsite location - at 11:55. We had a phenomenal rate at Enterprise and did not want to have to start searching out another car company at that hour, especially after the long day we had already had.
We waited behind for the ramp agents to bring my brother’s gate-checked wheelchair up the jet way, which they always do quickly. As we were waiting, since we were right at Row 1, I chatted a bit with the captain who told me the plane was going right into the hangar since he wasn’t too happy with the vibration he still felt in the nose wheel both on leaving HPN and landing in MCO. I was a little surprised that he’d share that info with a passenger, but hey, we were there in MCO safely --and finally!
We had an absolutely fantastic week at the Beach Island Resort in Cocoa Beach. The weather was incredible - sunny and 90s each day. Like an idiot, I got myself a nice sunburn the first day because I was overconfident that “I’m Italian - I never burn …”. HAH! I hadn’t gotten any kind of base tan before leaving because of being so busy at work all summer, so I was a lot whiter than usual when we got there. I had forgotten just how freakin miserable a sunburn can be. Especially on your scalp when you have a military type haircut. All was well for the whole relaxing week - and there were no hurricanes or tropical storms near us. Hurricane Ike was pounding Galveston and Houston that week, but we had great weather and I highly recommend the Cocoa Beach/Cape Canaveral area. And if you’re there, a visit to the Kennedy Space Center is a must too. Its extremely handicap accessible (always has to be a concern for us) and even if you don’t think you’re all that interested in space-type craft, this place is really interesting - though it could be a little less pricy at $38 per adult. And if you do go, don’t miss the Virtual Reality Space Shuttle ride and definitely try the Italian sausage sandwich and the -killer- waffle fries at the walk-up snack shop. It’s only like $4.50 with a soda, but man let me tell you, it does not disappoint. I couldn’t even finish mine .. and I’m a boy who can eat!
My partner and his Dad went on the SunCruz casino boat and after losing all day at the tables and slots, just as they were calling last call for any more betting, since they were approaching the 3-mile mark back into Port Canaveral, my partner, dropped one final $20 into a slot machine …. And won $675! I still think he just about broke even, but since I wasn’t there I’ll never know. But hey .. breaking even is still better than losing all that dough, right?
After 7 beautiful days it was time to leave. Back to MCO it was.September 13 (SAT)
B6 595 HPN-MCO
N592JB “American Blue”
Photo © Suresh A. Atapattu
Got to MCO and the check-in area was a complete zoo. I will still never understand the point of kiosks right AT the check-in counter with an agent standing right behind it. Passengers had no idea what the hell to do, the agents were sharp and tacky with people, the area was hot, and crowded, but we finally got outta there. Security at MCO was a freak show too. Mobs and mobs of people (I know it was a Saturday), but TSA does have lines for handicapped and assist passengers, so we went thru that line and it was somewhat quicker than the regular lines. But we got through unscathed and got on the tram out to the airside gates (we love the tram ride!).
The MCO terminal is absolutely beautiful. Tilework, spacious seating areas, high ceilings, really very nice. Again, just as we sat, a supervisor named Susan came over to us and asked if we’d like to be moved up to Row 1 (from 9) since my brother was in the WCHR. We accepted and in no time were pre-boarding and settling in to our comfy seats. Another dippy and sort of unprofessional cabin crew on this leg. Sitting right up in Row 1 on the ABC side, you can see and hear everything they say and do and the F/A’s should be a lot more mindful of this. This dork Filipino male F/A commented to the female F/A just after a group of young big-titted Hooters-type chicks had boarded that he’d “love to follow them back to their row and give them his own version of the jetBlue experience”. They both chortled and giggled about that for the whole rest of the boarding process, rather than welcoming or acknowledging the boarding passengers. Really tacky. Then as we taxied out, they were sitting on the jumpseat giggling and carrying on and he finally he realizes and says to his jumpseat mate “Holy Sh*t, I forgot the safety briefing ….” then rushes gigglingly through it. Nice. That’s the only criticism -not even a complaint- I have about jetBlue. The F/As are just not that great, in my experience. They do only one beverage run - though I blame the airline somewhat for that. They seem to think that serving drinks to all the 150 or so passengers on an A320 is better done by tray service rather than using a cart (which are on board - just not used during service). I think it’s stupid - it takes forever for them to complete the service. But that’s just my observation.
We had a very comfortable and quick trip back and were amused by the passenger right behind us who had a bladder the size of a walnut. Just as we were buttoned up for pushback - he jumps out of his seat and heads for the front lav. The dopey F/As didn’t even seem to notice and we were pushing back and taxiing when the guy came out of the lav. The guy obviously had some kinda bladder condition as he got up repeatedly during the flight to pee. I lost count after the tenth time - I am not kidding! We landed in HPN 15 minutes early and were off in no time. One interesting thing about HPN is that I noticed that the A320s always park at a walk-up-ramp stand rather than at either of the two jet bridge gates they have. I asked one of the gate agents out of curiosity why that was and he told me that the jet ways they have can’t reach up high enough to the doorways of the A320. Sounded kinda weird to me, but it must be true since any time I’ve been to HPN, I’ve only seen the EMB190s, 717s, CRJs parked at the jet way while the A320s are always off to the far left.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my Trip Report even without accompanying pics. In closing, I have to say that for the fantastic price we paid, jetBlue did a great job -again- of taking us away to where we wanted to be. No airline is perfect, whether it’s jetBlue, or Singapore, or Mesa or Lufthansa. We all have to remember that these days -especially for $153 RT to Florida- airlines are basic transportation. And when they get us from Point A to Point B safely and comfortably then they’re doing OK!
Thanks for reading and feel free to post your comments!