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Old 24-07-2017, 13:29   #1
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Caribbean Airfares - Best Routes for Sailors

Hello all,

I've paid my deposit for a week long live-aboard ASA certification class with Barefoot Offshore Sailing School in St. Vincent this Aug 13-20. I know its hurricane season but hoping that far south it won't be a problem. I've actually asked them twice about what their policy is if there is a hurricane and the flights are cancelled or we have to cut the class short but they are not replying to my emails! I'm hoping their lack of communication isn't indicative of the experience I'm going to have with them.

Anyway, here is my question: The class is only $1500 but my airfare from Atlanta to St Vincent is around $2000. The Barbados to St Vincent hop alone is over $400 round trip on LIAT. Are these prices normal? I could fly to the Med or Phuket for less.

For example, I'm seeing 32' mono-hull charters available for less than $1500/week in Tortola. As a solo sailor in the Caribbean, will I have to get used to paying more for the airfare than for the charter?

You folks have probably flown in and out of the Caribbean many times... what have you found to be the smartest itinerary for coming down for a week of sailing? For example, do you normally fly Air Canada into St Thomas for BVI charters? Delta into San Juan for Spanish VI charters?

Thanks in advance!
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Old 24-07-2017, 13:40   #2
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Re: Caribbean Airfares - Best Routes for Sailors

In 6 years in the Caribbean we never paid more than $450 round trip but we always flew out of major hubs where the US tourists wanted to go, Puerto Rico, St Thomas. You are paying a premium for being in a less visited location, the location is lovely providing you get to the Grenadines but you would learn far more in Maine, in bad weather, in Fall.
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Old 24-07-2017, 18:01   #3
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Re: Caribbean Airfares - Best Routes for Sailors

In February I flew four people from Los Angeles to San Juan, Puerto Rico for $280 each - round trip. Moondancer is right - the price doubles or triples flying to the BVI.

We chartered with Sail Caribe out of Fajardo, PR. They also have ASA classes.

And you're right, being ignored is not a good sign.
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Old 24-07-2017, 18:23   #4
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Re: Caribbean Airfares - Best Routes for Sailors

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In February I flew four people from Los Angeles to San Juan, Puerto Rico for $280 each - round trip. Moondancer is right - the price doubles or triples flying to the BVI.

We chartered with Sail Caribe out of Fajardo, PR. They also have ASA classes.

And you're right, being ignored is not a good sign.
With regard to the BVI, you can always take a ferry from St. Thomas, if the airfare, direct, is too high. But, sometimes there are deals.Absolutely no reason to pay three times as much to get to Tortola as St. Thomas. And, by the way, those fares you got for February were outstanding, way under the norm. Spirit Airlines, by chance?

With regard to storms, you might consider trip insurance. St. Vincent is not that far south. There have been two systems this year, already, that went further south, fortunately neither of them becoming anything more than a tropical storm, but we are getting into "that" time of the year. Don't be too shocked if there is a no-refund policy for hurricanes....that's the case with lots of crewed charters, not sure about your sailing school. But, you will probably be fine and have a great time. Don't know about St. Vincent airfares....does Spirit go there? I would check. Their Caribbean Hub is Ft. Lauderdale.
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Old 24-07-2017, 18:23   #5
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Re: Caribbean Airfares - Best Routes for Sailors

I'd suggest looking at Atlanta to SXM. (St. Maarten) then check Liat and also Winair to St. Vincent. SXM is the Caribbean hub.
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Old 24-07-2017, 18:32   #6
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Re: Caribbean Airfares - Best Routes for Sailors

We flew American. I just checked on the price. It was $360 per, not $280. Sorry about that.
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Old 24-07-2017, 18:53   #7
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Re: Caribbean Airfares - Best Routes for Sailors

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We flew American. I just checked on the price. It was $360 per, not $280. Sorry about that.
Still, an exceptional fare, particularly in season, as February would have been.
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Old 25-07-2017, 05:49   #8
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Re: Caribbean Airfares - Best Routes for Sailors

On another thread someone made the point about PR being the hidden air fare gem. Having done it different ways I can promise you that is the sweet spot on low airfare and less connections. It is air service setup for a major US city -- not an exotic location. Easy access to the Spanish Virgins and SAIL to the USVIs and BVIs.
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Old 25-07-2017, 07:02   #9
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Re: Caribbean Airfares - Best Routes for Sailors

I use the Google Matrix search tool. Sometimes you can find airlines that aren't listed on the major travel portals. I did this recently for a flight to Suriname, where Suriname Airlines doesn't show up on Expedia (and was 1/4 the cost). It also allows you to choose a "window" of days to search to find cheaper flights.
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Old 25-07-2017, 07:30   #10
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Re: Caribbean Airfares - Best Routes for Sailors

For many years, we kept our boat is various Caribbean ports and flew down (from TPA).

The cheapest route regardless of final destination is to fly into San Juan from where you can get a connection to every/any island south. Doing so coincidentally gives the shortest travel time in most cases.

This time of year, most local carriers offer "give-away" fares but you have to look for them. If you don't know where to look, contact a travel agent in PR.
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Old 25-07-2017, 08:42   #11
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Re: Caribbean Airfares - Best Routes for Sailors

If you are coming to St Vincent then be prepared for high airfares, at present LIAT has the monopoly and they know it, US$400 for a return Barbados - St Vincent is really good, I have been here for a year now came with big plans to explore the adjacent islands I.e Grenada/ St Lucia etc all very close within 30 minutes direct flights if the flights were direct.

That aside just a trip down the Grenadines is an experience not to be missed, out of season even better.

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Old 25-07-2017, 10:46   #12
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Re: Caribbean Airfares - Best Routes for Sailors

We found it much less expensive to fly into St. Thomas and take the Ferry to Tortola BVI than flying in thru San Juan PR. Ferry and taxis were not cheap but still saved $300 each round trip. The puddle jumpers are pricy and good luck finding a sale unless someone here knows?
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Old 25-07-2017, 11:30   #13
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Re: Caribbean Airfares - Best Routes for Sailors

We fly Toronto/Grenada every year and we do pay a premium. Toronto/Barbados is less cost and more frequency but we love Grenada.
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Old 25-07-2017, 13:59   #14
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Re: Caribbean Airfares - Best Routes for Sailors

We have kept our boat in St Martin off and on for 20 years. We like the availability of parts, services and technicians but one of the main reasons is that SXM is the major airline hub in the Caribbean since American cut back in San Juan. There are good deals on direct flights from all over the US. LIAT aad Winair fly out of St Martin and can get you to the smaller islands south from SXM.
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Old 26-07-2017, 09:51   #15
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Re: Caribbean Airfares - Best Routes for Sailors

A few suggestions re: travel there - we had a boat kept at Barefoot for 8 years, so made a lot of trips, and found making it economical always a challenge. That being said usually (from Denver) we could get to either St. Lucia (UVF/SLU), Barbados (BGI), Grenada (GND) or Trinidad (POS) for $5-600 r/t, and sometimes less. A dozen years go, when LIAT had competition, r/t fares between BGI or POS could be had for as little as $100-150 - but once they became a virtual monopoly and St. Vincent decided to build its new airport to allow direct flights from US/Canada/UK (built it - still waiting for "they will come"), fares AND
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