Have you ever wondered what it would be like to charter a small plane and fly off to somewhere wonderful with just you (and maybe one other person) and the pilot? Maybe you’ve been a bit like us and had this itch to have this experience at least once. And maybe you’re a bit like Art, who had a desire not only to charter a plane but also to fly into a particular airport. That airport is on the Caribbean island of St. Lucia. How, you might ask, did he figure out he wanted to do this?
Anyone who has been following along with us on our discerning travel experience for some years will know that we have taken more than a few cruises. And you’ll also know that we’ve spent a few weeks cruising in the Caribbean, visiting many islands more than once. One island that’s often on cruise itineraries is the lovely St. Lucia, with its lush vegetation and its famous “Deux Pitons,” those iconic volcanic peaks. (We’ll show them to you in our next post when we charter a 42-foot catamaran in St. Lucia.) When you cruise past this island, you see these natural aspects of the island, but if you’re really astute, you’ll also see a runway―a runway at a small airport tucked between the hills.
This runway is at the airport near the capital Castries and is called the George F. L. Charles Airport (SLU). It’s the small airport that caters only to the inter-island carriers. Most international visitors arrive at Hewanorra International Airport (UVF), located on the southeast corner of the island, a good hour and a half drive from most of the nicest resorts. On our recent Caribbean adventure, we wanted to fly into SLU.
We began this holiday in Barbados, so all we needed was a flight from Bridgetown, Barbados, to Castries, St. Lucia, a 45-minute flight on a turbo-prop. But, of course, this trip was two years into the COVID pandemic. That meant that we would have to have negative COVID tests before we could receive a travel authorization for St. Lucia. So, we made a plan.
Art began researching private charters in the Caribbean and came up with a few reasonable possibilities. The fly in the ointment was that we weren’t prepared to pay the (large) fee upfront without knowing if we’d get that travel authorization. So, we made a contingency plan and asked our travel agent to book us a fully refundable ticket on InterCaribbean Airways on one of their 30-seaters so that we would at least have a way to get from Barbados to St. Lucia if our private charter didn’t work out.
One of the airline charter companies (Latitude Air Charters) was still able to provide a plane two days before when we finally received that travel authorization from St. Lucia, so we booked, paid in full, and cancelled our commercial flight. One can quite nicely justify such an extravagance, though, in the world of COVID―just imagine how much safer we would be on a private plane? Anyway, we booked it and were off.
As part of the booking, Art requested that his contact arrange a car to pick us up in Barbados to take us to the airport and another to meet in Castries. It was seamless.
As we neared the airport in Bridgetown, our driver called ahead so that there would be an agent right there to check us into our flight when we arrived two minutes later. It was 10:30 in the morning, and the airport was deserted. We knew that the international flights wouldn’t start arriving until some time after noon, and we would be long gone by then.
We checked in at the Mustique Airways counter and headed to security. Of course, we were the only passengers clearing security, so that wasn’t an issue.
After security, we entered the departure lounge, where we were to wait for the same person who had checked us in to arrive on the tarmac with a vehicle to drive us to our plane. What a feeling to be the only passengers there!
Before we knew it, we were at the plane, and the agent was putting our luggage in the small hold while the pilot did his final inspection. Then we were off.
There’s something special about this kind of personal adventure―something special about checking one very magical experience off our bucket list. As we took in everything―leaving the beaches of one island behind, crossing the Caribbean Sea and watching a new set of beaches edge into view―we knew how lucky we were.
And then, we began to make our approach to that runway. On the approach, it seems as if the plane will land in the ocean, but of course, it didn’t.
And if you want to come along on that flight with us and experience that approach, just click below for the video. You won’t regret it!
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