On January 1st of this year strict rules regarding passports came into effect for travelers going to the Caribbean, Canada and Mexico. US laws now require every US citizen leaving the country to carry a passport traveling to these before mentioned areas.
The US State Department was so overwhelmed with passport requests, that they couldn’t handle the load, thus decided to suspend this rule. Starting today the strict rules are back on. You need a passport to leave the United States (actually to enter the United States) when traveling to the Caribbean.
Officials in Aruba are negotiating with US Customs and Border Control (USCBC) to seek an exemption from these rules due to actual presence and legal status of USCBC in Aruba.
If you aren’t familiar with the airport situation in Aruba, I’ll summarize it.
Aruba airport has two departure terminals, one for “Non-US Departures” and one for “US Departures”. After checking in and getting a boarding pass from your airline you’ll then proceed through local customs and lastly pass through USCBC. As soon as you pass through USCBC that piece of terminal is considered American soil. Consequently when your aircraft arrives in the United States you will arrive at a domestic terminal.
For the time being, get your passport. Certain reports suggest it might take up to three months to get one in certain US cities.
In the last few posts I wrote about Arashi Beach and how great it is there. Now comes the key question: how much does it cost to get to Arashi Beach? Simple answer: US$3000,-
What is that? Could you elaborate? Sure. As a hypothetical case I took two adults traveling from October 13 to October 20 from Boston.
Air-fare: $1156 (2 adults, including taxes/fees) via usairways.com non-stop from Boston’s Logan International. Note: if you’re traveling from different city, more southern in the US, the air fare is probably going to be lower; if you’re traveling from a more western city in the US the air fare is probably going to be higher.
Food: $420 (figure according to local statistics bureau)
Transport: $102 via Toyota Rent a Car for a 3-day special, gas $25.
Other costs (tipping, gift, etc.): $100.
Grand total: $3000.
Keep in mind that above calculation is just an indication of a random itinerary. You could stay less time, stay at a different resort, rent a different car (or none), travel from another city or country, etc.
There you have it, this is what three grand could get you nowadays in the world of travel.
September is typically the slowest month of the year, where the influx of tourist traveling to Aruba goes down. However this year’s flow of tourists seems to be steady and beating expectation. There are no reports of announced flight cancellations this year.
The major airlines flying to Aruba are American Airlines (from New York and Miami), US Airways (from Charlotte and Philadelphia), JetBlue (from New York), Delta (from Atlanta) and KLM (from Amsterdam).
None of these airlines are giving incentives to fly to Aruba, unlike last year, which leads to the conclusion that the seats are filled according to target. When seats are empty, airlines scramble to fill ’em up by slashing prices. I went around the major airlines’ websites to see what they have to offer to Aruba and couldn’t find any specials or offers for this month.
American Airlines offers the option when booking online to pick a seat, thus the seating charts are accessible. This tool is very useful to get an indication of the occupancy on the flight in question.
I took a screen shot yesterday of the seating charts from today’s morning flight from Miami to Aruba (the one on the left) and, as a comparison, today’s morning flight from Miami to Barbados. I choose Barbados to compare because American Airlines maintains a similar itinerary and aircraft type as to Aruba. Click on the pictures to enlarge. When a seat is marked with an X it’s obviously unavailable. If I counted correctly Aruba has only 4 unsold seats while Barbados has 29 unsold seats.
One other thing I noticed is that American switched the aircraft type from a Boeing 757 to a larger Boeing 767 on their Sunday flight from New York.
The country manager of American Airlines here in Aruba has been crying for months of unfair competition from JetBlue Airways on the New York flights and gave warnings that American might stop flying to Aruba altogether is something isn’t done soon. Obviously this is done to put pressure on local officials.
Apparently Aruba airport give a onetime incentive to JetBlue as a new airline to Aruba and American feels this is unfair because they have been loyal to Aruba for decades without incentives.
It is true, American Airlines have been very loyal and flying to Aruba for a long time, however they forget to tell you that they maintain the fares high and make a lot of money with little competition from New York. Until JetBlue started flying that is.
What I find very strange now is that a flight from New York to Aruba vice versa from September 23 to September 29 for example costs with American total $464.80 ($378 air fare + $86.80 taxes) and with JetBlue total $464.70 ($378 air fare + $86.70 taxes). The difference is a grand total 10 cents. Seems like price fixing to me, isn’t that illegal?