Published on May 27th, 2013 | by Mark Chesnut
AIRLINE REVIEW: JetBlue Airbus A320, Cartagena to New York
JetBlue recently launched new nonstop flights between New York City and Cartagena, Colombia. It’s the only airline to offer this service, and complements the airline’s existing service to Bogotá and Medellín. Considering Cartagena’s increasing popularity with travelers from the United States, this is an excellent new option, as it cuts travel time for travelers from the northeast — making a trip to Cartagena as fast as a flight to Los Angeles.
I recently flew the new Cartagena-New York City route after checking out the Holiday Inn Cartagena Morros hotel (click to read my experience at the hotel). Here’s my airline review and flight review of the experience — from airport arrival to airline seats and airline food.
THE ROUTE: Cartagena/Rafael Nuñez International Airport (CTG) to New York City/John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK); 4 hours 20 minutes
THE AIRPORT: Cartagena’s Rafael Nuñez International Airport is relatively small, but clean, modern and undergoing additional upgrades. I arrived three hours before my flight, which was more than enough time to check in and get to the gate. However, travelers should be aware that in general, airports in Colombia are big fans of multiple lines, lots of document stamping and extra security checkpoints and questioning. My experience at the Cartagena airport was especially intense (I had to interact with no less than 13 people — including security personnel, customs and immigration officials and airline employees — between the time I arrived at the airport and boarded the plane. Check out my report about the experience: Lucky 13? Incredibly Long Airport Security Process Takes the Cake). But airport security practices, of course, are not JetBlue’s fault.
Since it is a small facility, the airport doesn’t offer much to do if you’re trying to kill time; at the international departure gates, there is just one duty-free vendor (La Riviera), a coffee shop and a food shop. The most attractive part of the airport is the covered outdoor walkway, a beautifully landscaped passage, lined with greenery, that leads from the terminal to the aircraft parking area. Air stairs are used to board at this airport.
A nice plus is that Jetblue distributes ear phones (for listening to music and watching movies and TVs on board) for free inside the terminal in Cartagena; if you wait until you’re on board, you’ll have to pay.
THE AIRCRAFT: JetBlue planes — including the Airbus A320 in which I flew — offer only economy-class service, but travelers looking for extra room can pay extra for Even More Space, which is what the carrier calls its seating with additional legroom and priority boarding (I was in a standard seat, but I did splurge on another option — Even More Speed — for my earlier trip from JFK to Cartagena, which allowed me to get in a much-shorter security line at JFK for an extra $10 charge. I felt it was worth it in the often-hectic airport.)
THE SERVICE: JetBlue’s inflight amenities and service are different from most airlines, and account for the airline’s popularity with some travelers. The free satellite TV didn’t work until we were closer to U.S. airspace, but free movies in the seat-back screens helped to pass the time. JetBlue is also one of the few U.S. airlines to consistently offer free snacks, including the appropriately hued Terra Blues potato chips and Popcorners popcorn chips. I also decided to pay $5.99 for a snack box called Beef Up, which included salami, white cheddar cheese, parmesan peppercorn cheese dip, rosemary crackers and pita chips. It wasn’t exactly a meal, but it was enough to keep me satisfied for the four-plus hour flight to New York. Additional amenities for sale on board included a Claritin pillow for $5.99 and an Arm & Hammer blanket for $4.99 (branding is big nowadays).
Even JetBlue’s way of serving on board is different from most airlines. No service carts block the aisles; instead, flight attendants take drink orders on a notepad and then come back with drinks on a tray. Snacks are served from a basket. I especially appreciated that, after the inflight service, the flight attendants left out snacks and bottles of water in the rear galley, as something of a self-serve refreshment station. They also made the rounds one more time, about 1.5 hours before landing, to offer more water to passengers.