Flying to Abaco presents some challenges that extend beyond the usual issues that we encounter when flying within the US. You can't just catch a direct flight from Chicago O'Hare into Marsh Harbour, you may have to change planes a few times. Until 2013, Marsh Harbour airport (MHH) was a small, third world, daylight-only facility that could not accommodate large aircraft. A new terminal has been built and opened in the spring of 2014. Many of the airlines that service MHH use small aircraft, is in 8-10 seats. Some are a little larger, 19- on up to 60-seaters. Due to weather and other issues, there are often delays. This situation is found throughout the Bahamas and much of the Caribbean, you just have to deal with it.
An even smaller airport is found at Treasure Cay (TCB). If you are staying in Treasure Cay or on Green Turtle Cay, you will want to try to arrange a flight into this airport. Because it is smaller and has less traffic, you'll find fewer options. You can fly into Marsh Harbour and take a cab to Treasure Cay or the Green Turtle Ferry Dock, but the cost is about $75.
Most flights to Abaco depart from Daytona Beach (DAB), Fort Lauderdale International (FLL), Palm Beach International (PBI), or Miami International (MIA). Smaller carriers may depart from other airports.
The past few years have been very difficult for the airline industry. Several small carriers ceased operations, and the three larger carriers, American Eagle, Continental/Gulfstream, and Bahamasair, cut back the number of flights between Florida and Abaco. So the availability of flights, as well as the existence of smaller carriers, can vary from month to month.
When you start planning your trip, and you begin to explore your options in terms of air travel, I suggest you follow this strategy:
- Go to Expedia.com, enter the airport to wish to depart from, put MHH or TCB as your destination, and see what you get. This will give you a starting point; please note that responses will be limited to the larger carriers. Do not overlook the possibility of flying to Nassau, and then back into Abaco.
- Contact each of the Big Three, see what they have to offer:
- Next, check out some of the smaller carriers; here are a few:
Call your local travel agent, see what they can come up with for you.
- Ask the Abaco Forum for specific information; you never know when someone will have solved the same problem a week ago.
There are times when a smaller carrier, for whatever reason, may discontinue service, for a short or extended period of time, and their schedules can and do change frequently. You can find some information about the air carriers by visiting the Abaco Forum: click on Search at the top of any menu bar, and either use the search or the tag function by typing in the word "airline," or the name of the carrier you're interested in. If you don't find the information youneed, register for the Forum (it's very easy). and when your membership has been approved, ask whatever questions you have about air carriers. The larger carriers, such as American, operate under a different set of FAA regulations than do the smaller carriers; for an explanation, click here. Before you pay a small carrier for tickets, make sure you establish whether or not they can cancel your flight on short notice if they do not have a full plane!
You may be tempted to book your flights in two separate segments. This may or may not work for you. Here are some consumer comments:
- We just bought a ticket for one of our sons and thought we'd pass along a little technique that we have used for many years with great success. He is flying from Charleston, SC to MHH. The lowest round trip quote on both Travelocity and Orbitz was $1350 (!). We split the trip into two: a) Charleston to FLL and b) FLL to MHH on a different carrier. Total cost came to $510, a savings of $840. We have found that by going round trip from a US airport (especially smaller ones) to a major gateway like FLL, MIA or PBI and then booking the ongoing flight round trip to MHH typically saves us 30-50% over "standard" round trip quotes. It doesn't always work, but it's definitely worth the try.
- I've been our trip "travel agent" for the last 7 years and have found that booking the Florida (usually FLL) to Abaco (MHH) leg separate from the Minneapolis to FLL certainly can save $$ but you have to be smart about it and that might include longer layovers. But I'd much rather have a couple of hours to wait and know we AND our luggage will make it all the way there. I usually book our FLL to MHH flight first and then keep an an eye on any "deals" from MSP to FLL, although they are few and far between these days, they are out there. Continental is pretty consistent but keep in mind the charter companies may have something that better fits your schedule and the ferry schedule as well.
Sounds good, right? Maybe not; here are some contrary views:
- That is a good tip, but there is a risk you are taking. If you book it as one flight and you miss one of your connections, the booking airlines is responsible to get you on the next available flight at no additional cost. If you book it separately, and miss one of your legs, they aren't responsible. But, given the huge savings you realized, it is probably worth the risk, but I think most of the time, the savings aren't that large.
- I've got to agree, we just learned the hard way. We were just down on Guana for 10 wonderful days. On the way down Bahammasair cancelled the flight from Ft Lauderdale to Marsh Harbour so they routed us through West Palm. They overbooked the flight, 2 of us got on that flight, 1 was routed on Continental. The other two had to take a cab to Ft Lauderdale ($140) and purchase 2 tickets on Yellow Air Taxi. ($300) On our return trip, Bahammasair was 2 hours late leaving causing us to miss our Continental connection. This was on Sunday, the next available Continental flight available was on Tuesday including West Palm, Ft Lauderdale, Orlando and Tampa airports. We ended up renting a van and driving from West Palm to Cleveland (another expense we have yet to tally). We'll have to save ALOT of money to do that again!!
Be patient, flexible, don't get discouraged, tens of thousands of us fly to Abaco every year. You can too, it just may take a little work and some digging. Good luck, and have a great trip!
MedjetAssist can arrange pre-paid air ambulance service from Abaco to the US; don't wait for disaster, plan ahead!