Flight Check: St Maarten to Santo Domingo on Insel Air

By Leighton Luke

Leighton Luke flies from St Maarten to Santo Domingo via Curacao on Insel Air 7I 512 and 7I 523.
Photo / iStock
Photo / iStock

The planes: Two slightly worn-looking MD-80s.

Seats: 1E for St Maarten to Curacao and 1B for Curacao to Santo Domingo.

Class: Comfort (Business) Class, courtesy of the online upgrade option. Seats in business and economy are arranged in the same 2-3 layout. The aircraft used on the second sector was much more comfortably upholstered than the first.

Price: From $245, which is not bad for that route. Comfort class really isn't that much more comfortable than Economy - there's a little more space between the seats in front - but the priority boarding, disembarkation and baggage handling were worth the US$19 ($28) upgrade fee.

Flight time: One hour 30 minutes (SXM-CUR) plus one hour 20 mins (CUR-SDQ) and 1.5 hours transit at Curacao, for a total travel time of four hours, 20 minutes. The non-stop flight is a mere one hour, 25 minutes from Princess Juliana Airport to the Dominican Republic capital.

On time: Fifteen minutes late in pushing back from the pier at St Maarten and another few minutes before getting airborne. No time was made up, but less time at Curacao airport is not a bad thing.

How full: Two quiet flights, with plenty of spare seats in both classes on both planes.

Entertainment: A pretty good inflight magazine and "the famous Insel Air on-board raffle" in which free tickets are issued by the cabin crew. I was not holding a winning ticket but it was an enjoyable little gimmick nonetheless.

Food and drink: A pre-take-off drink of peach juice was offered for both flights. For lunches, a tuna wrap (surely a little stinky for aerial dining?), a slider-sized roll containing a slice of cheese and an equally petite but delicious chocolate muffin. A reasonable beverage selection of tea, coffee, water, fruit juice and soft drinks.

Service: Polite, but fairly functional.

Baggage: Two bags, each of 23kg, per passenger.

WC: One at the front and one at the back; cramped and somewhat basic, but clean.

Airport experience: St Maarten's Princess Juliana International Airport is a clean, modern airport with all the facilities that travellers might require. Clearing Customs was speedy, so a painless experience all round. Curacao Airport is not nearly so nice, the interior is reminiscent of a large, brightly painted tropical barn.

Would I fly this again? It wasn't great, but good for island-hopping, so I guess the answer is yes. But try to travel on the days the non-stop flight is operating.

- NZ Herald

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