Spirit Air was my first choice of airlines for the flight from New York City to Cartagena, if only for the cheap rates. When their pilots went on strike a few weeks ago, I didn't have the stomach to continue taking a “wait and see” approach.
I combed Kayak for other affordable options. The rates for Colombia's national airline, Avianca, were over $500, putting them in the same category as JetBlue (which only flies to Bogota) and other large international carriers. Then I recalled a contribution made to Medellin Living about domestic flights in Colombia.
I pulled up the Aires website, and found they operated flights from New York City to various Colombian destinations, via Bogota. At the time, I didn't know that this international route was brand new for the Colombian discount airline.
Unlike most of Spirit Air's flights, which would've cost about $260 to fly 1-way from NYC to Cartagena including taxes and 1-checked bag (almost all of which involved long layovers at their hub in Florida), Aires' flights departed NYC at 3 AM, thereby putting me in Cartagena just before Noon that same day. Perfect.
I ponied up the $289.20 for the 1-way ticket (including 1 checked bag), and breathed a sigh of relief. Of course Spirit's pilots settled their strike the next day, but it was too late, I was about to ride the friendly skies with Aires.
On my last night in NYC, I caught up with Olga over the phone, as we missed meeting in person that week. Incidentally, she is Colombian, and spoke highly of Aires. Now I was really curious.
A little before midnight, I left my brother's apartment in Chelsea and caught a taxi to JFK airport. At that hour, there was no traffic, and with the window rolled down, a cool breeze blew into the back seat.
Cab rides to and from airports are the quintessential travel experience for me. On the way to the airport, given you're heading to a new destination, or beginning a new adventure, one's mind is filled with anticipation of the experiences that lay ahead. Taking a cab from an airport, upon arrival in a new city or country, you make your first observations, while talking to the cab driver if you feel so inclined.
Seared in my memory are the cab rides from countless airports: Bali, Singapore, Kathmandu, Cairo.
It was at JFK, after waiting in a short line at the Aires ticket counter, that I learned my flight was only the second time the carrier had flown from NYC, and the first time was just two days prior. The newness of the route added to the excitement. Not only was I getting a good deal on airfare, I was blazing a new path from my country to Colombia. Or something like that.
The plane was smaller than I expected, given the distance we were covering. I had paid an extra $5 to sit near the very front, seat 2A. On any other plane, it would've been the first or business class section. The two seats next to me were empty, so I made a vain attempt to lie down, which didn't last long on account of the uncomfortable seat belt brackets poking up at my ribs.
It took about 5, mildly turbulent hours to reach Bogota (where, incidentally, there was free wi-fi at the airport). After an hour and a half on the ground, my shorter, one hour flight to Cartagena took off. Drinks other than water and coffee, as well as food, cost extra on both flights. The service was friendly, and I'm happy to recommend Aires as a result.
I will probably use them again for domestic flights while I'm here, as well as a return trip to the USA, as it is not possible to book 1-way tickets from Colombia to the USA on Spirit Air.