American airlines, we’re mad at you, yeah we’re mad at you. A little rant about the lack of affordable flights to and from Puerto Plata. But first a funny story…
I flew out of Santiago on Spirit last week on the 3am redeye express into Fort Lauderdale. I cleared customs just in time to witness a bit of an incident unfold at security. An elderly Dominican gentleman had two frozen bottles of Presidente stuffed in his carry on. Security spotted them on the X-ray and pulled him to the side. They calmly informed him that he was not allowed to proceed to his flight with the bottles of beer. In America this would be a big deal, a really big deal, but not here. The elderly gentleman politely informed the security agents that he would be consuming those beers before he boarded the flight. After a slight pause and a few words back and forth the security agents waved him through, beers in hand. I’ve literally been berated in front of the entire airport for trying to pass through security with a 4.2 ounce deodorant. Obviously the security officers here in our beloved DR realized that Grandpa was probably a bigger threat without those beers than he was with them. Cheers to Republica Dominicana !
So what the hell was I doing flying out of Santiago in the first place?
Common sense would tell us that a direct flight into Puerto Plata should cost roughly the same as a flight into any of the other Dominican airports. Granted every airport has different operating fees but not enough to generate the type of disparity we are seeing at POP.
The price of a round trip ticket between POP and Miami on American Airlines is currently $758.00, Charlotte NC is $825.00 and Dallas is $727.00….All of those fares are based on a 30 day advance purchase. The only routes that seem to be still somewhat reasonable are the ones that connect with JFK. - (Thank you JetBlue for keeping it real.) To put this into perspective, you can literally walk into MIA and book a ticket to London, Vancouver, Madrid or Los Angeles for less money than the 1.75 hour flight into Puerto Plata. Ridiculous.
Not to be outdone United Airlines has also jacked its tickets into POP. A trip down from their hub in Chicago is currently pegged at $748.00 versus $409.00 into SDQ. These are the BASIC economy rates which mean you’ll also be paying baggage fees and a surcharge to move out of that dreaded middle seat.
We can bicker all day about the effect that our latex clad street “ambassadors” have on tourism but I think these ridiculous airfares are having a bigger effect. Anyone interested in exploring the Dominican Republic will be instantly steered towards the South or Punta Cana via the cost differential on the airfare. You can drink a bunch of bootleg liquor on $300 of saved airfare money. The only thing that will fix this is luring some additional airlines back into Puerto Plata - Spirit/Jetblue/Southwest etc would even out the playing field nicely.
For now, if your looking to get to or from the North Coast on a dime check the late night flights out of Santiago. The times are horrific but the fares are extremely reasonable ($220.00 r/t). There are several guys running taxi services to/from STI and the North Coast. Shout out to Manuel - WhatsApp (849) 620-4103 - for hooking me up with a private car the other night.
Enough rant, time to hit the beach.