We got back last week from our short 4 night stay in Antigua over the July 4th weekend and I’ll start by giving a quick recap of our flights as well as a review of the Big Banana (Club 1761) Executive lounge, a Priority Pass affiliated lounge in the Antigua V. C. Bird International Airport.
I wrote how I booked these flights earlier by using the American Airlines Award Mapper tool to help me plan a trip to the Caribbean over the holiday weekend. I booked these roundtrip flights using only 20,000 British Airways Avios per person instead of 35,000 American Airlines AAdvantage miles that American would have charged. I won’t go into too much detail as no one wants to read about a run of the mill economy class flight to the Caribbean but in case you didn’t know, American Airlines tends to fly some of their oldest 737s and 757s on these routes. Our flight to Antigua was uneventful but was on a old 737-800 that had seen better days. We did have lounge access to the Admirals Club at JFK T8 but due to timing, we didn’t have a chance to check it out.
The way home has a little more to discuss as we had lounge access again, this time thanks to my Priority Pass membership that came with my Citi Prestige card. After clearing security, the seating area at Antigua V. C. Bird International Airport is quite dismal. It opens up to a relatively small seating area in the center of the terminal that has a few gift shops and a food counter. Interestingly, you are not allowed to proceed to the gates until they call boarding and they do that since the gate area isn’t like a traditional gate area – it is basically 4 doors (4 gates) right next to each other with no seating in that area at all. In short, you don’t want to spend a lot of time in this airport as it is quite small and outdated though a new terminal should be opening soon from what our driver told us on the way to the airport.
Anyway, we felt lucky to escape to the lounge which was a quick walk upstairs. I don’t have a picture of this but when you got to the top of the stairs, it was a ghost town. Just a bunch of empty chairs and a vending machine that was chained up. There was literally no signs of life upon entering this floor. However, off to the left & tucked away in the corner was the lounge entrance which could easily be missed.
We walked into the lounge and I was immediately hit with some sort of odor – I don’t know whether it was related to the humanity, stale air or what but it wasn’t the most pleasant. We decided to stick it out as sitting downstairs in the crowded terminal wasn’t appealing either. Upon entering I presented my Priority Pass card and we were promptly admitted with the host leading us to a couch area and asking us for any drinks which I thought was a nice touch.
We had about 45 minutes to kill before boarding so I took a look at the food and beverage offerings. The bar (alcoholic drinks were complementary) had your standard selection of booze in addition to water and soft drinks available. The food however, left a lot to be desired. It basically consisted of fruit, cheese, crackers and some finger sandwiches but I got this impression this lounge wasn’t the cleanest and that kind of scared me away from the food. It wasn’t that the lounge was dirty per se but more I wasn’t sure proper hygienic precautions were taken with the handling of the food. It very well could be fine (and probably was) but I chose to stay away.
The lounge had Wifi and was reasonably quick so that helped pass the 45 minutes quite quickly until it was time to board. Remember how I said you wait in the middle of the terminal until they let you into the gate area to board? Well this became interestingly when my name was
called butchered over the intercom.
You see I was using a mobile boarding pass which wasn’t an issue for security or immigration officials but was an issue for the agent guarding the gate area entrance. I explained I was called to the gate and she asked for my boarding pass. When I presented my phone, she was in disbelief that this my boarding pass and kept saying boarding pass at me. After standing there for a minute going back and forth, someone else came over and upon seeing my mobile pass, printed me out a paper boarding pass and I was admitted to the gate area.
So why was I called over to the gate area? See that SSSS on my boarding pass? That meant I was selected for a secondary security screening selection in which they went through my carry-on, swabbed my hands and bags for explosives and gave me a quick pat-down. Protip: It helps to pay attention to them as I was instead staring outside at the planes and was promptly yelled at to pay attention or else. It was a not so nice end to my time in Antigua.
Our flight home was also uneventful though I was grateful for Global Entry as the immigration line was quite long when we entered the terminal. With no bags to pick up, we spend through the customs and we were on our way to the Air Train to head home.
From the NY area, at least until JetBlue begins their non-stop service in November, you can’t beat the ease of the American Airlines non-stop flights to Antigua. With prices generally over $500 on this route, this is an excellent route to redeem Avios on and award space has been pretty available in the little bit I’ve monitored it. The lounge in Antigua is nothing to write home about but I guess it beats the terminal due to the free Wifi. Hopefully the unpleasant odor that was in the lounge was a one time incident and future experiences will be better.
Stay tuned for the final post of this Award Trip Breakdown in which I review the Sandals Grande Antigua and tell you everything you need to know about it.