By Cathy Donaldson
For decades, my family and I have made countless six-to-seven-hour road trips from our Moncton home to a family cottage on the coast of Maine. When my husband and I lived in Halifax, that trek was closer to nine hours.
So when Elite Airways announced it was launching a twice-weekly, nonstop jet service from Halifax to Portland, Maine, my ears perked up.
It’s not that I don’t enjoy driving. But I liked the idea of a travel alternative that put someone else at the helm for at least part of the journey. The fact the option involved a mere 50 minutes in the air from Halifax to Portland made it even more appealing.
My hubby and I tested Elite’s new offering, which officially began July 13. After driving from Moncton to Halifax Stanfield International Airport and leaving our minivan at the Park 'N Fly lot, we checked in at the Elite Airways counter. A contingent of friendly staff (and no line-up!) welcomed us.
Though I was going carry-on this trip, I noted for future reference that, unlike some carriers, the first checked bag is free on Elite flights.
After a quick jaunt through U.S. customs and security, hubby and I grabbed lunch and waited in the international departures lounge for our 1:15 p.m. flight. When our Bombardier CRJ-700 was ready to board, we headed to our assigned leather seats, directed by cheery flight attendants Claire DiCocco and Jamie Robinson.
Soon, Captain Jeff Villarreal and First Officer Nathan Zoeller had us airborne in the 70-seat jet, which appeared to host a mix of business and leisure travellers.
My nose was glued to the window as I watched Nova Scotia’s vast expanse of forests become a blur of green, and tried to pick out familiar towns or landmarks. As we crossed the blue that was the Bay of Fundy, it seemed I barely had time to munch my (free) Doritos before the flight crew began the descent to Portland’s International Jetport.
Arriving on schedule, hubby and I grabbed our bags and wandered to the rental car kiosks, conveniently located within the airy and well-marked Portland terminal. Just a few minutes later, we were belted into our weekend ride for the short junket to our cottage, feeling refreshed and almost giddy compared to our usual somewhat-cranky-and-ready-to-nap, post-regular-road-trip selves.
Our return Portland-Halifax flight three days later was just as pleasant and has me pondering other ways to use Elite’s new service.
Maybe talk some gal pals into grabbing a flight to lovely Portland for a shopping/dining excursion? Convince hubby to consider a getaway via the Elite option that allows Halifax-Portland passengers to continue on to Sarasota-Bradenton, Florida, after touching down in Maine? (One-way fares start at approximately $129 CAD for Halifax-Portland and $299 CAD for Halifax-Sarasota-Bradenton, including all taxes and fees.)
Heck, if the Portland-based airline — founded in 2006 — continues to impress, I might check out some of its other routes. (Take note, hubby: Bimini, Bahamas, would be a great mid-winter escape and could make your Christmas shopping a breeze.)
Cathy Donaldson is a writer based in Moncton. During their recent trip, the Donaldsons were guests of Elite Airways.