On Saturday I got to fly in a 1980 Cessna 402C on Cape Air using points. This may be my last chance to do so since this ancient workhorse will be replaced on January 2019 by the Tecnam P2012 Traveller. I first booked the flight using my US Bank Altitude Card. It cost me only 7,867 points for two one way tickets from ORD Terminal 3 to DEC:
The points were earned at 3 points per dollar on mobile pay transactions. That means a $2,623 spend would net enough points for two tickets valued at $118 making a sweet 4.5% cash back when spent on travel. I got these points I just logged into my US Bank account and booked using their booking engine. The reservation was held by Hahn airlines after the booking. If you have any relationship with US bank, then get this card especially since it pays you $325 a year to spend on travel and they waive the $400 annual fee for Active Duty:
On the day of the flight you can only check in exactly one hour before departure because the check in agent is the same agent as the gate agent. They are incredibly short staffed and each person wears a lot of hats for both airlines. In fact the one ticket agent also handles the check-in for Air Choice One and has to bounce between two difference computers to check in each airlines. This is amazing considering both airlines get a combined $12 million dollars a year from the Department of Transportation to maintain these routes:
||Air Choice One
||Air Choice One
||Air Choice One
Does it really cost $11,957,929 to fly and operate 4 routes? I think they could spare some coin to hire someone to sit at the front desk all day. So I checked in at 09:40. They weighed all of my carry on luggage and tagged it. I had to give an estimate of my own weight. They gave me a boarding pass which had TSA Pre-Check (which was not a feature of Air Choice one), and was told to get to gate L11b by 10:25 for my 10:40 flight. Naturally I went to American Airlines Admirals Club located in Terminal 3 to load up on snacks. Sure enough, I got a call from the gate agent from 1(508)862-9700 right at 10:25 demanding to know where I was. Boarding had begun and I was the only passenger missing! I ran over to the gate which was a desk all the way at the end of Terminal 3.
When I got to the gate they lead us downstairs to the plane and stripped us of our luggage. Pro tip: bring a even smaller bag on the plane for your headphones and snacks, there is no overhead or under seat storage! Once inside you can see how much bigger the Cessna Caravan on Air Choice One is compared to the 402c:
Once we were all seated we began our taxi to the runway with the big boys, I got to hear the jet was from a brand new 787:
The plane is so low to the ground that you get a true sense of how giant commercial airliners are. There was zero leg room for my daughter due to the full backing up of the seat for the pilot. They pick seats for all the passengers based on weight, so don’t think you get to choose where you want to sit.
Once you get up in the air you can watch everything that is going on which is fascinating. All of the checklists and settings to change every minute in flight. We never went above 8,000 ft because the cabin was not pressurized and there was no supplemental oxygen. Landing was pretty awesome especially on a windy and cloudy day. Upon arrival it is apparent that this $3,000,000 subsidy from the DoT is the only thing keeping the DEC airport alive:
Everyone had to deplane and grab their luggage. Those that continued on to STL had to re-check into the flight on the secure side of the single gate terminal. I left the airport with a much better appreciation for aviation in general, and I am going to fly Cape Air one more time in November for my Thanksgiving visit. Next year I hope to fly the new Italian plane! Till then, I encourage you all to get your tax refund by flying these EAS routes on points before the whole program is shut down. Denver is one of the hottest hubs for the program:
Hope to visit a lot of these smaller towns via tiny planes before it goes away. Now the change of the EAS route from Air Choice One to Cape Air is a definite downgrade, but I am looking forward to the replacement plane in 2019:
Until then we got these old clunkers that haven’t been made since 1985!