By Commercial Airline
Bermuda has no national airline, despite much discussion over the years about the pros and cons of launching a homegrown carrier. But the island has no shortage of flight service from major cities on the U.S. East Coast, as well as from London and Toronto. Seven commercial airlines flew roundtrip schedules to Bermuda in 2008.
In 2007, Bermuda’s airport was renamed L. F. Wade International Airport (2 Kindley Field Rd., St. George’s, tel. 441/293-1640, www.bermudaairport.com) to honor former Progressive Labour Party Leader Frederick L. Wade, who died in 1996—three years before his party formed the government for the first time. The airfield, built by the United States military in 1941, is located in the East End, in St. George’s Parish, which is linked by a half-mile Causeway to the rest of the island. It’s a half-hour drive to central hotels.
Travelers flying back to America from Bermuda will appreciate one of the tangible benefits the island reaps from its long, amicable relationship with Uncle Sam. Under a special arrangement made in the 1970s, the U.S. Customs pre-clearance at Bermuda’s airport—a process of a few minutes—basically allows passengers to be treated as domestic arrivals once they reach their American airport destination, thereby avoiding the long lines of TSA and Department of Immigration checks imposed on international travelers since late 2001.
Reservations and Fares
Bermuda tourism’s biggest problem has long been the stratospheric cost of air travel to and from the island. Industry officials and locals recognize the high cost as probably the biggest single reason for the slide in visitor numbers over the past two decades and have labored to try to find ways to bring flight prices down.
Bermuda’s problem can be attributed to geography and supply-and-demand economics. It is not a major urban center, so airlines serving the island can wield complete monopolies on various gateways. As a result, Bermuda has become something of a cash cow for carriers; the island rates as one of the highest-yield destinations in the world.
Luckily for travelers, including Bermuda residents, more airline and gateway choices are have emerged—including money-saving options. JetBlue launched $129 fares with daily service from New York’s JFK, and followed up with seasonal service from Boston. Discount airline USA 3000 also flies to Bermuda from Baltimore during the summer months. Fare sales remain the most cost-effective way for leisure travelers to get to Bermuda, particularly in the peak summer season. If you happen to narrowly miss out on a seat sale after booking a ticket, some airlines will honor the lower price and offer a refund.
Seat availability diminishes (and prices rise accordingly) during the peak summer months and over Christmas, when Bermudians fly home en masse from London, Toronto, and U.S. East Coast cities. Generally, though, you will pay more April–October than during the quieter November–March “off” season. Midweek fares are also less expensive than weekend options, as demand is higher Friday to Sunday, especially holiday weekends, when North American travelers tend to fly down for brief doses of subtropical R&R. Prices from the same gateway city can range dramatically, depending on all these factors. A ticket on American Airlines from New York City to Bermuda, for example, can range anywhere from $250 (during a seat sale) to well over $1,000 if booked last-minute.
The Bermuda airport’s code is BDA; it’s the island’s only airport. If you search for fares online, try checking different departure airports to win a cheaper fare. Rates from the New York area to Bermuda vary, for instance, depending on whether you fly American Airlines from JFK, US Airways from LaGuardia, or Continental from Newark. Similarly, if you plan to travel from Britain and don’t mind stopping, fares from London via New York are sometimes cheaper than Gatwick–Bermuda direct.
One stringent rule about flying to Bermuda: You must have a return ticket. Airlines normally will not sell one-way fares to foreign countries without proof of residency, and if you land here, you will not be permitted through Bermuda Immigration and Customs without proof of return. Even if you are leaving the island by alternative transport (as a crew member on a private yacht, for instance), it is best to buy an unrestricted round-trip ticket, then get the return refunded.
A $35 tax is charged to all air passengers to Bermuda, both visitors and residents. The charge is incorporated into the airfare and collected in advance. Children younger than two are exempt.
Two local travel agencies, both based in Hamilton, are: C’Travel (27 Queen St., tel. 441/2923033, www.ctravel.bm) and Meyer-Franklin Travel (35 Church St., tel. 441/295-4176, www.meyer-franklintravel.bm).
From the United States
There are seven commercial airlines serving Bermuda from the United States. American Airlines (tel. 800/433-7300, www.aa.com) flies direct from New York (JFK) daily, and Miami five days a week. Delta Air Lines (tel. 800/241-4141 or 800/221-1212, www.delta.com) offers daily direct flights from Boston and Atlanta. US Airways (tel. 800/622-1015, www.usairways.com) flies nonstop daily from Philadelphia, with seasonal service from Charlotte, Orlando, Boston, and Washington, D.C. Continental Airlines (tel. 800/231-0856, www.continental.com) serves Bermuda daily with a direct flight from Newark; United Airlines (tel. 800/241-6522, www.united.com) offers summer service from Chicago. JetBlue (tel. 800/538-2583, www.jetblue.com) offers daily service from New York (JFK). USA 3000 (877/872-3000, www.usa3000.com) flies from Baltimore during the summer.
Only Air Canada (tel. 888/247-2262 or 800/776-3000, www.aircanada.com) flies direct daily to Bermuda from Canada, with a daily flight to and from Toronto. In early September, Air Canada occasionally offers a single, round-trip Bermuda–Halifax flight catering mainly to the many island students heading up to colleges and universities in the eastern provinces.
From the United Kingdom
British Airways (tel. 800/247-9297 from North America, 0181/897-4000 from London, or 0345/222-1111 outside London, www.ba.com) flies direct to and from London’s Gatwick airport daily in the summer, and five days a week in other seasons. The British Airways Executive Club is located in the International Departures Lounge.
From Other Countries
New York, Boston, Atlanta, Miami, and London are the key gateway cities for connecting flights to Bermuda from most other points of departure, including the Caribbean and Latin America, continental Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australasia.
© Rosemary Jones from Moon Bermuda, 2nd Edition