The Cheapest and Most Comfortable Way to Island Hop Around the Caribbean

Jul 5, 2019

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The Caribbean islands are well serviced by both British Airways and Virgin Atlantic from the UK. And if you’re just popping down to one island like Barbados or Jamaica for a week of relaxation in the sun — especially during the dreary British winters — you might love the convenience and simplicity of a trip like this.

But with so many different islands in the region, you might be tempted to fit two islands into the one trip for some variety. The problem is that is can be really expensive to fly between certain islands. Some routes are only operated with tiny local propeller aircraft and may be many hundred pounds for a one-hour flight in an uncomfortable aircraft. Otherwise, you might have to fly via Florida on the likes of American Airlines and JetBlue. This involves a lot of backtracking, and because the United States does not allow airside transfers on international flights, you may be looking at 24+ hours to ‘hop’ from one island to the next this way.

But depending on which islands you’re looking to link together, there’s a way to do this in all the comfort you would expect on a long-haul flight on a full-service airline — and it can be very affordable as well as an amazing use of Avios.

Ffryers Bay in Antigua. Image by Ian Rogers Photography / Getty Images.
Ffryers Bay in Antigua. (Photo by Ian Rogers Photography / Getty Images)

Fifth Freedom

British Airways operates a number of Fifth Freedom flights around the Caribbean region. Fifth Freedom flights are where an airline registered in one country operates a flight from a second country to a third country (in neither of which the airline is registered). Passengers can choose to just book the first leg from country one to country two, the entire journey from one to three, or just the Fifth Freedom section from country two to country three.

Emirates does this with its Milan (MXP) to New York (JFK) and Athens (ATH) to Newark (EWR) flights that start in Dubai (DXB), fly to Europe and then continue on as Fifth Freedoms to the US.

There’s many different reasons why airlines operate Fifth Freedom flights. It may be that neither the first nor second destination has enough demand for the airline to fly to alone, but together can justify the flight. What this often means is that as many passengers disembark at the first stop and don’t continue onto the second, it can be difficult to fill the second leg. So, the airline may discount the second leg — especially if it is short. Award availability may also be excellent on this route if there’s reduced demand.

British Airways operates three sets of Fifth Freedom routes around the Caribbean. The London (LHR) to Nassau (NAS) flight continues on to Grand Cayman (CGM).

Its flight from London (LGW) to St Lucia (UVF) continues on to both Grenada (GND) or Port of Spain (POS), depending on the day of the week.

Finally, Antigua (ANU) is almost a mini-hub for British Airways, with the flight from London (LGW) to Antigua (ANU) continuing on to either St Kitts (SKB), Turks and Caicos (PLS) or Tobago (TOB), depending on the day of the week.

BA does change its schedules over the course of the year, so you’ll need to check if the Fifth Freedom route is operating on the day of the week you are thinking of travelling.

British Airways uses Boeing 777 aircraft on these routes, which feature long-haul World Traveller, World Traveller Plus and Club World Seating. The St Lucia (UVF) Fifth Freedom routes also feature a first class cabin. These flights are short, so don’t expect an elaborate meal service, but its a very comfortable way to fly a proper long-haul product on a short flight. You can even fit in a quick flat-bed nap in business or first class.

Photo by Paul Thompson
(Photo by Paul Thompson/The Points Guy)

Revenue fares can be quite affordable on these Fifth Freedom flights in economy, but the secret is that it is an amazing use of Avios. Availability in all classes is usually outstanding because of the reduced demand. And what is even better is that these legs can be booked as Reward Flight Savers, meaning low Avios and fixed fees and taxes. If you find yourself in the Caribbean, want to island hop and have never experienced Club World, this can be an amazingly affordable way to do so.

Featured image by Shutterstock.

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