To Buffalo and Back: My 1st jetBlue A320 Flight

I’ve always enjoyed finding incredible deals on round trip flights. With how closely airlines manage fares to sell them at the optimal prices, I always get the feeling of satisfaction when I’m able to sneak a fare at a price that I think is well less than the market rate. And while obviously those “optimal prices” change from time to time, uncovering a sub-$100 round trip is always exciting to me.

Though I’ve had the opportunity to travel on a variety of new mainline aircraft while living in the Greater Boston area, there was one particular plane and airline combination that I’d always wanted to try: the jetBlue Airbus A320-200. I can’t even estimate the number of them I’ve seen take off from and land at Logan in the last two or so years, and while I’d had excellent experiences in my two previous jetBlue trips, both were on Embraer E-190 aircraft, which – in addition to being a quasi-regional jet – makes up just 27% of the jetBlue fleet. The A320, meanwhile, is by far the most ubiquitous aircraft in jetBlue’s fleet, as it comprises 59% of it.

So when I found a $96.20 jetBlue round trip – listed as $97 on Google Flights – between Boston and Buffalo whose outbound leg was to be operated by an A320, I knew that I had to take it, even if it meant that I had to stay in a hotel for the night and fly back on an E-190. And I’m glad I booked when I did, because the price for those exact flights had skyrocketed to well above $100 before I knew it.

June 11, 2016

I left for Logan for the second time in a week at around three o’clock in the afternoon – a stark contrast to my previous trip to the airport which was at three o’clock in the morning! This would be my third sub-$100 round trip, both of which were, incidentally, scored for $96.20 as well, and by far my favorite of the three, since I was getting to fly on an aircraft that – as you might be able to tell – I’d wanted to try for a while.

I got through security in Terminal C with plenty of time to spare. As a result, I took some time to watch the England vs. Russia game at Euro 2016. Even after the full-time whistle, I still had a significant amount of time to burn, so I sat down and decided to people watch.

While I was seated near my gate, I saw a guy whom I thought I recognized. I took a second look at him and, sure enough, he was someone I went to high school with. In fact, given that I had a car and senior privileges, I’m pretty sure I bought him and his fellow freshman friends McDonalds sometimes (albeit at a slight markup). Regardless, I got up and chased him down. Despite the fact that I’d grown a beard in the interim, he recognized me almost instantly, and – with a large backpack and fishing pole in tow – told me that he was headed for Portland, OR. After a brief chat, we wished each other well and were on our respective ways. Still, it was a fun coincidence.

A few minutes later, we started the boarding process. While I’d been on a United A320 six days earlier, I was pleasantly surprised at this particular plane’s layout – the seats seemed especially plush when I was walking down the aisle. My positive impression was augmented when I sat down. Before long, the boarding door was shut, and we were being pushed back from the gate.

N603JB getting ready for the trip out.

On our taxi out to Runway 22R, I saw a TAP Portugal Airbus A330-200 parked at the gate. While I knew that TAP was starting service to Logan this spring, I wasn’t aware that this was, in fact, the first revenue flight from Lisbon. Regardless, it was cool to see a new tail at Logan, and I look forward to hopefully seeing more in the coming years.

TAP Portugal’s Airbus A330-200, which had just made its maiden arrival at Logan from Lisbon.

Much like my flight to Chicago on an American Airlines Boeing 737-800 exactly three weeks prior, we departed Runway 22R shortly after six o’clock in the afternoon under overcast skies. Soon enough, however, we had broken through the clouds on the HYLND4 departure and were on our way to Buffalo.

Climbing above the clouds after departing Runway 22R.

One of the things that I love about jetBlue is that they have in-flight entertainment on all of their flights. With many of the legacy carriers, it’s very much hit-or-miss, especially on domestic aircraft. jetBlue, however, has seat back TVs throughout its entire fleet, and even has Wi-Fi (dubbed Fly-Fi) on a significant portion of its aircraft. While there wasn’t much time to watch, say, a movie or television show, I did manage to catch bits of the NCAA Division I Track and Field Championships and the United States vs. Paraguay game at the Copa America. And though coming upon those particular events was completely serendipitous, I was satisfied, as track and soccer are two of my favorite sports.

Descending into Buffalo.

The descent into Buffalo was – perhaps unsurprisingly – mostly over countryside, which made for a pleasant view in my opinion. As I was sitting on the right side of the aircraft, I was even able to see Lake Ontario for quite a while.

Since Buffalo’s airspace doesn’t have nearly as much congestion as major airports like JFK and O’Hare, we flew pretty much straight in to the Runway 23 approach. After a very smooth landing, we taxied to and arrived at the gate shortly before eight o’clock in the evening.

Spoilers up after landing on Runway 23.

All in all, I was extremely satisfied with this particular flight and A320. The seats were super comfortable, the in-flight entertainment was on-point, and the service was excellent. To top it all off, the flight was just over an hour in duration, which, in my opinion – even as someone who loves flying –  is the perfect length. And though I was made to return early the next morning at 9:10 a.m., as that was the only return flight that would keep my round trip under $100, the quality of the trip out – and the pristine condition of my hotel room – made getting up that early worth it.

June 12, 2016

I woke up around 7 a.m., and was on my way to the airport within around 15 minutes. While I try my best to arrive at the airport more than two hours in advance, the security line was nonexistent, meaning that I had plenty of time to hang around. Thankfully, I’d brought my laptop in addition to my phone, so I had was able to occupy myself quite easily. I even found a place serving slices of pizza – at 8:30 a.m., no less!

After a boarding that was even quicker than the one on the way out, our E-190 pushed back from the gate. Our departure from Runway 23 – the same one I’d landed on 14 hours previous – took us over the more urban parts of the Buffalo area, which you can see below.

Seeing densely-populated neighborhoods was a stark contrast to my landing the day before.

We encountered a bit of turbulence mid-flight, which the pilot told us he anticipate might happen. As a result, I believe we deviated slightly from our planned route, as looking at our flight’s tracking afterward showed us deviate south and then back north in quick succession. Regardless, we descended over the North Shore to prepare for our Runway 27 arrival.

The ride featured a decent balance of cloudy and clear skies – below us, of course.

In keeping with the course of the trip up to that point, our landing was very smooth, and we had virtually no wait for a gate at Terminal C. And while I was near the back of the plane, I was able to get off and to the Silver Line relatively quickly. In fact, I was home 59 minutes after our plane touched down – taking public transportation the whole way, no less!

On the whole, I was pleased with how the trip turned out. Sure, it would have been nice to have spent longer in Buffalo, but there were many positives: I used no vacation time, had minimal expenses, and even managed to get pizza at 8:30 a.m.! Even though I don’t think I’ll be taking another trip solely to try a new aircraft anytime soon, I certainly got what I wanted – and then some – out of this one. Ultimately, that’s what matters.