Flight Review: InterCaribbean Embraer EMB-120 (BGI-SVD)

InterCaribbean 716, Bridgetown to Saint Vincent

RouteGrantley Adams International, Barbados (BGI) – Argyle International, St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVD)
Flight NumberJY716
Cost of TicketOne way – £161/$194
Seat Number7A
Flight Time45 mins
Baggage Allowance23kg checked bag, small carry on item
Rating4/5

Landside

After staying for one night at Bellevue House in the parish of St Michael on Barbados, we left this charming little guest house in a pre-booked bus and headed for Grantley Adams International Airport. We arrived at the semi-outdoor check-in area, which was relatively silent on all airlines, with the only open counter being the one for InterCaribbean Airlines, who we were flying with.

The check-in area at Grantley Adams

We checked in our bags, which itself was a slight issue, as there are very strict baggage limits onboard the aircraft. After checking in the bags, I looked at my boarding pass. It stated that my flight left Bridgetown airport at 1230, with primary boarding beginning at 1205. I went to the departure board to corroborate this information and was incredibly confused.

Bright-yellow logos of InterCaribbean

It stated that JY716, our flight to Kingstown, St Vincent, and the Grenadines, was to be leaving from Gate 9 at 1100. Considering it was 1035, it confused me. Nevertheless, we trusted the boarding pass and headed on through security. One of the trays of a family member of mine spilled over inside the x-ray machine, which I have never seen before.

Airside

We headed on through relatively quickly and into the practically deserted departure lounge. The departure board issue was still baffling us, as it still showed the aircraft departing at 1100, even though when we looked at the time on our phones, it was 1120.

In order to try and solve this mystery, my mother traveled to Gate 9 to enquire about this, where a staff member apologized in an incredibly calm manner and told us to be there at 1200. We did arrive at 1200, where there was some slight confusion as VQ-TPS, an Embraer ERJ-145 and the newest member of the InterCaribbean fleet, was boarding at the same time from the same gate for a flight to Antigua. Whilst the passengers for this flight were beginning to board, we saw VQ-TDG, our Embraer EMB-120, land in from Saint Vincent.

My Embraer-EMB120 for the flight from BGI to SVD

Boarding

After a short boarding process, in which seemingly all passengers with non-Caribbean passports were shunted to one side, we headed out onto the ramp and towards the EMB-120. We waited outside the airport for a moment, and the first few passengers began to attempt to board the aircraft, but due to several issues, the sole cabin crew member turned them away and stated that they had to board us by need first.

A passenger who was in a wheelchair and her companion boarded first, followed by a Scottish-American family with very young children, and then came us, as we were traveling with a few relatively young children. It turns out that they did the boarding process to ensure that no children were traveling in the emergency exit row. Our group boarded, and I sat in my seat for flight 7A.

Seat 7A

InterCaribbean organized the EMB-120 in a 2-1 configuration, meaning I sat in the solo seat on the left of the aircraft. It is a very small aircraft, with seemingly just 10 rows, with all but the back row being in this 2-1 configuration, whereas the last row is 4 seats altogether. The safety briefing was carried out, and the cabin crew member informed us that we all had to switch off all electronic devices, meaning I was unable to get a video of the takeoff out of BGI as I had hoped.

Takeoff and Inflight

We taxied to Runway 09 and immediately took off from the Barbadian airport. Runway 09 departures from BGI take you to the west, so the pilots gave us a full view of the island out of the left-hand side as we began to turn ourselves to the west and in the direction of St Vincent and the Grenadines. The route between Bridgetown, Barbados, Kingstown, St Vincent, and the Grenadines is an especially interesting one. Two airlines operate the route, and both offer vastly different products. The first is the InterCaribbean route, which operates multiple times a day using the Embraer EMB-120. The second is a continuation of Virgin Atlantic’s route from London Heathrow to Barbados, which operates using either an Airbus A330-300 or a Boeing 787-9, which operates every 3 days.

The first option is definitely more of an experience. Shortly after we got into the air, and the seatbelt signs flickered on, we hit a patch of turbulence due to the weather conditions, a common occurrence in the Caribbean. The aircraft began to swerve between clouds and rain patches, but in the end, all was fine. I leafed through the InterCaribbean inflight magazine and read about their newest flight, from Providenciales to Ocho Rios, Jamaica, which takes place at a shockingly infrequent once a month!

Landing

After not long at all, probably only 15 minutes, the seatbelt sign was re-instituted for landing. We began our approach to Argyle International Airport, which follows the coastline of the island, giving a great view. We touched down calmly and taxied to the gate. Deboarding was quite swift, and so we entered the immigration hall. Unfortunately, our flight had landed just after a Caribbean Airlines Boeing 737-800 had landed from New York JFK, meaning the hall was very busy.

The passport checks were slow, as they had two different lines, meaning nobody was quite sure where to go. Furthermore, they kept the doors open, meaning we could still hear the noise of the EMB-120 as it prepared for departure back to Bridgetown. This meant that the questions being asked by the clearly stressed immigration officers were not very easy to hear, extending the time.

Eventually, we got through, where the bags from JY716 had been taken from the aircraft and dropped on the floor. However, SVD airport has manual customs checks, and our arrival at the same time as the Caribbean 737 was once again a problem. The passengers onboard that flight seemingly had multiple suitcases each, and each passenger was being interviewed for ages.

When we walked up to the customs desk, with one bag per person, we handed the passports over, and were asked where we were staying. When we told the customs officer, he immediately returned them and allowed us into St Vincent. The process in St Vincent is one of the worst I have ever seen, but the flight itself was not bad at all, and a fun experience!


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