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Nantucket on a Budget: Getting There by Air

June 19, 2012 at 10:50 AM | by | ()

Cape Air Cessna 402Cs parked at ACK

Welcome to summer! Let's talk island, hm? We just got back from a spur-of-the-moment trip to the notoriously expensive Nantucket and this week we'll share with you all the awesome, not-so-spendy stuff we loved on the sandy bit of land off the cost of Massachusetts. Pack your Nantucket Reds, your Sperry Topsiders and an argyle cardigan (or four) to drape around your shoulders, and away we go!

Part One: Getting There.

When was the last time you paid less for a flight than for the car service to the airport? For us, the answer is this last weekend. Here's what happened:

JetBlue had an online airfare sale a month or so ago, as they are wont to do. We spotted $35 one-way tickets from New York-JFK to either Martha's Vineyard or Nantucket. We chose Nantucket simply because it's a little further away. Traveling on a Wednesday and returning on a Saturday, we paid a TOTAL of $73.50—the line-item, gosh-darn truth straight from our AMEX statement—in a world where calling car service just to drive one-way to JFK costs $80.

The flight was quick, painless and very normal for a JetBlue route; we were even surprised to have complimentary snack and beverage service on such a tiny hop. The energy picked up during landing at Nantucket Memorial Airport, which looks more like a sprawling Cape Cod cottage than a terminal serving several airlines plus a slew of private jets and air taxis.

This airport, the former star of the TV show "Wings," has a code of ACK. Get used to it; "ACK" figures into everything from souvenir T-shirts to local media. Actually, if we are to judge anything from the mass of available souvenirs and uber-preppy clothing that sells like hotcakes on Nantucket, the island is most proud of four things: its airport code, the shape of the island, its history of slaughtering sperm whales, and those "Nantucket Reds."

To experience these things, you've gotta get your landlubber butt over some open water. We're focusing on the major air routes, which go a little something like this:

· JetBlue:
Cost of roundtrip JFK to ACK from July 11-July 14: $246
Cost of roundtrip BOS to ACK from July 11-July 14: $135
Aircraft: Embraer 190 with 100 seats, seatback TVs and onboard complimentary snack & beverage service.
Flight time: 40-ish minutes

· Cape Air:
Cost of roundtrip BOS to ACK from July 11-July 14: $185
Aircraft: Cessna 402C with 9 seats (including the the co-pilot seat, used for passengers!)
Flight time: 40-ish minutes

· Delta Connection:
Cost of roundtrip JFK to ACK from July 11-July 14: $226
Aircraft: Canadair Regional Jet with 50 seats.
Flight time: 60-ish minutes

· United Express:
Cost of roundtrip BOS to ACK from July 11-July 14: $250
Aircraft: de Havilland Dash 8-300 with 50 seats
Flight time: 75-ish minutes

· US Airways:
Cost of roundtrip DCA to ACK from July 11-July 14: $429
Aircraft: Canadair Regional Jet with 50 seats
Flight time: 75-ish minutes

Note: The shuttle bus from the airport to town and back doesn't start running until June 25, at which time we've heard the price will be $2. You'll have to get a taxi until then, which costs $14 (plus tip) between town and ACK.

THE BUDGET TIP: The key is really to be flexible with your travel dates and, of course, be on JetBlue's mailing list (sign up for TrueBlue to make that happen) for the alert when they're running a sale. This will score you the cheapest possible flights and, by flying on the least popular days, ensure less crowding at the tiny airport.

...Or there's always the ferry.

[Photos: Jaunted]

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Cape Air: Pet Friendly

I flew JetBlue from JFK to Nantucket a few years ago -- via Boston, where we switched to a codeshare Cape Air flight. I love the tiny planes! Like JetBlue, they are dog-friendly. They seat the Cape Air flight based on weight distribution so I sat up the back with my Winnie in her Sherpa bag on the seat next to me. On the way back from ACK to Boston, though, the young pilot of the Cape Air plane had a map on her lap... The passenger seated next to her (part of my family) noticed that she looked at it, puzzled for a second, and then went "oh!" and turned the map the right way round. Gulp.


I love that Cape Air & JetBlue are both super pet-friendly. I do not love your story about the pilot. YIKES. Though I have to admit that if I ever fly Cape Air there, I'm going for that co-pilot seat alright.