Getting to the Caribbean From the West Coast Is Now Easier Than Ever

A long-neglected flight path is finally getting more love.

Aerial view of beach in Bahamas, with turquoise and white striped umbrellas

The beaches of the Bahamas are now a quick flight away from Los Angeles and Seattle.

Courtesy of the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism

Travelers who live on the West Coast of the United States have long bemoaned the lack of direct flights to the Caribbean from international airports in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle. Normally, flying to the Caribbean from the West Coast requires stopovers and plane changes in hubs like Atlanta, New York, Houston, or Miami. Between the time difference and the layovers, flying from the West Coast to the Caribbean can easily take at least a full day—or may even require an overnight stop. With closer warm-weather destinations like Mexico and Hawai‘i beckoning, many travelers in the Pacific time zone simply skip the Caribbean.

“The West Coast to the Caribbean long has been a tough nut to crack for airlines,” says Brian Sumers, industry analyst and author of “The Airline Observer,” an aviation newsletter. “These flights eat up a lot of aircraft time and carriers generally decide they’d rather use those 12 to 14 hours of [round-trip] airplane and crew time on more proven routes with better revenue.”

But this may be changing. Recently, Alaska Airlines, Cayman Airways, and JetBlue all introduced nonstop flights to the Caribbean from Los Angeles, with Alaska also launching a Seattle route. Here’s what to know and whether we can expect more Caribbean flights to take off from the West Coast.

New nonstop flights from the West Coast to the Caribbean

A few empty hammocks hanging among a grove of palm trees in the Bahamas

Alaska Airlines is making it easier to relax Bahamian style.

Courtesy of Cristofer Maximilian/Unsplash

Seattle and Los Angeles to the Bahamas with Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines introduced new direct flights in December 2023 between Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and Nassau, Bahamas (NAS), as well as between Seattle–Tacoma International Airport (SEA) and Nassau. The flight between Seattle and Nassau was the airport’s first-ever direct flight to the Bahamas.

The routes, which are taking place on Boeing 737s, kicked off with four weekly flights from Los Angeles and three a week from Seattle. The seasonal Seattle flights concluded this spring but are scheduled to resume in winter. The Los Angeles flights will continue through summer with one to two flights weekly until the winter schedule resumes in late November, according to the airline. The flight times from Seattle are listed at just a little more than 6 hours for both the outbound and return, while the L.A. flights show a 5-hour and 19-minute outbound time and a 6-hour and 13-minute return duration.

Alaska Airlines is “thrilled with the positive reception these routes have garnered, owed to their convenience and accessibility. With summer approaching, we look forward to continuing this nonstop service to our guests departing from Los Angeles,” according to Kirsten Amrine, vice president of revenue management and network planning for Alaska Airlines.

The Silver Palm bar and lounge at the Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman, with a few tropical plants, cushy seating, and basket-shaped lighting fixture above

This is your sign that it’s time to book into the Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman.

Courtesy of the Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman

Los Angeles to Grand Cayman with Cayman Airways

Cayman Airways introduced new direct Los Angeles (LAX) to Grand Cayman (GCM) service in late 2022, expanding it from once per week to twice weekly in late 2023. The 5.5-hour flight (outbound) from LAX is run with the airline’s fleet of Boeing Max 737-8 aircraft; the return flight is 6 hours.

In a press release, Cayman Airways stated that a “notable milestone” for 2023 was the “successful first year of Cayman Airways’ service to Los Angeles, surpassing expectations, and signifying demand for an additional flight weekly.”

Observes Sumers, “I’m not surprised to see Cayman Airways flying from Los Angeles because that’s a government-owned airline . . . and it’s probably OK if it loses money on a long flight if it brings the right people to the Cayman Islands.”

Los Angeles to the Bahamas with JetBlue

JetBlue introduced its first nonstop service between Los Angeles and Nassau last November with weekly flights operating on Saturdays using Airbus A321 aircraft, scheduled for about 5 hours and 45 minutes of travel time (outbound), and about 6 hours and 30 minutes (return).

“This new option was introduced to connect our customers in Los Angeles to a destination they want to fly,” said JetBlue Corporate Communications in a statement to AFAR, “expanding our network and international presence in the Caribbean and opening a direct option to Nassau.”

The year-round route is expected to continue, as “JetBlue is pleased with the performance” to date, according to the airline.

Will there be more flights to the Caribbean from the West Coast?

Are these flights an anomaly or the start of a new trend? That’s the question West Coast travelers are likely asking.

Caribbean tourism officials certainly hope the direct routes continue. “We are thrilled to have new direct flights to Nassau from the West Coast via JetBlue and Alaska Airlines,” said Joy Jibrilu, CEO of Nassau Paradise Island Promotion Board via a statement to AFAR. “With these new flight routes, we have seen a significant increase in interest in Nassau and Paradise Island as it is now easier than ever for travelers to reach our sunny destination.”

The airlines remain noncommittal about the addition of more flights or destinations. “Alaska is constantly exploring potential route expansions [and] remains vigilant in assessing new opportunities to enhance its network and meet evolving traveler demands,” the airline said in an email sent to AFAR. JetBlue was similarly vague in a statement from corporate communications, saying the airline “continuously monitors all market opportunities to better serve our customers.”

“I think it’s possible we will see more West Coast to Caribbean routes,” says Sumers. “The North American air market is saturated. There aren’t a whole lot of new routes to be discovered by airlines. You can add an extra flight to Los Cabos, but who really needs that? [The airlines] might as well try something new for a season and see if it works.”

So, West Coast travelers should keep their eyes on the popularity of existing Caribbean flights and be alert for possible new routes as airlines search for additional revenue sources.

Bill Fink is a freelance travel writer for outlets including AARP, BBC Travel, Frommer’s, Lonely Planet, National Geographic, Outside, SF Chronicle, and Yahoo Travel. Among many writing awards, Bill won Lowell Thomas Golds for Investigative Journalism and Newspaper Travel, and his stories have been included in The Best of Lonely Planet Travel Writing, Travelers’ Tales Best Travel Writing, and The Best American Travel Writing.
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