Last month, Tropic Air launched service between Belize and Roatan, Honduras, and this Examiner had the honor to join the inaugural flight from Belize City on November 13. This was my first opportunity to try out Tropic Air Belize’s international service and, despite being the first flight, it could not have been a more seamless experience.
I fly well over 100K miles each year on major international carriers and, without a doubt, a customer service issue arises on nearly each and every flight. And, as a top tier Diamond Medallion with Delta and the SkyTeam alliance, you might assume I am treated fairly well. Unfortunately, nearly every situation requires extensive hold times, emails, Tweets and/or in person discussion.
With Tropic Air, every reservation phone call or email I have sent over the years has been answered promptly, professionally, and, it’s readily apparent their first priority is to accommodate all passengers, building a strong and loyal customer base. I’ve never encountered a situation in eight years of flying with Tropic Air where I needed assistance, other than to reschedule a flight.
Although the ground staff in Roatan were not Tropic Air employees, they were still very courteous and efficient in getting us checked in and on our way.
With Tropic Air, there is no need to monitor fares each day to see when the best time is to book. The flight is the same price whether you book two months ahead or 24 hours ahead. For spontaneous travelers and for those hoping to cash in on the abundance of last minute hotel deals online, Tropic Air is the perfect solution to meet your travel needs between Roatan and Belize City.
Unlike some carriers, which often include some departure taxes, you still need to pay your departure tax from both Belize City and Roatan. Currently, fees are 80BZ (non-Belize citizens) or 36.50BZ (Belize citizens and legal residents), and $39 US from Roatan. Although you pay the departure tax separate, the fare is significantly less than other options.
Example: Search on Orbitz.com December 3, 2013, for flight from BZE to RTB on January 15 – 18, 2014. TACA Airlines: $564.25 US (not including baggage and entry/exit fees) versus Tropic Air: $225.00 US (not including entry/exit fees).
Luggage Allowance and Handling
People in the United States love Southwest Airlines as they haven’t given in to the trend of charging for every ounce of checked baggage, and Tropic Air is the same way. Logic might dictate they would be more inclined to charge for all baggage since weight is so critical on the smaller planes, but they are extremely accommodating in ensuring both you and your luggage arrive at your final destination safely.
One of the most common questions I get from readers and other travelers is whether it’s safe to fly such a small plane long distances. Tropic Air does an excellent job on servicing their fleet, their pilots are well-trained, and they maintain an excellent safety record. If you are visiting San Pedro, drive by at night and you can see the glow of lights as the mechanics and engineers complete daily maintenance on the Tropic Air fleet. I fly Tropic well over 10 times a year within Belize and have never once felt unsafe.
Schedule and Convenience
While I admit to not being very excited at the idea of a 7am departure from Roatan back to Belize City, Tropic Air has an excellent reason for scheduling such an early morning departure. All their international flights are timed to coincide with other Tropic Air domestic departures, as well as larger international carrier schedules departing and arriving at Belize International.
Although I am not a morning person, it was definitely a breeze at Roatan’s airport since we were pretty much the only flight departing that early and the only international flight arriving that early in Belize. We arrived and took the next flight back to Ambergris Caye, giving me the whole day free. For travelers with limited holiday time, not losing a day getting between destinations is critical.
In looking back at the TACA Airlines option priced on Orbitz, the travel time between Belize and Roatan is 15 hours, with a required overnight in San Pedro Sula, Honduras. The flight between Belize International and Roatan – an easy one hour. Personally, I prefer to spend more on transportation to travel on a direct route or the least number of layovers and, in this case, the most direct route is more than 50% less.
Without a doubt, one of the reasons I am forever sold on Tropic Air is the views during the flight. I choose aisle seats on large carriers, especially on 10+ hour flights, as I don’t want to climb over two people just to stretch my legs or use the bathroom. Granted there is no wandering around the cabin or bathrooms on Tropic flights, but I am so glued to watching the scenery, you are landing before you realize it.
No matter how many times I fly between Ambergris Caye and Belize’s mainland, I am always in awe and humbled that I live (at least part of the year) in such a beautiful country. Flying between Belize and Honduras made me appreciate Central America as a whole. Keep your eyes peeled for impressive views of Belize City, Lighthouse Reef, and Roatan, even on a pretty cloudy day. Note: Roatan views are only on departure as you land after dark arriving from Belize.
Disclosure: I was a guest of Belize’s Ambergris Today on Tropic Air Belize’s inaugural flight between Belize and Roatan, Honduras, but all views and opinions expressed are my own.