The VIP Treatment
Question: What do you do when your best friend scores some free VIP seats for opening day at Fenway?
Answer: Quick — book a Cape Air flight to Boston.
Pay no attention to the fact that I’m not a Boston Red Sox fan. Nor to the fact that I’m not actually even a baseball fan. But come on — a professional game of any sort is always a blast to experience in person. And I didn’t realize just how convenient the trip to Boston could be.
I assume that when people think of the Adirondacks, they envision crystal clear lakes and rivers, unspoiled forests, and dramatic, jaw-droppingly gorgeous mountain views.
In contrast, when I think of Boston, I think of really cool old pubs and confusing circles of traffic.
Years ago, right after college, my friend Christine lived in Boston. Since then, she’s jumped around to various New England cities, but now lives nearby and works in Boston again.
Of course, I’ve visited her about a kazillion times over the years. But I’ve always driven my car to get there. And those confusing circles of traffic are the crux of the trip (aside from the long drive that precedes them).
So when Christine contacted me with the Fenway opportunity, I thought it might be a good idea to avoid the long drive and the circles altogether, and try out our local Adirondack Regional Airport’s direct flights to Boston.
I booked easily online and had a choice of three different Cape Air departures per day; 6:30am, 11:30am, and 2:30pm. (Apparently, during the summer, there are FOUR daily flights from which to choose). Since the game started at around 2pm, I selected the middle option that leaves at 11:30am.
Cutest airport in the world
Even though I woke up in the wee hours of the morning and am disinclined to be a “morning person,” I had adopted the default positive, upbeat attitude that goes along with replacing a typical Monday work day with a fun, personal-adventure-vacation day.
And that attitude was only bolstered when I arrived at the parking lot, which had ample room for my car, and offered free parking until my return. No ticket, no hassle, just grab my bag, lock the car, and walk to the terminal.
Since this was my first Cape Air experience and my first flight out of Saranac Lake, I arrived at the airport early. WAY too early, it turns out.
It was about 9:56am. I walked in the main door, looked around, and thought initially that I was the only one there. The Cape Air ticket counter was down the hall immediately to my right, so I proceeded toward the desk to check in.
There was a gentleman in the office who heard me approach and came out to greet me. I’ll call him “the friendliest airport guy in the world,” for reference. And that was good, as this check in was different than any other I’d ever experienced.
- First question: What’s your name? “Kim Rielly.” I got that one right, and I was on the list. Check.
- Second question: Any baggage to check? “No. Just my backpack for this overnight trip.”
- Third question: How much do you weigh? “Huh?”
I admit, he had me flummoxed. I seriously didn’t know the correct, accurate answer, so in the interest of making sure the small plane would have enough fuel to carry me, I rounded up.
He weighed my carry on, and issued my boarding pass. He told me that they were expecting three passengers for my flight, and that they would open up the TSA security checkpoint in a short while. He also told me that he’d see me after that, as he is also the baggage guy and the ticket-taking guy.
I wandered up toward the Cavu Cafe (which just happened to be closed as it was undergoing its spring cleaning, but that was fine with me as I wasn't hungry), and entered the Observation Room, which was located on the runway side of the building. There I found a partly-completed puzzle, and one of the airport employees who invited me to work on it as she was leaving. I declined, even though I had clearly left myself enough time to work on a puzzle, took a seat in one of the rustic Adirondack-style chairs found throughout the facility, and surveyed the landscape for a while.
I didn’t want to miss the excitement of TSA opening, so I headed down the few steps to the main waiting room. Another two passengers had arrived.
The TSA gate finally opened, and I got in line. Well, it wasn’t really a line, as it seemed like my own personal TSA check in, with only two other passengers there and no one in a hurry to be first. The check in was professional and thorough just like any other big airport, and we were escorted right into a final waiting room.
At this point, the other two passengers and I had started up a conversation. Besides me, there was a young woman who DID check baggage, and a gentleman who looked to be on a business trip.
As it turns out, the woman flew from Boston every weekend, as she goes to school there, and her fiance lives in Saranac Lake. The baggage, as it turns out, was her laundry. Evidently, it is far easier to tote her laundry on the plane each week than to schlep it a few blocks on foot where she lives in Boston.
The gentleman was indeed on a business trip, and this was his first Cape Air flight. He lives in Potsdam, so Saranac Lake was a convenient departure location for him.
Small plane, big runway
NOTE: Those with a fear of flying might want to take into consideration that these Cape Air planes are small, 8-passenger deals. For me, the small plane made the flight far more appealing.
We could see the plane just outside the window from this room. My dad flew private airplanes from the time that I was in grammar school. The first one he had was a two-seater, and he eventually graduated to a four-seat Cessna. The Cape Air plane looked big in comparison to those.
Soon, the friendliest airport guy in the world, who is also the greeter, ticket issuer, ticket taker, and baggage handler, arrived to take our boarding passes with a smile, and we went out to board the plane.
I felt like I was on a private charter, walking across the tarmac to board Air Force 1 or something. My new businessman friend took a picture of me as I approached the plane. I selected my seat, and said hello to the pilot who was right there in front of me in his pilot seat with his pilot headset, greeting me when I sat down. Our baggage was stored in the front of the plane, and we readied for takeoff.
Beam me up
Now, though these commercial flights to Boston are on “light aircraft Cessna” planes, the Adirondack Regional Airport is no tiny grass-covered-runway type of airport. I have spoken with the airport manager, and learned that the airport has the longest runway in the Adirondacks, an all-weather instrument aircraft landing system, and can accommodate aircraft up to and including the Boeing 757.
We taxied and took off, leaving the lake-dotted mountainous Adirondack wilderness landscape behind and heading southeast.
Like I said, if you’re afraid of flying, these smaller aircraft definitely react more aggressively to any air turbulence, but this flight was smooth and short. We arrived in Boston’s Logan Airport in about an hour and fifteen minutes.
I was going to make it to the game in plenty of time.
I won’t bore you with all the fun I experienced in Boston. In short form, after the game, we met some mutual friends at a bar and stayed out really late. I had reserved a mid-day flight back, and Christine had to go to work, so I headed to the airport in the morning.
The flight from Logan Airport back TO the Adirondacks was just as pleasant. The friendliest airport guy in the world might have been on the other end of the trip, but I actually looked forward to checking in to my Cape Air flight back at Logan. After all, I figured I was STILL going to get that VIP treatment that comes with a small number of passengers. And I was right.
The woman at the Cape Air desk asked me for my weight, and, prepared, I gave her the correct number right away. She weighed my bag, handed me my boarding pass and off I went to a somewhat longer line at TSA than we encountered in Saranac Lake. It flowed well, though, and I was soon at my gate. Still WAY earlier than I needed to be, but with enough time to grab a snack. Not too surprisingly, I saw someone I knew from Lake Placid and made a quick assumption that he was on my flight, so I had my buddy Jim to chat with while we waited.
It turned out that this flight had four passengers and a cat, and there was both a pilot and a co-pilot. Definitely a heavier load than my flight down, in my expert opinion.
The flight was equally short as the day before, but the weather a bit chillier. Because we were sitting essentially in the cockpit with the pilots, we asked them to turn the heat up at one point. Another little perk reserved for us VIPs.
With sunny skies above the clouds, we made our approach and dashed below them to land on a big runway that just happens to be located smack dab in the middle of the Adirondack wilderness.
I grabbed my carry-on and we all went into the terminal, and while a couple of the passengers waited for their baggage to arrive at the cutest baggage claim at the cutest airport in the world, and maybe got their convenient car rental, I headed right out to my car waiting for me just a few steps away.
It's no wonder that this convenient, full-service airport is a favorite for a huge number of charters and private jets. They are regularly spotted flying their VIPs directly to the Adirondack wilderness and parking in their very own hangar here, whether they are visiting their own cabin in the woods or luxury lodging such as The Point Resort.
That's all fine for them, but thanks to the direct Cape Air flights, the rest of us are VIPs, too. I equate it with the Star Trek transporter room: It’s amazing how one can be in the middle of the Adirondacks one moment, and magically beamed into VIP seats, with VIP beer, at Fenway Park just a couple of hours later. Of course, not everyone can have the seats part, but everyone CAN achieve the transporter part, and beaming back to the ship in Saranac Lake is always the best part of the show.
Oh. What about opening day at Fenway? Well, it was a back-and-forth between the Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles, which the Orioles won in the last inning, 9-7. The crowd seemed really into it, so it must have been a great game.
- Kim Rielly is the director of communications for the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism, and knows what the infield fly rule is.