When a mileage run is not really about the miles


As crazy as the act of flying for no particular reason other than to collect the miles may be, at least it is reasonably easy to try to explain to people. Elite status and miles to redeem for a reward ticket are relatively easy to explain, even if the other person doesn’t really believe that there is any value in those things. And lots of free drinks and riding in the pointy end of the plane are also relatively well understood. But what about a trip where there aren’t really any miles to be gained, status to be had or – gasp – free drinks on board?? I recently took one such flight and thoroughly loved every minute of it, even with little concrete to gain from the trip.

No miles. No status. Nothing, except the opportunity to fly to a new (to me) airport on a new (to me) airline. And so it was that on a sunny Belizean afternoon I walked to the San Pedro airport (air strip is probably a more accurate description), walked in to the Maya Island Air ticket office and requested a seat on the next available flight from San Pedro to Caye Caulker. Fortunately for me the next flight was leaving in a scant 15 minutes. The agent at the counter made a call on the walkie-talkie to the operations center to inform them that an additional stop would be necessary on the flight – my stop. I handed over USD$25 in cash (how often do you buy an airline ticket in cash??), took my boarding pass (a laminated color-coded piece of paper) and waited out on the shaded deck for them to call our departure.

Ten sweaty despite the shade minutes later the “red boarding pass” flight was called and we walked out onto the grass, around one plane and up to the side of our Britten Norman BN-2. What great luck for me! Not just a new line on the map and a new airline, but I also got my first flight on this particular type of airplane. This was just the icing on the cake. We were assigned seats by the airline employee collecting our passes (I think it was by passenger size but I’m really not sure) and a couple minutes later we were flying at 2,500 feet over the reefs of Belize.

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Looking down, shortly after takeoff from San Pedro A boat crossing the flats between the Cayes

The flight from San Pedro to Caye Caulker is all of 13 miles long, a distance that the Britten Norman BN-2 covered in a scant 8 minutes. Actually that seems a bit slow, but neither they nor I were in much of a hurry. The flight and the landing at Caye Caulker were both uneventful and shortly after the plane pulled up to the end of the runway I was out the door and staring at the airport:

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Just a hundred yards or so past the end of the runway along a sandy path and I was back on the beach, meandering my way towards the downtown area, and I use the term “downtown” loosely. There are a couple bars and restaurants and a few hotels and guest houses. And that is it. It was incredibly quiet there, which is either really nice or downright spooky, depending on your point of view.

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The walk from the airport to downtown took about 20 minutes, just enough time to see what there was to see and head over to the ferry dock where I was able to purchase my return ticket to San Pedro on the local boat service. Another 20 minutes or so on the boat and I was back on Ambergris Caye.

Thus ended my 90 minute “mileage run” that had nothing to do with miles and everything to do with being just plane crazy.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

One Comment

  1. I always loved the flights in and out of Placencia, Belize. A bit more expensive than $25, but great views. And where else do you get to sit right behind the pilot (or if you’re really lucky, next to him) on a scheduled passenger flight?

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