I haven’t flown on JetBlue in a while, but I had the opportunity to do so this week, so it’s a good time for a report. This report also addresses security, immigration, airport procedures, and amenities on a trip from Costa Rica to the USA.
This trip was from San José, Costa Rica (SJO) to Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, USA (RDU), with a connection (and immigration/customs clearance) in Fort Lauderdale, Florida (FLL).
Disclaimer: A single flight may be a good indicator of an airline’s general performance, but it’s important to understand that each flight is unique. Never judge an airline by a single incident, good or bad.
Check-in at the airport was quick and easy, and the ticket desk staff was friendly. I had actually checked in online, but JetBlue does not offer electronic boarding passes in Costa Rica and I had no way to print out the boarding pass. I did show up a bit early (about 2.5 hours before the flight) and the line at the ticket counter was short. At SJO, lines do tend to get long about 2 hours before the flight and the check-in process can be slow. This is not specific to JetBlue.
Immigration and Security procedures at SJO can involve waits of 30 minutes or more. It took me about 20 minutes to move through immigration and security at about Noon. The actual immigration check is done by an officer with a computer and only takes about 20 seconds. Security is an easy procedure. X-ray machines are used for bags and metal detectors for people. Laptop computers must be removed from bags. You may keep your shoes on to pass through the metal detector.
SJO is a decent little international airport with a secure airside concourse consisting of a single main hall with 16 gates and several shopping and dining options. JetBlue flights typically board and deplane at these gates. There is a small food court near the center of the concourse, as well as counter-service food outlets scattered among the gates. If you are arriving at SJO, you do not have access to the airside unless you are making an international connection. One floor below the gate level are two VIP/airline lounges as well as access to domestic flights and remotely-parked airliners.
SJO has been going through continuous terminal refurbishment and expansions for many years. If you’ve been there in the past, some of it will seem familiar and some of it will not. The overall basic layout has been the same for at least 20 years.
SJO is a small, not-too-busy airport. Taxi and departure is usually a quick process.
On the Plane / In the Air
JetBlue is mostly an economy class-only airline. Mint service is not offered to or from SJO. Seats with extra legroom – in the first few rows and in the exit rows – are offered for an extra $50 per flight. However, JetBlue’s regular economy seats have more legroom than most other airlines and the seat recline is minimal… so if the person in front of you reclines, there is barely a noticeable difference in legroom.
JetBlue’s entertainment system offers satellite TV and radio. There is also a feature-length movie offering on most flights. The screens are small and low-resolution.
JetBlue offers free WiFi. It is advertised as high-speed, but VoIP and streaming services are not supposed to be used. Unfortunately, much of the service is not available outside of the USA, so it’s practically unavailable on the flight from SJO to FLL, other than about the last 20 minutes of the flight.
JetBlue’s drink and snack service is nice. Unlimited non-alcoholic drinks and high-quality snacks are offered throughout the flight. Snack boxes and alcohol are available, but they are pricey at $7.
“Annoying” is the best way to describe FLL. The hall leading from the boarding gate to immigration is narrow and cramped. The immigration hall itself is similarly small. Immigration is automated, but the wait in line to use the kiosks can still take 20 or 30 minutes. Global Entry and Mobile Passport are available, and eliminates the wait. Once past immigration, bag claim and customs are fairly quick and straightforward.
The route from customs to post-customs security is a little confusing, and security requires an ID check. This can be a bit confusing if you’re used to not having to show your ID, as is common at many other airports in the USA, post-customs.
The secure airside in the E, F, and G concourses used by JetBlue is small and often crowded. There are decent food and dining options available near JetBlue’s gates.
RDU was an American Airlines hub in the past, so the impression is of an airport and terminal that is way overbuilt for its current level of traffic. The public spaces are large and impressive, and there are many dining and shopping options in the concourses as well as landside.