Flying for the fun of it: Take a trip with San Juan Airlines

Yes, you read that right: flying can be fun! In an era when it’s 99% hassle (even for kids!), I had a great time remembering what I love about flying when I spent a morning with San Juan Airlines. Check out my flight from Seattle to Friday Harbor, WA:

Yes, I’m smiling. Actually, I grinned most of the flight. Why? On a small plane–in this case, a Cessna 172 three-seater–it’s easy to remember why flying is fun! Gone are the barriers between you and the act of flight, such as large airline cabins, in-flight service, and movies on your laptop. Gone, too, are the discomforts: overcrowded conditions, delays, and grumpy fellow passengers. Instead, it’s just you and the pilot, an empty runway before you, and the heady sense of disbelief when you actually do defy gravity.


Do I really do this all the time?


Not like this!

San Juan Airlines, like several other small carriers in the Northwest, operate flights primarily between the small islands that dot the landscape between Seattle and Canada. They fly out of Bellingham, with stops in Anacortes, Friday Harbor, and smaller island and mainland destinations. However, they are also available for charter flights to over 16 destinations, from Spokane to Kamloops BC. Occasionally, they fly out of Boeing Field in Seattle, which is where I caught a ride.


When to consider a small carrier flight:

Obviously, flying on a 2-3 passenger airline is rarely going to be the economical choice. However, it’s worth considering whenever you’re traveling to hard-to-reach destinations, because sometimes, it will make the most sense. When I flew San Juan Airlines, I did so because I needed to be on San Juan Island at a specific time, and had I driven and taken a ferry, I would have had to leave my home 24 hours earlier in order to make the schedule work for me! In this case, time was indeed money.


Other times, flying instead of driving may be the best choice if you want to make your travel day as memorable as your vacation. On my San Juan Airlines flight, my pilot, Brett, doubled as a tour guide, pointing out many landmarks as we flew. When I wanted to see something closer, he happily did a circle around the harbor, allowing me to get all the photos I wanted. We’ve paid for scenic helicopter flights when on vacation before; I’d consider a flight with San Juan Airlines to be just as exciting and fun (plus you’re actually getting to your destination!).

Plus, consider this: no security lines, no boarding passes, no baggage carrousels…no waiting! Now that’s flying!

How to book with San Juan Airlines:

Their website makes it pretty clear, especially if you’re traveling their regular route. If you’d like a charter flight, simply fill out their form or give them a call. They’re a small operation, which means you’ll talk to a real live person when you pick up the phone. Tell them what you need, and they’ll work with you to find the route that’s best. Since I had flown into Seattle at SeaTac, for instance, I needed a flight from Boeing Field (in Seattle), not their regular location in Bellingham. Luckily, a flight was available for me!

How to find San Juan Airlines at Boeing:

Boeing Field is located less than 10 miles from SeaTac, but it’s a big place. San Juan Airlines operates out of the Landmark Terminal, which is located at 7149 Perimeter Road. Give your cab driver the exact address, or you could be circling around Boeing for a while! If you don’t get lost, the cab fare will be about $25 in normal traffic conditions. The waiting room is casual and comfortable, with fresh fruit, coffee, and wifi available.

Have you taken a charter flight? Where?

About the author

Amy Whitley AUTHOR: Amy Whitley is the founding editor of Pit Stops for Kids and content editor of Trekaroo. She writes on staff monthly as a family travel expert at Go Green Travel Green and Practical Travel Gear, and contributes to Outdoors NW as an outdoor adventure traveler. Find Amy at Google.




  1. I’d totally do this – looks amazing, and so interesting!

  2. Looks like a blast!

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