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Junkanoo dancers and local dignitaries greeted passengers arriving in Nassau on the inaugural flight of Bahamasair's new nonstop service from Houston. 

Image: Scott Vogel

Yesterday morning, right on time at 8 a.m., Bahamasair flight 842 departed from gate D10 at Bush Intercontinental Airport to the accompaniment of water cannons saluting IAH’s newest carrier and the inaugural run of the airline’s new twice-weekly service from Houston to Nassau, the island nation’s largest city.

“We have specifically chosen this time, 8 a.m., to get you into Nassau by noon, and hopefully get you onto the beach by 2 p.m,” said Tommy Turnquest, the chairman of Bahamasair, at a Terminal D morning reception. Indeed, the new service should prove particularly attractive to travelers who have long despaired of losing a whole day of vacation time making their way to Caribbean destinations. The flight time is just two-and-a-half hours to Nassau’s Lynden Pindling International Airport, which is itself just 15 minutes from some of the Bahamas’—and the world’s—most famous beaches, not to mention a quick hop to Eleuthera, Bimini, Grand Bahama, and 10 other nearby islands the airline also serves.

On opening day, an already short flight was made even shorter by Paul Fernander of the Nassau Guardian, the Bahamas’ oldest newspaper, who served as a sort of emcee and quizmaster on flight 842. Commanding the PA system for a not insubstantial chunk of time, Fernando awarded prizes to passengers wise in the ways of arcane Bahamian trivia, even as he doled out priceless insider tips for the newbies in the crowd. (Sample: “Rum Key is a really good island because it has lots of rum.”)

Just before takeoff, Tracy Cooper, managing director for Bahamasair, told us that the airline had been working with the Houston Airport System for a little more than a year to bring service to the Bayou City. “Our industry partners, our hoteliers, indicated that this was one of the primary markets they were targeting, so we pursued it,” he said. For their part, Houstonians should be targeting the Bahamas too, added Cooper. An archipelago of 700+ islands more than a dozen of which are popular with tourists, the Caribbean nation stands apart in both the number and variety of vacations it can offer. “For the person that is just used to going and seeing the big excitements, we can provide that in our capital, in Nassau,” he said. “And we can provide more laidback experiences elsewhere. Among the family of islands, there is a uniqueness that not a lot of places can provide.”

And with that, it was time for boarding. To Turnquest’s delight, Flight 842 would ultimately touch down at 11:57 a.m. local time, its passengers greeted by yet more water cannon fire and an energetic, brightly-costumed group of Junkanoo musician-dancers on the tarmac. Some stopped to listen, others rushed to a buffet highlighted by flutes of conch salad, and everybody made it to the beach by 2, if not sooner.

Bahamasair flies nonstop from Houston IAH to Nassau on Mondays and Thursdays each week, with return trips on Sundays and Wednesdays. Roundtrip fares start at $445. Information: bahamasair.com.

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