De Plane Ride to Barbados

No self respecting West Indian traveling to the USA would ever leave home with anything other than an empty suitcase in order to return with luggage full of "Americana." North Americans are frequently amazed at the amount of bulging bags Bajans bring to the ticket counters. But they must understand; in Barbados, we do not have the likes of WalMart, KMart, Target, or any of the other major retailers, so a trip to the North is always a shopping event.

The new 50lb weight limit per suitcase limit imposed by most major airlines has affected their purchases. But BWIA West Indies Airways (known colloquially as BEE-WEE or BWEE), who are very familiar with West Indian travelers - indeed, they are the only major airline based in the Caribbean - are flexible and allow up to 70lb per suitcase for an additional $25.00.

Sometimes the mundane and perfunctory travel routine is met with a memorable encounter. Such an encounter happened on our flight from Washington to Barbados on BWEE this week when we met Pearl Bhagan, a 36 year veteran in the airline industry. Pearl was working the first class cabin and quickly recognized us to be fellow foodies and kindred spirits when we requested an extra spicy Bloody Mary. With raised eyebrow and a devilish smile, Pearl delivered a SPICY beverage enhanced by her very own homemade pepper sauce which she nevers leaves home without! The resulting five mile high cocktail was bracing and delightful.

Pearl then promised a gourmet dinner to follow (on an airplane?!?). Okay, I'm listening.A tasty starter of plum tomatoes over bib lettuce salad was followed by roasted duck breast, new potatoes, and haricot verts (green beans to the culinarily challenged). Pearl expertly recommended that the duck be "sauced" with Cointreau and a splash of lime.with, of course, a dash of her delicious pepper sauce.

When was the last time you heard anyone extol an in-flight meal? BWEE is by far the leader when it comes to airplane food, but this was good food anywhere. In fact, BWEE, is the only USA to Barbados airline that still serves a proper meal and not a boxed school lunch. And the service, well, thank you Pearl for making our flight so enjoyable and memorable.As a working mother and wife in an extremely demanding job, Pearl depends on her housekeeper in Trinidad to cook most of the family meals. But then she had to find a solution to her husband's preference for Pearl's personal style of cooking.

So she began to write down a compilation of her special cooking procedures and the necessary ingredients for her housekeeper to follow. As the pages started to grow in number, the result was "Kitchen Encounter" by Pearl Bhagan - an easy to follow cookbook for the working family.From the USA, the main carriers to Barbados are US Airways, BWIA, American Airlines and Delta. We avoid American Airlines due both to the been-there-done-that attitude of the mainly senior flight attendants who work the route and the inconvenient flight schedules. USAIR has by far the best flight schedule to Barbados, connecting daily through Charlotte, NC. With USAIR, you will arrive in Barbados mid afternoon in time for a sun-downer (Bajan speak for a cocktail at sunset) and the departure leaves late afternoon giving you an extra day of fun in the sun.

The flight crew is always top-notch although the food is little more than convenience store fare. Delta is still too new on the Barbados route so we'll give them a pass until we can experience the airline personally. BWEE flys 3 times per week (Tuesday, Friday, Saturday) from Washington Dulles and daily from New York and Miami.Both USAIR and BWEE offer frequent deals to and from Barbados - sometimes more than 60% off - through their web sites.

And if you're lucky enough to find a Pearl, you'll be treated with true West Indian hospitality.

.Billy O'Dell, with his wife Carolyn, is the owner of, an online concierge to Barbados, and of Food Affairs, a popular Bajan catering service.

By: Billy O'Dell

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