By Erika Webb
For Hometown News
Where would you rather be on Monday morning?
Inside a cubicle with phones ringing all around and cranky, post-weekend blues-infected co-workers or on the beach in the Bahamas, gazing at clear aquamarine waters, gently swaying palms, and enjoying seafood delicacies and a tasty beverage or 10.
If the second choice sounds tempting but you'd rather not spend the bulk of your time at sea with a few too many revelers at your elbow, and you're a little unsure of those "puddle jumper" planes you've heard about, the solution may be landing as you read this.
AirGate Aviation Inc. offers service daily from New Smyrna Beach to Marsh Harbour and Treasure Cay in the idyllic Abaco Islands.
The population in Marsh Harbour is just over 5,000. Considered the hub of the Abacos, water taxis are readily available to transport visitors to any island location. Quaint, scenic and historic, visitors consider the "slice of island" a great place to boat, snorkel and unwind any time of year.
Treasure Cay is best known for its long, pristine, powdery beaches and five-star golf course. The small coastal community boasts some of the best villas and resorts available in the Bahamas, in addition to beach bars and restaurants for a high-energy nightlife.
Boarding at AirGate is fast and efficient. There is no need to arrive hours early. A fleet of powerful twin-engine Cessna 414s, flown by FAA certified Part 135 pilots with thousands of hours of flying experience, promise a safe, fast and reliable flight. Plush leather seats and plenty of legroom complete the equation for convenience, peace of mind and comfort.
Owner Frank Norman established AirGate in 2002. The company began offering flights to the Bahamas in 2008.
"Our service is about the convenience you can't get any more with the airlines," Mr. Norman said. "People can bring their fishing poles and even pets, in some cases. We're very flexible and reliable."
He said in the past many people have had bad experiences on smaller planes or have been inconvenienced using big air carriers with flights to the Bahamas originating from Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Orlando.
"They spent most of the day on a plane and had to fly into Nassau," Mr. Norman said.
And, often, smaller flights were cancelled because of too few passengers.
"We run regardless of whether there's one person or a full airplane," he said.
Although AirGate's primary business is flying to the Abacos and northern end of the Bahamas, Mr. Norman said the company offers charters all over the United States.
"Most of our charter flights are in the Southeast and many of our clients are businesspeople, such as attorneys traveling for depositions or real estate agents going to closings. They can go to a small airport near their home where we'll pick them up and take them to an airport near where they need to take care of their business, and then we'll bring them back," Mr. Norman said.
He said another benefit of using AirGate is the time call-center reservationists have to help familiarize travelers with their destination environment as well as aid with other issues, such as necessary documents, accommodations, boat rentals and other vacation-related details.
"We are experts in what we do and we are still a very hands-on, customer-service oriented business," Mr. Norman said.
Marsh Harbour and Treasure Cay are optimal in their proximity to Volusia County - 265 nautical miles. He said a typical flight is one hour and thirty minutes long.
"It's amazing that many don't know what's close to us for an international vacation," Mr. Norman said. "And these islands are pristine, safe and they have a small-town feeling, kind of like New Smyrna Beach."
He said around 80 percent of the homes there are owned by U.S. residents and are available for rent during peak seasons - February through April for fishing and May through the first of August for vacationing.
And you won't be a tourist for long.
"It's really nice because people get to know each other from seeing each other over the years," Mr. Norman said.
AirGate Aviation is at 2022 Aero Circle in New Smyrna Beach. For information and reservations, call (386) 478-0600 or visit flyairgate.com.