After having spent a wonderful five-week workcation in Madeira, I got to enjoy a very special flight routing this summer. From Madeira, Portugal I flew to New York via Ponta Delgada in the Azores with SATA Azores Airlines.
I admit, I was a bit skeptical when booking this trip. After all, this is not your ordinary Heathrow to JFK service. But after some positive reviews, I dared and booked the flight with Azores Airlines.
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Flight Review: Madeira to New York with Azores Airlines
#1 The Backstory
Already established in 1941, SATA "is committed to overcoming the archipelago's isolation in the midst of the Atlantic". And it’s doing a fantastic job at this, by the way.
True to its motto, Azores Airlines has launched direct service between Ponta Delgada on the island of São Miguel and New York City in the summer of 2022. Since I wanted to take a road trip through New England following my workcation in Madeira anyway, this connection came at just the right time for me.
#2 Flight S4 161 | Madeira to Ponta Delgada
On a Saturday morning, I boarded an A320, which was scheduled to bring me from Madeira to Ponta Delgada in the Azores. The flight took about 1h 45 min and offered a breathtaking panorama of Madeira from above shortly after takeoff. Check out the video I took during takeoff here.
Prior on the ground, the check-in at Funchal Airport went smoothly. During check-in, the agent checked the documents needed for entering the United States (e.g. ESTA and the Covid vaccination certificate). The luggage was checked directly through to New York.
Arriving on board of the A320, I was first impressed by the quite generous seat pitch in economy class. In fact, despite my size of 2.05 m / 6 ft 8 I could sit quite comfortably. The aircraft made a good impression and the cabin crew seemed friendly and engaged.
The biggest surprise for me was the free snack box including a typical sandwich and cookies as well as non-alcoholic beverages, which were served shortly after take-off. Other European carriers should take note! The flight time really flew by and we touched down on time in the Azores about 1.5 hours later.
#3 Layover in Ponta Delgada, Azores
The routing called for a five-hour layover in the Azores, but that hadn’t stopped me from booking – on the contrary. Before I left, I researched things to see and do during a layover in Ponta Delgada, Azores. Ponta Delgada is the capital of the island of São Miguel. Since it is the largest island of the Azores, it is also a great place to get a taste of the archipelago.
Even more relaxing is a stroll through the port city of Ponta Delgada itself. Although the city center is in walking distance from the airport (about 30 minutes according to Google Maps), I decided to take a short cab ride. 10 euros felt like a great investment for a smooth and quick transfer from the terminal to the city center.
During a layover in the Azores, a walk through the city center of Ponta Delgada is a relaxing way to spend a few hours on São Miguel Island. Near the port, you may marvel at the the three-arched city gate Portas da Cidade and the church Igreja Matriz de São Sebastião, the latter boasting an impressive Gothic-style facade.
A visit to the market hall or – if you have a little more time – a whale watching cruise are also ways to make the most of a layover in Ponta Delgada. I left it at a relaxed stroll through the city and strengthened myself in a small diner, before it heading back to the airport by cab.
#3 Flight S4 247 | Ponta Delgada to New York
Back at the airport, I passed through security and headed straight for the gate. Ponta Delgada is a very manageable airport. Walking distances are short.
Boarding, which began a short time later, unfortunately seemed a bit disorganized. I want to note however that a flight to Boston had been cancelled the day before. This lead to a total of three transatlantic flights (two to Boston and one to New York) departing around the same time. I was told that all flights were fully booked.
Accordingly, the rush at the neighboring gates was somewhat greater than usual. However, that was actually the only slightly negative experience of my trip with Azores Airlines.
Shortly after, I walked to the modern A321 that awaited me in the discreet but stylish livery typical of Azores Airlines. As we climbed to crusing altitude, the Azores offered another magnificent panorama.
Despite the modern aircraft, it should be noted that Azores Airlines does not have an IFE system with screens in the front seats. There is a well-functioning app offering a selection of movies and series, which can be streamed to your own device free of charge. The remaining flight time can also be tracked via the app.
Shortly after takeoff, the good-humored crew began on-board service, which included a complimentary meal and several rounds of alcoholic (beer/wine) and non-alcoholic beverages, even in economy.
After a smooth 6-hour flight across the Atlantic, I landed in New York on time at 8:00 p.m. local time. Overall, I was not only positively surprised by Azores Airlines, but can highly recommend a flight with SATA.