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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

MBJ airport/Sangster International Airport ~ Montego Bay, Jamaica

January 2015


We had Sky Priority first class seats on Delta, and I have Priority Pass membership through American Express. This is our departure experience from Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay, Jamaica.

Delta check-in

Our check-in experience was very quick. It would have been even quicker except for the rude passengers who cut in line in front of us.

There were no passengers in the first class/Sky Priority lane when we arrived. We paused briefly after entering the queue to reply to the agent who wanted to confirm that we were entering the correct line. As we turned away from her to continue up the queue, two passengers ran right by all of us with their luggage and up to the check-in counter. We observed these passengers later because they were on the same flight as we were, although not in the first class cabin. We could have stopped them as they almost ran us over, and if we had been on a tight schedule, we would have. Although I get annoyed when people behave like this, I do not think it is worth my time to confront them unless there is a reason to do so.  

We waited in line several minutes, and when it was our turn, it took only a few moments to get our bags checked and receive our boarding passes. I had entered all of our passport information and checked us in online at Sandals Royal Caribbean the day before, although we did not have printed boarding passes. 

Security checkpoint

The security checkpoint was fairly long, although it was not as long as it had been when we departed Jamaica in December 2012. We approached the Club MoBay desk and Fast Track lane on the left because I have TSA pre-check and Priority Pass, and we had first class seats. We were told that Club MoBay was full, and that they would not honor Priority Pass. I showed the agent our boarding passes and asked about a TSA pre-check or first class lane. We were then directed to the Fast Track lane to the far right inside the entryway, and we were through security in a matter of minutes.

I am not sure if we received expedited screening because of our first class seats or Priority Pass. TSA pre-check did not make a difference, and we still needed to remove our shoes and such for screening. The Priority Pass site says that membership gives members complimentary entrance to the Fast Track lane. We had Priority Pass in 2012, although we did not have first class seats for that trip, and we were not allowed to go through the Fast Track lane at that time.

Club MoBay

I did not believe that the club was sold-out because we could have purchased two passes online when I checked us in for our flight ($30 each), and the airport was not that crowded. We decided to find a representative inside the club to ask about this.

The club was easy to find by following the overhead signs in the airport. We talked with a representative near the entrance who also would not honor Priority Pass. I do not understand why Club MoBay chooses not to honor memberships like Priority Pass. Priority Pass only covers the card holder, and it is $27 for guests. I assume the club would receive compensation from Priority Pass for the cardholder, as well. Granted, these amounts may both be slightly less than the $30 (advance purchase online) or $35 (non-advance purchase) fee charged by Club MoBay directly; however, I do not expect this would result in a loss for the club.

Here are my Club MoBay observations and review, along with information for Priority Pass holders: The Club MoBay booking site accepted my Priority Pass membership number when I started to make an advance booking using the "Bookings for Partners" tab. I did not complete the process because the next page showed a $30 charge for each of us. I contacted Priority Pass after our experience to ask if this fee would be waived during or after the booking process. Unfortunately, the reply I received answered my questions, although it was unhelpful to gaining access to the club. Priority Pass said that I should not make the reservation and pay the $30 fee; admission to the club is granted just like any other club, by showing my card upon arrival and paying $27 for my guest if it is not at capacity.

It appeared as though we could have purchased passes directly, if the club was nearing or over capacity; however, they would not honor other memberships in that situation. In hindsight, maybe we should have attempted to purchase passes first, and then produced Priority Pass before paying. I do not think we would have been turned away, if we had purchased two $30 or $35 entrance passes because I have read several reviews, like the following, from travelers who said the lounge was overcrowded. These reviews are not from the date we tried to access the club. December 2014: "Overcrowded but quick through security." February 2015: "The departure lounge is a tad too busy." "We found the lounge loud, busy and just as chaotic as sitting in the terminal." "-it was very crowded and noisy - with bags left all over the place."

Duty-free shops

There are several duty-free shopping options inside the airport after security, and the prices are good. My husband purchased a 1-liter bottle of Appleton Estate 12-year rum for $25.50. This same bottle cost more than twice this amount at Sandals Royal Caribbean.

Purchases inside the airport can be carried on the airplane, and if your first stop inside the states is not your final destination, then the bottle needs to be packed inside your checked luggage after retrieving your bag(s) for customs.