Did you know it’s possible to take a scenic seaplane flight without having to pay a lot of money? To find out how to enjoy an amazing scenic flight without breaking the bank, continue reading!
When visiting a city, I’m always tempted to take a helicopter ride or a scenic flight: both of which tend to be costly and short-lived. They may be memorable, but afterward, you don’t have money left over to do much more!
A few months ago I found a solution to balance both memorable and affordable. I overheard a colleague talking about a flight she took with her husband and how inexpensive and impressive it was. I asked her for more details, and she told me about “repo” flights. Repo is short for repositioning, and airlines, and cruise ships often have to reposition their fleet. Repositioning means moving a plane or ship from one location to another. When doing this, some companies sell tickets at a hugely discounted price.
My husband’s birthday was right around the corner, so I decided I would try to surprise him with one of these flights. A scenic flight over Seattle sounded like a great idea to me! I just hoped it would work out. Every company has a different policy regarding repositioning, so I wasn’t entirely sure if it would work out. It turned out that Kenmore Air had a simple process and I was able to get roundtrip tickets for two adults for $80!
Kenmore Air is a family owned business located in Seattle, Washington, founded in 1946. Kenmore Air has several terminals around the Seattle area, including downtown Seattle on South Lake Union and Kenmore on Lake Washington.
Kenmore Air has several other terminals around Washington and in Victoria B.C. and offers flights to San Juan Island, Orcas Island, Lopez Island, Friday Harbor, Victoria (Canada), as well as other small islands and resorts. You can see all their destinations right here. They also offer scenic flights, charter flights, and special activities like a floatplane picnic.
Kenmore Air sells tickets for repositioning float plane flights between their South Lake Union and Kenmore terminals only. I checked to see if they offered this to any other destinations and they said no.
To get a seat on a repo flight, you will need to call Kenmore Air early in the morning on the day you are interested in getting a flight. You should call around 8 AM. Unfortunately, you cannot book in advance. When you call you can ask if they have any repo flights planned for the day, they will know what you are talking about – even though it might feel like an odd request. The agent that answers will let you know the schedule for the day.
The day I called they had several flights in both directions available. I informed them that I wanted to depart from the Kenmore location and wanted a return flight from South Lake Union if possible. They had two flights available from the Kenmore location. I chose an 11 AM departure. There was only one flight back from Seattle at 6:45 PM. I booked two roundtrip tickets ($80 for two people!).
To complete the reservation, they need some passenger details, such as name, weight, the weight of any luggage, and address information. You can pay over the phone by credit card. Once you finish the booking process, you will be emailed your boarding passes and then need to show up 45 minutes before the scheduled departure.
We arrived at the Kenmore terminal a little later than planned, around 10:30 AM, but it turned out that was fine. If you are driving, I recommend departing from the Kenmore terminal. The Kenmore location has a bigger parking lot, and if it is full, you can park on the street for free. The South Lake Union lot is small, and street parking is not free – unless it is Sunday.
Check-in was easy, and the agent told us our pilot would call our names around 11 AM. The terminal was busy, and I was wondering how they would announce our flight. The employee told us that the pilot would check inside and outside and not to worry, he would find us.
Since it was a beautiful summer day, we decided to sit outside to watch the planes taking off from Lake Washington. There are plenty of picnic tables, chairs, and benches to sit at while waiting for your flight. I enjoyed having some time to look at the planes and get some photos. As 11 AM rolled around, we still were not called by our pilot. An employee came out to let everyone know that some weather issues in the islands were causing flight delays and some departures would be leaving a little later. The weather was beautiful, and we were not in a hurry, so we didn’t mind just hanging out.
Around 11:30 we heard our names called. We approached the pilot who called our names, and he introduced himself to us, and let us know he was looking for two more individuals. Once we found the other two people, we walked to the small float plane that we would be taking to South Lake Union. The pilot was very friendly and helped us to board the little plane.
Once inside he gave a brief safety speech and then asked if anyone wanted to sit in the cockpit with him. Once he found his co-pilot, we were ready to start the journey.
The take-off was smooth, and we had excellent views! We flew over I-5, University of Washington, downtown Seattle, and Lake Washington before beginning our descent to the South Lake Union terminal.
We had great views of South Lake Union as we landed! The small plane was navigating amongst kayakers and floaters on the lake as we made our way to the terminal.
The South Lake Union Terminal is in an excellent location. You can walk to the Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI), the Space Needle, Seattle Center, MoPop, and the monorail at Seattle Center that will take you to Westlake Center and from there you can easily walk to Pike Place Market. It is not difficult to entertain yourself if you have time to kill before your return flight.
We had lunch, visited Seattle Center, and spent some time in a coffee shop until it was time for us to head back to the terminal for our flight back to Kenmore.
We got to the terminal to check-in at 6 PM for our 6:45 PM departure. This time the departure was right on time. We had a larger plane on the way back and only two other passengers.
This pilot also offered up a cock-pit seat to anyone interested. Our landing on Lake Washington in Kenmore was beautiful. We caught the sunset.
We had a lot of luck that day. Available flights in both directions, great weather, and planes almost entirely to ourselves! Though the flights were short, they were still a lot of fun!
The total flight time in one direction is about 8-10 minutes. If you book the scenic flight with Kenmore Air, you will pay around $99 (one way), but the flight is 20 minutes and includes a narrated tour. If you want a narrated tour, it might be worth spending the extra money. However, if you are looking for an inexpensive and fun activity, you will not be disappointed with a shorter repo flight.
I recommend checking the weather before planning a flight. While the plane does not reach high altitudes and you can still see, visibility will be much more impressive on a clear and sunny day.
If you are in Seattle give Kenmore Air a call at 866.435.9524 and see if you can score a seat on their next repo flight!