I Was on JetBlue's First Flight to Tulum’s New Airport — Here’s What It Was Like

The flight departs from JFK every morning.

<p>Courtesy of Alison Fox </p>

Courtesy of Alison Fox

JetBlue’s first-ever flight to Tulum in Mexico took off on Thursday, with passengers leaning into the aisle, waiving Mexican and American flags in the air, and cheering as the plane prepared to pull out from the gate. The excitement was palpable, just as you would expect for not just a new route, but a brand-new airport.

The flags had been placed at each seat along with a vintage-looking postcard (with a JetBlue plane in the background, of course) for the early morning flight. But the fanfare first started at the gate, which was decorated with balloon pillars. Passengers were offered celebratory breakfast burritos and fruit towers.

Tulum’s Felipe Carrillo Puerto Tulum International Airport (TQO) first opened to international flights this spring, and major carriers immediately started calling it home, including American Airlines and Delta Air Lines. Before it opened, travelers had to fly into Cancun and then trek two hours to Tulum.

Getting to Tulum (and even traveling beyond Tulum) with the new airport has been a real game changer, Andrés Martínez Reynoso, the director of the Quintana Roo Tourism Board, told Travel + Leisure at the gate following a lively ribbon-cutting ceremony.

“We’re already seeing a different dynamic that we never had [because] people planned their vacation [around] landing in Cancun,” Martínez Reynoso said, adding, “It's changing the way we look at our own destination … Now with Tulum, it brings especially the destinations that we have in the south … closer to the north of the state. In a way, people are going to have more options when they vacation there.”

With its new flight, JetBlue has become the only airline to fly direct to Tulum from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK).

This is what it was like on board JetBlue’s inaugural flight to Tulum, and what it’s like when you arrive.

The Flight

From the moment we crossed the jetway and boarded, you could tell this flight was special. Alternating flags from the United States and Mexico welcomed passengers to their seats along with a canvas pouch to keep as a souvenir. Even the pilots were excited, coming out of the cockpit to brief passengers on the flight path.

The celebrations continued with a round of in-flight Bingo for passengers on board during which the flight crew selected a letter and scrolled through seat numbers to pick a random winner. Like the Price is Right, winners were told to “come on down,” dancing their way down the aisles to cheers and high-fives.

The prizes were certainly worth getting excited for: two $500 certificates for a JetBlue Vacations travel package and a pair of roundtrip tickets for two to anywhere the airline flies.

The flight itself was not terribly long at just about three and a half hours, and before we knew it, we were crossing the Gulf of Mexico and starting our descent into Tulum.

JetBlue will fly once each day to Tulum from New York, marking the airline’s third destination in Mexico in addition to nearby Cancun and Los Cabos. The flight will operate on an Airbus A320 aircraft and, while it doesn’t offer JetBlue’s Mint business class suites, it features both economy and Even More Space seats for extra legroom.

The flight takes off at 8 a.m. each morning and arrives in Tulum at 11:15 a.m. before departing at 12:45 p.m. and arriving back in New York at 5:49 p.m. There is a one hour time difference between Tulum and New York.

To celebrate the new flight, JetBlue is offering $99 one-way fares for travelers who book by June 14 and travel from Aug. 3 to Oct. 30. The promotion does not include travel on Thursdays or Fridays.

<p>Courtesy of Alison Fox</p>

Courtesy of Alison Fox

The Airport

Tulum’s international airport first opened to domestic flights in December 2023 before welcoming international travelers on March 28. And it still has that new airport feel from the colorful overhead screens leading travelers down a tunnel to baggage claim to bright floor-to-ceiling windows and skylights, the elaborate and colorful jungle-themed children’s playground, and more.

There are plenty of places to grab a bite or shop including typical duty-free items, mezcal spots, and chains like Starbucks and Carl’s Jr. But not everything is open. A sign for Le Pain Quotidien, for example, told travelers the cafe was “próximamente,” or coming “soon.”

The airport is about a 30 minute drive from Downtown Tulum, but it’s about to get easier to travel around the area thanks to the new and expanding El Tren Maya. The train first launched in January between Cancún — adjacent to the Cancun International Airport (CUN) — and Playa del Carmen, but Martínez Reynoso told T+L it will extend to cover between both Cancun and Tulum’s airports in August. Eventually, the train will include more than 34 stations across southeast Mexico, including at popular sites like Chichén Itzá.

<p>Courtesy of Alison Fox </p>

Courtesy of Alison Fox

The Stay

We walked out of the airport and into the heat, and started making our way toward the beach. Driving past Downtown Tulum, I made a mental list of all the places I wanted to go back to to shop for chic wicker clutches and adorable baby clothes, before finally pulling up to the Hilton Tulum Riviera Maya All-Inclusive Resort.

The large resort — there are 735 rooms and suites — just opened in 2022 and stretches across a powdery sand beach, featuring 13 bars and restaurants, a spa I was excited to check out, and small pools dotted along the water’s edge. From my room, I watched palm trees swaying in the wind and sea glass-colored waves crashing against the beach and couldn’t wait to explore.

I’ve visited destinations all across Mexico from coast to coast, including nearby Cancun, but I’d never been to Tulum before. And from its gorgeous white sand beaches to unique cenotes (or glittering underground caves), and buzzy downtown, there was plenty to get excited for.

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