Welcome to another Aeroplan adventure! This time, it’s off for a quick jaunt to Chile with Air Canada and Avianca.
Here’s the rundown
AC962 YYZ-BOG 3/14/2016 - Here AV97 BOG-SCL 3/14/2016 - You are here AV98 SCL-BOG 3/16/2016 - Coming soon AC963 BOG-YYZ 3/16/2016 - Coming soon
When last we saw each other, your intrepid flight-reporter had just arrived through transit security into the international terminal in Bogota.
With a long layover ahead of me — the only available connection on Aeroplan is more than nine hours after my arrival into Bogota, and it’s the one I wanted, since it puts me on the 787 — it’s off to find the lounge. Normally, I’d probably head into town and see some sights, but unfortunately there’s a whole “reciprocity fee” nastiness, and I don’t fee like being nearly $100 out of pocket before I begin an all-too-brief tour. So the lounge will have to do.
I quickly find the Avianca “Diamond Elite” lounge just outside security and the duty-free shops, but finding the lounge for we regular folks proves a bit elusive. Eventually, I pop my head into the Diamond lounge, and ask. I am, in fact, in the wrong place. The “regular” lounge is upstairs, by the elevators. And yes, when I approach the elevators, I do see there’s a “Avianca Lounge” sign over top of them, but it’s not something one would notice unless one was looking for it.
So up I go to the food court, and my short mystery is over. The lounge is very obvious, right next to the food court on this mezzanine level.
My boarding pass is quickly scanned, WiFi is explained to me, and I’m welcomed in.
The lounge isn’t very big, but it feels quite large, partially because it’s open to the concourse and the large windows out to the apron. When I arrive in the early afternoon, it is packed solid. I eventually find a place to sit in a cozy little back room with some chairs and a TV, and set up shop there for a little while, catching up on e-mail and the like.
After about an hour in the lounge, I notice the volume has gone way down in terms of crowd noise. I poke my head out of my little hideaway, and find the place has largely emptied out. It would get busier again later, but never quite as manic as it was when I walked in. With fewer people to disturb (and to disturb me in turn) I figure it’s time to check the place out a little bit.
The main hall is full of various tables, chairs and benches in a variety of configurations.
Here’s the little hideaway where I had been camped out — I was just to the right behind the partial wall with the TV on it.
There’s also a pretty well-equipped business centre, courtesy of lounge sponsor Samsung.
They could probably use a sponsor for the buffet, because it’s pretty slim pickings. Nothing more than snack level. Some sort of pound cake, an empanada kind of affair (to the best of my knowledge), and a few very small sandwich bits. Yeah, clearly nothing more than snacks.
I had back to my seat — conveniently located next to one of the recharging stations (sponsored by Movistar, who also bring you the WiFi!) — with my snack. It’s decent enough, but this lounge is clearly not getting high marks for its catering.
The WiFi is good. It’s easy to connect and reasonably fast. Full marks there.
Here’s a look from where I sit.
My afternoon routine is eventually interrupted by an older lady with a British accent, who sees me working on a Mac, and wonders if I might be able to help her out. She’s just bought a MacBook for her trip, and she’s pretty sure someone else is “in it.” This sounds odd to me, but there is malware in the wild for the Mac this day, so I offer to help as best I can with a caveat that I am no an expert. She shows me the problem — it turns out there’s just another Mac with a shared folder or two showing up under the Shared tab in the Finder. I explain it’s just another user who has some files available on the network, and that there’s nobody in any way compromising her computer, and she’s quite relieved. I also explain how to attach photos from Apple’s Photos app into her Webmail app of choice. Apple does not make this process easy. We chat for a bit — she’s traveling alone throughout South America, currently on her way to the Galapagos Islands, and may be stopping by Santiago later in the month in a bid to go to Easter Island. Sounds like quite the adventure she’s on!
After chilling here for a while, I decide it’s time for a change of scenery, so I ask at the front desk if I might take a shower. They take my boarding pass, mark with with a big “D”, and show me off to the shower area. Instead of the usual “bagged towel” deal that most lounges present you, I’m presented a little bundle with towels and a box of amenities wrapped up with a cute little Avianca Red bow. A very nice touch.
Inside the box are some goodies — soap, shampoo, moisturizer, and foot spray. I’d have hoped for a dental kit, maybe… but I’m not going to complain. Foot spray! My fellow passengers can thank Avianca for my minty feet on the flight down to Santiago!
After working out a few kinks in the shower room — the attendant had left the deadbolt set, so I couldn’t close the door initially — I shave and have a nice shower. The space is very small. So much so that it’s a bit of a juggling act to get my carry-on open to select a new shirt. But it does the job. The sink, unfortunately, only offers cold — or perhaps tepid is the right word — water, so it’s not the best shave I’ve ever had. It’s also exclusively motion-controlled, meaning I can’t keep it running for razor-rinsing purposes.
But the shower is just fine — the shower stall itself is large enough, and it’s designed well to contain the water. Which, by the way, is hot over here. Just not over at the sink.
Refreshed, with a new shirt, a decent shave, and feet smelling like mint, I head back out into the lounge to chill for another couple of hours until boarding. I’m getting pretty hungry at this point — and I’m not entirely sure if I’ll be getting dinner or breakfast (maybe both? Dare to dream?) on the flight to Santiago, so it’s time for another snack. Note the brand name on the ice tea. I’ll admit it made me snicker.
After puttering a bit longer, the place starts to fill in — almost to occupancy levels upon my arrival — around 9:00, so with about 20 minutes before boarding is due to begin, I decide to head out, find my gate, and see what I can see along the way.
It turns out there’s not much of a walk to the gate — it’s almost right below the elevators up to the lounge.
And, good news, there’s a 787 currently being catered and cleaned sitting at the gate, so things look good for us this evening.
Not much in the way of planespotting going on, but here’s the Copa 737 sitting next to us.
Boarding is called pretty much on time, and I quickly find myself heading down the long snaking walkways towards my ride down to Santiago.
Flight: AC97 From: Bogota (BOG) To: Santiago (SCL) Date: 3/14/2016 Aircraft: Boeing 787-8 Registration: N783AV Seat: 3A ATD (STD): 22:43 (22:22) ATA (STA): 05:40 (05:53+1)
For this flight, I’m in seat 3A, a portside window. Like AC, AV has gone with a 1-2-1 herringbone setup in Business, for a total of 20 seats. So I’m right in the middle of the cabin.
Unlike AC, they’ve opted for a screen that has to be “stowed” for takeoff and landing — although in practicality, the crew seems fine with it not being stowed at all at any time. But it’s a nice big, high-resolution screen. Too bad it’s stuck playing “welcome aboard” music and a slideshow on a loop while we’re on the ground.
A look at the legroom on this setup, as well as a cupholder and the literature included with the seat.
And because footwells can be a controversial issue, here’s a look into the space itself.
Pillow and blanket are bagged together at each seat, stuffed into the footwell — and with the signature Avianca red bow, just like the towels in the lounge.
Noise cancelling headphones are offered in this cubby. They aren’t quite as good as my own pair, but they’re good enough that I don’t bother to get my own pair out of my luggage.
Seat controls and ports are all huddled together on this panel behind the headphone cubby. Everything’s pretty intuitive, and the touchscreen remote is great — pull up your in-flight map without leaving your IFE program, and all that good stuff.
A look across the cabin, as boarding continues.
Screen deployed, I find myself wondering “Is that a camera?” on top of the screen. I’m sure it’s not, but still, very odd.
A look directly across into the middle of aisle three. The middle pair look like they’d be very good for passengers traveling together, but a little bit less ideal for solo travelers due to less privacy than one might hope for.
Pre-depature drinks — water, orange juice, or a Chilean sparkling wine — are offered. I try the wine, and quite like it. It’s served with a mix of peanuts and almonds.
Next comes the big haul of handouts. I’m impressed by an amenity kit on a flight of this length. There’s also a canvas bag of some sort, and the menu. Let’s take a closer look.
The menu is an interesting affair — rather than any kind of specialized menu, this is the menu for every Avianca flight, sorted by breakfast, lunch, and dinner. There’s a foldback on the cover that can be used as a “placeholder” for the flight, but it’s not in this case.
And tonight’s dinner menu.
The amenity kit isn’t bad, about what one would expect. I always appreciate a pen in the amenity kit, and this little half-size pen in Avianca red is very cute.
And… ummm…. the bag. I’m not sure what the deal is. Maybe a shoe bag?
Boarding is quickly enough completed, and the jetway pushes away from our plane. The safety video rolls, and we’re out of here.
I imagine we’ll be racing this one down to Santiago tonight.
After announcements are done, the screen is freed up to explore. It’s a pretty intuitive system, and very responsive. With the icons at the bottom, I’m left to assume that they’re just “borrowing” from Android, and the system is not, in and of itself, Android-based.
A look at the terminal in Bogota as we head out.
A brief taxi and we’re into the skies in the Bogota night. Oddly enough, the cabin lights are not dimmed for takeoff, and that combined with the big, flat surface of the inside of a 787 window makes it all but impossible to get an image out the window without all kinds of reflections.
As we climb out, I explore the entertainment system a bit more. It’s a touchscreen, but the remote is really the way to do it. I choose the movie Carol to keep me entertained while we await dinner service.
A quick visit to the lav — standard 787 business class washroom fare, but some nice flowers.
Back at my seat, and service begins with a very small and thin hot towel.
A few minutes later, and dinner is served pretty much altogether from the cart. I go for the chicken, and have a glass of the Shiraz and some water to accompany it. The wine, Chilean, is pretty decent.
The appetizer is okay, but nothing special. It may have been more enjoyable if I’d have “discovered” the mustard vinaigrette that is to accompany this before I was down to just the lettuce. For the record, the vinaigrette was pretty tasty.
There’s the vinaigrette by the spoon at the top. The main course is just okay. It’s tasty enough, but the chicken is a little dry. The portion is also a little small for dinner, and I’m by no means stuffed when the main course of the meal is over.
After dinner, we’re offered the choice of dessert (apple tart) or cheese. I choose the cheese, and it’s pretty good, although odd it’s not accompanied by any crackers. A nice bit of Bailey’s on ice accompanies it to round out the meal.
It’s a smaller dinner, yes, but I give Avianca credit for getting the meal over and done with in just over an hour out of Bogota, especially on this too-short red-eye flight.
After dinner, bottles of water are distributed. The lights stay on for a surprisingly long time, given the late hour, but I put my seat down into flat bed mode, and quickly find myself on my way to dreamtime. I guess I’ll have to finish my movie on the way home.
I found the seat quite comfortable in sit and lounge modes, but struggled a bit with the legroom when it was laid flat. I just found it a little bit restrictive, and woke up with my legs a little sore from being curved back to fit into the hole. That said, I did get a good sleep in, waking up a few times along the way, but not fully coming to until we were pretty much on descent into Santiago. Yep, almost there.
For descent, the lights are brought up full again, and it’s still dark outside. So again, taking pictures out the windows are all but impossible.
The seat belt sign comes on at about the regular point in the descent, but the big difference seems to be that there’s no effort to enforce it, and I watch with interest as passengers head out to the bathroom when we’re well below 10,000 feet, and even into final descent. Finally, no more than 90 seconds off the ground, the in-charge prevents another passenger from heaving up to the lav, and insists he takes his seat — since, y’know, we’re pretty much at treetop level at this point.
We land safely, and quickly decelerate. A brief taxi, and we arrive at our jetway at the terminal. In no time at all, we’re let off, although no effort is made to enforce any sense of priority disembarking for business class passengers. Nevertheless, I’m quickly off the plane, and passport control and customs are pretty much dead, so I’m through and out of the airport with just carry-on luggage in no more than about ten minutes. I grab a cab, and head off to my hotel in Santiago, which I’m very much looking forward to to continue my sleep.
We’ll pick up the storyline upon my return to SCL bright and early tomorrow morning, when I’ll be taking the 24-hours-later return of this same flight.
Thanks for reading!
Bogota - BOG
Santiago - SCL
A pretty good introduction to Avianca. The hard product on their 787 is very nice — maybe the second-nicest business cabin I’ve seen on a Star Alliance 787, after AC’s. Okay, maybe third after AC and the international configuration from NH.
Service was very good, and quite accommodating given my absolute lack of Spanish language. The IFE is quite good, although selection could be a little bit more complete.
The meal was a little bit lacking in both quality and quantity, but perhaps catering isn’t Avianca’s strong suite — especially since this was from their flagship hub.
With this flight, I believe I’ve been on every current Star Alliance 787 product, except two — namely United and Air New Zealand. United should be easy enough to get onto, but since ANZ doesn’t release any long-haul business class seats to Star Alliance partners, that last one is going to be tough. Still, perhaps someday….
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