This series covers a weeklong trip to PTY and BAQ on CM, for a detailed background, please see Part 3.
Part 1 – LAX-SFO [AA 6047, Embraer ERJ-175, Main Cabin Extra] – No report Part 2 – SFO-LAX [AA 169, Boeing B737-800, Main Cabin Extra] – Bonus to Part 3 Part 3 – LAX-PTY [CM 473, Boeing B737-800, Clase Ejecutiva] – Here Part 4 – PTY-BAQ [CM 675, Embraer ERJ-190, Clase Ejecutiva] – You are Here Part 5 – BAQ-PTY [CM 630, Embraer ERJ-190, Clase Ejecutiva] – Here Part 6 – PTY-LAX [CM 472, Boeing B737-800, Clase Ejecutiva] – Here
This report will cover the flight from PTY to BAQ aboard CM in J. The lounge visit will be to the dreaded Copa Club. The bonus at the end will be of my day at the Miraflores Locks on the Panama Canal.
After a leisurely breakfast at the hotel, I checked out and took a taxi to PTY at 8:30am. The agreed fare was the standard $30 ($25+$5 for tolls). The driver was very friendly and had a newspaper in the backseat for me to read (always good to start the day with headlines like this…).
We had little traffic and I was dropped off in front of PTY at 8:55am.
The left half of the check-in lobby is CM, the other side is the “others” with AV having the largest footprint.
There are 4-6 PreferAccess lines and I was quickly helped. The agent confirmed I was staying in Colombia for less than 90 days, then handed me my boarding pass and baggage slip. She handed me a boarding pass for 1B, I had selected 4A online. I promptly asked her for a window seat. She gave me 1A instead. (The reason why 4A vanished will be explained later…)
The DL and AA check-in counters. AV is in the far back.
A view of the lobby from upstairs.
Upstairs, there are some chairs and a bunch of hallways filled with offices.
Nothing to see up there, so I went back downstairs and headed through the empty immigration/security line.
Clearing security, the FIDS. My flight is showing on time departing from Gate 11.
The concourse is lined with shops, but is pretty dark.
I head towards the infamous Copa Club.
The non-descript entrance that is wedged in between a coffee shop and chocolatier. This is why I walked by it 3 times last visit before noticing the small sliding door.
Inside, my boarding pass is scanned. The agent notifies me of a gate change and hands me a new boarding pass. How my gate changed from the time I entered the terminal to the time I walked to the lounge, who knows.
The pitiful buffett in its entirety. Your choice of water, hot water, decaf coffee, or coffee on the left. On the right is 3 types of cereal, yogurt, butter/cream cheese, and then some bagels and white bread on the far right. That’s all CM offers in its hub.
There is also a bar around the back if you want a different drink than coffee or water.
The lounge was packed. There was a soccer team heading to SJO that was occupying about half the lounge. I couldn’t tell what club it was. I took refuge in the empty business center. Interestingly, they still have UA’s MileagePlus on their speed dial.
My boarding documents.
After 40 minutes of the lounge, I decided to just leave and do some spotting.
The usual suspects.
CM ERJ-190 in ConnectMiles.com special livery.
CM B738 in BioMuseo special livery.
Artwork on display in the terminal.
The walkway to the Gate 1-10 area.
More CMs. The one in the front is in honor of the 100th anniversary of the Panama Canal.
CM B738 in *A special livery and a bug on the window.
My sexy lady shows up at 11:15, we are not going to be leaving on time.
The bathrooms in PTY are clean.
Copa Airlines Colombia, CM 675 Equipment: Embraer ERJ-190 [HK-4454, delivered December 2006] Departure: 11:50 (ATD: 12:10) Arrival: 12:59 (ATA: 13:03) Flight time: 0:53
The information for the previous flight (DL to ATL) is still being displayed at your gate causing some confusion (hence the mob around the desk).
Everyone is assured this is the flight to BAQ and we board at 11:40am. The boarding was very orderly with no one crowding the entrance and priorities were respected.
Stepping into the plane, I was shocked at what I saw. This cabin is in 2-2 configuration and not the 1-2 shown on the seatmaps. Even worse, there was a lady already sitting in 1B. There were only 3 rows of J (the 1-2 configuration has 4 rows), hence why I was bumped out of 4A at check-in.
The bulkhead seats.
The seat pitch is excellent, I can’t even stretch and touch the wall. The seats may be the same as Y, but the pitch is very good in all rows.
The July issue of Panorama highlighting Havana’s “Militant Glamour.”
The fleet info showing the 2 types of ERJ-190s they have.
The route map for Copa Airlines Columbia.
The safety card on this ERJ-190.
PDBs offered (water or orange juice). So they give PDBs on PTY-BAQ, but not on LAX-PTY…
The front door closed, so I moved over to 1F. The load was 4/12. 1A, 1F, 2E, and 2F were occupied.
The seat pitch is the same over here.
A peek into the galley.
As we backup and PDBs are cleared, the FA introduces herself and addresses me as “Señor NGO85.” She explains the menu in Spanish; I only catch part of it. It was a chicken pizza or some sort of crepe. I asked for the crepe and asked for it to be served with a beer. Pretty impressive to have options on a 50-minute flight. I was expecting a generic snack for everyone.
Pushing back as the safety is done in English/Spanish.
We have a 30-second taxi to the runway and wait for our Panamanian registered twin take-off.
Aligning onto the runway.
We lift up 20-minutes late over the CM hangar.
Crossing the Rio Pacora.
As we disappear into the clouds, a brief seat tour. The seats are standard ERJ seats, the bulkhead tray table folds out from the side.
Standard overhead fixtures.
As soon as they are signaled, the FAs bolt into action. Hot oshibori are distributed.
I sneak off to the lavatory, which is slightly less clean than I would like. The do not pour coffee sign is interesting, since it doesn’t pertain to passengers, only crews.
Returning to my seat, everyone else has already been served and the cart is waiting for me.
My tray as delivered.
The main, a savory crepe filled with chicken, plantain, some sort of nuts, and maybe some other stuff I didn’t hear in the description or could identify. Sautéed vegetables served on the side.
A small cake for dessert. Very nice to serve a cake and not some pre-packaged dessert.
We were soaring over the Caribbean by the time meal service was underway.
Customs declaration forms were distributed after the meal as the cabin was prepared for final descent.
First sight of South America.
Isla de Tierra Bomba.
We cross right over Cartagena.
The very green Colombian countryside.
We touch down just a couple minutes late.
AV A319 taxing to the runway.
BAQ. Only an AA A319 is visible.
As we turn back to the terminal, the AV A319 is lifting off.
We pull into the gate next to the AA A319.
BAQ is one of the ugliest airports I have seen in a really, really long time. This place is a concrete fortress.
The FA came through and thanked each passenger for flying. Waiting for the knock.
An equally ugly jetbridge.
Concrete everywhere! Down to immigration, which was really long since the AA flight must have just beat us in. There were 4 officers, but the process was slow. I love how Colombia makes Canadians pay an $88 CAD fee to enter their country, sticking it to the man! (Retribution for Canada making Colombians pay for visas to enter Canada) You can read more about this here.
The bags were already sitting there. The bags had 10 meters to travel; the plane was literally visible through the windows. Your bag gets x-rayed as you clear customs.
I didn’t see any ATMs on the arrivals level (which is open air, it is not an indoor area). I went back to the departure’s lobby and found several ATMs. I grabbed some Colombian pesos and went back down to get a taxi. You go to the booth and tell them your destination and they give you a voucher with the amount you owe. My taxi to Zone 9 (NW Barranquilla) was 29,000 pesos (~$9.50). The ride took about 30 minutes and went though some very ‘scenic’ barrios. The driver was very friendly and even refused to accept a tip, insisting I only pay what the voucher said.
And with that, I’ll leave off this series as I start my stay in BAQ.
————————- Bonus: Miraflores Locks at the Canal de Panama.
The locks are accessible by bus ($0.25 from Albrook Terminal, or $10 by taxi [you have little to no negotiation power, but they will try to get you to pay $15-20 at first]). I took a bus there and a taxi straight to my hotel on the return.
A view of the locks from the Observation Deck.
Looking towards the Pacific Ocean.
Looking towards the Lago Miraflores.
The new locks that opened on June 26, 2016. I only saw one boat head towards those locks.
Monuments to the men/women who built the canal. The museum part of the locks is quite poor, the museum in downtown Panama City is better. I do find the portrayal interesting, it is very pro-American. They often mention how the French started the canal, but quit and left it unfinished.
I got there at 9:00am, but they announced the first ships wouldn't be arriving until 1:30pm since they were only traveling Atlantic to Pacific today. I waited all day (poured rain for about 3 hours) and finally at 1:00pm, the first ships were seen on the horizon.
Phoenix Leader is a vehicle carrier that is currently traveling from Dundalk (MD) to Long Beach (CA). Even the US uses the canal for trans-continental transportation.
It drops down 54 feet as MV Tønsberg, the largest roll-on/roll-off ship in the world, pulls into the other lock.
Each ship is supported by 6 "tugs," that run on railroad tracks slowly pulling the boat through the locks and maintaining its lateral spacing.
The water lowers for MV Tønsberg.
The locks open.
MV Tønsberg gets pulled through.
If you are really cool, you can go down and get your picture taken with the boats^^
The locks close.
The lock is refilled, the whirlpools are where water is being rushed in.
MV Tønsberg then follows Phoenix Leader out into the Pacific Ocean.
As soon as they leave, the next pair of boats are already positioned to enter the locks.
LOA is a cargo container ship traveling from Cartagena, Colombia to Guayaquil, Ecuador this week.
She was followed through by PRT ACE, a bulk carrier traveling from New Orleans, USA to Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala.
And the cycle continues with more boats, but that's all I had time to watch. Each boat takes about 1 hour to pass through the locks.
Panamá City - PTY
Barranquilla - BAQ
Quite an unexpected experience on CM, on all fronts. The cabin was not what was promised, but the surprisingly good inf-light service and catering made me quickly forget about that.
Cabin comfort: The ERJ was a 10-year veteran, but still looked clean and well-maintained. The 2-2 cabin in J is absurd and placing 2 strangers next to each other when the cabin load was 33% is just poor customer service by check-in agents. That said, the seats are fine for a 50-minute hop and the legroom was excellent.
Crew: 2/2 on good CM crews, what is going on? The crew on this Copa Colombia flight was very friendly. They didn't speak English very well (can't blame them since they don't really fly anywhere English speaking). Addressed me by name, was attentive during service, and thanked me for flying.
Meal and catering: PDB offered. The choice of two hot entrees on a 50-minute flight is excellent. For a 50-minute flight, this tray exceeded my expectations. I was honestly expecting just a small plate with a cold snack on it, so the quantity/quality/presentation all surprised me.
Entertainment: No newspapers offered. Standard seatback literature. No IFE, only the views out the window. For a 50-minute flight, you'd only get ~20 minutes of IFE use anyways...
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