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] – Here Part 5 – BAQ-PTY [CM 630, Embraer ERJ-190, Clase Ejecutiva] – You are Here Part 6 – PTY-LAX [CM 472, Boeing B737-800, Clase Ejecutiva] – Here
This report will cover the return flight from BAQ to PTY aboard Copa Airlines Colombia in J. The lounge visit is non existent since the AV Lounge does not open until 9am in the international terminal (only open for the AV flight to MIA). The bonus at the end will be a couple pictures from Barranquilla, not a place I want to draw extra attention to myself by wielding a camera…
I woke up at 3:45am. The sleepy town of Barranquilla from my hotel room.
I checked out of my hotel and hailed a taxi parked outside at 4:15am. I asked the price, but he just waved me into the front seat and put my suitcase in the back seat. We were off to the airport quickly. We eventually get to the airport at 4:45am and he drops me off at the departure’s lobby. I hand him 50,000 pesos (still not knowing the price), he hands me 20,000 pesos in change and gives me a handshake and a “buen viaje.” I paid 29,000 pesos (~$9.50) on the way from the airport to the hotel, and received a 30,000 peso (~$9.50) fare on the return from a cab hailed on the street. I don’t have anything negative to say about Colombian cab drivers based on my two experiences, both seemed polite and honest.
Inside, I was surprised to see how busy the check-in counters were at this hour. AV counters occupy the right side, but I see CM off to the left.
All passengers are forced into a document check so I’m stuck in a queue and can’t directly access the PreferAccess line.
After my passport is inspected, I’m pointed towards the PreferAccess line (she compared names to the passenger manifest). My destination, LAX, is confirmed and my bag is tagged. I’m handed my boarding passes and baggage slip.
My backpack is also tagged as “hand luggage.”
I head outside and downstairs to the arrivals level. All of the closed rental car booths.
The booth to arrange your taxi.
The outdoor observation deck. BAQ may be a total dump, but it does have a really nice observation deck. I love how their deck is on tarmac level.
On the domestic side of the airport, a pair of AV Airbuses in old and new liveries are sitting there.
Peeking into the rear galley of the little AV A318.
My plane spent the night at BAQ, but is hiding behind a bunch of stairs.
Not sure what they were thinking when they came up with this concrete fortress architecture.
The control tower.
Close up of the concrete walls that line not only the outside, but also the inside of BAQ.
Signs leading me back up to the departure’s lobby.
These stairs will take you there, but you have to pass the guard dog who might ask you to pay a toll.
FIDS at BAQ. The traffic to BOG is incredible (6 flights are already leaving before 7:30am). They were nice to me and gave my flight a red marker to make it easier for me to find^^
Even though it was 5am, there were quite a few stores and shops open.
Including the British Pharmacy.
Unfortunately, the Junior FC official store was closed, good thing I went to the one downtown in the Portal del Prado shopping center the day before.
I just grabbed a cup of coffee and admired my boarding documents.
Two interesting things. These boarding passes still retain the “Aero Republica” name even though CM changed their operations to Copa Airlines Colombia when they acquired them. Also, since this is an Aero Republica boarding pass it says “Supporting the Star Alliance Network” instead of “A Star Alliance Member” like CM boarding passes.
The fancy domestic departures security checkpoint.
International departures are not so lucky. We get to enter through a non-descript glass door near the Chapel. At 5:30am, the police start letting people enter security and immigration. Security is just as thorough as the US, I even got a full pat down after the metal detector. At immigration, my passport was thumbed through for a bit before being stamped. There is then an interview by the police. He asked about the nature of my trip, the length of my trip, where I was travelling to (wanted to see my PTY-LAX boarding pass). He then handed me back my passport and wished me a good flight. He spent less time with me than he did with Colombian nationals.
The waiting area for international flights. This is a candid shot since the immigration checkpoint is in the background (you can see all the police in their green jackets).
My Panamanian (HP) registered ERJ-190. I had a Colombian (HK) registered plane on the previous flight. Despite being registered in Panama, this plane is Copa Airlines Colombia's plane as indicated by the Colombian flag on the top of the vertical stabilizer.
FIDS in the international waiting room. So exotic^^
The hallway towards immigration has some shops open.
El Market Colombia.
Chibcha will be happy to know that BAQ will finally be starting a renovation this year.
The AV Lounge, only open for the AV flight to MIA.
AV A320 lifting off for BOG.
AV A318 lifting off for CLO.
FC A320 arriving.
Copa Airlines Colombia, CM 630 Equipment: Embraer ERJ-190 [HP-1563CMP, delivered August 2007] Departure: 7:00 (ATD: 7:08) Arrival: 8:27 (ATA: 8:13) Flight time: 1:05
At 6:30, boarding started. Announcements were only made in Spanish so I had to listen carefully, but boarding was done orderly with no one crowding the podium.
These are new stickers they are putting on their planes advertising the fact that CM is “proud to be the most on-time airline in Latin America and second worldwide” in 2015.
Entering, a FA greets me with a “buenas dias.” This cabin is the standard one that features 10 seats in a 1-2 configuration. My seat, 1A.
There is only 1 seat in my row since across the aisle is the closet.
Seat pitch is very good.
And there is a cutout on the bulkhead for extra legroom.
Seatback pocket contents.
Safety card for this ERJ-190.
The fold out cup holder, which is perfect for the PDB. We will get a PDB offered from a tray containing water and orange juice.
Good news for jetsetpanda, this cabin retains the original overhead fixtures meaning the A seats get 2 lights and 2 vents. The strange thing is that the overhead bins are not symmetrical (like the smaller ERJ-135/145s). Above the A seats, you can’t fit a bag larger than a briefcase.
Holy rust Batman! You might want to get a tetanus shot before going near this jetbridge.
The windows on this plane were really greasy on the outside making all my photos 'bleached' out, but you can still see another FC A320 arriving.
The FA comes through, introduces herself, and addresses me by name asking if I wanted to have breakfast. The options were a fruit plate or a breakfast sandwich. I opted for the breakfast sandwich knowing there would be no food in the lounge at PTY.
The jetbridge retracts.
A last look at the concrete fortress that is BAQ. The pair of FC A320s are on the right side. An AV A320 in *A livery was around the corner, but too blurry.
EF BAe Jetstream 41 arriving.
Fuerza Aerea Colombiana (Colombian Air Force) Beechcraft King Air 350.
We align and the little GEs wind up.
Lifting up over the outer Soledad suburbs of Barranquilla.
Rio Magdalena, which we will follow around the downtown area.
Estadio Metropolitano Roberto Meléndez, home of Junior FC and the Colombian national team.
Aerial of BAQ.
As soon as signaled, the cart is readied for service.
The mountain town of Piojó (Chibcha can correct me if I’m wrong…).
The winglet with the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in the horizon.
Service starts with a scented hot oshibori.
Flying past Cartagena (had to play with the colors to make it visible).
The tray as delivered.
Ham and cheese croissant.
They actually serve the butter in a dish instead of a packet like on CM.
As soon as the tray is cleared, the captain announces our descent into PTY. I ask for another cup of coffee while cabin preparations are under way.
Sipping my coffee, I take in our arrival in PTY from the north.
Crossing the canal.
The brand new $5B dollar locks at Aqua Clara. A cargo container ship is inside^^ The giant water reservoirs on the left side are for collection of rain water for water recycling.
Looping around Amador.
The historic downtown surrounded by the highway to nowhere.
The skyscrapers of Panama, which is quickly becoming the UAE of the Americas.
Crossing into PTY.
We touch down early given a glimpse of the construction of the new terminal.
UA is playing “Where’s Waldo.”^^ Can you spot the UA tail among the sea of CM B737s?
CM B738 in Official Airline of MLB special livery.
We pull into Gate 2.
While waiting for the jetbridge to engage, the FA comes through and thanks each passenger for flying with them.
A look back at the cabin on arrival.
A peek into the cockpit on deplaning.
A ground staff stops deplaning to make an announcement that the police will be at the end of the jetbridge to check IDs so passports need to be in hand. I think human trafficking of Colombians into Panama is a growing problem (for both labor and as working girls). Up the fancy Chinese built jetbridge.
The police check my passport and let me into the terminal.
And with that, I’ll leave off this series as I begin my layover in PTY.
So in Barranquilla, there aren’t too many hotel options. It’s mainly just an industrial city with a lot of business hotels. I just opted for the Hampton by Hilton – Barranquilla, which was $42/night with breakfast. The rooms were simple, but had some local flair.
Daytime and nighttime views from my room.
The easiest way to get around the city is by taxi, but I prefer to use public transportation when available. Barranquilla has a very modern bus system and it’s cheap. I bought a Transmetro IC card from the station near the hotel and charged it with 20,000 pesos, which is more than I ever needed. There is even an app that you can use with their metro that will let you plan routes and give you real time bus schedules. The bus fares are 1,800 pesos ($0.55).
The biggest (only?) tourist site in Barranquilla is the Museo del Caribe located in the Parque Cultural del Caribe. They bag checked my backpack, so pictures inside are with my phone. It was interesting museum on the history/culture of Caribbean side of Columbia from pre-Colombian era to the modern time. Disclaimer, not a word of English appears inside the museum; all exhibits are in Spanish only.
Catedral Metropolitana Maria Reina. Apparently, the Catholic Church wanted to one-up BAQ and create an equally ugly concrete masterpiece. The inside did not look much nicer. There were some nicer looking plazas, but I didn't take any pictures since there were more people around.
The streets of Barranquilla, I walked from the Cathedral back to my hotel (~2 miles). Some shots from the walk back to give a feel of the city.
Even walked ~1km home from dinner both nights. Maybe not recommended, but there were very few people out at 8pm. As Chibcha said, there are a number of very good restaurants in the city, and the food is fairly inexpensive compared to Panama.
Is Barranquilla a city I'd ever want to go back to? No, not really. But nothing I saw in Colombia would deter me from going back again to someplace with more to see/do. Judging Colombia only on Barranquilla is like judging the US on only visiting a city like St. Louis or Detroit.
Barranquilla - BAQ
Panamá City - PTY
CM offers a very mediocre premium product, but given the value they offer (price/mileage) they are a very nice carrier for mileage hauls to retain status.
Cabin comfort: This ERJ-190 had the normal J cabin with seating in a 1-2 configuration. 1A offers a lot of privacy since it is in a row by itself. The large leather seats are comfortable. Dirty windows...
Crew: CM Colombia crew again very friendly. They were very kind to the elderly, where 2 of them would carefully escort them down the narrow aisle.
Meal and catering: PDB offered. Choice of two meals for a 1-hour flight is nice. The croissant wasn't the best breakfast of sandwiches, but at least it was served warm. Yogurt and granola bar also offered. I found the quality to be much better on the PTY-BAQ leg.
Entertainment: No newspapers offered. Standard seatback literature. No personal IFE or overhead monitors. Just natural IFE.
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