Review of Copa Airlines flight Barranquilla Panamá City in Business

Airline Copa Airlines
Flight CM 630
Class Business
Seat 1A
Aircraft Embraer E-190
Flight time 01:25
Take-off 09 Jul 16, 07:00
Arrival at 09 Jul 16, 08:25
CM   #90 out of 137 Airlines A minimum of 20 Flight-Reports is required in order to appear in the rankings. 60 reviews
NGO85
By 778
Published on 11th July 2016
Background:

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…



Pre-flight:

I woke up at 3:45am. The sleepy town of Barranquilla from my hotel room.

photo 1

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.

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All passengers are forced into a document check so I’m stuck in a queue and can’t directly access the PreferAccess line.

photo 3

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.

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My backpack is also tagged as “hand luggage.”

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I head outside and downstairs to the arrivals level. All of the closed rental car booths.

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The booth to arrange your taxi.

photo 11

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.

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On the domestic side of the airport, a pair of AV Airbuses in old and new liveries are sitting there.

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Peeking into the rear galley of the little AV A318.

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My plane spent the night at BAQ, but is hiding behind a bunch of stairs.

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Not sure what they were thinking when they came up with this concrete fortress architecture.

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The control tower.

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Close up of the concrete walls that line not only the outside, but also the inside of BAQ.

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Signs leading me back up to the departure’s lobby.

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These stairs will take you there, but you have to pass the guard dog who might ask you to pay a toll.

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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^^

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Even though it was 5am, there were quite a few stores and shops open.

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Including the British Pharmacy.

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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.

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I just grabbed a cup of coffee and admired my boarding documents.

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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.

photo 22

The fancy domestic departures security checkpoint.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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FIDS in the international waiting room. So exotic^^

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The hallway towards immigration has some shops open.

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El Market Colombia.

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Charging station.

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Chibcha will be happy to know that BAQ will finally be starting a renovation this year.

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The AV Lounge, only open for the AV flight to MIA.

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AV A320 lifting off for BOG.

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AV A318 lifting off for CLO.

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FC A320 arriving.

photo 37photo 39



————————-

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.

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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.

photo 41

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.

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There is only 1 seat in my row since across the aisle is the closet.

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Seat pitch is very good.

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And there is a cutout on the bulkhead for extra legroom.

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Seatback pocket contents.

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Safety card for this ERJ-190.

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Panorama.

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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.

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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.

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Holy rust Batman! You might want to get a tetanus shot before going near this jetbridge.

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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.

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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.

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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.

photo 57

EF BAe Jetstream 41 arriving.

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Fuerza Aerea Colombiana (Colombian Air Force) Beechcraft King Air 350.

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We align and the little GEs wind up.

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Lifting up over the outer Soledad suburbs of Barranquilla.

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Barranquilla.

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Rio Magdalena, which we will follow around the downtown area.

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Puente Pumarejo.

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Estadio Metropolitano Roberto Meléndez, home of Junior FC and the Colombian national team.

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Aerial of BAQ.

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As soon as signaled, the cart is readied for service.

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The mountain town of Piojó (Chibcha can correct me if I’m wrong…).

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The winglet with the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in the horizon.

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Service starts with a scented hot oshibori.

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Flying past Cartagena (had to play with the colors to make it visible).

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The tray as delivered.

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Ham and cheese croissant.

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They actually serve the butter in a dish instead of a packet like on CM.

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CM cutlery.

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Yogurt.

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Granola bar.

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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.

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Sipping my coffee, I take in our arrival in PTY from the north.

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Crossing the canal.

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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.

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Looping around Amador.

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The historic downtown surrounded by the highway to nowhere.

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The skyscrapers of Panama, which is quickly becoming the UAE of the Americas.

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Crossing into PTY.

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We touch down early given a glimpse of the construction of the new terminal.

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UA is playing “Where’s Waldo.”^^ Can you spot the UA tail among the sea of CM B737s?

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CM B738 in Official Airline of MLB special livery.

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We pull into Gate 2.

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While waiting for the jetbridge to engage, the FA comes through and thanks each passenger for flying with them.

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A look back at the cabin on arrival.

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A peek into the cockpit on deplaning.

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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.

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The police check my passport and let me into the terminal.

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And with that, I’ll leave off this series as I begin my layover in PTY.




———————

***BONUS***

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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.
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Verdict

Copa Airlines

7.4/10
Cabin8.0
Cabin crew8.5
Entertainment/wifi5.0
Meal/catering8.0

Barranquilla - BAQ

4.3/10
Efficiency5.0
Access3.0
Services3.0
Cleanliness6.0

Panamá City - PTY

7.3/10
Efficiency9.0
Access3.0
Services8.0
Cleanliness9.0

Conclusion

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.

Related

16 Comments

  • Comment 357088 by
    757Fan 578 Comments

    Great report, Michael. Thanks for the sharing your visit to Barranquilla. Looks like a pretty decent meal served as well too for such a quick flight with CM.

    "UA is playing “Where’s Waldo.”^^ Can you spot the UA tail among the sea of CM B737s?" - 1 right there in the middle! Hard to catch the UA globe, against the CM livery.

    • Comment 358732 by
      NGO85 AUTHOR 1622 Comments

      "Looks like a pretty decent meal served as well too for such a quick flight with CM."
      - For a 1-hour flight, this is still good catering, even if the food quality could have been better. You'd never see catering like this on LAX-SFO (which is identical mileage).

      "Hard to catch the UA globe, against the CM livery."
      - Ironically, CM's logo is better than CO/UA's.

      Thanks for your comments Matthew!

  • Comment 357162 by
    Numero_2 GOLD 9719 Comments

    Thanks Michael !

    Too bad there was no lounge available in BAQ at this time.

    Given the time available for the inflight service I find the catering to be quite good.
    "Ham and cheese croissant." -> I'd say "ham and cheddar croissant". ;)

    • Comment 358733 by
      NGO85 AUTHOR 1622 Comments

      "Too bad there was no lounge available in BAQ at this time."
      - When I checked the *A website, it said there was a domestic AV lounge before security, but I couldn't find it in the departure's lobby.

      "I'd say "ham and cheddar croissant". ;)"
      - I'd say cheddar with ham croissant ;)

      Merci Clement!

  • Comment 357224 by
    jetsetpanda 2295 Comments

    "The outdoor observation deck. BAQ may be a total dump, but it does have a really nice observation deck."
    - Very unusual to have an observation deck at ground level.

    "El Market Colombia."
    - Wouldn't "El Mercado" be more convincing?

    "FC A320 arriving."
    - Bubbly livery. ;) Reminds me of an ad for a soft drink.

    "Announcements were only made in Spanish so I had to listen carefully"
    - Isn't this odd considering that this is an international flight between two countries? At the very least I would expect some basic English instructions.

    "There is only 1 seat in my row since across the aisle is the closet."
    - Direct access to the closet and you can see what's hiding inside. :P

    "Good news for jetsetpanda, this cabin retains the original overhead fixtures meaning the A seats get 2 lights and 2 vents. "
    - That's comforting to know. I'll keep that in mind when I choose to fly down there. Let's see....CM E-190 has 2 vents in the single seats up front. +1 in its favor.

    "Holy rust Batman!"
    - That screams for renovation!

    "The jetbridge retracts."
    - Any squealing sounds?

    "Ham and cheese croissant."
    - a) it's too squared to be called a croissant. b) it looks too "yellowish". c) with melted cheese everything tastes better. ;)

    Gorgeous aerials upon landing and thank you for sacrificing your safety by walking alone (especially at night) to show us what it's like to be in BAQ. :P Glad you came back safely.

    Thanks Michael for sharing this FR.

    • Comment 358735 by
      NGO85 AUTHOR 1622 Comments

      "Very unusual to have an observation deck at ground level."
      - It's nice in that it is before security meaning anyone can go there and watch the planes.

      "Wouldn't "El Mercado" be more convincing?"
      - I would have preferred "El Marketo", lol

      "Reminds me of an ad for a soft drink."
      - Apparently the first LCC in Colombia.

      "Isn't this odd considering that this is an international flight between two countries? At the very least I would expect some basic English instructions."
      - Umm, good point, I've never not seen basic English instructions on international flights (domestic flights are a whole other bucket of worms). But at least the CM crew on board all made announcements in both languages.

      "That screams for renovation!"
      - That whole airport should be demolished. It makes LaGuardia look good...

      "a) it's too squared to be called a croissant. b) it looks too "yellowish". c) with melted cheese everything tastes better. ;)"
      - Definitely not the most attractive of sandwiches, but food is food. And with no food in the CM Lounge at PTY, I had to eat something... Desperate times call for desperate measures. It was also really buttery tasting.

      Thanks for stopping by Adan!

  • Comment 357324 by
    jish.b SILVER 258 Comments

    Thanks for another one of your South America flight reports!

    Seems like you had a pretty decent flight with Copa Airlines, despite the ungodly wake up time!

    Very unique viewing gallery on the tarmac level itself! I haven't seen anything like that before! :D

    Cute doggie picture! But that said, I'm not sure if its supposed to be there LOL

    Nice shots of the sunrise, and air shots while approaching.

    Good to see an extra bit of legroom carved out! A very innovative, if not basic way to go the extra mile.

    I also noticed from your reports that the crew go out and thank the passengers while the jet bridge is being attached. It is a nice small little touch, and I think this goes a long way!

    Thanks again for sharing!

    Cheers.

    • Comment 358736 by
      NGO85 AUTHOR 1622 Comments

      "Despite the ungodly wake up time!"
      - It's better to be safe than sorry in a foreign country. I didn't know what the taxi situation or the immigration situation was going to be like, so I just played it safe and got to the airport as soon as I could. BAQ is not a place I wanted to spend an extra day due to a missed flight ;)

      "I'm not sure if its supposed to be there LOL"
      - At least it wasn't inside the terminal, it was probably the dog of one of the taxi drivers sleeping on the benches waiting for the first flights to arrive.

      "A very innovative, if not basic way to go the extra mile."
      - These cutouts are not as common as they should be. I think every bulkhead should get these, otherwise they are too restrictive since you can't fully extend your legs.

      "I also noticed from your reports that the crew go out and thank the passengers while the jet bridge is being attached."
      - This seemed to be only common on the CM Colombia operated flights. On CM operated flights, this is not the normal protocol.

      Thanks for your comments Jish!

  • Comment 357479 by
    aussenrist 218 Comments

    Thanks Michael for sharing this report! Stunning airport and aerial shots!

    BAQ looks very old-fashion because of its concrete architecture, but think alternatively it can be another form of chic :P IMO the airport are very HK-style in 80’s! Its interior design is similar with those HK private estate’s malls built in 80’s. And the concrete walls are exactly the same design with the bridges' bases in HK^^

    A pleasant flight experience with the nice crew and extra seat pitch. Regarding the flight length of the inbound and outbound for this flight, having meal choices are very generous, and they also look decent and tasty!

    Thanks for the travel bonus of Barranquilla! The hotel looks stylish and its fare is quite cheap! Its looks like South America also has blue sky always :) Look forward to your next report!

    • Comment 358737 by
      NGO85 AUTHOR 1622 Comments

      "but think alternatively it can be another form of chic :P"
      - Yep, things have come full circle and we yearn for concrete instead of glass :P

      "And the concrete walls are exactly the same design with the bridges' bases in HK^^"
      - I think my middle school also had the same concrete walls^^

      "Having meal choices are very generous, and they also look decent and tasty!"
      - Usually on short flights, you don't get a choice. So I think it is very nice of CM to offer two options for the meal on this flight.

      "Its looks like South America also has blue sky always :)"
      - Umm, PTY is very cloudy all the time. But honestly, blue skies just like to follow me :P

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  • Comment 358046 by
    Chibcha 432 Comments

    Great report as usual!
    I reckon you've taken more pictures of Barranquilla that I have!

    I think BAQ is a fine piece of brutalist architecture, which is quite rare in Colombia. It's only that it hasn't been taken care of properly.

    • Comment 358738 by
      NGO85 AUTHOR 1622 Comments

      "I reckon you've taken more pictures of Barranquilla that I have!"
      - Well, there's not much to take pictures of^^

      "I think BAQ is a fine piece of brutalist architecture"
      - I wonder what the renovations of BAQ will entail. I wouldn't be surprised if they leave the outside untouched and just modernize the inside.

      Thanks for stopping by Chibcha!

  • Comment 358538 by
    KévinDC TEAM SILVER 5093 Comments

    Good that you got the "real" J product for this flight. It may be a short flight, but at least it's more consistent with the 737s than the 2-2 J E190s. BAQ airport is kind of scary looking, but I like that there's an observation deck.

    The catering doesn't look particularly appealing, but I have to say it is impressive to have any kind of catering on this short of a flight.

    Great aerial views and spotting. Interesting tourist bonus.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Comment 358739 by
      NGO85 AUTHOR 1622 Comments

      "at least it's more consistent with the 737s than the 2-2 J E190s."
      - I wonder if the HK registered planes are all 2-2 and the HP registered planes are all 1-2 (leased from CM).

      "The catering doesn't look particularly appealing"
      - I agree, I would have preferred some breakfast wrap. This was very buttery and heavy. The crepe served on PTY-BAQ was far superior, but the amount of catering offered on this flight (340 miles, same as LAX-SFO) is very good.

      Thanks for your comments Kevin!

  • Comment 358558 by
    Rl 777 810 Comments

    Thank you for sharing another great FR with us!

    How far away was the airport from your hotel in KM?

    A very interesting observation deck, nice early-morning shots!

    I'm glad your ride was equipped with a 1-2 configuraton in J this time. Seat pitch looks great.

    Stunning aerial shots as always, I absolutely adore your aerial shots.

    It seems like you had a solid flight with CM, not the best but definitely not the worst. I'm glad you were in a proper J-cabin this time around.

    Stunning shots of Panama City.

    Have a good one, see you!

    • Comment 358740 by
      NGO85 AUTHOR 1622 Comments

      "How far away was the airport from your hotel in KM?"
      - GoogleMaps says 23km for the route we took. A lot of the roads through the suburbs have a 45kph speed limit with radar enforcement.

      "Seat pitch looks great."
      - The seat pitch was equally good on the 2-2 configuration cabin, it just lacked a real J seat and was European-style J, lol.

      "Stunning aerial shots as always, I absolutely adore your aerial shots."
      - PTY is a great airport to land at since you always land across downtown. It has been 4/4 following this arrival pattern.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

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