Hola everyone, this FR covers the first part of a trip to Abu Dhabi I made last March. There were several options to reach the place, some really tempting as they involved ULH such as BOG-DFW-AUH, others involving A380s such as BOG-JFK-AUH. At a point our itinerary was going to be BOG-MIA-DFW-AUH-LHR-MIA-BOG, which involved a lot of transit time, transiting through the US which is a bit of a hassle, but me being an AV Geek as I am, I was really excited as it involved flying a lot of different airlines, airliners and whatnot. In the end the travel agency gave us a more "simple" schedule BOG-CDG-AUH and back. I was excited anyways as it meant I could have one more chance of flying AF's A343 before they get retired (I really like these planes even if they're not as fancy as newer types), and I would be able to fly with Etihad…something I was really looking forward to! This FR series will cover the BOG-CDG, CDG-AUH and CDG-BOG flights…you'll eventually find out why I left the AUH-CDG flight out… :/
At Bogotá's Eldorado International Airport
Early in the morning I received an email from AF advising that my flight was delayed and my flight No. would change to AF423A…the delay was caused by a delay in the inbound from CDG. The expected delay would be of 1hour and we would arrive 1 hour later to CDG on the next day. No probs for me as I had 8 hours as connecting time in Paris.
Since the flight was in the middle of easter week, there was no one to take me to the airport. I took a cab that drove me across empty Bogotá in no time. Upon entering the international terminal I noticed how empty the AF/KL line was….so I stayed there "camping" while they opened the check-in queue.
A picture for memorabilia, TAP no longer serves Colombia. It left the market a pair of weeks after the photo was taken.
I was second in a queue that ran parallel to the lines set by the staff. At a point there were around 30 people in my queue. Then some smart MoFo decided not to form in our queue but rather start a new one perpendicular to ours, so it was like an inverted L. By the time check in opened the thing was a complete mess. Ground handling for AFKL is done my Menzies in BOG. They were really lame at it IMO, they have the most absurd check-in procedure ever. They first made everyone print their BPs at the self-check in machines, then they divided people between people with connecting flights in Paris and people whose destination was Paris, presumably to arrange flights for those affected by the delay. Baggage tags were KLM for all of us…funny thing considering they werent flying that day, and thus I wouldn't be flying them (bummer). I couldn't imagine the ensuing chaos that checking in must be when both the AF and KL fly given that they leave almost at the same time.
I managed to get quickly to the counter, where my passport was scanned. The lady was a bit weirded by my UAE visa and the nature of my trip and scanned my passport. Just like they did on the KLM flight between PTY and AMS.. I asked the girl for another BP since I collected them, no luck. Check-in done, I would pick my bag two days after in Abu Dhabi. I would then go to have lunch, I felt like having some Pizza at Piccolo's on the third floor food court. It had a nice view of the deserted Avianca domestic check in area
My trip documents, I hate SCIK boarding passes, the paper is very flimsy and not of good quality for souvenir purposes. But it recorded my first trip to the UAE.
Lunch for the day: 4 cheese and hawaiian pizza. Yum Yum….although that sheer amount of cheese wouldn't be nice on my stomach later on.
LAN Lounge at the International Concourse
Pizza done, it was time to get to the concourse. Now that I had lounge access I had to decide between AV's and LA's lounge. As reported previously, I didn't find AV's lounge that good, so I gave LA's a try, to sum it up: it is the better one of the two.
First of all, it's got a great view of the tarmac and RWY13L/31R
From these nice reclining chairs, which are really confy for wasting your time watching planes…anything else to ask?
The decor is very modern and nice, and at that moment where LA's activity is low in BOG, the place is pretty empty.
Some spotting from the lounge
As of now, IB is the sole operator of A340-600s into BOG now that LH has switched to A340-300s, boo hoo
A little junglejet incoming from PTY
Just a kind reminder of the ruling alliance at BOG
The junglejet had time to turn around while I sipped my 7UP from the can (I love sodas from the can)
A Salvadorean flagged AV A320
My chariot made it finally!
leaving a wake of dust
Have I told you how much I like the A340-300? As a kid I kept dreaming of flying that gorgeous 4 holer to Europe….
LAN to Lima…compared to AV's deployment of 787 and A320s, I wouldn't choose LA to LIM unless it is significantly cheaper than AV.
IB's flight to MAD was almost ready to go back home. In the background the afternoon sun reflects on Bogotá's buildings and hills
Walking around and boarding
Even with such a nice view, the Lounge didn't allow for views of the whole range of visitors BOG had that afternoon, which could be summarised as: A340 galore!
Starting with this uber sexy Argentinean lady
With her bigger Spanish sibling
And lets not leave our French pilf aside.
When boarding was called everyone stood up and it was a sort of organised disorder. I tried to use a mobile BP to preserve my flimsy BP intact, but no luck for me.
Ridiculous queue, specially considering that we'd be stuck on an aluminium can for 10 hours, but I had to secure space for my suits.
I found the jetbridge decor funny considering where we were headed
Cabin and Seat
I was greeted by a pair of FAs with a smile and a bonsoir, the crew were in high spirits greeting both in French and Spanish, excitement levels: on the rise.
The A340s are clearly this Community's least favourite long hauler in AF. I am totally biased in favour of it anyways. A pair of shots from the Economy Class cabin (the seats were comfortable enough BTW)
Seat pitch correct. But the IFE box takes a substantial portion of foot space, which would be occupied by my bag.
Pillows were provided beforehand, with a sexy red colour that correctly contrasted with the blue seats.
Boarding took its time, in the meanwhile I had a quick chit chat with my seatmate. She asked me if I was from Colombia, she was a very pretty girl from Medellín, we talked for a while about our respective trips, she was going to visit her boyfriend in Spain (and that's when I lost interest in the conversation)…so that was basically it at the social aspect of this FR.
The crew introduced itself, starting from the guys up front. They addressed the cabin in French, English and then one of the F/As would translate to Spanish, as on my previous AF flight to Colombia, their Spanish skills were quite limited, but this time I noticed more of the crew spoke in Spanish to passengers.
We took off from RWY 13L and made a southbound departure to make a U shape turn towards the north. This is so because the A343's climb rate is so low that it cannot reach the statutory hights for the zones the plane must travel. At this point something happened for the first time for me. The huge cheese pizza wasn't such a clever idea. My belly began to ache a lot and I really felt like going to the WC. I didn't enjoy the takeoff as I mustered all resources to prevent any unfortunate accidents.
Bogotá from the distance…sorry for the bad quality of the photo. It looked like a huge volcano crater with magma. By this point we were already cruising so I could go to the toilet, but silly me didn't want to rush to the WC as if I had some intestinal issue, specially because of the nice girl besides.
Enroute to Paris Charles de Gaulle
Around 20m after takeoff we were handed menus and snacks and aperitifs…I declined the champagne as I didn't want to add more pressure to the my entrails.
That nights menu seemed ok…lets go with the chicken.
We experienced some heavy turbulence, the "security" F/A handed meal trays in a rush…the following might not have happened like this in reality but it felt like: "theres no time to choose, here's your pasta, now shove it in your mouth", he wasn't rude at all so it was even funny for me.
Meal as served.
I was quite dissapointed that I didn't get to chose the chicken. The main was….ok. Not horrible, not delicious. I liked having such a generous portion of bread (hear that AV?). The dessert was a traditional Colombian dessert, brevas con arequipe, while I don't like figs I ate the whole arequipe portion, more than enough sweet for me. I left the salad untouched as it looked unappetising for me. I don't like uchuvas either as I don't like them. I thought it was a nice touch to include some Colombian delicacies on the menu.
After meals were picked I tried to watch some films on the PTV but it was pointless. In any case I was quite tired by that point so I fell asleep.
Cabin view by the wake up time
Breakfast, I don't recall if it was optional between eggs or what I chose: guava filled crepes. They were awesome. I love to have so much food for breakfast and that they give you a box of OJ anyway. Let's wait if AV can compare to this catering in a BOG-MAD flight I'm gonna take soon (my expectations are next to below zero).
After breakfast was picked I entered into the desperation phase of my Atlantic crossings. You don't have enough time to see a movie (and at any measure it was pointless with the microscopic PTV), you don't have a nice view down to distract yourself, as the PTV is more symbolic than anything there's no point in watching a show, at least the music selection was good. In any case I tried to enjoy my hours on the A343 as I reckon it is unlikely that I ride another one soon or before they're retired from service.
Cloudy conditions over Europe, bummer for views.
Landing and taxi to gate
Not much to see outside because of the heavy clouds…I was hoping that I had good weather for my 10h trip to Paris, oh darn.
Landing was perfectly soft, kudos for the awesome performance to the folks at the front! We then made our way to the L-gates.
I exited the plane and made my way to the PAF spot at Terminal 2E…utterly chaotic and lenghty line to enter France. The policeman who inspected my passport made me a pair of questions, nothing extraordinary, and waved me into France.
One last view of our plane from the VAL to Terminal 2E
I exited the terminal and went in search of a Post Office so I could mail some coffee to a friend of mine in Geneva. Failure it was closed. It was quite a trek to Temrminal 2B (or 2D?)…but what the hell at least I got to see these terminals which I hadn't known before. Then I bought a Paris Visite for the day and had my stroll around the city.
LAN VIP Lounge
Bogota - BOG
Paris - CDG
Objectively, AF's A343s deserve their reputation, they're not the fanciest way to have a trans atlantic flight nowadays, mainly because of the IFE. But as advertised I'm biased for these planes. Hard product aside, AF managed to provide a very solid product, and I enjoyed my experience with them, even if IFE was trash. The crew was quite nice and the catering, specially the breakfast, was good. Big points to improve: IFE, and the check in!
BOG delivered as usual, it is a very good airport. LAN's lounge was great, it's my favourite lounge at BOG. Enough said.
CDG was OK, but the PAF crossing was quite messy.
Thanks for reading and stay tuned for upcoming parts of this trip, saludos!
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