Hello, welcome to this report on SATENA's flight between Bogotá and Medellín. While flights between Bogotá and Medellín have been covered thoroughly on this page, it is worthwhile to report on this special set of flights. I had made a previous report on the Enrique Olaya Herrera Airport when I flew from there in 2015.
A friend invited me to spend the weekend in Medellín for her birthday. Given that prices were adequate I said why no. I had always wanted to try the Enrique Olaya Herrera service by SATENA, and fortunately this was the chance.
A little bit on SATENA and EOH.
SATENA is a public airline that is owned by the Colombian State. Their planes even have military (FAC) registration along with civilian registrations. The bulk of their network is composed by obscure destinations in the Colombian Eastern Plains and the Amazon, which are in most cases only accesible through air. These regions are also some of the poorest ones in Colombia and are heavily subsidized, and yet SATENA consistently has red figures on its balance.
The Enrique Olaya Herrera Airport is the second airport serving Medellín, Colombia's second city. The main airport (MDE) is located around an hour away from the city in Rionegro, while the Olaya Herrera airport is conveniently located in the middle of the city. Because of Medellín's geography and to force airlines to use the Rionegro airport, flights from the Olaya Herrera are restricted to regional flights, with less than 50 passengers. In order to aid SATENA with revenue, it enjoys the monopoly on the BOG-EOH route, which can be the best choice for business people flying between the two cities. However, SATENA's reliability is low and people still prefer to fly through MDE even when it may more of a hassle. As expected prices on SATENA are higher than on any of the airlines that fly to MDE, however if one factors in the cost of the transportation to/from Medellín, plus the time, sometimes it is worth to fly to EOH (along with the avgeek perks of trying an uncommon airline, an uncommon route and if lucky a Kai-Tak like arrival)
At Bogotá's Eldorado International
I took a cab to Eldorado well ahead of time taking into account that Saturday's traffic is a mess. I had my traditional breakfast at McDonalds and headed to check-in. I was asked if I was checking in any bags, I didn't. I was asked if I carried any liquids, I didn't…the agent doubted and with a sly face asked me if I wasn't carrying any booze (odd), nope. She shrugged and gave me my Boarding Pass (my first ever SATENA BP, wee!)
Done with that I headed to the Domestic Departures concurse, which mainly handles Avianca's flights, even though it's also used by LATAM and Viva Colombia. (As you may see, BOG is AirbusLand)
As our plane did not have a contact position we were directed to the bus gates, where I waited for a short time until boarding was called.
I didn't understand why the bus ride was so long, until I noticed that we were being carried to CATAM, the Air Force's platform. As we were explained to by the crew when boarding, SATENA was using CATAM at the time because of space constraints at the civilian platform (more on this on the next episode). During the trip I spotted a previous acquaintance XA-AMG
We then made it to the CATAM platform, we were just besides our plane. But we were not allowed to go to the plane. Probably because of the security protocols at CATAM. While we waited, we were reminded not to take pictures.
But of course I didn't oblige. CATAM offers a nice and unusual view of BOG's main terminal. CATAM is a transport unit, and it shows in the planes resting there, notably the former Air Force One (Fokker 28), some CASA and Hercules transport airplanes and the 767 tanker.
Boarding and Taxi
Eventually we were let in, I didn't risk an outside picture of our ATR as we were surrounded by soldiers. On the inside the plane showed its short age, the cabin was crisp and new. The seat was quite slim, but more than adequate for the short flight we would take today, probably a bit annoying in a longer sector.
While boarding concluded and we were on our way, a Royal Air Force Hercules arrived, to this day I have no idea what it was doing in Bogotá.
The inflight magazine explained the CATAM operations, while the safety card indicated the plane is an ATR 42-500 (?)
And soon we were on our way to BOG's runway 13R. The whole wait from the gate-bus-runway was almost as long as the actual flying time!
The unusual takeoff using less than half the runway, and a smooth cruise over Bogotá's south.
And with Bogotá behind…we went across the Magdalena River Valley. We were offered Sodas, Water or Coffee (the standard offer in BOG-MDE runs).
Arrival to Medellín Olaya Herrera
Being nested in the middle of a valley, Medellín poses an interesting challenge for arrivals. I was looking forward for a Kai-Tak style landing over the city's skyscrapers, but unfortunately we got a very "normal" straight-in arrival. Yet, it was awesome to see how close we flew over the city. The tarmac was pretty much empty, with a company ATR waiting for us.
I got off the plane and took the pictures I couldn't take in Bogotá and then we walked to the terminal, I love how EOH's terminal is decorated with gardens, a huge change from the bland industrial look of most airports. I did not like how the terminal was decorated to celebrate Atletico Nacional's victory of the Copa Libertadores (South America's UCL)…anyways, my friends picked me up in less than 10 minutes after I unboarded, and we were having drinks and BBQ ribs in less than an hour after that, I dare you to beat that awesome timing!.
Bogota - BOG
Medellín - EOH
If you ever go to Colombia and want to visit Medellín, this may be one of the most fun ways to do it. It may be more expensive than flying into MDE, but remember to factor in the transport to the city and maybe then the numbers add up. Service was OK and nothing special, it was your regular Colombian flight. In hindsight, the amount spent on the ground is exaggerate and makes you feel you're wasting your time senselessly.
BOG was great as usual, EOH was even better plane-to-car-to-restaurant timing is unbeatable!
Thanks for reading, saludos!
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