The airline with the best average rating is Avianca with 7.1/10.
The average flight time is 9 hours and 34 minutes.More information
I've been a bit busy this past year and I've neglected following up to my reports, but I thought it would be of interest to publish a report of this flight, even if it involves a jump from the chronological reporting of my trips.
Long story short, I needed to go back to Madrid from Bogotá. I had an original return flight back in March (that didn't happen of course) which involved flying BOG-MIA-LHR-MAD. But I wasn't interested in flying to the US or UK with all the mess that flying abroad involves. So, contrary to my AVGeek impulses I went ahead with the "ordinary" and boring straight route.
Now back in June, it was assumed "normal" commercial flights would be re-established. So I would be able to choose between Air Europa, Avianca and Iberia.
I assumed flights between Colombia and Europe were packed given that the Pandemic had caused passing from 6 daily flights to none just between Madrid and Bogotá. So I decided to buy a ticket in Business Class since it would involve having less people around, and thus reducing my exposure to the virus. Prices in Avianca were silly. They had also warned that they would suspend on board service and IFE until further notice. On the other hand I consider their position demanding a bail-out from the Colombian government to be unethical, so nope, they would not receive my hard-earned pesos.
Air Europa was an interesting option. I had already flown between BOG and MAD in IB, so for AVGeek purposes this was tempting. But the 2x2x2 configuration in J class disincouraged me, it turned the whole rationale of flying in J pointless. So, IB was left.
In the end I was lucky because the only airline currently flying between BOG and MA is Iberia, had I picked UX, I would have had to juggle my way here.
So without further ado, let's get it on.
Beware, I'll try to be as detailed as possible so this will be a fairly long FR.
I took advantage of my J-class baggage allowance and chose to take 3 bags with me (since they were also checking in carry-ons I had up to 5 bags to take with me).
Now, news sources gave contradicting information about whether or not I would be able to check my bags, or even if I would be able to do check-in at all. I chose to go to BOG with enough time beforehand in order to have a time buffer.
BOG's former "Puente Aéreo" Terminal, originally built to cater AV's flights to Miami and New York, and other major cities in Colombia, it was AV's domestic hub at its heyday, then turned to be the LCC terminal. I guess it is unused with current demand.
As I arrived to the terminal, the lack of people gave an eerie look to the place. Entry points were restricted, and you were checked at the entrance if you had downloaded 3 different apps: the Colombian Government's COVID-radar app, Migración Colombia's CheckMig and BOG's own app which also seemed to track your contacts and whatnot… you also had to show your pre-printed or digital boarding pass.
I never thought I'd come to have this view for one last time in quite a while…
Once you came inside the terminal, there was another checkpoint, this time if you had the QR codes for the 3 apps + the boarding pass.
Then, temperature check and the routine questions regarding COVID synthoms.
After that, there was a huge queue for my flight. I didn't know if there was a separate queue for business class. Then I saw the signage for the separate queue, and went there. I was stopped by whom I assume is BOG's station manager. In a pedantic tone she asked me if I was going to check in for IB's flight. After my affirmative answer, she told me to go to the back of the queue. So I answered back if that was necessary even if I was flying in Business Class (I had read this was going on in other airlines).
Her demeanour changed totally. She almost offered herself to carry my bags. She led me to the dedicated counter. The kind lady at the counter -behind a plexiglass screen- requested for my passport and residence card (you may not even check in without an UE passport or residence card). Bags were checked in without a question. She asked me if I had my boarding pass. I asked her if she could print it for me since I collect them, she had no problem. All in all I was done in less than 15 minutes.
Another last view…
I wandered a little bit to see how things were at the airport… turns out that out of the two domestic concourses only one is being used.
In the closed concourse, some Avianca Express (AV's new airline that will operate ATRs…though I doubt it will survive COVID) ATR 72s were parked along with a random LATAM Airbus. I understand the ATRs are still there basking till this day.
The national part of the airport had a bit more traffic, and I felt it had more people than the ones I now feel confortable around, so off I went to Emigration.
The officers checked my BP and Passport. Asked me if I was registered for the biometric checkpoint, I didn't. So I went to the regular queue.
The queue moved slowly. There were less than 5 agents destined for Colombian and Andean Citizens. Curiously, most of the people being checked were facing some issue of sorts, I overheard one having problems going to their destination, other one had overstayed in Colombia…go figure.
This took quite a while, while queuing a the two ladies behind me decided to chat. One of them was carrying a dog, and the other one complimented her pet. They got close to each other and were just fine chatting at full volume about how awesome their lives in Madrid is, puagh.
I finally reached an agent. After checking my passport he says: "so you say you're going to Spain", in my mind I thought "well…no, I just want to see the planes"… jackass. He asked me why I was coming here, he then asked me if I had taken a PCR, I said Spain does not request one. He tried to bamboozle me into acknowledging I could not fly without a test…after what felt like an eternity while the guy pondered if he had any further stupid questions to let me out of Colombia he stamped my passport. Finally (just to clarify, I love my country, but its public officers are becoming more and more idiotic with time).
Then, security check. There were more or less 5 open queues. Even though there was a "dragoon" of sorts telling people which queue to take, this person was just focused on its mobile phone. I saw the dog lady was moving just before me…and I thought oh no…this is gonna take ages. So I moved to one of the less busy lanes. Nobody flinched.
While queueing the passengers around me got way too near to each other, and nobody cared to ask people to separate themselves. This irks me a bit. People just can't follow a basic rule of sepparating. And the suckers who are supposed to enforced these rules are just checking the ceiling for fairies. Total silliness. The check took no time fortunately as I prepared for it before passing.
Then, there were some National Policemen "randomly" picking people for "random" checks. I wasn't picked. I overheard they were asking people why were they flying today, and if they were carrying any goods to declare…yadda yadda. I wasn't picked, and I just made myself scarce from that place ASAP.
Not knowing when again I would be able to pass through BOG's duty free shop (I've found BOG to have the cheapest perfumes) I decided to check if I could buy some perfumes. The experience is a bit strange since you have to test the perfumes on yourself. I ended up buying a couple of them, they gave me a third one as a gift. The lady who helped me with it seemed very happy to make a sale that day. At checkout I also got three boxes of lindt chocolates as a gift. The cashier thanked me like thrice for my business. You could tell these people had gone through tough times. It was heartbreaking.
Half of the concourse was shut. This is basically the whole north pier. I reckon is a cost-saving measure by the airport operator.
I then went to check if LATAM's Lounge was open. It used to be the best Lounge in BOG and one of my favourite anywhere. But alas, it was shut. So off to our boarding gate, where our smart racoon-jet was waiting for us.
I decided to give a try and see if the Eldorado Lounge was open. It was. Great success.
I had my temperature checked and requested to sanitise my hands with gel. And in I went.
The dragoon was quite nice. She warned me no hard liquor was available and that the buffet would open shortly.
The lounge is huge. It has a lot of separate spaces, including a jungle-area for children. There is a restaurant zone with the buffet. There is a bar zone which was shut. Toilets, showers and massages zone as well. It seems that in pre-COVID times this must have been "The Lounge". The only downside is that you have no views to the airside, but rather to the boring landside.
While I waited for a reasonable time to go back to the gate and see if boarding took place (they told me to boarding would start around 1 hour before ETD), I sat down in the first lounge area and called some friends and relatives for the customary goodbyes.
If you wanted to drink or eat something you had to go to a bar where to lovely ladies were helping you with whatever you wanted. The lady who served me was genuinely worried about me eating something. I didnt't know if I was going to have "normal" food on the plane (in hindsight this was over naive), and I had a nice xmax turkey with my family before going to the airport. So I replied to her that I just felt thirsty and declined the nice lady's offer of sandwiches. She reminded me about the buffet in case I felt hungry.
After the calls had been made and I hydrated myself, off I went. Everyone working at the place was super nice and thanked me for stopping by. Again, you could tell these peoples saw their livelihoods at stake. So their natural kindness (something I've felt is each time harder to find in Colombia) was exacerbated. I felt horrible thinking about all the people who've lost their job or business this year (it also makes you feel fortunate about not being in their situation, but rather flying handsomely in these circumstances…)
When I got to the gate, boarding was already underway. Since I was flying upfront, I had calculated that I would be one of the last people to board. And right I was. I could not tell how full the plane would be.
The ground crew had PPE and felt like hospital workers rather than airport workers.
Then it was time to go in… So I'm flying in Buisness for the first time in a transatlantic flight, I would also be flying for the first time in an A350. It should be fireworks inside of me at this stage, as the good AVGeek I am. Instead, it felt empty, leaving your friends and family without knowing when you'll see them or whether you'll see them again is all I could think and feel while I boarded.
At the door two of the crewpeople were asking for your seat number and showed you your way in.
I reached my spot. The cabin was sober, nothing super flashy or fancy. What caught my attention was how big the PTVs were. The seat felt smaller than what I expected from seeing them in reviews. But they were more than enough.
After I got installed one of the crew gave me my amenity kit, he asked me if I wished to have a glass of water. He gave it to me in no time along with some wipes. The blanket and the pillow were waiting at the seat.
Aeromexico is now sending its 787s to BOG. Air France's 789 is in the back. Only 3 flights tonight. In normal times this would be rush hour to Europe and anywhere else in America in AVs evening/night bank.
Boarding was done while I was calling my mum goodbye. Occupation, per my eye, in J cabin was around 75%
We pushed back and this was basically the other aircraft moving around (it was being towed)
While we (abnormally) taxied to RWY 13R the crew attempted to play the safety video…the IFE system crashed a couple of times. But it eventually showed up. The crew introduced themselves and remided us about the special sanitary measures on tonight's flight.
In no time we took off….we turned southward, and then did a big U turn to head north. Heavy twinjets do not perform very well from Bogotá's altitude. There were some doubts in AVGeek forums about the A350's performance out of BOG, it felt nice and powerful.
While we begun our flight, the crew played the new "IB in COVID times video" the mealbox didn't give me high hopes about a "fancy" meal tonight.
IFE offerings weren't awesome. Well, there isn't much to see after 7 months of lockdown. But it did its job, and considering the poor suckers flying AV only have their thoughts to entertain themselves with…I was more than well served. The control feels like overkill and it is sometimes hard to use seamlessly along with the touchscreen. But it worked more or less well as a secondary screen to check the map.
IB plays touristic adverts to several destinations in LatAm before any feature…
After the long climb…we passed again by Bogotá
The crew passed by handing some sanitation wipes. They also asked us to put all waste (specially the masks) in the bags we were given.
In no time the crew was handing out the "happy meal" boxes. Oh darn. After the box was handed, another member of the crew passed by serving drinks. I went for a Rioja and some Pineapple juice. There was no coca cola, I don't recall any beer in the trolley. It seems there were two options between red and white wines.
As per the contents of the "happy meal" box. Well, its a question of perspective. It seems AV is only handing you a bag of granola and nuts and a water bottle (dunno if they give something more substancial in long haul flights), so the contents of the box are actually a TON of food compared to crappy AV. Now, if you compare this to what other European carriers are serving in J in their long hauls… this is disappointing. Feel free to judge yourselves.
The crew passed by handling chocolate candies mid "meal".
Now, I thought this was it. Considering the muffin, I thought okay, this is both "dinner" and "breakfast". And it made a bit of sense considering the airline is "trying to avoid as much contact between crew and passengers as possible, for your health of course".
So my first thought was to ration my "happy meal". I went first with the fuet bites (1.80€ at DIA), the picos (less than 1€ at DIA, they even sometimes give them for free with wine) and the (literally, the) slice of manchego (couldnt find the price, but a block is under 5€ at DIA) as a tapa of sorts. I hadn't had any of these for quite a while, so I was quite content with my tapas and wine (the name of the game is perspective peeps…or else you'll only be old and bitter). I felt hungry, but then I wouldn't have any food for later.
So I called the FA and asked her if this was it. She blushed. She went to the galley, came back and told me this wouldn't be it. They would pass with a breakfast box before landing, and sandwiches would be available at request later on.
So, knowing more nourishment would be available later on, I went with the tuna salad (1.89€ at Carrefour) and then the Kit Kat as dessert (1.03€ at DIA -bigger size-). I left the muffin and the yogourt for later (eg, breakfast). While not a fancy meal at all (and cheaper than a big mac combo at Mickey -D's), it managed to fill me up. So, it did the job.
We had some super cool views of Valencia and Metropolitan Caracas in the meantime.
After the dinner service it was sleepy time.
Now, I don't know if I'm getting cranky with time. But there was too much light for me to have a proper sleep.
Now, I know this is not advised by the CDC, but i felt like going to the loo. It did not seem too premium for a business class WC.
I finally managed to sleep. And I woke up almost two hours away from the Peninsula. View outside were unremarkable.
In no time we were woken up…
The second round of "happy meal" boxes were, just a bit better than what you would receive in a normal times Y-Class breakfast box.
In no time we made it to Europe just south of Lisbon.
And then we smoothly crossed into Madrid. Castille's dryness never ceases to amaze me.
One last peak into the cabin
The trip had reached its end.
We basically floated into the airport. Landing was super smooth, made me forget we're in a 200 tonne machine. Yet the shocking reality check was the view…
Then…to an empty Barajas (I have never seen it "full" though)
Deboarding was carried out orderly by rows. I thanked the crew and went up the ramp. At the end of the jetway some Guardia Civiles were waiting for "random checks". They ignored us. I made it to passport control and made it through in no time. Then a "new" x-ray check to our carry-ons. The Guardia Civil let me through in no time.
All in all, it took less than 10 minutes between leaving the plane and getting to the train to the main Terminal 4.
Once we arrived to Terminal 4, there was a check for the Spanish government's health control. Its basically a questionnaire where you declare you pose no risk. Then you pass through temperature controls and the Health Control questionnaire is scanned.
The bags took ages to arrive..the longest part of it all, and the "Priority" tags in my bags were basically useless. But no harm done. Between leaving the A350 and arriving to my building it was 70 minutes including a 20 minute car ride from Barajas. Magic!
Here's were my COVID-times FR comes to an end, I hope you enjoyed it.
It is a mixed-bag. I felt excited from an AVGeek point of view, finally flying after 7 months. First time flying business in a long-haul flight, first time flying an A350. Now, these are somber and sobering times. Leaving your people behind in these uncertain times leaves a lingering bitterness that don't let you experience this with 100% joy, amazement and geekiness flying means for me.
Iberia. These are unusual times, and I am rating IB based on unusual standards. The hard product is correct, but it could feel more premium. I felt the crew were giving their best, considering the conditions we're facing, I felt well taken care of overall. The IFE could had been better, but again, the competition is not even giving you IFE, so...I guess I should feel lucky. Now the catering, it's plain miserable. For a business class ticket, even when I expected diminished service, I certainly did not expect to be served less than 20€'s worth of food. This is compounded by the fact that other European carriers had made upgrades to their services in J class catering at the same time.
Bogotá-Eldorado. The airport is still great. Because of the lack of passengers the place feels empty, but at the same time great (it was bursting before COVID). Now, the silly procedures that Colombian authorities have implemented (why would I need to download 3 different apps when all could be done through the same bloody app?), the attitude of the Migration Officer was annoying and offensive and tons of pointless people just loitering instead of making sure the health regulations are met...just made me hate the place.
Madrid-Barajas. It was awesome, I love how "efficient" it was, in spite of the oddball controls by the Guardia Civil. In these times though, I would have liked a bit more control to ensure we are being taken care of.
Eldorado Lounge. I didn't even expect a Lounge to go to, so this was awesome, I was prepared to find the most secluded spot and bore myself to death while waiting to board. The people working there were lovely and I appreciated how they sincerely endeavoured to give you a good experience within what its possible nowadays.
In sum, this experience was a reminder of how many things we took for granted before March 2020.
Thanks for reading,