Review of Avianca flight Bogota Barranquilla in Economy

Airline Avianca
Flight AV 8424
Class Economy
Seat --
Aircraft Airbus A318
Flight time 01:05
Take-off 11 Jul 14, 11:05
Arrival at 11 Jul 14, 12:10
AV   #63 out of 142 Airlines A minimum of 20 Flight-Reports is required in order to appear in the rankings. 92 reviews
Chibcha
By 3041
Published on 15th July 2014
Hello everyone, welcome to this domestic report within Colombia, between Bogotá and Barranquilla, Colombia's 4th biggest city and the regional capital of Colombia's Caribbean. This trip had an interesting twist and is that due to the prices, I had to buy my tickets on AV and LAN. I would fly to Barranquilla on AV, and the return would be on LAN, presently AV's biggest competitor domestically, in a way almost a precise comparison of both products.

I bought this ticket with LifeMiles, so this 11AM flight was basically my only choice for the day. My GF would be flying at 3PM… so I would have to wait for her at BAQ for a couple of hours so she wouldn't have to do the 1h ride to the hotel on her own.

My brother took me to the airport at 9AM so I could explore the new AV concourse at the terminal building, without having to rush. I wouldn't be checking in any bags so I could practically be at the airport about 30m before SDT.

AV has move main trunk routes from their Puente Aéreo Terminal to the main terminal building, which eventually will be the LCC terminal. Since works are not finished yet, the national gates are not 100% operational. But everyone knows that even when done, the terminal won't be able to keep pace with AVs huge ops.

This is how the check in zone looked at 9AM…its not full, it'd be interesting to check it at the 6 AM rush hour and at Friday PMs when people return to their cities…
photo IMG_6262

I had done OLCI, but I wanted a souvenir BP. I wasn't going to queue, so I went to one of the Self Check In Kiosks.

photo IMG_6261

They have a curious selection of airlines available, it doesn't make any sense at all IMO, one should be able to check in for any airline on the terminal…
The two first kiosks I used crashed as soon as I clicked on AVs logo, one actually crashed twice…but then I moved somewhere else and managed to have my BP…sadly, on a cheap paper, store receipt sort.

The new terminal is a huge improvement from the former…but it didn't turn out as expected. Most open spaces have been used for stores, the airport operator's attempt to make more dimes… the result lots of ridiculous stores all selling the same products (literally) and at the same exaggerated prices…

photo IMG_6264

At the top left of the picture one can see part of the food court. Most of the eat options at BOG are landside, so prepare to have to get through security when making a domestic transfer. The international airside has another small food court and a pair of restaurants. Have all the parties interested in turning BOG into an interesting hub for Latin America…only time will tell, but for me it seems they've been mediocre at the attempt taking into account the huge amount of money involved.


One of the coolest features of the former terminal was that the public zone had huge windows to observe the central platform…the new terminal does have huge windows, but one has to squish between the stores to check the view…which for the meanwhile is the former terminal…
photo IMG_6266


Disappointed with the lack of interesting views, I moved on to the concourse airside. Now some cool stuff going on for real! The security check was nicely arranged with lots of lanes, and special VIP lanes for AV Biz and LifeMiles premium clients…the security check at the international concourse is also very efficient. BOG has one of the best and most efficient security lanes right now IMO. I'll have to check how it copes when passenger flows increase.

I couldn't get any trustworthy info on what was permitted on my carryon…so I assumed the worst and organized all for US/EU standards (no 100ml+ liquids and so on…) when getting ready to leave my bag the guy asked me if I carried a laptop, I said no…he said ok carry on, I asked if I had to take my iPad out, he answers neh don't worry, then I asked about liquids, he laughed and said that's only for international flights mate, I asked about shoes and belt….he was like….dude, chill…. Security concerns aside, the ambiance and situation was so laid back it actually felt nice, for a change.

Once airside, this view greets you… if you notice they tried to hide the debris with some banners but the wind thought otherwise…on the first floor one can see the remnants of the international baggage claim, and the former duty free zone on the second floor.

photo IMG_6268

The new concourse is fairly big, and airy with its high ceilings, but it feels a little bit dark IMO, since the building is designed in a way that doesn't allow much outside light in. Hence, poor platform views, damn it!

There are some sort of makeshift VIP lounges for AV, a Dunkin' Donuts, a Bogotá Beer Company pub, a bookstore and a pair of foodstores. I planned to have my breakfast here, but the most decent place I found was the DD.

photo IMG_6269


I had about an hour to waste so after checking all the place, I went to the DD and bought my breakfast: a cheese,bacon,ham sandwich, a doughnut and OJ all for $15000 (about 8,30USD) a bit pricey for my taste, but everything was nice…except for the doughnut, the guy at the counter didn't give me the flavour I wanted. While I was wolfing my stuff, I checked the huge amount of flights leaving for Medellín (about every 30 mins)…lots of distracted people going to the wrong place of feeling lost (I've come to suspect that Colombians are lazy at reading signs, or is it that they're so poorly designed?), other bunch of people running for their gate, a pair of cancelled or delayed flights.

I thought this would be my plane, but this babybus ended up going to Bucaramanga…you can see LAN's airbuses getting ready to go on the other side of the apron.
photo IMG_6270

Even when it doesn't have the best view to the planes parked on it, the concourse does have a nice view to CATAM, the military base…you can see the new control tower rising it will eventually be the tallest in South America and the second tallest in Latin America
photo IMG_6271

My gate was finally announced and it was on the lower level, which had additional gates. It felt a bit dingy as it was darker than the upper level, and it was crowded with people flying to Cartagena, San Andrés Island and my flight to Barranquilla. Whereas the two former are touristic destinations, one could easily tell out who where going to Barranquilla….the other flights were filled with families and small kids getting ready to go to the beach and so on…my flight mates consisted more of business people and folks going back home.
photo IMG_6272

The CTG flight was scheduled to leave before but my flight was called first (the people from the CTG flight ranting), a huge line was about to form so I rushed to it. Thankfully the gate agents enforced the row order and I managed to skip some people into the plane.

My ride for today is a former Mexicana A318, their lease is not for long as AV expects to replace them with E or C jets, so I don't expect them to get the new livery nor PTVs
photo IMG_6273photo IMG_6274

At the door I was greeted by a cheerful and cute purser, wearing hipster eyeglasses…the rest of the crew were a guy and a pair of not so hot women, one of which didn't look in her best days.

As I approached my seat I noticed something was off…some guy was at my seat. He was already getting comfy and all. I showed up and looked him with a WTF face. He asked if if that was my seat, I showed him my BP. He showed me his, the aisle seat, and asked me which seat is this then.? in a defiant way…I showed him the diagram and pointed to his real seat. I knew this guy was faking that he didn't know, he was just hoping for someone to didn't care and leave him there, an attitude I think is rather disrespectful, so I didn't feel like wasting my words on this guy, so all of this took place via signs and pointing. A lady on the row in front thought I couldn't speak or didn't understand Spanish so she just showed me her bag and then pointed towards the bin over her…I was laughing so much in my mind.

Even when these planes are not bound to have the new Y seats with PTVs, AV has changed them from fabric to (faux?) leather covers, as you may remember from my AXM-BOG FR, the seat pitch was fair and overall it felt more than enough for an hour long flight…confort wise they're OK, but I would feel cheated if I was stuck in one of these planes on the runs they do to Guatemala (about 3.5h) and Miami, considering their bigger siblings do have PTVs.
photo IMG_6276

(This pic was during de-boarding)
photo IMG_6314


During boarding music was played and touristic promotion videos were shown…

photo IMG_6275

Having everyone in, the plane was towed and then the safety video was played.

More AV planes at their gates…
photo IMG_6277

The south concourse is shared with Satena, don't know about the Sarpa plane (it seems they do charters…check the likeness of their tail art to the one of TA and AV!)
photo IMG_6278

I guess CTG's flight got upgraded to AV's newest toy…maybe that's why it was delayed.
photo IMG_6279

Engine start up, wait for a while for clearance and off we go to RWY 13L, as we are to have a northward departure.

The former terminal and ATC Tower.
photo IMG_6280

As the team did so good during the World Cup, there was this nationalistic vibe all around, even on the ATC!
photo IMG_6281

LAN's hub…
photo IMG_6282

The International concourse with Jetblue, Aerolineas Argentinas, Copa and TACA (Avianca)
photo IMG_6283

A late 752 off to Miami, it was a very powerful takeoff
photo IMG_6284

A TAME A320 to CCS, they do a milk run between CCS and UIO connecting the three capitols, these flights were common before things got nasty with Venezuela…
photo IMG_6285

In the meanwhile, the guys at the front spoke, told us we were #3 on the take off assignments, that the flight would take 1:05h and that weather conditions in BAQ were ok with 33° temp with a bit of turbulence eventually midflight.

Lining up with RWY 13L, northern Bogotá having a shower….and that's where we're headed!
photo IMG_6286

The new ATC Tower…
photo IMG_6287

CATAM
photo IMG_6288

Near the Terminal…approaching Rotation Speed (?)
photo IMG_6289

Rotation..
photo IMG_6290

AR's A340s are the hottest girls around right now…a place formerly occupied by AVs A332s
photo IMG_6291

The Puente Aéreo now manages flights with destinations that don't see much frequency or are served by ATRs…it looks so empty now
photo IMG_6292

The Transmilenio hub near the airport
photo IMG_6293

My grandparents used to live on this zone, watching the planes take off and land was awesome, a bit noisy with the 727s, MDs and DC9s that were popular at the time.
photo IMG_6294

The main CBD with its skyscrapers…
photo IMG_6295

Now over Chapinero…all tall buildings are around Bogotá's main avenue: Carrera 7
photo IMG_6296

This is Bogotá's most expensive zone, Rosales
photo IMG_6297

Then over the WTC zone
photo IMG_6298

Check the hectic traffic!
photo IMG_6299photo IMG_6300

Bogotá's Country Club
photo IMG_6301

Now over the suburbs
photo IMG_6304photo IMG_6305

Finally leaving Bogotá, one sees Tominé Reservoir nearby is Guatavita lake, where the El Dorado legend is from as the local indigenous peoples used to toss their gold over there.
photo IMG_6306

The view was ruined by the weather afterwards, so I tried to read a bit but I was eventually dozing.

I woke up while we were over the marshlands where the Magdalena and Cauca Rivers meet…by then service begun, we were handed an ordinary juice box. And that was it.
photo IMG_6307

Eventually descent begun.
photo IMG_6308

Crossing the Magdalena River
photo IMG_6309

In no time we made a right turn and intercepted RWY 05
photo IMG_6310

Into the birthplace of Colombian Aviation!
photo IMG_6311

The deserted terminal building…one wouldn't guess that it serves a city as important as Barranquilla
photo IMG_6312

Clearly showing its age…this airport was the most modern in Colombia when built in the 80s…and there it stayed. A real shame
photo IMG_6313

Our plane at destination
photo IMG_6315

Down to baggage claim, Barranquilla is where the National Team plays and it shows…
photo IMG_6316photo IMG_6317


So now what…I had time to spare, so first to the only viewing terrace remaining in Colombia (as far as I know)
photo IMG_6319

Check the strategic location of people…it was extremely hot at the time!

So I went inside again, where i would be cooled by the powerful A/C….not, it was actually cooler outside where at least you had the wind to cool you. Still I stayed there whilst I waited for my girl to make it because I needed where to seat and charge my mobile phone.

Here are some pics of BAQ's traffic, which is mainly LAN and AV to BOG, some regional flights to midsize cities, an AV flight from MIA (the Star Alliance plane) and a Copa flight to PTY.


GF's flight eventually got delayed and I spent 6 hours there….never again. Beh, at least I managed to read a lot.
See more

Verdict

Avianca

5.8/10
Cabin8.5
Cabin crew7.5
Entertainment/wifi5.0
Meal/catering2.0

Bogota - BOG

7.6/10
Efficiency10.0
Access6.0
Services6.0
Cleanliness8.5

Barranquilla - BAQ

4.0/10
Efficiency6.5
Access1.5
Services2.5
Cleanliness5.5

Conclusion

Overall, a regular AV domestic operation...nothing extraordinary, but I managed to see the new terminal at BOG.

AV: Beh, without PTVs AV product is ordinary as a domestic flight can get. The crew were decent, but nothing extraordinary, not that anything more was required from them. Catering, lame...

BOG: Nice building, but considering the chance to have an awesome airport...as a Colombian I feel robbed. Anyway, all went swiftly and decently. The shopping and eating options could be improved.

BAQ: It's a complete shame this city is served by such shameful building, in complete neglect (bathrooms where surprisingly clean though, better than at the city's top notch mall). Restaurant options are decent, but there isn't anything much to do. As the airport is in a suburb far away from where one is likely to spend its time in Barranquilla, cab fares are strikingly expensive. I hope once again the Ernesto Cortissoz is back to its former glory.

Thanks for reading, stay tuned for my flight on LAN!

Saludos!

Related

8 Comments

  • Comment 113218 by
    jetsetpanda 2294 Comments

    Thank you for sharing this nice report and taking us along this tour of BOG airport. I think the lost syndrome at airports is everywhere in the world and not only specific to BOG. The majority of people tend to be leave their common sense and ability to think behind once they arrive at an airport expecting to find answers by just asking. The ability to navigate an airport smoothly is one of the things that separate the flying public from members of this forum. ;)

    Your aerial views of Santafé de Bogotá with the identification of major sights of the city are awesome. It's too bad that this city has suffered from a negative reputation in the past. In many ways, its mild spring climate and strong cultural identity should make it a coveted destination. After all, this Athens of South America has also been named World Book Capital by UNESCO.

    I have read that Cartagena is becoming a popular tourist destination these days.

    • Comment 297599 by
      Chibcha AUTHOR 432 Comments

      Indeed, Colombia has come a long way from what it was like 12 years ago, once people begin to know and see how it is like they love it! I wouldn't call our climate as mild spring as it can get really cold sometimes and is most of times rainy (like London), but it seems to be nice for Europeans and North Americans.

      Cartagena is booming right now, most people don't expect to see how it is, and it is a lovely colonial city with a nice modern city as well. But my favorite regions to travel are not that popular internationally right now, such as Boyacá, Santander, Medellín, the Llanos and the Coffee Region.

      Thanks for the nice comment and hope to see you around down here!

  • Comment 113264 by
    KévinDC TEAM SILVER 5273 Comments

    Thanks for the partial aerial visit of Colombia. Too bad it got cloudy, I bet there's a beautiful view when it's clear. Surprised that AR sends an A340 to Bogotá. Sorry you had to wait 6 hours at BAQ, definitely doesn't look like a fun place to be, LOL.

    • Comment 297679 by
      Chibcha AUTHOR 432 Comments

      Traffic between Bogotá and Buenos Aires is huge, sadly the Bilateral Treaty between us and Argentina is very dated and limits frequencies up to 4 flights/week per side, so AV and AR enjoy a duopoly and send their A330s and A340s respectively, full to either destination and charge excessively for it (you can score cheap flights connecting thru PTY, LIM or SCL). The treaty is so pathetic that it limits to 250 seats the plane that can operate the route, or else I bet this route would have seen even bigger planes.

  • Comment 113352 by
    Numero_2 GOLD 9911 Comments

    Thanks for sharing.

    Nice to see how the new BOG terminal looks like.

    The inflight magazine is indeed thick ! lol

    This pax just faking his ignorance about plane seating is just despicable.

    The seats look comfortable.

    Catering just consists of a juice box ? No water or coffee ?

    Sorry for the long wait at BAQ museum ! lol

    • Comment 297680 by
      Chibcha AUTHOR 432 Comments

      AV's magazine has been awarded some prizes as one of the best in the region (or world?), It is good quality both on contents and materially, but I only see to major flaws: 1) it is mainly in Spanish, not all information is translated into English and 2) it is still too Colombia-centric, don't know if the are versions depending on the plane's base, but these two flaws are awful considering that AV purports to be a Latin-wide airline.

      Seating is very comfortable, I'd take one of those sofa seats any time over the NEK seats on LH group...it's a shame they won't be getting PTVs.

      Regarding the catering, it's either water, coffee or the juice box. I some flights depending on the time, I've noticed they hand some cookies.

      Thanks for commenting!

  • Comment 137616 by
    flywunala 158 Comments

    Another masterpiece of yours...really enjoy your FR. Thanks for the BOG guided tour. Great plane spotting too!

  • Comment 356788 by
    NGO85 1622 Comments

    Gracias Chibcha!

    I had to go and read the only other report on BAQ^^ CM would seem to offer a much better product than AV. I considered doing the PTY-BOG-BAQ routing, but kept with the direct PTY-BAQ. The AV intra-Colombian product is not very strong.

    "BAQ: It's a complete shame this city is served by such shameful building, in complete neglect. I hope once again the Ernesto Cortissoz is back to its former glory."
    - LOL, this is soooo accurate. That concrete palace is disgusting and one of the worst airports I've seen in a loooooong time.

Login to post a comment.