Review of LAN Airlines flight Barranquilla Bogota in Economy

Airline LAN Airlines
Flight LA 3135
Class Economy
Seat --
Aircraft Airbus A320
Flight time 01:05
Take-off 13 Jul 14, 19:50
Arrival at 13 Jul 14, 20:55
LA   #35 out of 123 Airlines A minimum of 20 Flight-Reports is required in order to appear in the rankings. 65 reviews
Chibcha
By 2585
Published on 15th July 2014
Hello everyone!

This is the return trip from Barranquilla after a weekend there, the flight from Bogotá, on Avianca is available here so my reporter interest for this flight was to compare with AV's product.

At first I was hesitant to buy on LA, two years ago I bought a ticket to Armenia with them (to fly on their Dash 8s), but suddenly the route was cancelled and we were routed to Pereira without any consultation, even when obligated under Colombian Law to send us to Armenia they ignored such obligation…and you can imagine all the hell that ensued. Since then I vowed to myself not to fly LA again, even when that meant not having a trip.

But after seeing reports on the web (including Avionero's to CTG) I chose to give them another chance.

My girlfriend's flight on AV, which was on the same schedule was cancelled and she was moved to a flight that departed an hour before mine. That day was the World Cup final, so after Germany got it's prize we rushed through Barranquilla's streets across the city into the airport. My GF practically had to run to print her BP and then to the Gate, she barely made it.

I, on the other hand, had to check in her bag and so on…so I had to clear this queue, I was surprised with the high amount of people making connections in BOG to the US and other points in America.
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Whereas the other check in counters looked deserted…
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The queue moved swiftly enough and I had my bag checked and my BP (on a flimsy store like ticket) on my hands in less than 15 minutes. The agent was polite and efficient.

After my 6 hour wait in BAQ I didn't feel like waiting there again, so I went to the Domestic flights concourse… only 3 gates are used, the rest is used very seldom. It is so 80s… you can see the glass doors that shut the parts not in use due to low traffic (today it was open…maybe because there were 5 flights at the time)
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An Easyfly J41 to Valledupar
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Avianca's flights to MDE (A318) and BOG (A320), my GF's flight, departing.
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I went to the toilets, which showed that they were renovated (as their architecture didn't match the 80's feel of the terminal) and well tended, Kudos for that BAQ, I actually expected something really nasty.

I spent my time reading my book till the incoming plane got to the gate, passengers from BOG de-boarded and in no time they were calling people in. As I heard my row to be called among the first I jumped and entered the plane practically first…

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I was greeted by a cheerful crew, and the plane looked pretty smart and neat. Like on AV, they had videos on portraying touristic destinations in Colombia and pop music was playing whilst passengers got to their seats.

Seats were confortable, I thought it was to be a horrible experience as LA's A320s are more crowded than AVs they actually fell right


Seat pocket contents
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View from my initial seat
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The plane was practically filled and the seat besides me was empty, I was feeling lucky, but then a crew woman kindly asked me if I had any problem moving down so a couple could seat together. I obliged.

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In no time we were towed and taxying to RWY 05…while at it the safety video was played, and we were greeted by the folks up front. I was impressed that everyone in the crew felt accessible, and joyful (and this was a sunday night flight!), and all communications were both in Spanish and English (something that doesn't happen on AV's domestic flights). BTW the first thing they did was to hand out candy bags to children onboard, a very nice touch that I had only seen on Colombia's premium airline, ACES, before it went bust in 2002.

Take off was powerful and we enjoyed awesome views of the moon reflected on the marshlands around Barranquilla…around 15 minutes after IFE began with news and world cup specials, then the omnipresent just for laughs… I wasn't much interested and chose to see the moon (it looked huge) and read my book. Midway through the flight service begun, options were coffee, water or juices (contrary to AV, they served them on a plastic glass), and they also handed boxes with a bag of yuca (cassava) chips and cocadas (coconut+caramel candy)
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The flight passed quickly as we munched and then approach to BOG was announced. The plane had a route I had never tried, allowing very interesting views of Bogotá at night, sadly my camera isn't good enough for decent pictures.

We landed on RWY 13R and taxied to the terminal, the crew had practically bid goodbye but then this nice flight turned sour. There was no gate for us…this ended up in an hour long wait for us to have a hard stand (even though there was indeed space in the terminal) and getting us bussed to the terminal.

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Everybody, including the crew, was a bit exasperated and surely wanting to get to their beds, as it was a rainy cold night in Bogotá; and surely people with connections were really worried, but nobody was rushed…(hope they didn't miss their flights).

My girfriend had her phone stolen in BOG when leaving to BAQ, so we were uncommunicated and I couldn't find her, to make things worse I didn't find her bag.

While I waited I took this pic of the baggage area in the new domestic part of the Terminal, a HUGE improvement over the previous terminals.
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My GF made me out because of it and that's how she found me…

Then to get to her flat, we had to make another queue to the Taxis. There are a lot of pirate taxi drivers who offer you to skip the queue, but I didn't patronize these guys as they are actually not helping but turning things worse. The queue was quick enough though, even when long. I was outraged that Authorities allow this to happen (at this point nothing should surprise or outrage me regarding Government incompetence but…).
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Verdict

LAN Airlines

8.4/10
Cabin8.5
Cabin crew10.0
Entertainment6.5
Meal/catering8.5

Barranquilla - BAQ

6.8/10
Efficiency10.0
Access4.0
Services6.0
Cleanliness7.0

Bogota - BOG

7.8/10
Efficiency8.0
Access7.5
Services7.5
Cleanliness8.0

Conclusion

Overall, I was very surprised in a positive way with LA, I liked a lot this flight and changed my mind about them. The last time I flew with them they were still on the transition from AIRES (a Colombian LCC) to LAN, and it showed everywhere. But now they've seem to embrace their new corporate culture, and looked proud and happy to be part of LAN's team, so much that it feels right to the costumer.

The A320 felt good for the domestic hops, but I can't tell whether they're comfortable for the 3h trips to LIM... IFE wasn't extraordinary, but I like LAN's magazine better, as it is not as Colombia-centric as Avianca's, but they still have the advantage with their PTV's. Catering was appropriate for the sector, and superior to AV's, they do go the extra mile for a decent catering and I appreciated a lot the candies for children...leaves AV in shame.

BAQ is an airport that puts its city in shame, I hope that changes for good soon. Other than that it is a pretty straight forward and even an easy airport, as long as you don't expect any amenities or something that you may get used to in airports in North America and Europe. The City needs to figure out how to get affordable and decent public transport there, and maybe lowering Taxi fares.

BOG, it is unacceptable that our flight couldn't get a gate, even when there was free space indeed. I don't now if this is AV's or LA's fault, and it is also unacceptable they took so long to sort things out. The new terminal has its advantages, but it feels wrong not to have a terminal without the problems that the former one also had, after investing huge amounts of USDs on it. The taxi queues are something that if not controlled soon, will be an awful first impression for people coming to Bogotá.

Thanks for reading, Saludos!

Related

11 Comments

  • Comment 113855 by
    lagentsecret 8972 Comments

    Thanks for sharing this FR

    An overall good experience with LA but a bad one with the aiports, especially BOG

    • Comment 298137 by
      Chibcha AUTHOR 423 Comments

      I wouldn't say a bad experience with Barranquilla's airport, if you don't expect nothing you won't be disapointed, and maybe that's the mantra with most airports in Colombia.

      Thanks for commenting

  • Comment 113858 by
    jetsetpanda SILVER 2253 Comments

    Glad to see that LA has improved since the last time you took them. It's a shame that your experience at BOG was not the same.

    Gracias.

  • Comment 113860 by
    Azureas 89 Comments

    Thanks for the FR
    It's interesting to see how European standard is different compare to South American one.
    Regarding the gates problem I remember having the same issue with...Delta (!) during a flight between Rio and Atlanta.
    We waited also on the taxiway more than one hour before having a gate, I was very close to miss my connexion for Montreal this day. Since I alway feel uncertain when I landed in ATL.
    Cheers

  • Comment 113866 by
    pititom GOLD 9440 Comments

    Thanks for sharing ! It's good to see that LAN actually brings improvement to the companies they acquire. Because they are building a monopoly in South American and one could be tempted to take a dominant position and lessen efforts.

    So not bad at all at the end, even if the flight itself still has space for improvement.

    • Comment 298141 by
      Chibcha AUTHOR 423 Comments

      That's what worries me regarding aviation in Latin America, it's becoming an oligopoly, in most cases a duopoly, and in the case of Central America is even worse given that the two biggest players are both on the same airline alliance.

      At the beginning, I feared the same as what you're saying, and it was almost a self-completing prophecy with my first flight, but I guess they had to improve in order to gain market quota and make competition to AV.

  • Comment 113877 by
    KévinDC TEAM SILVER 4406 Comments

    So in the comparison between Avianca and LAN on this route it looks like LAN wins? Nice to see that this good experience could win back your confidence in LAN. I've never flown them since I don't often get the chance to go to S. America, but here in the US, LAN has a good reputation and there are a lot of positive trip reports and reviews out there. Looks like LAN is maturing as a carrier with a high standard of service--compared to US carrier (but then again, any standard is higher than US carriers, LOL).

    • Comment 298142 by
      Chibcha AUTHOR 423 Comments

      On this particular match, indeed, LA is the big winner...it offers more at the catering level, and their FA's were more cheerful and nicer.

      The deal with AV is that everything is so...mechanic, and they've offered the same service for almost 10 years with no further improvement than the PTV (which you don't always get to enjoy as it happened to me on the BOG-BAQ flight). AV used to be a very crappy airline and it was avoided like the plague, after they swallowed ACES and SAM there was pretty much no competition to them on the domestic market, so you were forced to fly with them. They did improve a lot with the new fleet, but their effort was sort of half hearted soft product-wise and I think that's where they're failing awfully.

      I do hope competition between LA and AV gets stronger, and now with a thriving LCC, AV must change some aspects of their consumer experience in order to keep up.

      I have heard that LA's international product has actually devolved from what it used to be 10 years ago...I haven't flown with them since, but I hope I can score a trip with them soon to tell you how it goes.

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