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.
Whereas the other check in counters looked deserted…
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)
An Easyfly J41 to Valledupar
Avianca's flights to MDE (A318) and BOG (A320), my GF's flight, departing.
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…
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
View from my initial seat
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.
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)
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.
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.
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…).
Barranquilla - BAQ
Bogota - BOG
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!
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