Avianca | A320/A330 | BOG-MDE-MAD | Business

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Maps generated by theGreat Circle Mapper -copyright © Karl L. Swartz.

So after a late arrival into Colombia (and being nicely ripped off by a taxi driver in the process) it was a bit of a late start. I ventured out to Monserrate, the mountain that overlooks pretty much the whole of Bogota. The advice on TripAdvisor was to catch a cable car up the mountain, and a funicular back down again. Not sure why it was any better to do it this way, but I followed this advice.

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The view from the top was pretty good – although the weather could have been a little better. Cold and damp – much like a typical April day in the UK in fact.

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El Dorado airport in the near distance.

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Inside the church

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Taking a walk through the flea market

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And then taking the funicular back down the mountain again.

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A couple of the locals taking their pet llama’s out for a afternoon stroll.

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Before taking another overpriced cab back to the airport. This raised an interesting point – would my flight be classed as an international or a domestic – technically, it was just one flight from BOG to MAD, with a technical stop in MDE.

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Upon arrival, I went to investigate. It turns out that it was classed as a domestic flight.

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I was sent in the direction of the domestic gates, where it was through a simple security check – again, no liquids, iPads etc out of the bag.

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Almost straight after security there was a lounge – where there was a bit of confusion as to whether I should be granted entry.

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They kept asking to see my Star Gold card – something that I don’t have. It’s only when I said I was flying business they granted me entry. They also mentioned that there was another lounge that I was eligible for. I figured I’d stick to this one for the time being as was here. It wasn’t really anything to write home about.

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Nice and premium

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The good point of this lounge though was that there were pretty good views outside.

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After around an hour, I felt like a change of scenery, so I decided to check out the other lounge – which just happened to be right next door. So i took a brief walk of the pier. As it turned out, this would be my ride up to MDE.

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The second lounge wasn’t that much different, other than this one had no views and a slightly better food selection.

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After a while, the lounge emptied out nicely, until there were only a couple of us occupying it. Coupled with a decent wifi connection and comfortable seating, it was quite pleasant.

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I stayed here until around thirty minutes before boarding. I was secretly hoping for an A318, but as I arrived at the gate I found the earlier A320 still waiting patiently.

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April 2015
Airbus A320 / N980AV
Seat: 3A / Business
Scheduled: 19:26/20:24
Off Stand: 19:28
On Stand: 20:15

I took my assigned seat and although it looked the same as last nights version, there were a few major differences.

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This one also had IFE – something that would have been more useful on last nights sectors, rather than on this evenings 25 minute hop.

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The rear of the plane filled up, but the front didn’t. In the end there were six of the twelve business seats taken – including an Avianca captain hitching a ride.

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The door was closed and I had the seat next to me free. As well as a completely empty row in front. Although it still wasn’t an entirely comfortable flight – the child in the row behind decided it was going to scream it’s lungs out pretty much from boarding onwards… We pushed back a couple of minutes behind schedule and made a speedy taxi over to the active. Only to wait there for a good few minutes for a LAN A320 to land.

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The mountain can be seen in this pic if you look carefully enough.

Once we did lift off, from looking at the sky map it became apparent that this would be a very short flight – just 28 minutes in fact.

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A few moments later, a trolley rolled back to the economy section – which I thought was ambitious. And a couple of seconds later, the purser took my drink order. Just a water for the moment – in a plastic cup. Hardly premium. I noticed the hot drinks were distributed in polystyrene cups too.

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No sooner had I finished my drink descent had started. And the trolley that had gone back to the economy section rolled forward again – impressive!

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We touched down into Medellin just 25 minutes after departure.

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As there’s no airside transfer area here, it was a case of going land side and re-clearing security.

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It was only as I was clearing security that I grabbed my boarding pass and I noticed that I’d been moved to seat 2C since checking in at EZE.

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I figured I’d head up to the lounge and see if they could change it there. Except I then discovered there was no lounge. I noticed there was a Copa lounge, and as it had Star Alliance stickers plastered all over it, I thought I’d try my luck there – only to find out it was closed. In fact most of the terminal seemed pretty abandoned. So I had no option but to sit and wait in a pretty bland departures area.

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One thing of note was that I’d once again log a Star Alliance logo jet. A One World logo jet brought me to South America so I guess it’s only fair that a Star Alliance one would take me back to Europe.

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As soon as I saw the agents occupy the gate, I pounced on them begging for a change of seat… And after quite a long uno momento I was told that the flight was full, so too bad. I must admit I was feeling a bit miffed with this as I’d checked with both Expedia and Avianca before hand that I had window seats, and they confirmed. Around an hour later, boarding began, and I was the third on board.

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April 2015
Airbus A330 / N280AV
Seat: 2D / Business
Scheduled: 22:20/15:10
Off Stand: 22:16
On Stand: 14:58

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My final roll of the dice to get a window seat was to pester my seat mate for a swap. Yes, I know I hate it when people do that – but karma played a hand and he said he preferred a window seat. Ah well, least I could get up as many times as I wanted.

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Welcome drinks of OJ, water and champagne were handed out.

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Followed by menus.

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And finally Tumi branded amenity kits, along with shoe bags. This is now in use as my gadget charger bag!

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Boarding was completed, and annoyingly there were a couple of window seats free (including my original seat of 3A – I knew I should have just “lost” my new boarding pass…). As they both had somebody in the aisle though, I didn’t want to disturb their privacy. I did however move across to 2D. If I couldn’t have a window, I figured I may as well have a spare seat next to me. The safety video was shown whilst still on stand.

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The flight time was announced at 9 hours and 15 minutes, which would mean my longest sector on an A330. We pushed back a bit early, but then sat on the taxi way for a good ten minutes before pulling off. I must admit, the A330 is pretty quiet when you’re front and centre – I hadn’t even noticed the engines had started! A rough taxi and takeoff followed. During the climb, I decided to see what was in the amenity kit – very basic. A pack of tissues, a cheap pen, a toothbrush, some unbranded eyeshades, a chap stick and some hand cream.

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I also took a look at the in flight entertainment, but nothing really took my fancy. So I went with an episode of Top Gear on the iPad instead. Just as the hot towels were being handed out.

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Not too long after, the meal service began. I chose the chicken and it was pretty good, but still your typical airline food.

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Not so typical was the flower placed on the meal tray.

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Next up the crew pushed a trolley round full of the dessert options. I opted for the custard tart – now this was very good.

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Once the meal trays had been cleared away, I went to freshen up.

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I’ve seen these somewhere else recently?

Water bottles were handed out a few moments later.

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I reclined my seat fully into bed mode – although it wasn’t quite fully flat, it still did the job as I managed a good six hours or so.

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Panorama of the cabin before bed.

I only woke when the crew put the lighting into morning mode.

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Seat controls

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Power options

Hot towels were handed out, as well as coffee. But not being a big coffee drinker I declined the latter option.

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Breakfast was then served. I went for the pancakes, although it turned out they were actually waffles. They still hit the spot though.

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There wasn’t too much longer until we made our descent. The flight deck announced that it was windy and rainy in Madrid, so there might be a bit of a rough ride in – but it was nothing to worry about. During descent, packets of Colombian coffee were handed out – which was a decent gesture.

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Followed by chocolates.

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We then ended up holding for a while, before being ushered on to finals.

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We made the way over to T4S and I was on my way within a few minutes. Once we arrived on stand, the doors opened and people started disembarking, however the flight deck appeared to have forgotten something.

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It took quite a while to make my way through the terminal, through passport control and then on to the shuttle to the main terminal.

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But the longest wait was at baggage claim. Despite it taking a good while to reach, there were still no bags going around.

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Luckily a guy in an Avianca hi-viz was on the case and around ten minutes later, the first of the bags started appearing. Mine was out within a few minutes and I headed out.

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Rather than take the Metro, like I had done every other time I’d been in Madrid, I decided to take the train this time – as I’d booked a hotel in Plaza Mayor. Not only was it much quicker than taking the Metro, it wasn’t subject to the airport supplement, so it was also cheaper.

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I arrived in the centre around 25 minutes later and made the short walk to my hotel, The Eurostars Plaza Mayor.

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And with that, this report comes to an end.

Avianca once again did a fine job in the air. The service on the BOG-MDE sector could have been better, but on a sector of just 25 minutes it wasn’t a big deal. And the service on the MDE-MAD sector, again, was on par with other airlines. The ground service was a bit of a let down though. The lounges in BOG were very basic, being told that it wasn’t possible to move seats due to the flight being full – when it wasn’t, and then the whole booking issues have made me think I’m likely to look at other options in future – which is a shame, as in the air they were fine.

Avianca | Airbus A320 | EZE-LIM-BOG | Business

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Maps generated by theGreat Circle Mapper -copyright © Karl L. Swartz.

So after arriving into Buenos Aires on Emirates, it was time to explore the city.

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Heading down towards the fascinating Recoleta Cemetery

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Probably the most famous resident of the cemetery

Plaza San Martin

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Back towards the city

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Casa Rosada and Plaza De Mayo

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And again after dark

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The Docklands area – its not Dublin, I swear!

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The National Congress

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The Metropolitan Cathedral

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Florida Street shopping

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This could so easily have been a scene in London.

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Couldn’t come to Argentina and not have a steak!

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And a Mostaza Burger. I had 56 Argentine Peso’s in cash and this meal came to 55 – so worked out perfectly.

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One tip for anybody planning on visiting Argentina is to bring a stash of US Dollars. If you pay with those rather than by card, you’ll more than likely get the black market rate, which will make things significantly cheaper.

When it was time to leave, the cheapest and by far the most interesting option was on Avianca.

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A little misleading considering just the one AV A330 has this cabin

The booking process couldn’t have gone much worse though. I went through the process of selecting flights, entering card details etc.

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When I hit the pay now button I just got redirected back to the Avianca home page. Hmm strange. I tried again, but the second time around, it said the transaction had been declined. I phoned my bank to see what was going on and they said that the first transaction had been approved but they had declined the second one – due to two large sums of money heading towards Colombia looking a bit suspicious. So it was then on the phone to Avianca, who gave me a locator, but said they were still waiting for payment. What was going on? Who had my money? The bank said they had sent it Avianca and Avianca were saying they didn’t have it. I had no option but to give up with that and start again – this time through Expedia though, who fortunately offered the same itinerary. Luckily the missing money turned up in my bank account around a week or so later.

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An A320 from MDE to MAD?

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On to the day of departure then. Upon checking my flights on Google, something was amiss. The first flight was down as leaving on time, but due to arrive over two hours late. And the second flight was due to depart over two hours late, yet arrive over thirty minutes early? Logging on to check my trip also confirmed this.

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I’d prebooked a Remi to take me back to the airport. It happened to turn up over thirty minutes early, although this was a good thing as we ended up sitting in traffic for most of the journey.

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When I did arrive, I made my way over to the AV check in. My bag was sent off to Madrid and I questioned the delay – the agent said there was one, but not to worry as the plane in Lima would wait for me. Hmm well if you say so.

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I headed off with a pile of boarding passes.

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I made my way though a very easy security (no need to remove laptops, iPads or that dangerous tube of toothpaste I had in my bag) and immigration and up to a very bovine themed lounge – through the obligatory Duty Free shop.

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Upon checking the FID everything seemed to be running on time – maybe there wasn’t a delay and Google had got it wrong? Not much can be said about the lounge really – not much in the way of food or drink and awful wifi that keep dropping out every few seconds. At least it was comfortable enough.

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Seemingly everything came with caramel in this place.

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I headed off a little early to grab a few pictures of what was around.

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I made my way down to the gate at the time advertised on my boarding pass.

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It was only now that they decide to advertise the fact there was a delay.

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I’d known about it since I turned my phone on when I woke up – so why the big secret until the last possible moment? Normally I would be getting a little concerned about my connection, but as I also was advised by checkmytrip that this flight was delayed too, it wasn’t a big deal. And even if it wasn’t, I had the check in agents word that the plane would wait….

A few moments later, an Avianca coloured plane did turn up – and it wasn’t an A321. It had been subbed for an A320. Shame, as I’m a fan of the A321. I couldn’t get a picture though. Boarding began around thirty minutes or so ahead of our new scheduled departure time.

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April 2015
AIrbus A320 / N494TA
Seat: 3K / Business
Scheduled: 18:15/21:00
Off Stand: 18:51
On Stand: 21:30

I made my way on board and was welcomed by the crew into the larger style J seat that is normally found on the U.S. Carriers. Although annoyingly this one didn’t have any personal IFE, which I had been expecting.

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Ready and waiting on the seat were premium head sets and blankets.

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One thing of note was that towards the end of boarding, the overhead lockers looked completely full, as the crew were desperately trying to find space for the remaining bags. If a certain other popular flyer website is to believed, this is a problem confined solely to British Airways which has been brought on by introducing hand baggage only fares. Clearly not.

The captain gave a brief announcement, stating that we would have a flight time of four hours and thirty minutes and that we would be cruising at 34,000ft. Possibly my longest flight on an A320 series. Pre departure drinks and nuts were then dished out, just as pushback occurred – so I had to throw them back before they were snatched away from me again.

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We taxied over to the runway before making a very powerful departure.

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There was then a great view of downtown Buenos Aires – I could pretty much pick out where I’d spent the past few days by finding the regional airport and then following the coast line.

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There wasn’t much left to see once we were over the water.

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Soon after, the film started showing on the over head screen – Last Vegas. I’d seen it a month or so previously so didn’t feel any great need to watch it again.

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Hot towels were handed out.

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Around an hour after departure, the waft of food filled the cabin – so that could only mean that the dinner service was near. There was the choice of beef tenderloin or shrimps and rice. I chose the shrimp.

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This was followed by apple pie and Baileys.

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Once the dinner service was finished, I put a few videos on my iPad.

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During which there was a bit of a light show outside.

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Towards the end of the flight, I had a chat with the purser and asked if it was realistic that I’d make my connection. He told me not to worry, as this very plane would be heading on to Bogota. Well normally getting the same reg twice in a row wouldn’t be the preferred option, but I guess on this occasion it would make things a little easier.

Descent started around twenty five minutes before our updated arrival time, and the cabin lights came back on. Most of the descent was over the sea, although there were a few good views to be had along the way.

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We touched down and made our way over to the stand.

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Then the race was on to clear security and make my way back to the gate.

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I’d say twelve minutes was reasonable! Although I then spent a good twenty minutes waiting in line to get back on board – there seemed to be an awful lot of Star Golds on this flight.

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April 2015
Airbus A320/ N494TA
Seat: 2A / Business
Scheduled: 21:45/00:55
Off Stand: 22:33
On Stand: 01:28

I took my new seat, which was identical to the other – unsurprisingly. So no need to reproduce any legroom shots. Rather than boarding drinks, everyone was given Colombian customs forms to fill out.

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The crew announced a flying time of two hours thirty minutes. We pushed back around forty five minutes behind schedule, an hour and three minutes after this plane arrived from EZE, and made a long taxi over to the active.

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Once there, we had to hold for a while for a Continited 767 to land. We eventually lifted off around twenty minutes after leaving the gate.

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Unfortunately the views weren’t as good this time around as some cloud cover had turned up in the last hour or so. I won’t say too much more about this flight, as it was much the same as the last, plus I spent most of it snoozing. Hot towels were handed out around 45 minutes after departure.

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The meal service started shortly after. There was a choice of chicken or pasta, of which I chose the pasta.

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Followed by dessert.

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And then descent into Bogota began, landing around thirty minutes behind schedule in the end.

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Upon arrival, most of the airport seemed shut. There were just a couple of immigration officers around who were freely dishing out entry stamps and the customs officer seemingly couldn’t be bothered to switch on the X-Ray machine – so didn’t, and just waved everybody through instead. There were plenty of taxi drivers out to make a quick buck though (or fifteen in my case).

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Rather than spend the next 18 hours at the airport waiting for my connection to Madrid, I booked a room at the nearby Hotel Habitel.

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And that’s where I’ll leave things for now.

Avianca / Trans America did reasonably well on these two sectors. The seats were comfortable, the food was tasty and the staff were friendly and efficient. The only minor issue were the delays and the lack of communication regarding them. Had I known, I would have spend another thirty minutes or so in the lounge.

Join me next time for the continuation of this ticket and find out how Avianca fare on a long haul sector in business.