Friday, 24 July 2015

S.America 5: Avianca to Europe in J BOG-MDE-MAD

 photo map.gif

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.

 photo _MG_9866.jpg

 photo IMG_3244.jpg

 photo IMG_3249.jpg

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.

 photo _MG_9867.jpg

 photo _MG_9876.jpg
El Dorado airport in the near distance.

 photo _MG_9877.jpg

 photo _MG_9868.jpg

 photo _MG_9869.jpg

 photo _MG_9870.jpg

Inside the church

 photo IMG_3258.jpg

Taking a walk through the flea market

 photo _MG_9872.jpg

And then taking the funicular back down the mountain again.

 photo _MG_9879.jpg

 photo IMG_3270.jpg

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

 photo IMG_3275.jpg

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.

 photo IMG_3277.jpg

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

 photo IMG_3279.jpg

 photo IMG_3282.jpg

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.

 photo IMG_3283.jpg

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

 photo IMG_3284.jpg

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.

 photo IMG_3288.jpg

 photo IMG_3286.jpg

 photo IMG_3290.jpg
Nice and premium

 photo _MG_9886.jpg

 photo _MG_9887.jpg

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

 photo _MG_9888.jpg

 photo _MG_9892.jpg

 photo _MG_9899.jpg

 photo _MG_9900.jpg

 photo _MG_9902.jpg

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.

 photo _MG_9903.jpg

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

 photo IMG_3296.jpg

 photo IMG_3298.jpg

 photo IMG_3301.jpg

 photo _MG_9904.jpg

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.

 photo _MG_9908.jpg

 photo _MG_9909.jpg

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.

 photo IMG_3305.jpg

 photo IMG_3309.jpg

 photo IMG_3314.jpg

 photo AVold.jpg

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.

 photo _MG_9911.jpg

 photo IMG_3319.jpg

 photo IMG_3320.jpg

 photo IMG_3321.jpg

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

 photo IMG_3316.jpg

 photo IMG_3323.jpg

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.

 photo _MG_9914.jpg

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.

 photo IMG_3324.jpg

 photo IMG_3329.jpg

 photo IMG_3331.jpg

 photo _MG_9915.jpg
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.

 photo IMG_3336.jpg

 photo _MG_9918.jpg

 photo IMG_3340.jpg

 photo _MG_9919.jpg

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.

 photo _MG_9922.jpg

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!

 photo IMG_3349.jpg

We touched down into Medellin just 25 minutes after departure.

 photo IMG_3353.jpg

 photo IMG_3357.jpg

 photo IMG_3358.jpg

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

 photo IMG_3361.jpg

 photo IMG_3362.jpg

 photo IMG_3363.jpg

 photo IMG_3364.jpg

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.

 photo IMG_3367.jpg

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.

 photo IMG_3370.jpg

 photo IMG_3371.jpg

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.

 photo IMG_3369.jpg

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.

 photo IMG_3376.jpg

 photo AVold.jpg

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

 photo IMG_3378.jpg

 photo IMG_3380.jpg

 photo IMG_3381.jpg

 photo IMG_3382.jpg

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.

 photo _MG_9926.jpg

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

 photo _MG_9927.jpg

Followed by menus.

 photo IMG_3384.jpg

 photo IMG_3385.jpg

 photo IMG_3387.jpg

 photo IMG_3388.jpg

 photo IMG_3390.jpg

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

 photo IMG_3392.jpg

 photo IMG_3393.jpg

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.

 photo IMG_3397.jpg

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.

 photo _MG_9929.jpg

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.

 photo IMG_3405.jpg

 photo _MG_9930.jpg

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

 photo _MG_9932.jpg

 photo IMG_3409.jpg

 photo IMG_3410.jpg

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

 photo IMG_3411.jpg

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

 photo _MG_9933.jpg

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

 photo IMG_3416.jpg
I’ve seen these somewhere else recently?

Water bottles were handed out a few moments later.

 photo IMG_3417.jpg

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.

 photo IMG_3421.jpg

 photo IMG_3415.jpg
Panorama of the cabin before bed.

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

 photo _MG_9935.jpg

 photo _MG_9936.jpg

 photo _MG_9937.jpg
Seat controls

 photo IMG_3430.jpg
Power options

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

 photo IMG_3426.jpg

 photo IMG_3424.jpg

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

 photo _MG_9938.jpg

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.

 photo IMG_3432.jpg

Followed by chocolates.

 photo IMG_3434.jpg

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

 photo IMG_3437.jpg

 photo IMG_3438.jpg

 photo IMG_3439.jpg

 photo IMG_3442.jpg

 photo IMG_3447.jpg

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.

 photo IMG_3450.jpg

 photo IMG_3451.jpg

 photo IMG_3452.jpg

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.

 photo IMG_3454.jpg

 photo IMG_3455.jpg

 photo IMG_3458.jpg

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

 photo IMG_3460.jpg

 photo IMG_3461.jpg

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.

 photo IMG_3470.jpg

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.

 photo IMG_3466.jpg

 photo IMG_3462.jpg

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

 photo IMG_3467.jpg

 photo _MG_9942.jpg

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.