Trip Report: Avianca Economy Bogota to Washington, or Allow LOTS of Time for Flights Leaving BOG

Posted by Adam YWW on April 15, 2018 in Airlines, Trip Reports

This is the twelfth and final post in a series chronicling my January 2018 trip to Colombia. You can read an overview/preview here.

Avianca Flt. 246 Bogota-El Dorado to Washington-Dulles (BOG-IAD)
A320neo, Economy
Sch. Dep.  8:17am           Sch. Arr. 1:43pm
Act. Dep.   8:24am           Act. Arr.  1:42pm

As referenced in my last post, I’m not going to do a post on what I did in my 2.5 days in Bogota other than what was covered in my hotel review, as too much time has passed and I didn’t take great notes. It was an interesting city and perhaps there are parts I didn’t get to some time, but the only experience that I found really great was Monserrate. Everything else was kind of meh.

For my trip back, I used 17,500 Avianca Lifemiles for the nonstop flight on Avianca from Bogota to Washington-Dulles. There was only coach award availability, but it was worth it to get the nonstop (and Avianca charges a lot less mileage than Aeroplan or United for the same route). It’s a longish flight, at around 5.5 hours, but I’ve done longer in coach. Starting the week before, I had gotten several emails from Avianca offer me to bid to upgrade; the minimum bid never changed from $380 though which didn’t seem worth it for a mid-haul narrow body flight. In all, the flight was perfectly fine – especially on Avianca’s newest plane, their A320neo – which is not always used on the route. But the lesson I would take away is leave a lot of time to get through check-in and immigration and security, which was a disaster and took me ninety minutes to clear.  So, no lounge report, though there are two Priority Pass ones, as I literally ran through the airport.

I left the Hilton Bogota at 5:50am, earlier than the bellman had suggested and boy I was glad I did.  I took a hotel taxi, which took only 20 minutes and 42000 COP (~$15).  By 6:10am, I was in the terminal, where there were two separate lines for Avianca: one for US flights, and one for other flights. The line was not only long, but extremely slow moving- with flights to Miami, Washington, Orlando, and Fort Lauderdale all leaving between 8am and 9am.  I started to worry given how slow it was moving, but there was nothing I could do since I had a suitcase to check.  At 6:51am, I was done, but that’s pretty ridiculous for bag drop.

The beginning of the arduous Avianca BOG process (well, about 20 minutes into the line)

It was nothing compared to the immigration line, where the Avianca flights plus flights on all other carriers were diverted into a massive throng of pushing from two directions to try to feed into one of two lines. It took me 20 minutes of being pushed and strategically moving to actually get onto the line.  The airport personnel were not helping and lots of people were insisting their soon-boarding flight was more important than everyone else’s soon-boarding flight. At 7:20am, the monitors showed that my flight was already boarding, which thankfully turned out to be not true, because it took another twenty minutes. There was no scheduled boarding time on the boarding pass so I had no idea what was going on and was bordering on a panic attack, checking what ways I could get home as I was totally going to miss my flight.

At 7:38, I finished immigration and the very short security line, and ran to my gate, which was of course quite far away. And though the monitors had said boarding had begun 20 minutes earlier, they were just calling Star Alliance elite members to board.  So, I ran back and got a sandwich and a random assortment of crap to try and spend some of my remaining pesos, before running back to the gate.

Boarding

At 7:53, I was on the jet bridge, where there was a long wait as people weren’t on the plane itself yet it seemed. There were some random passengers selected for secondary screening, and at 8:07am I was finally on board.  So, the lesson for some people would be that arriving at BOG two hours before your departure time is enough if you don’t want to do a lounge or shopping. For me, the lesson is to leave even earlier.

Avianca A320neo

Thankfully things were much better once I was on board.  As I passed through the business cabin, I saw the seats were a lot nicer than the business class seats on the A319s and A320s I’d flown.  There was also a printed menu in business class—which there wasn’t on the only slightly shorter IAD-SAL flight.

Avianca A320neo business class

The coach cabin was sleek and modern, with grey leather slimline seats. There was a pillow, blanket, and headphones on each seat, and there was USB and A/C power at each seat. The armrests felt super narrow, for some reason. There were also height-adjustable headrests.

Economy cabin, Avianca A320neo

Coach seats, Avianca A320neo

I had been unable to procure advance seat assignment, and when I checked in the day before online, I had been assigned a middle seat.  The plane was empty though so I moved to a window seat in a row with an empty middle seat – which as luck would have it stayed empty. The plane was only about 2/3 full, and there was a lot of seat-moving around after the boarding closed.

Avianca A320neo

We ended up taking off on time, and there was some cool planespotting on the taxi out, including of a Colombian Air Force jet.

Taxiing at BOG

Toodles Colombia!

Each seat had touchscreen personal in-flight entertainment.  There were a lot of movies, but they were not that recent. There was also streaming entertainment over wi-fi, but no internet service. I watched Spotlight, and hot towels were distributed (nice touch in coach) about 50 minutes into flight.

Lots of not-so-recent movies, Avianca A320neo

Breakfast was served about an hour in, and there was a choice of eggs or cereal. It was a pretty small main meal for a flight that length, with just a small side of melon and a packaged roll. The eggs didn’t taste that bad, though – have had worse in business class.

Breakfast, Avianca Bogota to Washington, Economy Class

For the rest of the flight, the crew was pretty absent, which was fine.  They were watching some movies in the empty rows in the back of the plane.  An hour before landing, they came by with a snack service, which was a toasted sandwich with cheese and either bologna or ham-  I couldn’t tell you.

Snack, Avianca BOG-IAD

Once on the ground, it took a long time to disembark, and then there was the standard jostling for position right next to the door of the moon-buggies to immigration, which slows everything down. Global Entry was a breeze, but bags took quite a while to come – about 40 minutes after landing.  Then it was a fairly empty 5A bus back to DC by mid-afternoon, before work the next day.  Except for leaving for the airport a little earlier, I definitely don’t regret taking the nonstop flight from Bogota as opposed to other options. Avianca was comparable to US-based carriers and it was a good use of miles for me.

So that’s it for my Colombia trip. Overall, it had some highlights, but it won’t go down as one of my favorite trips. Upcoming on the blog, I’m going to *try* and get some posts out related to my February trip to Playa del Carmen and the Fairmont Mayakoba. Then I have a lot of summer travel coming up, with three separate trips to Europe: a short getaway to Sitges in Spain, five days in Iceland, and then 10 days to Manchester and Scotland. Stay tuned!

My summer 2018 travel plans

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