Flying business to Rio de Janeiro, cidade maravilhosa, with TAP Portugal

•April 11, 2012 • 1 Comment

TP187
LIS (LPPT) – GIG (SBGL)

Airbus A330-202 CS-TOL (msn 877, first flight 23/10/2007)
ETD: 11h00
ETA: 17h15
Seat: 01A

April 19 2010

When I opted for TP instead of AF for this flight, I was far from imagining that if I had chosen AF instead, my return flight would have been cancelled – and for many days. Indeed, from April 17th onwards, most AF flights were cancelled due to the volcanic ash cloud. Since the winds didn’t spread the ashes that far south after this first eruption, TP’s longhaul flights weren’t affected. Most of their feeder flights were, though. This meant that my flight had a very very light load (and I was actually surprised it didn’t get cancelled): only a little more than 40 pax.

Although the landside of the airport was chaotic due to the ash cloud, my check-in didn’t take more than 10 mins. (which I considered to be swift given the circumstances). Airside, however, it was heaven on earth: almost empty.

As I had anticipated that check-in might be a pandemonium, I arrived to the airport quite early. I therefore had quite some time to kill. I headed to TP’s Premium Lounge. As usual, a very nice food offer. But my lounge visit was disturbed by the fact that I waited 1h15 for a shower and still couldn’t take it. This was because the previous pax didn’t give the key back to the welcome desk and, despite the lounge agent knowing I was waiting, she didn’t bother to get up and check what was going on after such a long time.

Even though the boarding pass mentioned 10h00 as boarding time, I stayed in the lounge until 10h25. In fact, TP’s (that is, Groundforce’s) boarding procedures are usually… problematic. They post unrealistically early times for boarding in the boarding passes that are rarely complied with. Additionally, they very often announce “last call” immediately after boarding starts. But I digress – back to the report!

It was a long walk towards the gate, one which seems even longer due to the lack of moving walks. Immigration was swift and I could still enjoy some amateur spotting. Of particular interest was the visit of a CO’s B764 to fly to Europe pax who had been stranded at EWR because of the ash cloud.

Once I managed to get a glimpse of the aircraft, I realised it was CS-TOL again. Albeit a repetition, it was good news because it’s one of the most recent deliveries. TP has 12 A332s: while CS-TOE, -TOF, -TOG, -TOH (Star Alliance livery), -TOI, -TOJ and -TOK all came from either LH or OS, -TOL, -TOM, -TON, -TOO, and -TOP were directly delivered from the factory. As such, the latter five have been fitted with the latest version of the C/CL seat and IFE.

Boarding (a jetway again!) was very quick because, as I have mentioned, the load was particularly light. There was separate boarding for premium pax – which was actually enforced. The gate agent, however, seemed to be having a bad day – or was just rude: not a word from her when she gave me the boarding pass back.

Once onboard, I was greeted by the Y/CL Purser, who directed to the left towards my seat. The C/CL Purser was in front of the aisle, just standing, and didn’t say a word. It eventually became clear throughout the flight that she barely interacted with the pax.

The seat next to mine was empty and after I made myself comfortable I was offered orange juice, water or sparkling wine; other people’s coats were hung (I didn’t have one).

At a certain point, I noticed a pax coming from Y to visit the cockpit. As I learnt later on, the gentleman was TP’s PNT and had gone to the flight deck to greet the crew and ask the captain to travel in C. It seems, however, that according to the airline’s regulations, PNT (and I guess PNC) can only fly in C if they are dressed “appropriately”. It turns out that the captain considered that his colleague’s attire (jeans, tennis shoes and a short-sleeved sporty shirt) – who was much younger than himself – didn’t meet the requirement and sent him back to Y.

At 11h00 sharp doors were closed. Captain Braga Gonçalves and Chief Purser Maria Dulce (oddly, the surname wasn’t mentioned) welcomed the pax. In C class, the load was of less than 50%, ie, 11 pax. The flight would be long (10h15) and some turbulence was to be expected. It took us 20 mins. to push-back and taxi to rwy 03.

We took off towards the North at 11h20. We turned West shortly thereafter and I could spot Cascais and Guincho Road from my window. From that point on, we had nothing but many hours of ocean ahead of us.

Service started 20 mins. after departure. Hot towels and menus (which were in Portuguese, English and Spanish) were handed out, together with noise-cancelling headphones. There were 3 FAs working in C, including the C/CL Purser, and the Chief Purser. The latter’s job description didn’t require her to actually participate in inflight the service (especially in flights with such a light load), but mostly to supervise it. That was what actually happened. TP has since reduced its crew in long-haul flights by eliminating one FA (from 7 to 6 FAs, apart from the Pursers), but has kept the Chief Purser and two Pursers – if one asks me, I’d say that it would make much more sense to elimite one of the Pursers instead of a FA, as TP initially wanted.

The menu read as follows:

After take-off

Amuse bouche
Chicken mousse with a dust of dried fruit and port wine
Lentil salad with smoked sausage and parsley

For your salad
Beef pastrami | Shrimp | Mozzarella cheese | Laminated almonds | Pineapple

Soup
Cream of pumpkin soup with tomato tartar, vanilla and mint

Main course
Roasted pork with cauliflower mash
Stone bass confit with sun-dried tomato, pistachios and rosemary
Fusilli pasta with asparagus, goat cheese and pine nuts

For dessert
Plate with Ilha and Serra cheese and orange compote
Pear gratin
Fresh fruit

Coffee – tea
Selection of expresso coffees – Portugal, Timor, Tanzania and Night and day

Express meal
Should you prefer to rest or work a little longer, you can choose our Express meal – a quick meal made up of your choice of the following: fresh salad, soup and dessert. If you wish to opt for the above mentioned meal, please inform the Cabin Crew at the beginning of your flight.

And the wine and beverage list was the following:

Sparkling wine
Espumante Luís Pato Maria Gomes Bruto | Bairrada
With a winemaking tradition reaching back to 1890, one of the Bairrada Region’s most illustrious representatives can be found in the cellars of Luís Pato. Derived from Maria Gomes and Baga grapes grown in sandy clay soil, this sparkling wine is produced using the champagne method. Smooth, fruity and perfect for the start of a meal.

Port wines
Churchill’s Tawny 10 years
This is a 10 year-old tawny port aged in oak casks, which gives it an intense colour and complexity but retains the characteristic freshness and youthful acidity found in the wines under this brand. Elegant and subtle, it has notes of dried fruit, nuts and orange peel. It pairs perfectly with cheeses and fruit and nut-based cakes.

White wines
Valado 2008 | Douro

This elegant nectar is produced in the surroundings of Régua by one of the most symbolic estates of the Alto Douro winegrowers, Quinta do Vallado. Built in 1716, it once belonged to the legendary Dona Antónia Adelaide Ferreira. This wine has a citrus colour and a fruity, seductive palate with a good structure and lasting finish.

Paulo Laureano Reserva 2007 | Alentejo Regional Wine
Founded in 1999 and based in Vidigueira, Alentejo, the Paulo Laureano Vinus winery is a success story demonstrated by the personality, balance and unquestionable quality of its wines, such as this Reserva Branco. It has a lively, fresh attack, good structure and a lasting finish in the mouth. The perfect choice for soft cheese or a fresh cod.

Red wines
Churchill’s Estates 2007 | DOC Douro

This is a balanced and elegant table wine made in the Douro Region estates, of the award-winning producer Churchill Graham. Produced from Touriga Nacional and Tinta Roriz grape varieties, it is full-bodied and well-balanced. Its concentrated cherry aroma and spice notes give it a freshness that conveys a long, pleasant finish on the palate.

Casa de Santar Reserva 2006 | DOC Douro

From the historic and prestigious Casa de Santar in the Dão Sul region comes a Tinto Reserva with a bright colour and fruity aroma. Its flavor lingers on the palate and the wood notes resulting from a nine-month ageing process in oak barrels pair well with notes of forest fruits. This is an ideal choice to accompany meat dishes.

Apéritifs | Liqueurs | Digestifs
Portuguese brandy (aguardente)
Brogan’s
Cognac
Gin
Martini Rosso
Madeira wine
Sweet Port wine
Vodka
Scotch whisky
Malt whisky
Whisky 12 years

Cold drinks
Beer
Alcohol free beer

Soft drinks
Sparkling water
Mineral water
Tonic water
Coke
Diet coke
Ginger Ale
Orange juice
Apple juice
Pineapple juice
Tomato juice

With the first round of drinks (a gin & tonic for me) came the hors d’oeuvres. This was probably the worst detail of the whole meal: served in tiny plastic bowls with plastic forks, they looked cheap. As for the flavour, they were very much unsophisticated. I preferred the chicken one to the lentils, which wasn’t particularly tasty.

Bread and butter followed and the full set of (metal) cutlery was provided.

One could have soup, salad, or both. One and the other were served from the cart.

I first chose soup only, but then ordered the salad as well. The soup was served from a thermos – which is practical, but not the classiest touch – and was very au point: not too liquid and the contrast with the tomato (both in terms of texture and flavour) was great.

The salad – which came with gourmet olive oil – was good as well: fresh and flavourful ingredients. I asked the salad to be served with all the available items except pastrami. The only remark was that the cheese in the menu was mozzarella, but the one which was actually served was feta (and in reality I preferred that).

As for the main dish, I chose the fish – which was served from the galley directly. As I have stated before, my expectations when it comes to TP’s C class food are high. I can’t say the stone bass was bad – but it was dry. The side dish, however, was quite tasty and the mix of flavours was very pleasant for the palate. Differently from food, my expectations when it comes to wine aren’t that high and, maybe because of that, the Paulo Laureano Reserva 2007 was a good surprise.

I don’t dig (sweet) desserts that much and therefore I generally go for fruit. This one was the right choice – especially the mango, which was really juicy. And to that I added the cheese – very good Ilha and Serra cheese. Both options, as well as the Pear gratin which I chose not to take, were served from the cart. Port wine was also offered, but I kindly declined it.

After lunch, I had another gin & tonic. The Y/CL Purser, João, then passed by with duty free items. We started chatting. He was incredibly kind and we ended up talking for a long time, mostly about TP and the aviation industry. Later on, he offered some chocolate mousse from the Y meal, which was very tasty.

I started exploring the seat’s and the IFE’s features.

The seat is the newest version of the Recaro seat that TP has, featured in the new A332s. It’s great for lounging, but not so much to sleep because it’s angled lie-flat and one slides. For a daylight flight it’s quite good, surely not for redeyes. The controls, however, are easy and intuitive to use; apart from the usual buttons, there were some preset configurations and one button to memorise a certain position. The table tray doesn’t fold and moves around a fixed point, which is quite useful because one can get up and move around even when the table is being used. The legroom is enormous.

The IFE was the same as in the inbound leg, just with a (much) bigger screen. Still, I should add I’m not a fan of the place where the LCD is: in the wall in front instead of being in the armrest (even if that would make inevitably smaller).

At that point in time, we were over the Atlantic, somewhere between the Madeira and the Cape Verde archipelagos.

When crossing the Atlantic and the ICTZ CBs are to be expected. This flight was no exception.

I napped a bit. When I woke up, instead of yet another gin & tonic, I needed some sparkling water.

Time to explore the amenity kit. In shades of pale green and grey, it can be reused for other purposes (and even has a hook to allow it to be hung). Inside, a pair of socks, an eyemask, earplugs, a moisturiser, a toothbrush and toothpaste, a shoehorn and a small pen. All in all, the usual amenity kit content. The materials, however, were not of great quality and it looked a bit shabby. The new version (to be posted soon), made of recycled materials, is definitely an improvement from this perspective.

By then, we had already reached mainland Brazil – Fortaleza to be more precise.

1h15 before arrival we were served a light snack.

The table was set again, but this time there was no choice and no cart service – the meal was instead delivered in a tray. The menu read as follows:

Before landing

Salmon sandwich with apple and lemon compote

Traditional Portuguese patîsserie

Orange, grapefruit and pineapple

The quality of the meal was definitely high. Indeed, the salmon was fresh as it should be (even if I could find no traces of the compote), the queijada was moisty and the fruit was succulent. The quantity was also adequate. My only complaint is the lack of any warm item – why not a toast instead of a sandwich? In addition to this, TP’s competitors (at least AF and LH), in flights of similar duration, offer a much more substantial (and warm) meal.

After the meal was finished, hot towels were handed again.

At 17h00 we reached our TOD and started the cabin’s preparation for landing. 15 mins. later, I felt like having one last gin & tonic and went to the galley to ask for one. Even though almost everything was already secured, the Chief Purser was very kind and prepared it for me.

Looking back to the service, the shy (but kind, not dismissive) posture of the C/CL Purser was more than compensated by the smile and proactiveness of the two other (younger) FAs working in C/CL: Ana and Patrícia. The Chief Purser was rarely sighted actually, I saw the Y/CL Purser more often than the Chief Purser.

The views during the approach didn’t show the stunning landscape of Rio, but the dusk still made it look special.

We touched down on rwy10 at 17h35, 20mins. behind schedule due to strong headwinds.

During taxi to gate there was the chance to spot the airplanes that had got stranded at GIG during the ash cloud crisis, namely two AF’s B744s.

Final evaluation
Reservation [1]: 10
Check-in [1,5]: 10
Boarding [0,5]: 7
Seat [2,5]: 7
Aircraft overall ambience [0,5]: 8
IFE [1,5]: 7
Power outlets [0,5]: 10
Crew [3,5]: 9
Food [2]: 7
Beverages [0,5]: 9
Freebies and amenities [0,5]: 6
Disembarkation [0,5]: 10
On-time record [2]: 8

Weighed overall impression: 8,21 (inflight overall impression: 8,18)

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The 7ème and the 15ème arrondissements from seat 08F

•January 4, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Earlier today, approaching CDG’s rwy26L, onboard AF1025 F-GKXL (A320).

A glimpse of Istanbul

•June 21, 2011 • Leave a Comment

In late May 2011.

Cape Town and Table Mountain from seat 17F

•May 4, 2011 • Leave a Comment

On 28th June 2009, on short final for CPT’s rwy19, onboard SA309 ZS-SJS (B738).

Cape Town and Table Mountain from seat 17F

Flying economy from Rio de Janeiro, cidade maravilhosa, with TAP Portugal

•April 17, 2011 • 2 Comments

I was living in Rio de Janeiro and for family reasons I had to fly to Lisbon. The problem was that I only got to know it on the day immediately before the day of departure.

I made a first search online, but all flights from Brazil to Europe seemed to be fully booked on that day, be it with TP (also via GRU, BSB, CNF, SSA, REC and NAT), IB or even KL via GRU, both in C and in Y classes. There were only available seats for the coming weekend, four days away. But I really needed to fly on that day and therefore that wasn’t an option for me. After some additional browsing, I managed to get hold of a seat departing FOR with TP and back to GIG for €950 with a week in LIS or €1650 for a shorter stay in LIS.

I also called AF and after some attempts I managed to get wait listed with KL via GRU-AMS and to get a reservation for the later A332-operated GIG-CDG AF flight. I had called earlier the AF call centre and they not only said that no places were available, but also that they hadn’t heard of the “seat with 24h advance notice in full Y fare” for FB Plats; KL knew it, but the agent insisted it was only in case one had a previous reservation and wanted to change it. The reservation I eventually managed to make was only possible via the dedicated reservations line for FB Elite pax. The agent who helped me was utmost helpful. I found an “Y1” in an otherwise all zeroed-out flight, but only to CDG, not all the way to LIS. The agent then managed to extend it to LIS. Taxes included, this would have cost €2150.

The following day, early in the morning, I still hadn’t decided whether to take TP, KL (which would require me to fly to GRU and still be waitlisted without a confirmed reservation) or AF. Even if TP’s was cheaper, it required a previous TAM flight in a separate ticket GIG-FOR and that therefore wouldn’t protect me in case of delay or cancellation. When I decided to go for this last option (mostly because it arrived 2h before the AF flight to LIS), I didn’t manage to buy the JJ leg. I then re-checked availability for nonstop GIG-LIS with TP and found Y1 B1. I immediately called TP and secured it!

For the return flight I could opt between a daytime and a night flight. As I always prefer daylight flights (so that I can have a good night of sleep upon arrival to my destination and start the following day already freshened up), that was a no-brainer. And as I had some miles that were about to expire, I took the opportunity of using some miles and upgraded to C class.

TP186
GIG (SBGL) – LIS (LPPT)

Airbus A330-202 CS-TOL (msn 877, first flight 23/10/2007)
ETD: 16h20
ETA: 06h00 (following day)
Seat: 31B

April 14 2010

After having made the reservation, I went to the airport as soon as I could to pay for it and try to get a good enough seat (as it was the day of departure, I couldn’t reserve a seat in advance anymore). I got to Galeão’s Terminal 2 at 13h00, but it was already too late: only 31B or 27K, both aisles. I went for the former, because it was farther from the toilet.

Check-in was swift. I was met by an agent who checked hand luggage and handed out tags for it. He noticed my AF tag from my last flight in my backpack, showed it to a colleague and smiled. “Last week I was working with AF!” – he told me. The C class check-in agent (which I was entitled to use not only due to holding a tap|plus ticket, but also because of my credit card) was nice, but still couldn’t offer me a window seat (that being the reason why there are so few pics from the window in this report).

As I still had a long wait ahead of me and no lounge access, I went to Terminal 1 – the one used in particular by G3, SkyTeam and OneWorld carriers – and had lunch while doing some amateur spotting in its “balcony”(which is no more than a window).

The corridor connecting the two terminals provides great tarmac views.

Once back to Terminal 2 – used namely by Star Alliance airlines –, I passed the immigration control and wandered through the terminal. It’s in very good condition (better than Terminal 1 for sure) and has plenty of light. The only problems were the lack of seating areas near the gate TP was using on that day and the fact that the only cafeteria was in the lower floor and no signs indicated its location.

And back to some spotting – now Star Alliance.

Once I finally settled near the gate, I could see CS-TOL – which had arrived early that morning – parked at a remote stand. It was then towed to gate.

Although it was printed in the boarding pass that boarding would start at 15h00 (ie, 1h20 before ETD), it didn’t start until 15h50. And it was completely chaotic: three lines organised by the ground staff, according to criteria that weren’t publicised – they’d check each pax’s boarding pass and tell them to go “here or there”. It eventually worked out, but it created too much of a fuss. On top of this, my passport wasn’t checked at the gate. TP should definitely rethink its boarding procedures at GIG.

Before boarding, I collected a couple of Portuguese newspapers and was greeted by two female FAs, none of them particularly smiley or even kind. I told them that if someone seating in a window seat wanted to swap, however unlikely that’d be, I’d be willing to. There were two FAs in the aisle, both chit chatting.

Doors closed at 16h15 and we pushed-back 10 mins. thereafter. Once we were set to go, the Chief Purser made a short description of the inflight service and announced a flight time of 8h40 today.

After a long taxi to rwy 10 and a very narrow turn to the runway, we took off at 16h45.

Following departure, Captain Miguel Jácome addressed the pax and relayed some information regarding the route to be flown (SSA-NAT-Cape Verde-Canary Islands). The weather would be good but light to moderate turbulence was to be expected 3h into the flight. Our ETA would be 05h20, 40 mins. before schedule.

The “fasten seatbelt” sign was on until more than 1h after departure, with no hint of turbulence whatsoever and no explanation offered for that either.

When I boarded, both the pillow and a (red fleece) blanket were already on my seat. I asked for an additional blanket to the youngest FA (a very good-looking woman) and she brought it to me, but with a bored and arrogant look, without a single word.

The seat is very similar to Avianca’s (reviewed in this report), but in a worse version, as it lacks an eyeglass holder and a USB entry point; there’s and a coat hanger as well, but in the side of the chair. In terms of comfort, the positive points are the footrest, the adjustable headrest and the fact that the seat moves forward when reclined. The downside is the lumbar support.

The cabin’s overall environment was bright and in mint condition, gray being the prevailing colour.

Menus and headsets were handed out shortly after departure.

MAIN MEAL

Appetizer

Mixed leaf salad with black olives and quail egg

Main course

Beef polpettone with mushroom sauce and pea rice

or

Ricotta cannelloni with spinach sauce

Dessert

Carrot cake

Dinner was served 1h into the flight and swiftly. I chose the beef polpettone (something between a meatball and meatloaf), which was tasty; the rice, however, was insipid. The salad was dry with some almost rotten pieces of lettuce. The dessert looked so artificial that I didn’t even touch it.

The lady next to me had a veggie meal – which actually looked quite good. But she was puzzled with the quinoa burger she got and pressed the call button to ask what it was. It turned out, however, that the FAs were busy serving dinner… She pressed it at least ten times over a period of 15 mins. A very kind male FA eventually came to her, explained it wasn’t beef but quinoa, and reassured her that he was actually a vegetarian himself and that he was having it too.

One of the good things about the way the service was organised was that the crew passed through the aisles at least twice for red wine refill. One of those times the lady next to me asked for her glass to be topped up. While serving the wine, the FA dropped a bit of wine on me and on my blanket. She didn’t notice it until I told her and asked for a napkin. Neither did she apologise nor did she bring me a napkin (although she did acknowledge my request).

After the meal, I didn’t see the crew go through the aisles even once.

In terms of IFE, apart from the award-winning Up magazine, the highlight was Panasonic’s touch screen eX2 system, which had a total of 15 AVOD movies (even if the system allows up to 20), 10 games and the traditional “Airshow”. While it’s certainly true that it doesn’t offer as many movies as some other airlines, it seems adequate for flights of this duration. And it definitely is a huge improvement when compared to TP’s A343 (which lack PTV’s) or to the older A332 (which don’t have AVOD).

Somewhere overhead NAT I decided it was time I tried to sleep. I was awoken 3h later by my neighbouring passenger, who wanted to use the toilet. Instead of trying to jump over me, she decided to wake me up – and reminded me why I absolutely hate aisle seats. I couldn’t sleep anymore, just sort of napped. We were flying over the Canary Islands at that point in time.

Breakfast was served 1h05 prior to ETA, preceded by a hot paper towel – which felt really good.

Before landing

Cheese and tomato toast

Carrot muffin

Seasonal fruit

Butter and jam

Coffee

Tea

The toast was surprisingly ok and so was the muffin; the orange was a bit dry, though – and why carrot pâtisserie both for dinner and breakfast?! Beverages included orange (both Compal Fresh, which I like, and a bad Brazilian brand) and mango juice, water, coffee and tea. For me, breakfasts in redeye flights should always include a warm item and some fresh fruit – so kudos for TP for this.

After that, headsets were collected. In my aisle, one of the older female FAs was yelling with her high-pitched voice “headseats! auriculares!” as if we were in a street fair – not classy at all!

We reached our TOD at 04h55 and the approach to LIS was rather bumpy. We headed to Cartaxo and then turned south to land on rwy 21 at 05h25, way ahead of schedule.

Deplaning was via jetway – first time for me in a widebody at LIS! It was also my first time in the new airport gates – very nice, albeit quite far (we parked in the very last gate). Immigration only took me a couple of seconds due to the electronic passport queues.

Final evaluation
Reservation [1]: 10
Check-in [1,5]: 8
Boarding [0,5]: 1
Seat [2,5]: 7
Aircraft overall ambience [0,5]: 7
IFE [1,5]: 7
Power outlets [0,5]: 0
Crew [3,5]: 6
Food [2]: 7
Beverages [0,5]: 8
Freebies and amenities [0,5]: 2
Disembarkation [0,5]: 10
On-time record [2]: 10

Weighed overall impression: 7 (inflight overall impression: 6,93)

Palo Alto, Stanford and San Francisco bay from seat 13A

•February 25, 2011 • Leave a Comment

On October 19th 2010, shortly after departure from SJC, onboard DL2164 N904DA (MD90).

From Río de la Plata to Mar Caribe: accross South America with Avianca (Part II)

•February 8, 2011 • Leave a Comment

After 11 days of work and a flu in high altitude and coldish Bogotá, I needed a weekend break. The two cities I was undecided between were Medellín (Colombia’s second largest city and the hometown of plastic artist Fernando Botero) and Cartagena de Índias (the historical Caribbean coastal city where Gabriel García Márquez’s world acclaimed novel El amor en los tiempos del cólera – among others – takes place). Even though I prefer Cien años de soledad by far, I still chose the latter, once I was in the need of a bit of sun and very eager to get to know the old city, part of which is World Heritage. This is the story of the flights that took me into and out of the city which became independent from Spain in 1811.

After a good experience from EZE to BOG, I had no doubts in choosing AV once again. It wasn’t easy, however, to buy the ticket at an acceptable price. I couldn’t buy it with AV’s webpage at first and online travel agencies would quote the lowest price at around €300 (which was ridiculously high). After insisting a lot, I don’t know how exactly I managed to do it, but I found a way of buying it for less than half that price through AV’s website.

AV9542
BOG (SKBO) – CTG (SKCG)

Airbus A320-214 N411AV (msn 3992, first flight 17/07/2009)
ETD: 08h45
ETA: 10h05
Seat: 11A

March 26 2010

I arrived 2h before ETD to the Punte Aéreo Terminal of BOG – a separate terminal only used for AV’s domestic flights. The (common) queue for check-in was long, but I had done the check-in online 24h before. It did work and allowed me to change my seat choice online, but in the end it was completely disregarded when I saw the pdf of the boarding pass. So I went to a self-service machine to collect it. The machine, however, redirected me to a check-in counter. It was a special counter, though, which did not require me to join the (huge) queue . The agents were very polite and efficient and inserted my FB number.

The terminal isn’t huge, but has a nice offer of shops and cafés – only landside, though, because the airside part only has seating areas, restrooms and a couple of vending machines. And in addition to all that, a fantastic view to the tarmac.

As soon as I got to the gates, I realised that boarding for the previous CTG-bound flight had just started. As I still had 45 mins. for my flight, I decided to try my luck and enquire if I could take that flight instead. The agent only asked me if I had checked in any luggage – I said “no” – and she just processed it and handwrote a new flight number and seat in the original boarding pass. I was lucky enough to still get a window seat. And there I went! After passing through the gate, there were corridors that funneled the pax directly to the stairs.

Upon boarding, the Purser didn’t allow a Y pax to place his carry-on in the C class overhead bins – applause!

Doors were closed at 08h45 and 5 mins. later we were already taxiing. It was time for some amateur spotting through the tiny dirty aircraft windows.

At 09h00, we were taking off from rwy 13L. We had a very slow climb, probably due to the high altitude of BOG.

The aircraft was rather recent and the cabin was in mint condition. Even though it was a narrowbody, C class was equipped with proper C seats. And the Y class seats all had PTVs installed.

As for service, only beverages: water, coffee, tea or packed juice (mango light, tropical and a third one). Nothing to bite, not even a pack of cookies.

The IFE was fully operational (except for movies, due to the short duration of the flight) and headphones were provided (they were already in the seatbacks cupholders when the pax boarded), both free of charge. I watched an episode of The Simpsons and checked the inflight map.

At 09h45 we reached our TOD. During the approach I was fortunate enough to be seating in the right side of the airplane and see the old city of Cartagena. 15 mins. later we touched down on rwy 01.

We backtracked and taxied to our parking stand very quickly. There were only two other aircraft parked at the airport: an E190 from Aerorepublica and a B727-200 from Líneas Aereas Suramericanas. Deplaning was swift, via stairs. And as it had happened in the EZE-BOG flight, the captain didn’t address the pax even once.

AV8549
CTG (SKCG) – BOG (SKBO)

Airbus A320-214 N411AV (msn 4011, first flight 03/08/2009)
ETD: 20h00
ETA: 21h20
Seat: 12A

March 28 2010

The online check-didn’t work the previous day (due to site maintenance), but it was available at least 10h before ETD. At the airport, there was no indication of any drop-off counter – so I asked an agent (because the general check-in queue was long) and he immediately directed me to a counter. The check-in agent was, however, completely indifferent to her task.

Although according to the boarding pass the boarding time was supposed to start at 19h10, it only started at 19h45. Before every pax could board, however, he/she had to go to a different counter to get a red line marked on the boarding pass. The gate agent would then check whether one had the red line in the boarding pass and let one leave the terminal through the gate and walk through a maze-like tunnel to the aircraft stairs. At that point, another agent would tear part of the boarding pass (but not check the id.). A few steps away from the latter agent, a FA would welcome all pax at the bottom of the stairs; the Purser would do the same once onboard.

Only when I reached the tarmac did I notice there had been an equipment change: from a F100 to an A320.

Once onboard, I noticed that the IFE was turned on with Colombia tourism advertisement. Also, the aircraft had the air conditioning on and due to the temperature difference, that meant there was a lot of condensation.

The doors were closed at 20h00. Once we started rolling towards the runway, I noticed there was an aircraft taxiing towards the end of the runway after having landed on rwy01, for backtracking purposes. We entered rwy19 nonetheless – for backtracking as well, I thought. But no: we started immediately speeding up for take-off.

Shortly after departure, I was trying to take some pics when I made a pause and looked to my right. The pax seating on 12D and 12E were looking at me with a scared gaze, telling me it was forbidden to use electronic devices. As it was dark outside and I was outside the EU, I just smiled and stopped taking photos.

As for the service, it was exactly the same as in the inbound flight. IFE was also on and I watched a House episode – but couldn’t finish it – with too many commercials, including some aimed at getting more advertisement contracts.

TOD was reached at 20h55 and we landed on rwy13L at 21h10. After landing, already on the taxiway, engines were shutdown and we waited for around 10 mins. to get a stand; we were then towed to gate. No explanation for this wait was provided. We reached our parking stand at 21h25, ie, exactly on schedule. Again, not a word from the cockpit.

Final evaluation
Reservation [1]: 5
Check-in [1,5]: 7
Boarding [0,5]: 9
Seat [2,5]: 9
Aircraft overall ambience [0,5]: 9
IFE [1,5]: 10
Power outlets [0,5]: 0
Crew [3,5]: 7
Food [2]: 0
Beverages [0,5]: 8
Freebies and amenities [0,5]: 8
Disembarkation [0,5]: 10
On-time record [2]: 10

Weighed overall impression: 7,03 (inflight overall impression: 7,43)

 
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