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Avianca Ecuador: If You Haven’t Flown Them – Do It!

Discussion in 'Trip Experiences' started by vegli, May 2, 2015.

  1. vegli

    vegli Hangar Gold Member I

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    HC-CJM, a 2010-built A320-214, still in the Aerogal livery on the ramp at SEQM – Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

    Recently, I found myself in Ecuador to go experience endemism in person. If you are not biologically inclined, I am referring to going to the Galapagos archipelago in the Galapagos Province of Ecuador.

    I flew into Quito on American Airlines, but because I was part of a group, I was given no choice, or information, on how we were getting to Puerto Baquero Moreno (SCY). If it had been up to me, I’d have flown LAN Ecuador. After all, I am Oneworld Emerald and would’ve loved priority baggage, boarding, lounge access, and whatever else LAN offers Emeralds. Thing is, it wasn’t up to me. We were to fly Avianca Ecuador, operated by Aerogal, not even with seat selection.

    Having done my research and spoken to as many frequent-flying locals as I could, I had heard that LAN was head-and-shoulders above both (quasi government owned) TAMÉ and Avianca. Downcast, but excited to visit islands that cause tons of theological contention, I made my way to Mariscal Sucre Airport in Quito with a quiet sense of sadness.


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    Checked luggage heading to the Galapagos is zip-tied shut to prevent smuggling – Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

    It is now that I must deviate from the flight review to explain how one actually flies into Galapagos National Park. One does not simply check in at the desk and land at San Cristobal or Seymour as a normal domestic flight. Nope.

    First you must fill in paperwork from the ministry of agriculture, then you have your luggage (and carry-ons) x-rayed for contraband. Not only does contraband include the standard list of things banned from aircraft, it also has the most extreme agricultural controls I have ever seen. After that, your checked luggage is zip tied shut. Why? Because there was a scandal a few years ago where some miscreants were inserting large amounts of narcotics into passenger baggage to sell within the Galapagos at a ridiculous markup.

    Security in Mariscal Sucre Airport is how all security should be. It’s precheck without waiting for three beeps. Things are a little different flying internationally, of course. Either way, I was through security in five minutes – even without a priority line.

    The domestic departures area of Mariscal Sucre is spartan. The airport, overall, is beautifully generic. There is no identifying architectural characteristic to tell you you are in Quito. It is optimized for passenger throughput and retail. More airports need to be like that. Regardless, I am not even sure if there was a lounge. All I could find was a rather ominous-looking restaurant calling itself the bilingual Guacamole Cafe. Hungry, but concerned for my gastrointestinal health, I abstained.

    It was at that point I noticed a concerning note on my boarding pass “Grupo C”. Ah, zone boarding — my arch nemesis. Imaginary points off the airline were deducted immediately. I was also perplexed because it said in the contract of carriage that they would make every possible effort to make sure photography equipment traveled in the cabin. Being in Zone 3 and seat 24K didn’t exactly spell empty overhead bins in my future.

    After waiting about forty minutes in the sterile (in all senses of the word) departure lounge, it was time to head to the bus. I was worried, for a moment, that we’d have a jetbridge with enforced zones. They enforced the zones for a bus, but once on the bus the rules are different. It’s every person for themselves.

    Bite, claw, scratch, punch. Doesn’t matter. Get off the bus ASAP and get that bin space. Except… no one in Ecuador other than the tourists travels with hand baggage. Crisis two: averted.

    It gets better.

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    The generously pitched Avianca Ecuador economy seats – Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

    What if I told you that when I walked in the cabin, rather than seeing B/E Aerospace Super Slimlines, Recaro’s new ass-savagers (I think that’s actually their name), I saw civilized, Weber LONG-HAUL economy class seats.

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    The generous 34″ seat pitch on Avianca Ecuador – Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

    Guess the seat pitch? I bet you said 30″. It’s okay, I thought it’d be 29″. It was 34″! Seriously 34″, which is only two inches less than Alaska Airlines’ first class.

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    Even on a 35-minute flight, all IFE options are available – Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

    I was blown away. Then I looked at the seat backs. Not only did they feature 5V USB power, a cupholder, and a coat hook, but they had in-flight entertainment (IFE). It was of the Panasonic EX series. Looking at the controller, it looked like an earlier model, but still full AVOD. Not even pay-per-view or spartan in content.

    Oh, I forgot to mention how long the flight was; 35 minutes to Guayaquil, 40-minute ground stop, and then an hour-and-a-half to Puerto Moreno.

    So yes, full long-haul economy experience on a flight that was only a little over two-and-a-half-hours.

    As I boarded, I noticed that the APU was screaming. Another positive. Even 8,000 feet off the ground, Quito is extremely equatorial. It’s bloody hot. So having the AC packs going full blast costs money, but really improves the passenger experience.

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    Taxiing past a LAN Cargo 77F at Mariscal Sucre International Airport. Photo – Bernie Leighton| AirlineReporter

    Once we were all seated, it was time for the safety video. It was presented twice. Once in Spanish, once in English. It was well produced and informative.

    Pushback was docile, as was taxi to the runway.

    More....
    http://www.airlinereporter.com/2015/04/avianca-ecuador-if-you-havent-flown-them-do-it/
     
    David Barnshaw and Lord Leighton like this.

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