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Old Jan 26, 07, 4:29 pm
Join Date: Mar 2001
Location: Bonn, Germany
Programs: TK Elite, LH FTL
Posts: 622
A detour to Santa Marta on Avianca

From Bogotá, my business trip took me to Santa Marta on the Carribean coast and as there are not many trip reports featuring Colombia's national airline Avianca, I figured I give it a shot.

12 JAN 07 AV 8484 BOG SMA Fokker 100 dep 0725 arr 0855 seat 7A

Avianca's domestic flights don't leave from the main terminal building but from a dedicated terminal called the 'Puente Aereo' some two kilometers away. Both terminals are connected by an Avianca shuttle bus operating airside (thereby avoiding traffic on the highway). Clean and modern, the Puente is in a different league from the main terminal building and despite the huge passenger volume on AV's domestic services, I have always found it fairly user-friendly. I arrived about one hour before departure, checked-in after virtually no wait with a friendly agent and proceeded to one of the numerous café bars for a much needed tinto and a flaky croissant (previous experience tells me that usually no food is served on domestic sectors in Colombia).

Avianca has what (from the outside) seems to be a very nice business class lounge at the Puente, but I doubt that my Flying Blue Platinum card would get me entrance there (Avianca is no member of Skyteam even though it is possible to earn Flying Blue miles). Passengers board at the domestic terminal by walking to the planes, even though there are covered walkways to the planes. The Fokker 100 was pretty full (as a matter of fact, all my Avianca flights have been very full), as many most people prefer the plane to the car/bus for long distance travel in Colombia. After an on-time departure, service on-board consisted of the usual choice of coffee, juice or water. No food is being served in coach, nor are there any other drinks available. I have never experienced Avianca in business class so any insights on that product would be appreciared. Arrival at Santa Marta's tiny airport was ahead of time and I was out of the airport less than 15 minutes after touch down.

14 JAN 07 AV 9767 SMA BOG M83 dep 1520 arr 1638 seat 9A

Santa Marta's airport is a small affair, a single strip of taramac next to the sea, a small open air terminal building with two jetbridges and a café overlooking both the beach and the approach to the airport. In addition to Avianca's four daily jet departures to BOG, it is also served by Avianca from Medellin by Fokker 50s and by AV's main competitor Aero Republica by B737s (also to BOG). I arrived about one hour before departure and check-in was very fast. The return trip was the mirror-image of the flight from BOG, service was again coffee, juice or water and we touched down pretty much on time. After a quick walk to the baggage claim, we waited some 10 minutes for our bags and I was off to my hotel.

In conclusion, after 8 domestic sectors on Avianca (Medellin, Cartagena, Santa Marta) in the last 14 months, I'm quite impressed with the airline. The Puente Aereo terminal is much preferable to the crowded main terminal (which is used by all other domestic airlines), Avianca offers numerous daily departures and an impressive route map with Colombia. While I had my fair share of delays with them (often caused by bad weather in BOG), they have never lost my luggage and I do get Flying Blue miles when using them. Now, I only wish they would join Skyteam, so that I could use their lounges and the priority check-in. And yes, a bit more variety in the drinks department would also be appreciated :-)
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