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Old Jan 26, 07, 5:17 pm
  #4  
Arnur
 
Join Date: Mar 2001
Location: Bonn, Germany
Programs: TK Elite, LH FTL
Posts: 622
BOG - EWR on CO in BusinessFirst

This flight was supposed to be the highlight of my trip, as I very rarely travel in paid business class and this was a first for me on CO. I had checked-in by internet the evening before and arrived at El Dorado airport about 90 minutes before the scheduled departure time.

15 JAN 07 CO 880 BOG EWR B737-700 dep 1005 arr 1602 seat 2C

Check-in was smooth and after paying the annoying 25 US$ airport tax (I don't understand why you have to pay that tax in cash), I headed for the departure area in the international pier. After passing three separate checks (emigration, security and customs), I quickly found lounge. CO uses the Avianca lounge for their two daily departures, which is conveniently located close to the security check points. It was very crowded this morning (rush hour for Avianca), but it offers a decent selection of sandwiches and other breakfast food items, as well as various internet work stations and a nice view over the tarmac. Compared with the other international lounge in BOG (AA's Admirals Club, which is also used by AF and IB), this lounge offered much fewer space but much better food offers.

After an additional security check at the gate, I was among the last passengers to board the Boeing 737 for the return flight to Newark. I assume the BusinessFirst seats on this plane were similar to domestic First class in the United States: plenty of space, but the decline certainly would not have been impressive had this been a night flight. Also, I was surprised that even in business class there were no additional IFE options - I had expected that they would hand out individual DVD players or similar. As it was, it were the same movies which I had already seen on the transantlantic sector playing on the overhead monitors.

In contrast, the service on this flight was much better than in coach. The FA went out of his way to refill our glasses and to be of assistance. Unfortunately, I forgot to take the printed menu, but I seem to recall that lunch was a decent Salmon starter and a green salad, accompanied by rather unimpressive white bread rolls. I chose the Chataubriand as the main course, which was very well prepared and tasty. Desert was an icecream sundae - not my prefered way of ending a business class meal, but clearly a favorite of my fellow passengers. The red wine served with the food was also quite nice, even though the postprandial coffee was as bad upfront as it had tasted in coach.

In summary, I find it very hard to compare this flight with my other business class experiences. Usually, I find myself flying either on very short European flights of 60-90 minutes (say on AF or LH), where the only distinguishing feature on the narrowbody flights is the better meal and the empty middle seats. Or I fly long-distance in widebodies for 7-10 hours, enjoying all the bells and whistles (lie flat seat, AVOD, very refined cuisine). This flight on CO somewhere falls in between - in terms of seats and food - even though I feel the airline should offer their premium customers more in terms of IFE.

We arrived on-time in EWR and this was again when my troubles started. Spotting a fairly empty immigration area, I was looking forward to be reunited with my luggage in a short while.. And then the lady from Homeland Security looked at my passport. And looked some more. Clearly something was bothering her. It turned out to be the numeous entry stamps from Sudan and other dubious countries. Mind you, this is the same passport I had used on four previous occassions to enter the United States, but whereas my travels had been the subject of friendly banter ("how's the food in Colombia") with her colleagues, she took a dimmer view. In no time, I found myself escorted down the escalator to Newark's special holding area for less than welcome visitors. Here, without an opportunity to leave or to use a phone ("no cell phones" barked one of our minders to one unsuspecting fellow) and without my passport, I found myself sitting among some 50 other people, virtually all of them Muslim by the looks of them. Some of them had been there for quite a while and were called repeatedly for further questioning. Seeing myself either being deported or on the next flight out to Guantanomo, I therefore approached the desk with a slight feeling of trepidation when my name was called after some 90 minutes. Imagine my surprise, when the officer stamped me in after asking a single sentence about the nature of my work, after which I was allowed to leave the holding pen and re-join the rest of humanity at the baggage claim. What they did with my passport and my data during the enforced delay is anybody's guess.

Last edited by Arnur; Jan 26, 07 at 6:24 pm
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