Introduction: The Long Way To Spain

Filed Under: Aeromexico, AviancaTaca
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At the beginning of the year I vowed to review as many new business class products as possible, and in particular named 16 airlines I was eying. I’ve been doing everything I can to review as many of these airlines as possible, and as I’ve gone through the list, I’ve tried to figure out how I can knock out several carriers at once.

I started planning this trip in late March, where I saw an opportunity to fly to Madrid, traveling on Avianca in one direction, and on Aeromexico in the other direction.

Booking the flights

I started planning this trip when I noticed that Avianca was allowing passengers to redeem miles for travel between the US and Europe via Bogota. That’s quite a detour. The great thing is that Avianca flies the 787 to Los Angeles, which features their reverse herringbone product. From there I could fly another 787 from Bogota to Madrid, allowing me to experience two fairly long flights in Avianca’s 787 business class.

Avianca-787-Business-Class - 10
Avianca 787 business class

I booked the following routing:

05/10 AV85 Los Angeles to Bogota departing 10:15AM arriving 7:30PM
05/11 AV10 Bogota to Madrid departing 9:43PM arriving 2:25PM (+1 day)

The cost for a one-way ticket was 60,000 LifeMiles plus $5.60 in taxes, which is pretty darn good.


However, one of the cool things about Avianca’s LifeMiles program is that they let you purchase up to 60% of the miles needed for a ticket at the time of booking, at a rate as low as 1.5 cents per mile. So instead of paying 60,000 miles for the one-way business class ticket, I instead decided to pay 30,000 miles plus $450 in cash.


That meant my total cost for the ticket was 30,000 miles plus $455.60. That’s great for a transatlantic business class ticket, in my opinion.

Then it came time to plan the return. I was just recently in Madrid, so the goal with this trip was to simply return as soon as possible on Aeromexico, rather than make a bigger trip out of it. After all, my travel is heavily focused on reviewing new airlines.

Aeromexico had award availability from Madrid to Los Angeles via Mexico City one day after I landed from Bogota, so that seemed like a great opportunity to review two airlines quickly. Both flights were even operated by the 787.

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Aeromexico 787 business class

The routing looked as follows:

05/12 AM22 Madrid to Mexico City departing 11:25PM arriving 4:35AM (+1 day)
05/13 AM19 Mexico City to Los Angeles departing 9:45AM arriving 11:50AM

The catch is that Delta doesn’t let you redeem miles from Europe to most destinations in the US via Mexico City. However, Air France FlyingBlue does. So I transferred points I racked up on cards such as the Citi Premier® Card (review) or my Citi Prestige® Card from Citi ThankYou to Air France FlyingBlue.

The one-way award cost was 62,500 FlyingBlue miles plus $63.36 in taxes — there are no fuel surcharges when redeeming FlyingBlue miles on Aeromexico, making this a great use of points.

In all I’d be flying ~15,700 miles over the course of three days, taking four flights on two airlines.


In terms of airport lounges, I’ll be reviewing the Avianca Diamond Lounge Bogota (I’ve recently reviewed Avianca’s domestic lounge in Bogota, which was underwhelming).

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Avianca Diamond Lounge Bogota Airport

Then I’ll be reviewing the surprisingly nice contract lounge at Madrid Airport Terminal 1.

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Madrid Airport Sala VIP Terminal 1

Then for my transit in Mexico City, I’ll be reviewing the Aeromexico Lounge, as well as the Amex Centurion Lounge.

Aeromexico-Lounge-Mexico-City - 16
Aeromexico Lounge Mexico City Airport

Amex-Centurion-Lounge-Mexico-City - 11
Amex Centurion Lounge Mexico City Airport

Booking the hotel

For this trip I had just one night in Madrid. It was in the middle of the week, so I knew I’d be super busy, given that my flights didn’t have Wi-Fi. Since I wouldn’t have much time to sightsee, I decided to just stay near the airport.

I recently did a daytime transit in Madrid and stayed at the Hilton Madrid Airport, which was quite nice.

However, I wanted to try something new. After looking at options, I decided to book the Marriott Madrid Auditorium Hotel & Conference Center. It’s a bit of an odd hotel, since it’s not actually marketed as being an airport hotel, even though it has a free airport shuttle.

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Marriott Madrid exterior

While I don’t have status with Marriott, I figured it would be cool to try out another Marriott property, given Marriott’s upcoming takeover of Starwood. The rate for a base room was 110EUR, and a club room was 150EUR. I decided to pay for a club room, since I wanted to compare their club lounge experience to what I’m used to at Starwood.

Marriott-Madrid-Auditorium-Hotel - 31
Marriott Madrid club lounge

Bottom line

I’m so happy I got to try both Avianca and Aeromexico. The airlines both surprised me. While some aspects of the experience were exactly what I was expecting, other aspects both delighted and disappointed me. Stay tuned for the upcoming installments, and for future reviews, as I’m headed to Cape Town shortly.

While this wasn’t the most exciting trip in terms of my experience at the destination, I found the onboard and ground experience to be very interesting.

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  1. Nice report. I keep wanting to fly AeroMexico to/from Europe but I do hate the westbound departure/connection times.

  2. question:

    if you purchase an AV cash+points redemption with an AMEX plat card, would that qualify as an airline expense to get the $200 credit?

  3. @AT–Avianca is not one of the airlines that Amex will allow you to select annually for reimbursement.

  4. Lucky do you ever get grief from customs due to your travel patterns, especially on a quick turn around like this? Seems like the sort of itinerary that would raise some red flags.

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