Review: Avianca 787 Business Class Los Angeles To Bogota

Filed Under: AviancaTaca

I got to LAX at around 7AM for my 10:15AM flight to Bogota (I figured I’d arrive a bit early to try and beat rush hour, since I had a lot of stuff to get done before the flight anyway). Avianca departs from Terminal 2 at LAX, which nowadays seems to be the secondary international terminal, after Tom Bradley International Terminal.

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Avianca check-in at LAX Terminal 2

Avianca’s check-in was located towards the far end of the terminal, and since I arrived quite early, it was still fairly empty.

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Avianca check-in at LAX Terminal 2

The premium check-in was located at the far left, and there was no queue as I arrived.

“You fly on da plane to Bogota today?”
“Where your final destination?”
“In eh-Spain?”
“Yes ma’am.”
“And you fly to da Bogota first?”

She raised her eyebrow at me.

“How many bags you check?”
“I just have hand luggage.”
“Please put it on da scale.”

In this case I was just traveling with a weekender bag, so it seemed to arouse even more suspicion with her.

“You’re traveling to Madrid with just that bag?”

Soon enough I had my boarding passes all the way to Madrid, and was informed that I could use the Air Canada Lounge.

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Avianca business class check-in at LAX Terminal 2

Security took a while, though fortunately there’s a premium queue. However, you have to specifically ask in order to access it, which I knew to do based on the past flights I’ve taken out of Terminal 2.

LAX has done a nice job with Terminal 2 renovations, as it’s now a beautiful terminal.

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LAX Terminal 2 airside

I headed up to the Air Canada Lounge, which is the biggest lounge in Terminal 2. It’s the lounge used for all premium passengers departing out of the terminal, except those on Virgin Atlantic, as they have their own lounge. But all other premium passengers, along with Priority Pass members, can use the Air Canada Lounge. I’ve reviewed it before, so won’t be reviewing it again. Fortunately it was quite empty when I was there, as the Avianca flight departs before the noon rush.

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Air Canada Lounge LAX Terminal 2

As I was in the lounge I saw the Avianca 787 I’d be taking to Bogota being towed to the gate. The flight from Bogota arrives the night before, so the plane overnights at LAX. It’s towed over to a remote part of the airport overnight, and then towed to the gate about 90 minutes before departure.

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Avianca 787 LAX

I headed down to the departure gate at around 9:15AM, which was the boarding time published on the boarding pass. That seemed a bit early, as it was a full hour before departure. Boarding finally commenced at around 9:25AM, which was 50 minutes before departure.

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Avianca departure gate LAX Terminal 2

My flight was being operated by N785AV, a 787-8 which was delivered to Avianca in October 2015.

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Avianca 787 LAX

Avianca 85
Los Angeles (LAX) – Bogota (BOG)
Tuesday, May 10
Depart: 10:15AM
Arrive: 7:30PM
Duration: 7hr15min
Aircraft: Boeing 787-8
Seat: 3K (Business Class)

I boarded through door L2, where I was greeted by the flight attendants and pointed left and towards the far aisle, where my seat was located. Avianca’s 787 business class consists of a total of 28 seats, spread across two cabins. The forward cabin (between the first and second door) has a total of five rows, while the rear cabin has two rows (stay tuned for the next installment, as I sat in the mini-cabin on the Bogota to Madrid flight).

Avianca has reverse herringbone seats in business class on the 787, which is among my favorite business class hard products.

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Avianca business class cabin 787

While reverse herringbone seats are pretty common nowadays, every airline has slightly different finishes. Overall I’d say Avianca’s cabins are quite bland, at least in terms of the color patterns.

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Avianca business class cabin 787

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Avianca business class seats 787

As stated above, I had assigned myself seat 3K, a window seat in the third row on the right side.

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Avianca 787 business class, seat 3K

As is the norm with reverse herringbone seats, the video monitor folded out from the seat in front.

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Avianca 787 business class, seat 3K

The ottoman at the seat was fairly large, in the sense that I could place my feet there without feeling too constrained. Overall it’s a very nice configuration, in my opinion.

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Avianca 787 business class legroom

On the right side of the seat were the easy to use seat controls, entertainment controls, and a reading light. There were also power ports (both USB and 110v), as well as the headphone jack.

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Avianca 787 business class seat & entertainment controls

Just past that was a small storage compartment, which is where the headphones were located.

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Avianca 787 business class headphones & storage

The headphones were pretty crappy quality, both in terms of the noise cancelling capabilities, and also in terms of comfort. Then again, it’s sometimes surprising which airlines do and don’t have good headphones. For example, American business class has Bose headphones, which is better than what you’ll find in Emirates first class.

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Avianca 787 business class headphones

Below the storage compartment for headphones was a good size table, which was big enough to store my laptop during the flight.

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Avianca 787 business class side console

Below the window-side table was a cupholder.

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Avianca 787 business class cupholder

One unique feature of this seat was that it had a legitimate armrest on the aisle-side of the seat. Typically reverse herringbone seats have a pop-up console, which can turn into an armrest. In Avianca’s case they have an armrest which you have to lower (it has to be up for takeoff), and then below it they have a storage compartment.

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Avianca 787 business class aisle side armrest

I thought that was well designed, because reverse herringbone seats don’t otherwise have many closed areas where you can store belongings.

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Avianca 787 business class storage

On the seat in front was a magazine rack.

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Avianca 787 business class magazine rack

Now that the hard product is covered, let’s talk about the soft product.

Waiting at my seat on boarding was a package with a great pillow and blanket. The pillow was huge and comfy, while the blanket was plush. I thought it was cute that the blanket came with a ribbon, though oddly the ribbon couldn’t easily be removed, as it was stitched into the blanket, so I left it on throughout the flight.

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Avianca business class pillow & blanket

About five minutes after settling in a flight attendant came by with pre-departure beverages — the choices were between water and orange juice. The flight attendant who served me had zero charm or expressions on her face. She held out the tray, said nothing, and didn’t move her face. I chose a glass of water.

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Avianca business class pre-departure water

A few minutes later she returned with a shoe bag and an amenity kit. Again, she didn’t say anything, but just held them out for me to take.

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Avianca business class Tumi amenity kit

It’s pretty cool that Avianca offers Tumi amenity kits, much like Delta does in business class. The kit was fairly well stocked, with eyeshades, socks, earplugs, tissues, a pen, toothpaste, a toothbrush, lip balm, hand cream, and more.

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Avianca business class Tumi amenity kit contents

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Avianca business class Tumi amenity kit lip balm and hand cream

About 15 minutes after being offered the amenity kit, another flight attendant (who was slightly friendlier) came around with the menu for the flight.

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Avianca business class menu

I should note that Avianca has an annoying boarding video, in my opinion. It’s sort of upbeat and repetitive elevator music while showing all kinds of destinations. It’s similar to this video, but at least based on my recollection, significantly more annoying:

The cabin filled up as boarding continued, and eventually all but a few seats were taken. Avianca seems to offer a lot of day of departure upgrades, because the day before departure the flight showed wide open in business class.

At around 10AM captain Don came on the PA to introduce himself and first officer Alejandro, who would be flying us to Bogota. He seemed rather chipper, and informed us of our flight time of 6hr30min, and that we were expecting nice weather enroute. He also said “we invite you to pay attention to the crew’s instructions.”

Interestingly all the crew’s announcements came in that form. For example, the flight attendants announced that they “invite passengers to return to their seats when the seatbelt sign is on.” Quite a contrast from the US, where you’re basically threatened.

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Avianca 787 pushback LAX

Shortly after 10AM the safety video began to play, while we were still at the gate. It was a rather boring video, though at least wasn’t cringeworthy.

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Avianca 787 safety video

The 787 doesn’t have window shades, but instead has built in dimmers. I was having issue with my dimmer at the gate, which seems to be a common problem for me, as it kept dimming automatically.

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Avianca 787 window shade dimmers

We began our pushback at 10:10AM, a bit ahead of schedule.

We had some cool views as we taxied out. First we had views of the Virgin America planes at the terminal next to us.

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Virgin America planes at LAX

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Air Canada A320 LAX

The good thing about Terminal 2 is that it’s right by runway 24L, so our taxi took less than five minutes. The flight attendants were fairly thorough with their safety checks, and interestingly told me that I couldn’t use my blanket during takeoff, but rather had to place it on the floor.

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Taxiing LAX

As we taxied east we had good views of Terminals 1 & 2, including of the tower, a Hawaiian A330, and lots of Southwest 737s (if you can call that a “good view”). 😉

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Taxiing LAX

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Hawaiian A330 LAX

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Southwest Terminal 1 LAX

By 10:20AM we were cleared for takeoff, as we were number one when we got to the runway.

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Taking off LAX

Our takeoff roll was pretty quick, and initial climb out was smooth.

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View after takeoff from LAX

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View after takeoff from LAX

The views of the coastline are usually beautiful as you leave LA, though the weather was sort of crappy — June gloom has come early to LA this year.

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View after takeoff from LAX

As usual, it was a beautiful day above the clouds.

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Climbing out

Despite a smooth climb out, the seatbelt sign wasn’t turned off until 25 minutes after takeoff. And the seatbelt sign was strictly enforced in the meantime — two announcements were made on the climb out to remain seated.

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Avianca 787 business class cabin after takeoff

As we climbed out I turned on my personal television and browsed my options. The system was responsive, which I liked — I hate when there’s a huge delay between inputs and when the system displays your selection.

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Avianca 787 entertainment system

I started with the airshow.

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Avianca 787 airshow

Avianca’s airshow is one of those systems which is constantly changing between different views, so it can be quite fun to watch.

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Avianca 787 airshow

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Avianca 787 airshow

Then I browsed the entertainment selection, which exceeded my expectations, both in terms of movies and TV shows. They had a good variety, though I wish for TV shows they had more than just a couple of episodes of each. I love when airlines have whole seasons, for example.

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Avianca 787 entertainment selection

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Avianca 787 entertainment selection

I ended up watching “Beyond Magic with DMC.” This particular episode was about mentalism, and fascinating to watch.

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Avianca 787 entertainment selection

Once the seatbelt sign was off I checked out the lavatory. While some airlines have nice lavatories in 787 business class between the two cabins, Avianca just has two lavatories in the front of the cabin, which were small. I wasn’t impressed by the setup.

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Avianca 787 business class lavatories

On the plus side, they did have L’Occitane hand lotion.

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Avianca 787 business class lavatories

About 40 minutes after takeoff the flight attendants came through the cabin with hot towels.

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Avianca business class hot towel

Shortly thereafter they brought around tablecloths. I should note that the trays in Avianca’s 787 business class are quite small, at least compared to some other airlines.

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Avianca business class tray table

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Avianca business class table setting

At that point the meal service began, or so I thought. I was rather hungry, since I didn’t have breakfast. When I get on a daytime flight I always expect the main meal to be served shortly after takeoff. That was confirmed by the menu, which indicated there was a lunch service, and then a snack service as well.

The menu and beverage list read as follows:

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The flight attendants served drinks off a nice trolly with tablecloths rather than your typical cart, which I thought was a classy touch you don’t see often enough. It makes such a difference in terms of the overall appearance.

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Avianca business class beverage service

Unfortunately it doesn’t make up for the crappy service the crew provided.

Rather than asking me what I wanted to drink, the flight attendant just looked at me. I asked for a glass of white wine, which I was quickly served. I was also offered the turkey sandwich, which I thought was being served before landing.

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Avianca business class sandwich and wine

The sandwich was quite good for what it was, given that it was warm and had melted cheese. But it was still far from gourmet.

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Avianca business class sandwich

After I finished my turkey sandwich they came and cleared my tray. It appears as if the main meal on this flight is served before landing, which I really don’t understand:

  • On a daytime flight, the main meal is always served after takeoff, which makes sense, since people are rushing to the airport, and typically haven’t had time to eat
  • If that’s not the case, you’d think they would explain the order of meals to passengers, especially given that it contradicts the order in which things are listed on the menu

When my turkey sandwich was cleared my glass of wine was also empty. Rather than offering me a refill she simply took it. When I said “could I please have another glass of white wine and some more of those snacks?” she audibly huffed and rolled her eyes. Classy.

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Avianca business class wine and snacks

About 70 minutes after takeoff all the cabin lights were dimmed, and water bottles were distributed.

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Avianca business class bottled water

I decided to rest for a bit. I ended up napping for about an hour, at which point we were flying over Mexico.

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Airshow enroute to Bogota

I saw that there were cappuccinos on the menu, so I decided to order one at that point. That required pushing the call button, since the crew were never passing through the cabin. Fortunately the call button was answered by the one male flight attendant, who was the friendliest of the bunch, which isn’t saying a whole lot.

I have to say that the cappuccino was excellent.

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Avianca business class cappuccino

I then started binge watching TV shows, starting with “The Middle.”

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Avianca business class entertainment selection

I followed that up with an episode of “Two and a Half Men.”

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Avianca entertainment selection

Then “Brain Games 3.”

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Avianca entertainment selection

And then an episode of “Parks and Recreation.”

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Avianca entertainment selection

There was a small drink setup in the galley between the two business class cabins, with soft drinks and chips available.

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Avianca business class snack bar

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Avianca business class snack bar

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Avianca 787 business class cabin

About 90 minutes before landing the cabin lights were turned up so that the “lunch” service could begin. First hot towels were once again offered. Then everything else was served on one tray, including a salad, cheese plate, and main course.

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Avianca business class dinner service

The cabbage and corn salad was a bit unusual, and while I appreciated it was different than usual, it wasn’t actually very good.

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Avianca business class lunch —  salad with corn and cabbage over lettuce

I think Avianca is taking quite a few liberties by calling the two small pieces of cheese they offer with lunch a “fine cheese selection,” but whatever.

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Avianca business class lunch —  cheese selection

For the main course I chose the chicken. While the veggies and spanish rice were fine, the chicken itself was gross. It was the same low quality chicken you get on many domestic flights, were the chicken is white as could be, and looks more like a burger patty than a chicken breast.

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Avianca business class lunch —  grilled chicken breast with spanish rice and vegetables

To drink I had more wine, as well as some water. My go to drink is usually gin & tonic, though oddly Avianca only serves those on transatlantic flights. That seems rather bizarre in business class, in my opinion.

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Avianca business class drinks — white wine and water

The only redeeming quality of the meal was the dessert, which was a delicious carrot cake. I had a cup of coffee to go along with it. I would have ordered a cappuccino, but I can only imagine how many huffs I would have gotten for that request.

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Avianca business class lunch —  carrot cake and coffee for dessert

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Avianca business class lunch —  carrot cake

About 40 minutes before landing the captain came on the PA to provide us with updated arrival information, expecting we’d be landing early.

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Airshow approaching Bogota

Shortly thereafter a video was played explaining the arrival process in Bogota:

We started our descent at 6:20PM, which was only 15 minutes before landing. The reason we started it so late is because Bogota is at a high altitude (~8,300 feet), so there’s not that much descending required.

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Airshow approaching Bogota

It was pitch dark when we approached, though the crew didn’t dim the cabin lights for landing, which is usually a standard procedure for nighttime landings.

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View on approach into Bogota

We had a smooth touchdown at 6:35PM (come and think of it, the flight on the whole was extremely smooth), and had a roughly 10 minute taxi to the gate.

Upon deplaning the chief purser said to me Mr. Schlappig, there’s someone waiting for you…”

Avianca business class bottom line

Overall I was extremely impressed by Avianca’s hard product, which is fantastic. Avianca is the only airline in Latin America with reverse herringbone seats in business class, so they score lots of points for that. Furthermore, the Tumi amenity kit was nice, the pillow and blanket were plush, and the entertainment selection exceeded my expectations.

Every other aspect of the experience left me disappointed, however.

The crew would have been hard pressed to seem less interested in their jobs. They were actively rude.

The food quality was disappointing, and even more so, the order of meals and lack of communication about that was unfortunate. I don’t understand the drink selection either — when I visited Colombia earlier in the year I had several fantastic gin & tonics, yet somehow Avianca doesn’t even stock gin in business class?

Based on this flight I thought Avianca business class had a lot of potential, though unfortunately they failed miserably with the details.

Fortunately I had another flight on which to sample them and see whether that was the exception or the norm.

  1. Wait….did I read too fast and miss it? Who was waiting for you?

    Interesting how their customer service was lacking.

  2. Upon deplaning the chief purser said to me Mr. Schlappig, there’s someone waiting for you…”

    Ok, you got me. I’m hooked and will return to check on for the next post

  3. Lucky, if you had a more scandalous life you could write a memoir and sell it for movie rights.

    Start spicing up your trip reports. The man you lived out of his hand luggage.

  4. Yep, that’s definitely not a thrilling Business class. I love trying new airlines and paying for tickets, but I don’t see the point on this one if the food sucks and the crew miserable.

  5. I always wonder if you actually call people out for being rude. I can tell you, if someone rolled their eyes at me for requesting a drink refill, I’d sure as hell call them out. Maybe a snarky “is that inconveniencing you?” would be enough. But I think part of why people like that get away with that kind of behaviour is because people don’t call them out on it.

  6. Not all reverse herringbone seats have fold out screens.
    These seats are from Zodiac Aerospace.

    The other similar seat on the market from their main rival be Aerospace has integrated screens in front of the seat as seen on Qatar’s 787/ A350/ A380 fleet

  7. Spot on, imo. Just flew this past weekend on Avianca; LIM – BOG and connected to BOG – JFK, both 787s. Both my crews were friendly, though. Given BOG – JFK flight departed 10:30 pm, and the food on the flight from LIM was not good at all, I skipped the mediocre meal and slept most of the way to NY.
    Completely off topic, but on your upcoming trip to Peru, please visit the Priority Pass lounge in LIM on the domestic side; I’m sure it will be in the running for ‘worst lounge ever.’

  8. I feel like your tray table’s face sums up your first leg experience with Avianca.

  9. Agree with Kyle re: the agent’s accent; for all the traveling you do and the experiences you’ve had, sometimes you come off as just plain ignorant, Ben. Seems ludicrous for me to suggest one “checks their privilege” in the comments on a blog devoted to luxury travel, but there you have it. You’re better than some of your casually offensive comments (I hope)!

    I truly do appreciate much of the info you’ve offered here over the months and years, but lately the posts have felt a little watered down and aimless (posts that only serve to alert us to upcoming posts/trip reports, etc.). Could you be overextended? Would love to see more from Tiffany, etc. and others on your team. No offense, but writing’s not really your strongest suit… Humble suggestion: Try writing one post without using “given that”. 😉

  10. Wait a minute…half way through the article…the pictures & the captions below them don’t match. Great review – can’t wait to read more…

  11. What a depressing business class experience. Doesn’t make me want to fly with Avianca any time soon.

  12. Wow @Zach, carrot up your A-hole much?Do you get any downtime?Considering you seem to be a Commander in the Political Correctness Brigade , yet also a gorgeous member of the literati, I’m surprised you have time to enlighten us with your drivel.Want to use A-hole again but nervous you may frown on repetition.
    Please comment again ASAP.

    Keep up the good work Ben, great reviews.

  13. Have to agree on the accent front. It’s a turn off. Is that something you do with your Asia or Middle East reviews?

    It is really great that you’re widening your horizons with new destinations but there’s something that’s just off-putting and somewhat patronizing about the tone of your Latin American write-ups. Don’t confuse that as me expecting you to apply a curve–I’ve eaten more than my share of Clase Premier ham sandwiches on Aeromexico* and have found Avianca’s service a little rough at times, but there’s something that just doesn’t come out right about your series of posts from Colombia over the past few months.

    *Although, AM does serve champagne between the US and MEX (or at least SFO and MEX) in their little sippy glasses.

  14. Well fukcn said “zach”.
    The days of referencing third world, people’s accents,douche fests , bitchy and pissed are well and truly tiresome. Lift your game unlucky!

  15. Avianca seems to have a great hard product on their long haul aircraft, but agree that their soft product is a mess… Flew from IAD to LIM (via BOG) two months ago with them and service was just as you describe it. The male FA who did most of the service didn’t even say a word and was even rude. Ah, and the lack of a proper three course meal as the rest of the world does, also pissed me off. Hope they can improve in that!

  16. I am quite a regular on Avianca, flying between London and Bogota approximately 6 times a year. At present they only fly the A330 on this route and only one of these has the reverse herringbone seat, The others have angled lie flat which is ok, but showing its age. I completely agree with you about the quality of the food and the service. The last Gin and Tonic I asked for was a large full glass of Gin! After taking a sip I went and showed the stuardess how to make a Gin and Tonic. It’s a shame as many year ago with the 767-200 between Madrid and Bogota the service was excellent. I have started to fly BA/IBERIA via Madrid as the service and food are so much better, albeit quite a bit more inconvenient to have to connect.

  17. I have a product you may want to try Ben,
    Dragonair’s new first class product just got introduced a while ago, they are Cathay’s sister company based in HK which fly the regional routes. Although their first class is just Cathay’s business with leather seats I think that it is a pretty good product for two-five hour flights, maybe even the best. Maybe you can try and make a trip to HK for christmas or so and try out Dragonair first class.

  18. Brother ,I live in Colombia 6 months out of the year……they are not pissed off, grumpy, or bad at their job….they just don’t speak English well, and are reluctant to engage….Iberia, yea, they spot the 6’3 ginger as “possibly” not a Spanish-fluent speaker and work around it……we have worked out a “grunt” if you want more Gin Tonics” code

  19. Same experience with Avianca business class: very comfortable flight to Buenos Aires via Bogota, though the service and food and drink selection was so-so. The lounge in Bogota also isn’t much to boast about. What’s weird about Avianca is that the flights through Bogota are much more comfortable than those through Lima or San Salvador on what used to be known as Taca. One good thing I’ll say is that the LifeMiles frequent flier program is pretty good and Avianca is good about upgrades.

  20. I´ve flown in avianca several times, from Miami to Bogotá in their A330 and from Bogotá to Pereira in their A318, both in economy class, it was very good since the crew was respondent, but in the Miami flight the flight attendant that served my line was quite bored. In the Pereira flight the flight attendant was the best flight attendant ever, she offered me to go to the pilot cabin she was amazing, and even though the flight was a short hop it was one of my best flights. I want to try Avianca 787 economy class product, it may be good!

  21. Great report on Avianca’s Business, just want to add Avianca isn’t the only Latin American airline offering reverse herringbone seats on their Business Class, Aeroméxico also has those on the brand new 787-9s they got. Try their Clase Premier Experience on these aircrafts, it is frankly the best of the region.

  22. This is a nice, detailed review. It’s a shame you had to resort to racist/nativist tropes to describe your experience at the service counter. I bet you are the kind of white individual who goes to Latin America (or any other “Third World” region) and expects to have everyone bowing down to you and kissing your ring. That may be a reason why you felt that the flight crew was snooty or not friendly enough. Your white privilege doesn’t guarantee kiddie glove treatment.

  23. I agree the food and soft service on this airline is well frankly terrible. The lounge also needs serious improvments.

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