Published on January 5th, 2016 | by Mark Chesnut
AIRLINE REVIEW: Avianca Airbus A321, Lima to San Salvador
As I wrapped up my recent visit to Lima, Peru to cover and moderate two panels at SAHIC, the South American Hotel & Tourism Investment Conference (where I uncovered a bunch of interesting news, including the two countries in South America with the very best hotel deals right now), I flew Avianca from Lima to New York City, with a change of plane in San Salvador, El Salvador — one of Avianca’s hubs since TACA brand was rebranded as Avianca. This is a review of my flight experience from Peru to El Salvador.
THE FLIGHT: Lima/Jorge Chávez International Airport (LIM) to San Salvador/Monseñor Óscar Arnulfo Romero International Airport (SAL); 4 hours; Airbus A321; economy class
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THE DEPARTURE: The Lima airport wins lots of awards, but the fact that domestic and international arrivals and departures are all accessed on a single level and approach route from outside can make for a congested arrival and check-in experience. My driver had to take an outside lane and I had to cross to get to the terminal to avoid waiting in the long line of traffic waiting, and I also had to wade through a lot of people awaiting arrivals to get to the check-in area. Once I got there, however, I waited less than 20 minutes in line to reach the counter. Security screening was fast, but Peru requires that international travelers wait in a second line for immigration — which took an extra 15 minutes — so you need to plan on waiting in two lines (three, if you count outside check-in) before you get to your gate. (It’s always interesting how the departure process can vary so widely from country to country; in Mexico and Panama, for example, you don’t have to wait in a separate immigration line to leave the country.)
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THE AIRCRAFT: The Avianca Airbus A321, technically a TACA plane operated by Trans American (and still flying the TACA colors), was a fairly new aircraft with two classes of service. I, of course, was in the back of the plane.
AIRLINE SEATING: Each airline seat in economy class had a pillow, but no blanket, no electrical outlets and no wings on the headrests. Inflight entertainment was provided on overhead video screens, and passengers could use their own earphones for free.
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IN-FLIGHT SERVICE: Unlike U.S.-based airlines, Avianca has offered me some kind of free airline meal on every flight I’ve ever taken with them (oh, to go back to the days when that was the case on every airline). On this Avianca flight, flight attendants offered a choice of tortellini or chicken with mashed potatoes, with free beverages. There was a second beverage service (with water and coffee) offered after the meal service.
THE ARRIVAL: We arrived on time at the San Salvador airport, but my connection was a bit tight because flights to the United States from El Salvador require a manual bag inspection at the gate, as well as a pat down. Passengers traveling to the USA from here also have to take off their shoes for a manual inspection at the gate, and — as in Panama and Costa Rica — no liquids are allowed onto the plane, even if you bought them inside the secure departure area.