Colombia All aboard: An Avianca Airbus A320. Photo: ACGP

Published on February 28th, 2012 | by Mark Chesnut

All aboard: An Avianca Airbus A320. Photo: ACGP

FLIGHT REVIEW: Avianca Economy Class (Airbus A320)

After flying and reviewing Avianca’s super-comfy business class on a flight from New York to Bogota, Colombia the week before, I was especially interested in comparing that experience to the airline’s economy-class service on the same route (as well as how it compares to coach-class service on U.S.-based carriers that fly on long-distance Latin America routes). So on this trip from Bogota, I took my usual spot in the back of the plane, with my camera and pen at the ready.

THE ROUTE: Bogota El Dorado International Airport to New York John F. Kennedy International Airport (flight time 5 hours 25 minutes)

Lining up: The Avianca check-in area at Bogota El Dorado airport will be upgraded by 2014. 

THE AIRPORT: Bogota’s El Dorado International Airport is still in the process of a major upgrade and expansion, so counter facilities are nothing to write home about  for now — but that will change sometime between now and the end of 2014, which El Dorado should become the best and most modern Colombia airport. 

I assume that it’s an airport issue and not an airline decision, but I’ve never understood the logic of waiting in line three times in order to get a boarding pass (first to check in, second to get the tax exemption stamp at a separate window, then a return to the first ticket agent to wait for the boarding pass). I assume I could probably cut that line time down to two counter visits if I went to the tax exemption line first, but since I rarely fly to or from Bogota, I always forget about the existence of the tax exemption line, and there is no signage at the main ticket counter about it (nor did the Avianca agent staffing the entry to the line mention it to me). 

Waiting for it: An Avianca boarding gate at Bogota El Dorado airport. 

One of my favorite things about El Dorado is the free WiFi in the waiting area outside of security (but don’t plan on finding free WiFi after you’ve passed through to the gates). A recent reorganization of the security/immigration line made the process go quickly and efficiently. It’s still necessary to wait in yet another line just to get into the exact departure gate (and that one took several minutes to get through), but again, this is likely an airport security issue and not an Avianca-specific practice. 

Take a seat: Economy-class seat on the Avianca Airbus A320. 

THE PLANE: The seats are decorated with fabric with a wavy blue design and have the headrest wings that I find so crucial to sleeping. A plastic-wrapped pillow, blanket and headset awaited passengers on each of the economy class seats. 

Take a look: The seat-back entertainment system on the Avianca Airbus A320. 

The seat-back amenities are especially good for economy class, especially compared with older aircraft operated by some U.S. carriers on Latin American routes. According to Avianca’s entertainment guide in the seatback pocket, economy-class seatbacks on all of its Airbus A319, A320 and A330 aircraft are equipped similarly, with a handy coat hook, USB port, fold-out cup holder and a nine-inch individual monitor screen with handheld remote. Entertainment options are quite diverse, with movies, music videos, TV programs and games.

Meal time: An economy-class chicken dinner on Avianca. 

THE SERVICE: Soon after takeoff, flight attendants distributed U.S. immigration forms, then hot, moist paper towelettes. Hot meal and beverage service (including free alcoholic drinks) began relatively promptly after that; my afternoon flight included a choice of beef or chicken (which came with a roll, rice and sweet plantain and a small salad with corn, tomatoes and cheese). The pre-packaged dessert was Tía Max Pandertios, which are light, dry, mildly sweet biscuits made in Cartagena from tapioca, starch, sugar, butter, eggs, milk and salt. 

Snack time: A light meal served just before landing on Avianca.

About an hour before landing in New York City, flight attendants provided a second beverage service and a tiny turkey and cheese sandwich on a roll. Overall, I found the amenities to be slightly above what you’d find on the aircraft that many U.S.-based airlines fly to South America. If you fly avianca in economy class, you just might be a bit more comfortable than onboard a U.S.-based carrier. 

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About the Author

The founder and editor of, Mark has more than 15 years of experience as a writer, editor and manager. He's worked with some of the biggest consumer, in-flight and travel trade publishers that cover Latin America.

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