mvecchi4 From Venezuela, joined Apr 2012, 89 posts, RR: 0 Posted (2 years 2 weeks 4 days 9 hours ago) and read 11153 times:
Hi everyone. Welcome to my sixth report on A.net!.
This a the first part of my Christmas travel spree with family. Leaving from VLN to PUJ with a short stopover at PTY using CM.
This trip was booked way in advance back in June 2012, and I was able to secure an Exit Row seat to get a bit more of legroom. I was a bit excited as the PTY-PUJ segment would be flown on a E190 from CM Colombia. CM used to operate the VLN-PTY route using an E190 but then realized how profitable it would be and changed to a B737.
Few photos of the arrival into VLN.
AIAM stands for “Arturo Michelena International Airport”
VLN’s International Terminal
So I arrive at around 11.45 and everything was pretty hectic at this point. As always with CM I was able to complete the OLCI and went straight to the checkpoint. Note that even with the printed OLCI boarding pass you still get checked in by an agent and given a new one.
Our boarding passes were showing Premier Access privileges which I’m not sure why they were given to us. We were flying Y and even though we have over 160,000 miles on Avianca’s LifeMiles program (Thanks Andreas) we are not elite in any program.
Anyways we’re quickly verified by the checkpoint agent and we are encouraged to proceed using the “Premier Access” lane which of course had a lot less people.
Our checkin agent (right) and other 2 resolving some issue with another passenger’s checkin. From what I heard he wanted to take 4-5 empty suitcases and then bring them loaded with goods from PTY.
More of the ground staff.
So we are checked in and I ask the female as to why I was showing premier access privileges and she said that I fact I was being shown as premier but no status was being shown by the system so she could actually give me any privileges (upgrading for example).
There was quite some time for the flight so we decided to head upstairs to the Café to get a light snack before the flight.
This is the view from the stairs (no elevator):
Note that in the end there’s an SBA Airlines (S3) counter but they don’t actually have any international destinations ex-VLN, however, there’s been speculation that they’ll start flying to Miami soon, not sure if it has something to do with AA’s chaos in 2011.
I understand there’s a reciprocal deadlock in new routes approval between the US and Venezuela, this means that the current routes are the only ones operating. No new airlines or new airports may be approved by each side.
East side of the terminal (arrivals area). Note there’s some construction going on in the far back.
So we arrive to the restaurant and this is the look.
An arts and crafts store is open just beside the restaurant. (First time I’ve seen this)
Open travel agency (a new one for me too).
The famous balcony at VLN, this is sometimes open and people can go out and see the planes. I would love to see this turned into a VIP Lounge. See the FX plane in the back.
The offices for CM @ VLN.
The arts and crafts store plus one Ground Handling company.
Classic Venezuelan “Fuente de Soda”.
Here you can get Arepas, Hamburgers, Sandwiches and full meals. I opted for a small ham and cheese sandwich.
So after I eat we go down and pay the Government Tax (VEF 255,00) and then head to security.
After getting our bags checked we go into the National Guard for the second “manual” check. This one is not happy and sends us to the Drug Control section of the airport. This is a new one for me as I had never been sent here before (even though I travel alone most of the times), so we are sent into a waiting aisle where there’s a room with a female National Guard (not happy either) and we get checked.
“Where are you going to?” “Why are you travelling” “What’s in the bag?” “Why do you travel so much? Your passport is almost out of pages” at this point I’m about to snap, but I didn’t want to lose my flight so I comply with her inquisition.
We are checked with a large x-ray machine where you stand on a platform and it moves you through. Of course we get cleared a few minutes later.
The whole time we were in that room there was a representative of the airline. This is one of those experiences I would not want a foreigner to go through. The National Guard is simply disgusting.
So we go through immigration and to the departures lounge.
I can see our bird has arrived already. B737 of course.
People starting to build up in the lounge. The Laser flight to Aruba is also going out at the same time so people are starting to get cramped.
Charging station by Cyberlux. Very convenient as there are not power sockets available in the lounge.
Duty free anyone? Sad to see such a small store for so many great Venezuelan things to take abroad. Also the lady was not too happy either, typical Venezuelan service.
Unnecessary reprinted boarding pass.
We see an agent pass by and starts to organize the gate area. As a Venezuelan, this is the moment to start piling up at the gate in a disorderly fashion. (I just got up to take the photo).
So after about 20 minutes they start calling for Premier, J and Star Gold passengers then start calling row blocks.
Walking to the plane you can see a Q7 DC-9 standing by for AUA (rode that beauty a couple of months earlier).
Waiting to be checked once again by the National Guard (That would be the 3rd time today).
View of the bird.
Beautifully maintained metal.
Date: December 21st 2012 Carrier: Copa Airlines (CM) Flight Number: CM250 Departure City: Valencia (Arturo Michelena Int’l) – Venezuela (VLN) Arrival City: Panama City (Tocumen Int’l)– Panama (PTY) Aircraft Type: Boeing 737-800 Registration: Scheduled Departure Time: 3:45pm Actual Departure Time: 4.01pm Scheduled Arrival Time: 5:26 Actual Arrival Time: 5:35pm Flight Duration: 1 hour 51 minutes Seat Number: 18D (Y+ Class) – Emergency Exit Row Configuration: 2-2 in J and 3-3 in Y
The J seat in this B737. Regular CM Business Class seat.
CM’s 65 Ýears commemorative logo.
Standard Y seat.
I took an emergency exit seat (like most times). So this is the legroom shot.
Standard legroom shot.
So afterwards it was a pretty standard affair even though we had the usual VLN delay of 30 minutes (Yes, it’s normal to be delayed because of the National Guard). About 15 minutes after we took off the snack service started.
Offerings were hot dog or pizza. I went for the latter.
Pizza time with a side of Kchitos Arepitas – Butter flavor.
See the 65 years logo in the napkin.
Odd combination. I got white wine with my pizza.
A look at my Pizza Margherita w/ ham.
The rest of the flight was standard.
So we arrive at PTY and given the delay and our tight 1 hour connection we had to get a move on and run through the terminal to our connecting flight to PUJ.
I did not take any pictures because we were running for our flight.
We arrive at the gate and there was an announcement that boarding would begin in 5 minutes. So we went to the nearby bar and had a Cuba Libre with panamenian rhum “Abuelo”.
We hear the boarding process started so we head to the gate.
Our gate when we arrive the 2nd time.
The line for boarding. I noticed the flight was loaded with argentinians. It’s very easy for Spanish-speakers to recognize an argentinian accent.
Gate agents checking boarding passes.
On time departure!.
Date: December 21st 2012 Carrier: Copa Airlines (CM) operated by Copa Colombia (P5) Flight Number: CM612 Departure City: Panama City (Tocumen Int’l)– Panama (PTY) Arrival City: Punta Cana (Punta Cana Int’l)– Dominican Republic (PUJ) Aircraft Type: Embraer E-190 Registration: Scheduled Departure Time: 7:45pm Actual Departure Time: 7:50pm Scheduled Arrival Time: 10:33pm Actual Arrival Time: 10;30pm Flight Duration: 1 hour 51 minutes Seat Number: 18D (Y+ Class) – Emergency Exit Row Configuration: 2-2 in J and 3-3 in Y
Failed attempt for a good look at the cabin.
The load was around 50% so I changed to the other side of the Emergency exit to get the 2 seats to myself.
Legroom shot. Love being on the Emergency Exit Row.
A look at the cabin, this was a beautifully maintained aircraft. CM has done a wonderful job.
Getting on this airplane reminded me when they were using the E190 on the VLN-PTY route when they started. The plane they were using back then was brand new.
The seats next to us.
The look outside. You can see the jetway right there.
Anyways my battery went dead and I couldn’t take any other pictures. The flight was fairly smooth and the crew was entirely Colombian.
I managed to take a couple of shots of the snack using my iPad.
Boxed snack consists of a white bread chicken sandwich, an Oreo cookie and a mint. (Thought the mint was a nice touch).
Of course it was washed down with some Abuelo panamenian rhum.
The arrival at PUJ was fairly smooth. I was pretty amazed to see DE and TS flying to PUJ, but then again I realized that most major airlines go there as it is a major tourist destination. I’m not really sure why because other than the Hotels there’s pretty much nothing in PUJ.
Shots from the arrival at PUJ.
Don’t remember this AA model, I think it was a 767…
Another look at our bird.
At this point I was astonished to realize that the terminal CM uses un PUJ is practically a big hut-like structure. I wasn’t expecting that with all the world class airlines arriving here.
DE and TS.
Another shot for DE and TS.
Entryway to the immigration lounge.
Blurry shot from the Immigration Lounge.
My battery went dead once again and I couldn’t take any more pictures.
After the immigration desks you have an currency exchange booth were we changed around 50$ just to have some cash (the hotel was all included) and just after we got our bags our ride was waiting outside.
A few shots from IBEROSTAR Bávaro.
I’m not sure the people at IB would agree with the use of their brand for a Grocery Store.
Taino Indian show.
Small video of the Taino Show.
Highlights from the return trip.
We arrived early in the wee hours of the morning. After a brief change of cars since the one that picked us up at the hotel busted the engine and we were picked up by a different car the service got for us.
Got to go through the premier access lane.
The counters were a bit empty. I guess it has something to do with the size of the plane?.
CM Checkin counters.
Here you can see how empty the checkin area was.
AA’s was disastrous. Long lines to check in.
A look at the big hut.
People waiting to be checked in to AA’s MIA flight.
Entrance to terminal B.
Improvised message board.
Empty security checkpoint.
There was a problem here with this lady’s boarding pass. She appeared to be Asian, and the boarding pass did not show any name (something to do with Chinese or Korean characters?) so the security guard was not allowing her to go through. The lady in blue is CM’s agent and was helping her with the security guard in Spanish.
EVERYTHING in the terminal was closed. My dad freaked out since he was craving a cup of coffee to wake him up.
All CM passengers.
To the left is the connecting hallway to terminal A where AA was just about to start boarding.
We couldn’t buy anything.
A look outside the hut. This is a spotter dream.
Our plane getting ready.
A look inside the terminal.
I wanted to buy some Mamajuana, but no luck here.
Connecting hallway to Terminal A.
Food court. Good selection!.
I was amazed to see Q7 flies here. Also, I think the G3 flight makes a short stop in CCS, I remember being quoted their flight but since I wanted to go through VLN it was not an option.
Here you can see UN (amazing!) and PL. Also, I see there are 2 SC (Estelar Venezuela). I understand Estelar only makes charter flights correct?.
This is terminal A. It was no hut!.
More of this terminal.
Empty. Waiting for AA passengers.
Certainly this is no Hut.
The VIP lounge is just there in the 2nd floor.
This terminal had a coffee shop that was open at this ungodly hour.
I buy my father the coffee and head to the gate. As I walk I hear that boarding is called.
People gathering near the “Gate”
Off we go!.
The sun is coming out.
Colombian flag below the cockpit and the words “Operated by AeroRepública” too (or was it “Operado por Copa Airlines Colombia”?).
Yes the tray was not working. I thought of changing to another seat but the load was close to 97% so we had to wait. The FA told us we could move just when the breakfast service starts so we can enjoy the legroom in this seats. I thought it was a great suggestion.
So about 15 minutes into the flight the breakfast service started.
Cabin look somewhere over the Caribbean sea.
So we arrive at PTY after a smooth flight and it is hectic. People running everywhere. PTY really needs another terminal. I heard there was a project (and they recently opened a new wing). I guess it’s good to be CM.
After buying a new phone, I headed to the new wing.
Still construction going on,
I think it’s a great terminal.
Leaving for STI.
So at this point we hear on the PA that our flight has started boarding. At this point we were pretty far away from our gate, so we started jogging for it!.
We made the flight, got in and took off just a few minutes late.
The snack was pretty much the same from the outbound flight.
This time I chose the Hot Dog instead of the pizza. Only that it wasn’t a hot dog it was a “Choripan” (like a hot dog but with a Chorizo sausage instead.)
It was absolutely delicious. I regret not ordering that one before.
Some rhum to wash it down.
The rest of the flight was uneventful with a smooth landing in VLN.
Out of the plane.
Immigration at VLN.
The usual mess at VLN Immigration.
Welcome to Carabobo, where Venezuela was born”
After that it was hectic at the baggage claim area. A CM agent checks your luggage tickets and this process is very slow so it took us a little over an hour from the plane to our ride home. Note that this was the only flight at that time. Conclusion
CM provides consistent seamless service throughout its network, I’ve flown with them a few times and I’ve never had any issues. It’s very close to my perception of AV the only difference being Colombians. Even on CM, when you jump on a P5 flight you can instantly feel the warmth, courtesy and world class service Colombians provide. This is AV’s competitive advantage other than PTV’s and route network.
I will surely continue to fly CM whenever they have rational fares. For example I needed to fly VLN-PTY last August and CM was quoting over VEF 7.000,00 on Y and AV was quoting VEF 4.000,00 for the VLN-BOG-PTY, and I ended up choosing to fly J on AV for VEF 6.900.
The VLN flight is very popular and is often crowded, I would love to see a 2nd flight out of VLN for CM.
So this is all for now. I will try finishing the SBA Airlines trip report soon enough.
Thanks for stopping by,
Feedback is always appreciated
Future Reports – Booked Flights
CCS-PTY on SBA Airlines (S3) – December
CCS-FRA-NRT on Lufthansa (LH) – July (First A380 trip)
NRT-DEN-IAH-CCS on United (UA) – July (First B787 trip)
mvecchi4 From Venezuela, joined Apr 2012, 89 posts, RR: 0
Reply 5, posted (2 years 2 weeks 1 day 6 hours ago) and read 9207 times:
Thank you all for your replies!,
Quoting debonair (Reply 1): No problem with traffic rights? Open Skies? Or how can a Colombian registered plane operate from Panama to the Dominican republic?
I'm not sure how it works out (I'm not in the airline business). All I can say is that SBA Airlines (S3) operates (or used to operate) a B767 from SmartLynx Airlines registered in Latvia for Caribbean and TATL routes (never into Latvia) so I guess that is not so important down here? - like I said I'm not an expert on the subject just MHO.
Quoting SRQKEF (Reply 4): As 4engines4lnghl pointed out that FX plane was an A300 not a 767.
Whoops, sorry about that. Thanks for the clarification.
Quoting SRQKEF (Reply 4): Great report, CM is a airline I'd love to try one day. They also seem to have a very similar business case to Icelandair, only from N-America to S-America via PTY not Europe to N-America via KEF.
I didn't know that. would be good to try. The difference would be that CM is focused on using B737 and E190 only (and the route network is based on their ranges). I think Icelandair has B757s right?
Quoting SRQKEF (Reply 4): Also, judging by the tail, that was definitely a 737-800 AA were using to PUJ.
Avianca From Venezuela, joined Jan 2005, 5939 posts, RR: 40
Reply 7, posted (2 years 1 week 5 days 1 hour ago) and read 8641 times:
Pana, great report!!!
Quoting mvecchi4 (Thread starter): This trip was booked way in advance back in June 2012, and I was able to secure an Exit Row seat to get a bit more of legroom. I was a bit excited as the PTY-PUJ segment would be flown on a E190 from CM Colombia. CM used to operate the VLN-PTY route using an E190 but then realized how profitable it would be and changed to a B737.
CM Colombia is operating some of flights ex (via PTY) like SAP, CUN etc... Personally I love the E190 of CM great aircraft!!!
Quoting mvecchi4 (Thread starter): So I arrive at around 11.45 and everything was pretty hectic at this point. As always with CM I was able to complete the OLCI and went straight to the checkpoint. Note that even with the printed OLCI boarding pass you still get checked in by an agent and given a new one.
this is something that I never understand... for what printout at home if they give you a new one... that why I normally do OLCI but do not print it out...
Quoting mvecchi4 (Thread starter): Our boarding passes were showing Premier Access privileges which I’m not sure why they were given to us. We were flying Y and even though we have over 160,000 miles on Avianca’s LifeMiles program (Thanks Andreas) we are not elite in any program.
thats interesting! maybe a bug because of the amount of miles? I just had till yesterday 220.000 but now 160.000 are gone... lets hope their will be soon a new milage promotion!!
wondering how do you booked the vacation, in a package? I was actually looking for a hop to PUJ over 5 of July (national holiday in VE) but found the airfares to expensive... the hotels are indeed not expensive at all
looks like it is an tradition in Domenican Republic Airports? SDQ has also a very complete food court!
Quoting mvecchi4 (Thread starter): I was amazed to see Q7 flies here. Also, I think the G3 flight makes a short stop in CCS, I remember being quoted their flight but since I wanted to go through VLN it was not an option.
SRQKEF From Iceland, joined Jun 2011, 934 posts, RR: 1
Reply 8, posted (2 years 1 week 4 days 17 hours ago) and read 8556 times:
Quoting mvecchi4 (Reply 5): The difference would be that CM is focused on using B737 and E190 only (and the route network is based on their ranges). I think Icelandair has B757s right?
Yep, FI uses 757s and it's network is solely based on the 757 range and great performance. No other narrowbody in a normal configuration could fly KEF-SEA with a full load of passengers...
FI has some 737MAX on order though which will arrive in 2018-20 if I remember correctly. Also, there are plans to lease some 737NG planes until the MAXs arrive. Those 737s could open up some new smaller markets in Europe and maybe take over some of the smaller markets the 75's operate to (such as Glasgow, Bergen, Stavanger etc.) They could maybe also open up opportunities to turn markets such as HAM into a year-round operation instead of only flying it seasonally.
mvecchi4 From Venezuela, joined Apr 2012, 89 posts, RR: 0
Reply 9, posted (2 years 1 week 4 days 13 hours ago) and read 8476 times:
Before I respond to the comments I seem to have forgotten to explain the usual mess I go through with the miles in these 4 flights.
I chose AV-TA's LifeMiles as my main *A FF program. When I booked the flight I included both my Father's and my LM number and I thought it would be credited fast and easy. My previous experience with this type of thing was with LA and the miles got credited into my AAdvantage account the very next day.
The flight was in December and it was already February and my miles hadn't been credited. I wrote CM and got an email from a nice customer service lady whose response was "Let me tell the department that handles the mileage" and 3 weeks later I got my miles credited but not my father's. We are waiting for those.
I guess I will always have issues with miles uh?.
So anyways, let me continue:
Quoting nethkt (Reply 6): And alcoholic beverages are always offered! I like that!!
Yep. Gotta love it.
Quoting Avianca (Reply 7): that why I normally do OLCI but do not print it out...
Good point. We'll do that in the future. It did allow me to use the Premier Access line though.
Quoting Avianca (Reply 7): lets hope their will be soon a new milage promotion!!
Don't leave me hanging!. I still can't get AV's emails.
Quoting Avianca (Reply 7): little caotic terminal I would say so far I only used once VLN but for an international incoming flight.
I will take my chaos anyday of the week instead of riding to CCS. I dream of a shuttle-like service between VLN and CCS.
Quoting Avianca (Reply 7): wondering how do you booked the vacation, in a package? I was actually looking for a hop to PUJ over 5 of July (national holiday in VE) but found the airfares to expensive... the hotels are indeed not expensive at all
No package. I searched availability in Expedia.com then went into the Iberostar website and booked there directly. PUJ is only limited to whatever is inside the hotel, the towns themselves (Bavaro and Punta Cana) are "pueblos".
Iberostar provided great service. Can't complain about that. I can complain that they don't have a loyalty program or give out miles :@
Quoting Avianca (Reply 7): looks like it is an tradition in Domenican Republic Airports? SDQ has also a very complete food court!
I don't remember SDQ much since I wasn't writing reports back then and I was exhausted from work in PUJ (That was a couple of years ago. So I don't know much.
Quoting Avianca (Reply 7): This picture rembmers me that I have urgently to go to BUE in order to have some decen Parilla including a nice choripan!
We still have that trip to plan right?
Quoting Avianca (Reply 7): Looking forward for your next reports! specially the trip to Japan!
I will try to take time to write the S3 report. Had a good experience.
Also crossing my finger for the B787 ride.
Quoting nethkt (Reply 6): Dominican Rep. is one country to visit but been living out here in Phuket, Thailand, I don't think I miss anything much.
Not really. We'd like to have over to this side of the world though.
stipica From Croatia, joined Feb 2011, 427 posts, RR: 8
Reply 12, posted (2 years 2 days 14 hours ago) and read 7464 times:
Hi Miguel !
now I can say ....super nice like always ... in Europe we have a very talented and dedicated reporters from Nordic countries and of course I am always joke with them that must be something in the water or in the air ... the same goes for Venezuelans I am so glad that you cover VLN so well ...thanks stipica