Hopefully this trip report will illustrate why from now on I will only fly TACA when traveling to Central America. Excellent flights.
March 21, 2003
TA391 MIA->SAP Flt. Time: 2 hr 16 min
Departs: 3:25pm Arrives: 3:45pm
TACA requests that all passengers check-in 3 hours prior to departure, so I presented at the ticket counter in Terminal A at 12:30pm. The line wasn;t too long though there was some confusion. Once you got to the front of the line, a TACA employee took my passport and itinerary printout, then strangely disappeared. Then, a second TACA employee directed me to an awaiting agent a the counter. When I got the counter I had neither my passport or itinerary and I nor the agent, knew what to do. After about 3 min. of waiting the first agent brought me my passport and document and handed it to me without any explanation. Kind of strange. The agent at the counter who checked me in simply rolled her eyes at the direction of the first agent, as if to say that she took my passport and document for no real reason. Anyway, check-in was quick and easy with my assigned aisle seat at 22C.
I proceeded to departure area A at MIA which is the newer concourse. Security check was quick with no long lines, and it was sort of funny to see a line of Avianca FA's standing without shoes proceeding through the metal detector. We would be departing from Gate A3, and suprisingly the aircraft was already there, it being 1:00pm. Boarding began one hour prior to departure, and proceeded rather quickly as the flight was only about half full. Once onboard I was greeted by the first class FA and handed a Miami Trib newspaper. Once everyone was seated, we had to wait onboard for close to 45 min. because we had boarded so early. At 3:15pm the door was shut, the FA's began securing the cabin for departure and the safety demonstration proceeded while taxiing.
Flight time was 2 hrs and 16 min, relatively short, so I was surprised that there would be an inflight meal as well as some IFE. 30 min into the flight the FA's handed out earphones, the monitors came down ,and a video presentation on TACA's sponsorship of the Honduran National Soccer Team started.. This lasted for about 30 min, then an A&E Mundo program on unique houses aired for about an hour.
As the plane was only about half full the FA's were able to quickly distribute the inflight meal which consisted of: bacon and tomato on a baguette, banana chips, and a fruit tart. Alcoholic drinks were free, so I had a Bud and a water. After the meal a second drinks service was offered. I asked the FA if they had any run on board (I had heard that Honduran rum is some of the best in the world). She proceeded to pour me about 3 fingers of Plata Premium Rum, and without my asking, gave me a can of Coke to chase it with. That's what I call service. About an hour before landing the FA's came around with duty free.
Our decent into SAP was great because we approached from the north and had to do a hairpin turn to land from the south. We touched down at 3:33pm, 11 min. ahead of schedule, and taxied to one of the three gates equipped with jetbridges. Interestingly, customs and immigration personal in the arrivals hall were wearing masks, and signs were posted cautioning people about SARS.
March 27, 2003
TA390 SAP->MIA Flt. Time: 2 hours
Departs: 11:25am Arrives: 3:15pm
I arrived at the airport at 9:30am to the small airport at San Pedro Sula. Signs on the approach road say that there are two terminals, but there is only one building. Terminal 1 has Continental, COPA, Grupo TACA, and Islena. Terminal 2 is Iberia, Aerolineas Sosa, American, Atlantic Airways, and Sol Air. The airport has few amenities, and what few it does have are overpriced. The check-in and arrivals are on the same ground floor level. Departures are on the second floor, and one the third floor is a restaurant called "Wings". The food sucks, but there are excellent views of the airfield from the huge picture windows.
Check in was relatively painless, except that security was hand checking all bags being checked. This created to some delay in getting to the front of the line, but it was ok. Check-in was quick, except that there were no more aisle for window seats left. The agent was kind enough to at least place me in 4B, the first row of Y class, with plenty of leg room. I then went to a window to pay my rather steep departure tax of US$25. After which I was referred to a second window where I had to pay an additional US$2 for the "Tasa for servicio de inspeccion rayos 'x' a equipaje aereo". Thats right, you have to pay for the x-raying done to your luggage.
Security involved the usual with an additional hand search of my carry-on. I then proceeded to Gate 2 for departure. Although there are electronic signs above each gate to show the flight set to depart, they were not in use. Boarding began at 10:35am and because I was sitting in the front of Y class had to wait awhile before I was called to board. As I proceeded to the jetway entry a security guard approached and directed me to an area where they were doing random searches. This consisted of the usual, except that the guy thoroughly went through my carry on, taking out everything, even flipping through my passport, the guard did this much to the ire of TACA staff who were trying to get this flight going. Finally finished, I rushed to the jetway door where the agent pulled my boarding pass, then, all of a sudden, we were plunged into darkness as the entire airport lost electricity. I saw computer screens flicker off, all the lights go out, and heard an expletive in Spanish muttered by the agent. She told me to go ahead and board. Evidently, this problem didn't contribute to any delay in our departure as we pushed back on time at 11:25am. I wonder if the electricity came back on, or if they had to physically push the jetbridge away from the plane!
After departure inflight service began with IFE once again, which consisted of a Biography Channel show on Antonio Banderas. The inflight meal consisted of a roast beef sandwich, potato chips, and cookies. Drinks were offered twice throughout the flight and I selected Bud the first time and Coke the second. After customs forms were distributed, we began our decent into MIA and arrived early at 3:05pm, arriving a the gate about 10 minutes later.
I was very impressed with TACA's service on both of these flights. It is much better than flights offered by CO or AA to Central America. Neither of these carriers provide inflight meals, duty free, or free booze. Another problem I've noticed with AA is that they rarely have an FA who can speak Spanish fluently. On TACA all FA's as well as the pilot were bilingual. I'd encourage anyne to fly TACA.