roseflyer
Posts: 9606
Joined: Fri Feb 13, 2004 9:34 am

A Rare Flight: Tame A320 To The Galapagos Islands

Sun Aug 29, 2010 5:00 pm

Since I went on a very unique flight to an even more unique destination compared to the typical travel that most of us go through, I decided to write a quick trip report about TAME airlines. It is the civilian division of the Ecuadorian Air Force. I flew them in 2000 on old 727s which felt like they were about to fall out of the sky. I was hoping for a better trip this time.

I met up with my family in Guayaquil Ecuador after flying in the night before on American SEA-DFW-MIA-GYE in first/business. I was fairly well rested since the business on the AA 767s is quite nice. The rest of my family had flown in from ATL on a DL 737 which diverted to FLL due to a mechanical problem and landed after being in the air over 4 hours, which forced them to spend 9 hours on board the various 737s ATL-FLL-GYE, which is not very comfortable even in first class, especially since they didn't cater the plane in FLL. I was the lucky one.

Anyways, we were headed to a vacation adventure cruise in the Galapagos Islands. Our tour company picked us up from the very nice Hilton and we arrived at the beautiful GYE airport. Our agency handled all of the check in and gave us forms to fill out and boarding passes. I'm not sure if it was Tame or the tour company which was less organized, but we ended up scattered. It didn't matter to us much for a 600 mile flight. The airport in Guayaquil is new and very nice. I have never seen a fish pond at an airport before.

http://i646.photobucket.com/albums/uu189/javidk2000/baltra5.jpg

Tame 191
Guayaquil - Baltra (Galapagos)
Dep 10:05 am
Arr 10:45 am
A320
Seat 20D
Flight Duration: 1hr 35min
Load Factor: 70%

We headed through to security which was not very strict. After that, they make you walk through a shopping arcade to get to the gates. This is where things were confusing to us. The gate listed for our flight was blocked off behind a glass wall. Our flight to Baltra was listed out of gate 5, yet we were in the boarding area for only gates 1-4. There were no airline staff anywhere. We were confused and found a guard who said that they often switched gates and that there would be an announcement. Since I had not eaten, I went to the coffee bar to get a snack since I was hungry and did not want to wait 3 hours for food.

20 minutes before departure, we were curious along with some others where to go. Finally they opened up the door to a common use gate between the international and domestic gates. Everyone boarded at once. They took our ticket and we got on the plane where there were already about 50 people on board that had come from Quito on the same plane. This is an actual 1 stop service flight.

I have seat 20E. We had checked our luggage as well as basically everyone else since the tour company arranges for it to your stateroom on the boat in Galapagos. Because of this, there were only purses and small backpacks on board. The overhead bins were completely empty. There was a 3 row business class section and the rest was economy. Pitch felt about the same as the typical US 31 inches. The seats however were as hard as a rock. There was no contouring to your body or headrests. They felt like the lowest and cheapest seats out there. There were a few pieces of evidence around that this was an ex BMI plane.

When the boarding door closed, everyone was still standing and talking. The person next to me in 20D jumped up and upgraded himself to an empty seat first class. None of the 4 cabin crew seemed to care about what was going on.

We started pushing back and people were still standing and getting situated. The flight attendants went around closing the bins that people were not standing next to. Eventually around engine start, everyone had sat down and the flight attendants did a safety demo in Spanish and English.

We taxied past a few parked planes and made it to the runway. Takeoff was a typical derated takeoff. The seat belt sign went off at about 10,000ft, but all the crew and passengers stayed seated as there were a few bumps and the plane was still climbing at a steep angle. It is nice to see an airline not keep the sign on at all times other than cruise like they do in the US. However, the tough pilots flying around the Andes might be used to a bit more turbulence than the primarily American crowd on the plane.

http://i646.photobucket.com/albums/uu189/javidk2000/baltra.jpg

After we made it to cruise, the captain made some announcements, but the volume was too low to hear them. I hate it when that happens. Next the cabin crew announced that they would come through and asked everyone to put their trays down. Wait, what? Put trays down? Does that mean food?

The answer soon came as they rolled out a cart in the first class cabin with plastic boxes of food and began handing them out. They provided beverages at the same time. They tried to guess at each passenger whether to offer in English or Spanish. Most got English, but when they got to me, they asked me in Spanish what I wanted to drink. I slightly broken Spanish I asked for coffee and water.

Sorry for no picture, but the meal was four slices of cold chicken breast with peas and carrots. It came with a small roll (no butter), a fruit bowl of papaya, pineapple and grapes and a small sweet dessert piece of cake. I nibbled through most of it. There was no taste in anything so I can't say it was good or bad tasting unless you have an opinion of what nothing tastes like. At least they provided salt and pepper.

After about 20 minutes, they collected the remains. The 4 flight attendants got through the cabin very quickly and then all went to the back galley for the rest of the flight. At one point a pilot came out and got some coffee from the flight attendant. He left the flight deck door open for the entire time.

After reading my book for a while, I felt us throttle back and perform an idle thrust descent. As it only receives 2-3 flights per day, the airport at Baltra doesn't have any traffic to contend with. After about 20 minutes, islands started poking out of the clouds and we could see the Galapagos. Truly an interesting place.
http://i646.photobucket.com/albums/uu189/javidk2000/baltra1.jpg
http://i646.photobucket.com/albums/uu189/javidk2000/baltra2.jpg

Landing was smooth enough even though there appeared to be some wind. Full reverse thrust and spoilers before we were stopped. We back taxied on the runway and stopped in front of the terminal. This is the least used airport I have ever been to. The only smaller one was Bora Bora which only sees ATRs. Being on an uninhabited island, this airport had little infrastructure, but it did have a fire truck.

http://i646.photobucket.com/albums/uu189/javidk2000/baltra3.jpg

http://i646.photobucket.com/albums/uu189/javidk2000/baltra4.jpg

We exited via stairs in the front and went to customs inspection. After handing in documentation, we made it to the open air terminal, which was a roof covering about a dozen wood benches. Our tour group picked us up and we were off to our ship.

Summary

Tame is an interesting airline. The service is apathetic. The planes are uncomfortable. There is little direction ever given. It is almost like traveling in a different time period for us use to US regulations. Food was a nice surprise. Other than that, there is nothing that great about them other than them getting you to where you need to go. Flying on a modern A320 was a big change from an old 727, although boarding via rear stairs under the tail was interesting. 10 years ago, the food was hot on board. With Aerogal giving competition on ancient 737-200s and Lan soon coming to the Galapagos, there is more competition. However, I doubt service will change on a government run airline.

[Edited 2010-08-29 10:09:41]
If you have never designed an airplane part before, let the real designers do the work!
 
lychemsa
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RE: A Rare Flight: Tame A320 To The Galapagos Islands

Sun Aug 29, 2010 6:24 pm

How were the Galapagos? The cruise / ship? Is it worth visiting? These cruises are pretty expensive. Thanks.
 
PlunaCRJ
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RE: A Rare Flight: Tame A320 To The Galapagos Islands

Sun Aug 29, 2010 7:50 pm

Nice trip. I flew the same route two years ago, I did not find the service exceptionally good, but it wasn´t bad either. But then I went to fly them, on a 727, GYE-UIO, and what a flight! It was truly outstanding.

I hope you enjoyed the Galápagos. It is truly an amazing place. I did not not take any cruises, I chose to experience the islands from a more local perspective and was absolutely fascinated. I highly recommend the Galápagos to anyone.

I would recommend though to fly there with Aerogal, for a chance to get on the legendary 727. I was very lucky to get the TAME 727 to Quito, otherwise I would have missed the three holer on that trip completely.
 
roseflyer
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Joined: Fri Feb 13, 2004 9:34 am

RE: A Rare Flight: Tame A320 To The Galapagos Islands

Sun Aug 29, 2010 9:12 pm

Quoting PlunaCRJ (Reply 2):

I would recommend though to fly there with Aerogal, for a chance to get on the legendary 727. I was very lucky to get the TAME 727 to Quito, otherwise I would have missed the three holer on that trip completely.

Aerogal is now flying 737-200s to the islands. I'd take an Airbus over one of those planes any day.

Quoting lychemsa (Reply 1):
How were the Galapagos? The cruise / ship? Is it worth visiting? These cruises are pretty expensive. Thanks.

It truly is an amazing place. You get so close to animals and they do not fear people at all. It is a very desolate place, but incredible as well. It was an expensive trip, so it earns the term once in a lifetime.
If you have never designed an airplane part before, let the real designers do the work!
 
lychemsa
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Joined: Sun Oct 11, 2009 8:39 pm

RE: A Rare Flight: Tame A320 To The Galapagos Islands

Mon Aug 30, 2010 4:42 am

LOL, PlunaCRJ for the old folks like me who flew zillions of times since the 60's on 727s, I feel much safer on a new Airbus than on a 40 year old plane.

For the young folks it's probably very exciting though. I am scared of "metal fatigue" on these planes like what happened in Hawaii on Aloha.
 
ba319-131
Posts: 8150
Joined: Sat Jan 13, 2001 1:27 pm

RE: A Rare Flight: Tame A320 To The Galapagos Islands

Mon Aug 30, 2010 7:37 am

Interesting route and airline, shanks for sharing.

Quoting RoseFlyer (Thread starter):
There were a few pieces of evidence around that this was an ex BMI plane.

- Not so sure any former bmi machines went to TAME.

Quoting RoseFlyer (Thread starter):
the meal was four slices of cold chicken breast with peas and carrots. It came with a small roll (no butter), a fruit bowl of papaya, pineapple and grapes and a small sweet dessert piece of cake

- Sounds pretty decent for such a short flight.

Rgds

Mark
111,732,3,4,5,7,8,BBJ,741,742,743,744,752,762,763,764,772,77L,773,77W,L15,D10,30,40,AB3,AB6,A312.313,319,320,321,332,333
 
PlunaCRJ
Posts: 301
Joined: Thu Nov 29, 2007 8:05 pm

RE: A Rare Flight: Tame A320 To The Galapagos Islands

Mon Aug 30, 2010 11:06 am

Quoting lychemsa (Reply 4):
LOL, PlunaCRJ for the old folks like me who flew zillions of times since the 60's on 727s, I feel much safer on a new Airbus than on a 40 year old plane.

For the young folks it's probably very exciting though. I am scared of "metal fatigue" on these planes like what happened in Hawaii on Aloha

Back when Copa introduced the 73Gs, I was excited to try the new planes in lieu of the old 737-200s. I was also happy and excited when LAB Lloyd Aereo Boliviano sustituted the usual 727s for the "new A310" on my flights.

Now, in a world full of generic 737NGs and A32Ss, I miss the old times of flying around in wonderful, noisy airplanes. I certainly enjoyed my "trip to the past" on TAME´s "Cotopaxi" (727) three years ago.
 
roseflyer
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Joined: Fri Feb 13, 2004 9:34 am

RE: A Rare Flight: Tame A320 To The Galapagos Islands

Mon Aug 30, 2010 6:53 pm

Quoting ba319-131 (Reply 5):

- Not so sure any former bmi machines went to TAME.

It had a bmi logo in the lavatory and in the galleys.

Quoting PlunaCRJ (Reply 6):

Now, in a world full of generic 737NGs and A32Ss, I miss the old times of flying around in wonderful, noisy airplanes. I certainly enjoyed my "trip to the past" on TAME´s "Cotopaxi" (727) three years ago.

I had enough flights on 727s that I don't particularly miss them. And for the sake of the environment, I think it is good that they are mostly gone.
If you have never designed an airplane part before, let the real designers do the work!
 
kl911
Posts: 3981
Joined: Mon Jul 21, 2003 1:10 am

RE: A Rare Flight: Tame A320 To The Galapagos Islands

Mon Aug 30, 2010 8:03 pm

Quoting ba319-131 (Reply 5):
Not so sure any former bmi machines went to TAME.

It was G-MIDZ for BMI before.
 
abrelosojos
Posts: 4050
Joined: Sun May 29, 2005 6:48 am

RE: A Rare Flight: Tame A320 To The Galapagos Islands

Tue Aug 31, 2010 4:24 am

Quoting RoseFlyer (Thread starter):
I flew them in 2000 on old 727s which felt like they were about to fall out of the sky. I was hoping for a better trip this time.

= Aaw ... but I miss those 727's. They had the widest pitch in exit row I have ever seen ... along with CD's 732's.

Quoting RoseFlyer (Thread starter):

When the boarding door closed, everyone was still standing and talking. The person next to me in 20D jumped up and upgraded himself to an empty seat first class. None of the 4 cabin crew seemed to care about what was going on.

= WTF. I fly across Latin America a lot, and these things are increasingly rare.

Quoting RoseFlyer (Thread starter):
Sorry for no picture, but the meal was four slices of cold chicken breast with peas and carrots. It came with a small roll (no butter), a fruit bowl of papaya, pineapple and grapes and a small sweet dessert piece of cake. I nibbled through most of it. There was no taste in anything so I can't say it was good or bad tasting unless you have an opinion of what nothing tastes like. At least they provided salt and pepper.

= Sadly, I understand EXACTLY what this meal looks like. It has become staple on many other Latin carriers - pieces of cold cuts or chicken breast with no flavor.

Thanks again for sharing this unique report with us.

Saludos,
A.
Live, and let live.
 
roseflyer
Posts: 9606
Joined: Fri Feb 13, 2004 9:34 am

RE: A Rare Flight: Tame A320 To The Galapagos Islands

Wed Sep 01, 2010 2:11 am

Quoting abrelosojos (Reply 9):

= WTF. I fly across Latin America a lot, and these things are increasingly rare.

I was surprised about how apathetic the crew was about everything. I am guessing that they did not sell first class on domestic flights.

Quoting abrelosojos (Reply 9):

= Sadly, I understand EXACTLY what this meal looks like. It has become staple on many other Latin carriers - pieces of cold cuts or chicken breast with no flavor.

It was good to have food, but it tasted like nothing. Flavors don't cost much, so I am surprised that it was so bland.
If you have never designed an airplane part before, let the real designers do the work!
 
wheretonext
Posts: 85
Joined: Mon Jul 26, 2010 2:32 am

RE: A Rare Flight: Tame A320 To The Galapagos Islands

Wed Sep 01, 2010 6:44 am

RoseFlyer,
Nice Trip Report on an obscure destination! Much appreciated yet very jealous!  
Quoting RoseFlyer (Thread starter):
The answer soon came as they rolled out a cart in the first class cabin with plastic boxes of food and began handing them out. They provided beverages at the same time. They tried to guess at each passenger whether to offer in English or Spanish. Most got English, but when they got to me, they asked me in Spanish what I wanted to drink. I slightly broken Spanish I asked for coffee and water.

Despite its lackluster taste, a meal service on a flight this short is still impressive (though I'm probably too desensitized from flying around in the U.S. too long).


Thanks again,
Matt
Next Adventure: TBD

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