Last July I had the pleasure to fly two domestic flights in Colombia. This trip report is about those two flights. I didn't take too many photos on those two flights. It's like a flight review "light".
I N T R O D U C T I O N
After I had decided I would join my study mates to Bogotá for a student trip I also had to make a decision on the duration of my stay in Colombia or even South America. The mountains of Peru really appealed to me but I could not find anyone in the group I was traveling with to Bogotá who would like to join me on this trip. Also, it would have been very expensive since I then would have had to buy a multi segment trip to South America (which is much more expensive than a normal return flight) as well as a one way flight inside south America.
In the end I decided to just go back home after Bogotá. A shame but still. It would be my first time in South America and did not know what to expect. Maybe it would have been just better to go back after 10 days.
When I booked my flight to Bogotá, I found out that the return flight would be much cheaper if I would leave Bogotá 4 days after the final day of the study trip. Four more days around Bogotá would do me fine, I thought to myself, and together with a student mate we booked the return flights.
Okay, what to do around Bogota for 4 days? I had a look on the official tourist site of Colombia and came across a nice city. A very nice city. A city called Cartagena de Indias. Was that city near Bogotá? No way! Was it a place I wanted to visit? Hell yeah! But was it doable in just four days?
To get the most out of Cartagena flying there would be the best option. Avianca was extraordinary expensive but after some investigation I found out that Copa Airlines Colombia and Aires offered return flights to Cartagena for just €100. A bargain, sort of. Then I had to persuade Arnout, my prospective travel mate, that we need to go to Cartagena. I talked about it all the time so in the end he gave in.
The first flight of the day from Bogotá to Cartagena was with Aires so we decided to catch that one. Concerning the inbound flight, Copa offered the best flying times (and best aircraft type: ERJ-190). However, when we tried to book the prices had gone up and Aires was a lot cheaper so our return to Cartagena would be with Aires.
P R E F L I G HT
The day before the flight we were able to check in online on our hostel computer. Free seat selection! Great! We choose two seats on the right hand side of the aircraft. If I recall correctly it was row 18. As we weren't able to print we had to print our boarding passes at the airport.
After a very short night the alarm went off at 3 AM. Packed our last things in our backpacks and ordered a taxi. At half past three we were heading towards to El Dorado Airport. The ride took about 20 minutes (at rush hours it will take you a lot longer to get to the airport!) and was very cheap (in Amsterdam I would pay €20 just to get into a taxi).
"Hablas Inglés?", I started after having queued at the check in for 5 minutes. "So, so" she replied. We let her know that we had checked in online but hadn't been able to print our boarding passes. No problem, she printed two boarding passes, handed them to us and told us that our flight would depart the domestic terminal.
It was still very quiet in the airport. Security was a joke, we were on airside in no time. The domestic area is quite large. I spotted a lot of Aires planes and some Copa Airlines Embraers and Boeings. The terminal self is a little bit outdated but with a lot of chairs and a lot of small coffee kiosk. We took a seat at our gate and waited and slept a little.
Waiting area with our aircraft in the background
Flight: 4C 8170
Aircraft: Boeing 737-73S
Registration number: EI-EEB
First flight: 15 February 1999
Delivery to Aires 2 April 2009
Previously in service with: Israir, PeG, Sun Express, Hamburg International, Sterling Airlines
Photo © Johan S. Gómez
Photo © James Mepsted
Photo © Guilpain Pierre
Photo © Philip Edwards
Ten minutes before boarding the Aires crew announced something. First in Spanish, only in Spanish and neither of us speak Spanish. I heard "niños" somewhere in the message so I guessed the announcement was about that boarding had started for passengers with children. We queued the line when everybody did.
Plane was not very full. I'd say a load of about 70%. It took about 15 minutes before we started to taxi to runway 13L. The safety demonstration was done manually and in Spanish only.
The sun finally rose.
An Avianca Airbus awaiting departure to its next domestic destination.
The airport and city of Bogota are surrounded by mountains
The take off role was as I expected it would be. Long, very long. Bogotá is on an elevation of 2,625 m (8,612 ft) and planes need a long run to get in the air. Once in the air we made some left hand turns and headed north towards the Caribbean coast. We had some great views over the incredible large city of Bogotá. The city just never ends.
And lift off. Do you see the bunch of 727s?
Climbing over the airport.
The city of Bogota (just a very small part of this huge city)
Just above the clouds.
To be quite honest I fell asleep quite soon after takeoff. I can recall waking up for the inflight service but I declined everything because I didn't think it was free service and I didn't feel too well so didn't wanna have anything anyway. The female flight attendant said something to me in Spanish when I declined a drink but I could not understand her. Apparently she said something like "it's free".
Should have been seated on the left for the sun.
When I woke up again we had already started our descend down to Cartagena. Our captain flew the plane like the taxi drivers drive in Bogotá. Air breaks fully employed and then full power again. Just a few more turns and we were lined up for runway 01. I saw a lot of countryside outside my window and some heavy industries. Outside of the windows on the left hand side I could see the skyline of Cartagena (yes, I would say Cartagena has got a skyline; see pictures further below).
The rural areas around Cartagena: very green.
First views on the city of Cartagena.
Cartagena, the sea is visible on the far left.
Making a U-turn
We touched down and used the entire runway to slow down. At the end we made a U-turn and taxied back over the runway to the platform. The airport was empty, just some small business jets; no other airliners were in (yet). We parked and were able to disembark through the front or the back of the plane. My mate and I went out through the back. "Adios, ciao" the flight attendants said.
We disembarked through the rear exit.
Welcome to sunny and warm Cartagena.
EI-EEB on the tarmac.
Front part of the plane.
The drawback of leaving the plane through the rear is that you are not able to visit the cockpit.
Cartagena is not like Bogotá at all! The first thing I noticed and anyone will notice is the temperature. Bogotá has got a rather cool climate while Cartagena has a real Caribbean climate. Although it was only 8 o'clock in the morning it was very warm and humid already. We walked over the tarmac to the front of the plane. Many people made photos of the plane. Then we headed towards the terminal building. As soon as we got in we could get our luggage. Then we went straight outside to the taxi.
P O S T F L I G H T
After only 15 minutes we arrived at Hotel Wee. A great hotel just outside of the old city. If you ever go to Cartagena I highly recommend this hotel. It's not too expensive. We paid €35 per person per night and had a large room with two twin beds. The best thing about the hotel is the roof terrace. Just see for yourself.
Yes, this is Colombia as well. Just totally different to Bogotá.
When you're in Cartagena just wander around the old town. Every street is simply beautiful.
This is what I call colonial architecture.
This was the view we had from the roof terrace of our hotel; Hotel Wee.
The other side of Cartagena: high rise hotels and apartment buildings. Photo also taken from hotel roof.
Cartagena is just beautiful. Some say it's the most beautiful city of South America. I've not traveled before in South America so I won't be able to tell you but what I can tell is that the old city is amazing. Every street is worth a picture! The beach is not great but you can have a good time. I went to Playa Blanca for one day which is approximately 30 km from Cartagena (get there by boat) and it is amazing. Palm trees and white beaches. Aaahhhh…. Sorry, let's get back to the flight review.
P R E F L I G H T
After three stunning days it was time to fly back to Bogotá and onwards to Madrid and Amsterdam (all on the same day). We checked in online the day before departure and found out that our flight times had changed significantly (2 hours later). We would not depart around 9:50AM. Which was in fact a relieve. This meant that we did not have to wait so long at Bogotá for our flight to Madrid.
So on the day of departure we had breakfast in the hotel and then took a taxi to Cartagena airport. We checked in our language. When I asked "Hablas Inglés?" I got the response "si". We explained that we had checked in online but hadn't been able to print our boarding passes. She handed us the strangest boarding pass ever. Two small pieces of papers with our flight details on them. Anyways, we were ready to go. When we went through customs we got in one large room. One or two restaurants and one little shop were also there. No views of planes.
Aires check in desks are on the right.
It was quite busy in the terminal. Three flight were all bound to depart, all with destination Bogotá.
Flight: 4C 8171
Aircraft: Boeing 737-73S
Registration number: HK-4627
First flight: 12 January 1999
Delivery to Aires 22 May 2009
Previously in service with: Azzurra Air, Rio Sul, Maersk Air, Sterling Airlines
Photo © Juan_BOG
Photo © Martin Djupenstrom
Photo © Sergio Domingos
Photo © SkyMember
After a while our flight was announced for boarding. Not only in Spanish but also in English. We queued and walked over to the plane. It was HK-4627 which would bring us to Bogotá El Dorado Airport. We boarded through the rear and seated ourselves in our seats. The flight was nearly fully booked with just a few empty seats left when the doors closed. Soon the captain started the engines and we taxied to the end of the runway where we made a U-turn. Departure was towards the south. At the north end of the runway, the airport is just meters away from the beach. And there is a road between the airport and beach. Reminds me of Sint Maarten. Anyone ever spotted around Cartagena airport?
Our aircraft together with an Avianca Airbus A320.
Passengers boarding thru the front of the plane.
Passengers boarding thru the rear of the plane.
Copa Airlines Colombia Embraer 190; also bound for Bogotá.
I personally really like this angle.
Awaiting taxi for departure.
We took off and climbed over the outskirts of Cartagena. Great views of the old city as well as the new high rise areas of the city. Once at cruising altitude service started. It was indeed free. We got something to drink (choice out of Water, Orange juice or Coffee) and a small snack box. The snack box contained a sweet and a salty snack. The sweet snack was a delicious cookie. Yummie!
Unfortunately my window was very dirty as you can see.
Cartagena with the old Colonial neighbourhood in upper left corner.
High rise buildings along the coast.
The Aires Fleet
Legroom, just okay. Tall European people may find it a little tight.
Snack box from Juan Valdez.
Sweet and salty snack.
Starting our descend.
The flight was uneventful. Just some turbulence now and again, nothing else. After nearly one hour of flying we descended to a very cloudy Bogotá. A smooth landing.
Flying into the valley.
Just a few more seconds from touch down.
On the ground in Bogotá
After landing, we taxied to the gate. When we disembarked I asked the crew if I could have a look in the cockpit. "I think so", she said and checked with the pilots. I could have a quick look. Lucky for me the captain spoke perfect English. He asked me about my travel around Colombia and I asked him about landing at high altitude airports. "Is it difficult to land at Bogotá?" I asked. He replied "no, we just follow all procedures". He thought the airports of Cali (or Medellín, I can't remember) was a more difficult airport to land at.
At the gate.
The flight deck.
A final view of the aircraft. Adios!
After I took a photo I disembarked and walked through the jet bride into the domestic terminal. Baggage was already there when we got to baggage reclaim.
C O N C L U S I O N
Overall a good experience with Aires. They are the cheap alternative to Avianca and offer a good product with free drinks and a snack. The only minus is that I found it rather strange that our flying times were changed without any notification.
Thank you for reading my flight review. As always I have put a lot of time in it so if you have got any suggestions or comments they are more than welcome. Let me know!
My other flight reviews
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Truly Irish: Aer Arann
My First Turboprop Flight With FlyBE
Blasting away to CPH on a SAS MD-82
Goodbye to KLM’s F50, or not?
Great flight with Baboo