Welcome to my 4th tripreport!
This report covers my quick flight from Cochabamba (CBB) to La Paz-El Alto (LPB) on a Boeing 737-300 of Boliviana de Aviación (BoA). As requested, I have added destination pics of Cochabamba as well as La Paz and its surroundings. Also this report contains a sizeable amount of spotting pictures taken at CBB.
Planning this short trip started out on a Monday, six days before the flight. I had no idea of what to do on the upcoming weekend as I scrapped my original plan of venturing into the mountains due to possible bad weather. The rainy season is coming up here in Bolivia and this has me changing my weekend travels away from nature and more towards cities.
After checking the weather forecasts in some easily reachable cities I decided to head to [b]Cochabamba, the third largest urban agglomeration in Bolivia after Santa Cruz and the twin cities of La Paz and El Alto. I went to Cochabamba on a comfortable night bus on Friday night (a 7-8 hour journey from La Paz, if there are no roadblocks), enjoyed the city on Saturday and flew back on Sunday at noon.
For this flight, I wanted to try out a new airline and so I went to the local office of Boliviana de Aviación (BoA). I purchased a ticket for their 1245 departure for about 34€/46$. So, on Monday evening, everything was set for my quick weekend escape.
I will elaborate a little bit on the history of BoA and show you some pictures of Cochabamba and some spotting pictures from CBB. If you are just interested in the flight, feel free to jump directly to the second post.
Boliviana de Aviación, or simply BoA, was founded by a decree from Bolivian President Evo Morales in 2007. It is no surprise that the period of the foundation coincides with the demise of the former flag carrier of Bolivia, Lloyd Aéreo Boliviano. On the webpage of BoA (http://www.boa.bo), the presidential decrees (in Spanish, of course) which provided the cornerstone for BoA, are linked. They give a nice understanding and of the reasoning behind the foundation of the airline as well as an interesting insight into its foundation process.
The following has been (certainly imperfectly) translated by me.
Selected parts from decree 29318, published on 24 October 2007 (http://boa.bo/doc/D_S_29318.pdf). The other decree (29482) contains mainly organizational guidelines (http://boa.bo/doc/D_S_29482.pdf).
The state shall regain the leading role in the aeronautic sector (...), by direct participation in the provision of air transportation through investments oriented on sustainability and responsibility regarding quality and safety.
To achieve this, it is necessary to democratize air transportation and to guarantee the population easier access to air transportation by integrating the various regions of the Republic, thus contributing to the economic development of the communities by furthering the productive sector and tourism.
The government shall consider creating a company which attends the needs of the population regarding air transportation by supplying national and international routes.
This so called "democratization of air transportation" manifests itself in the comparatively low fares of BoA. In comparison to the non state-funded (e.g. private) airline AeroSur, prices for domestic trips with BoA often cost only half of AeroSur's. The situation for AeroSur has certainly dramatically changed since the appearance of BoA. While AeroSur found itself in a monopoly situation after the demise of LAB which led to a huge expansion of AeroSur, the airline now has to face fierce competition by state-owned BoA. Therefore it comes to no surprise that in 2010 AeroSur complained about this situation of unfair competition.
BoA celebrated its first flight in March 2009. The airline currently operates a fleet of six Boeing 737-300 in an all-economy configuration. The Bolivian government is in talks regarding the acquisition of several Antonov AN-148 aircraft which shall be deployed with BoA, TAM (the airline of the Bolivian Air Force) and as new presidential aircraft.
BoA has mainly been concentrating on the domestic market, while also serving major hubs like GRU or EZE. At the moment, BoA's route network sees a rapid expansion. The airline is expected to begin regular scheduled passenger service to Lima, Santiago de Chile and to the certainly politically motivated destinations Havana and Caracas in the near future. It will be interesting to take a look (however short) into the operation of this airline, and maybe compare the experience to my recent flights on AeroSur, documented here:
Of Buckets & 3-Holed Workhorses:5L 732, 722 To LPB (by volvair Nov 8 2011 in Trip Reports)
I arrived at Cochabamba at around 0630 on Saturday morning, having slept about four hours on the bus ride over there. Of course, most of the city was still asleep, so I had to wait a bit for stores, cafés and museums to open. I settled down on a bench at the central square where I read my book and let the first sunrays warm my skin.
The building surrounding Cochabamba's central square
Cochabamba is probably known (if it's known at all) for two things. First, the statue Cristo de la Concordia, the highest statue of Jesus Christ in the world, at least until the completion of the Jesus Christ statue in Świebodzin, Poland in 2010. Nevertheless, it remains the highest statue in the Southern Hemisphere. The other thing might be that Cochabamba is the seat of the proposed South American Parliament, a body of the UNASUR. Yes, proposed: Almost the only thing that has been decided about this parliament is that it will be in Cochabamba.
After a filling breakfast I checked out an anthropology/archaeology museum of the local university and then I found myself a cheap hotel room in the center (4€/5.40$) where I caught up on a bit of sleep. Cochabamba also has what is probably the largest street market in the country and therefore also one among the biggest there are in South America. Especially the artisan/crafts section was much less tourist oriented than its counterparts in La Paz. None of the things on offer, however, sparked my interest. In the end, I just bought a shirt of the local soccer club Aurora which boasts a big AeroSur advertisement for about 2€ which was probably still too expensive. No photos of the market due to an abundance of pickpockets.
After that, I checked out the big statue.
Hearse in the front, Jesus in the back. How appropriate.
There is a teleferic going up the 200m high hill, so no necessity to walk up there.
The big Jeez
The hill offers spectacular views of the city. As I was at the hill around noon, the sun impaired the quality of the pictures a little.
Jorge Wilstermann Airport
The north zone of the city
Also on the other side of the hill the city continued for a while.
The inner-city lagoon
It was very nice to observe some movements at the airport from this elevated position. I spotted two BoA 733's making their way through the valley and landing.
Random street corner
In the evening I went out for some dinner. Already at 1930 some areas through which I walked appeared rather dodgy. The possible risk was worth it, however, as I ended up with a big plate of pork ribs in an orange marinade. Yum.
According to my printout of an 5 year old Lonely Planet guidebook, Cochabamba, situated at an elevation of 2500m, boasts itself to have the most pleasant and temperate climate in the country. Well, I'm far away of having seen every corner in Bolivia, so I just say the weather was pretty nice but the sun was just so very intense. Think elevation plus sun at zenith. But coming in from La Paz where temperatures tend to drop quite drastically as soon as the sun disappears behind the mountains, it was nice to enjoy a mild night.
On the next day I slept late, seeing as my departure was only at 1245 and I did not plan on doing more sightseeing. I grabbed some yummy cheese and ham croissants and took a Micro to the airport. Micros, usually old Dodge buses, form the backbone of the public transportation system in several Bolivian cities. Often, they are lovely painted.
Inside Micro "B", going to the airport. The journey from the central intersection takes about 15 minutes and comes in at 0.20€.
Passing by the end of the shorter runway at CBB
In the end I arrived at the airport way too early, but seeing as no online check-in or seat reservation was possible and I needed a right-hand window seats for the views this was well worth it.
Jorge Wilstermann Airport, Cochabamba
Check-in area of TAM (Transporte Aéreo Militar, the Airline of the Bolivian Air Force) and BoA
There were no lines at the check-in. I was attended by one of two present agents. After I handed him my passport it took him a while to realize that I would be on the later flight to La Paz. Getting my preferred seat in the penultimate row was no problem. I communicated with him in Spanish, so I cannot comment on the English skills of the agent. It was sad to see that BoA did not use genuine boarding passes but rather the lowcost sales slip style. Then I went to the counter of the airport authority to pay the departure tax (1,50€).
Back of boarding pass with departure tax sticker
As I still had plenty of time until my flight (the whole check-in procedure took less than 5 minutes) I went outside again to check out the old Lloyd Aéreo Boliviano maintenance area where I saw some stored 727s when we drove up to the airport.
Photo © Carlos A. Morillo Doria
Photo © Miguel Cano Alva
Wingletted CP-1367. Also used by the Bolivian Air Force
Photo © Normando Carvalho Jr.
Photo © Andrés Contador - AirTeamImages
Ex Champion Air N685CA. It also flew with Republic and Northwest
Photo © Marc Hasenbein
Photo © Jason Whitebird
But something even nicer awaited me when I turned around:
It is TAM's FAB-111 and AeroSur's CP-2498. The only two 727s in scheduled passenger service in Bolivia. I flew AeroSur's 727 in October.
Luckily, CBB features a viewing terrace with free access. So I quickly headed there. The terrace was packed with people waving goodbye to their family members and friends who were soon departing. And as there were also two 733s of BoA on the tarmac next to the 727s it was no surprise that there were hordes of people.
In the distance there were also some AeroSur 727s resting in peace.
I could identify two of them:
CP-2422, a former Mexicana bird which was also leased out to Aero Perú.
Photo © Carlos A. Morillo Doria
Photo © Chris Coduto
And a deregistered "Condor" color scheme wearing 727, which was former CP-2464 with LAB, and flew with American Airlines, Laker Bahamas and Ecuatoriana.
Photo © Ryan Kaskel
Photo © Winston Smith
Unfortunately, the fence at the viewing deck made taking pictures a little difficult.
The plane flew with Continental, Sun Country Airlines, Falcon Air Express, Sol Air and Aerolineas Sudamericanas before.
Photo © Frank C. Duarte Jr.
Photo © Joe Pries - ATR Team
Photo © Carlos A. Morillo Doria
Photo © Michael Carter
Photo © Jay Selman - AirlinersGallery
Photo © Teemu Tuuri - FAP
CP-2554, taking off for La Paz
The viewing terrace. Notice the crowds reflecting in the window
CP-2498 taxiing for takeoff to Santa Cruz
I would see her again sooner than I thought
It was interesting to observe the connection procedure TAM have in place here. Those people were walking over to this Avro from another Avro which had just landed and was parked exactly at the opposite of the tarmac.
TAM taking off, take one
TAM taking off, take two
After that it got quiet at the airport. I bought some chilled water from a newsstand, finished the snacks I bought in the town and enjoyed the nice weather on the viewing terrace.
About one hour before our departure my plane, CP-2552 arrived from Sucre
Around 45 minutes before departure an announcement (Spanish and English) was made in the entire airport, including on the terrace, that passengers bound for La Paz should enter the pre-boarding area. In Cochabamba, security control happens directly at the gate. The whole situation was a little confusing as passengers leaving on the Santa Cruz flight were also queuing up at the moment, albeit their plane was due to leave already in 15 minutes. A hectic BoA staff member tried to dissolve this little chaos by ushering the Santa Cruz passengers to the front of the line.
Information display in front of the pre-boarding area
Our gate with the 733 bound for Santa Cruz on the tarmac
Orderly boarding process
There are neither busses nor jetways at CBB
Anyone here who likes those shots?
At 1220 I stepped on board.
[Edited 2011-11-19 19:37:07]
[Edited 2011-11-19 19:42:44]