Hi everyone. Welcome to my seventh report on A.net!.
This a the second part of my Christmas travel spree with family. This time I used CCS
(not happy!) even when I arrived from PUJ
on December 26th then headed to CCS
on the 27th.
Airlines (S3) was a bit hard for me. It was basically because of the fare more than anything else. To me, SBA
is also represented by Aserca Airlines (R7) and honestly my experiences with domestic routes with R7
have been horrendous.
Following a series of mishaps with the former Santa Barbara Airlines, the management decided to merge (they call it a commercial alliance but I see it as a merger) the carrier with Aserca Airlines (R7) back in 2007. Under the agreement, R7
would take over the domestic routes and Santa Barbara, whose brand would evolve into SBA
standing for Santa Barbara Airlines) would take over the international routes with the exception of CCS
which until at least a year ago was still being operated by R7
by means of PAWA Dominicana (7Q) which is also owned by Aserca’s Simeon García.
has been led most recently by Lesly Simon (who came from Aserca and with the merger became Country Manager for the new SBA
in Miami) and they now have a “new” Boeing 767-300 in their fleet, and the first one with a Venezuelan registration (YV528T) which came from Pegasus Aviation (According to planespotters.net).
I arrived at VLN
on the 26th of December and this trip was on the 27th. My family had been staying in Caracas so I had to make the horrible travel by myself to CCS
. It was early morning so it was not so bad. We left my apartment in VLN
at around 4am.
My flight was at 11.30am but since it’s a Venezuelan airline I wanted to make sure I had enough time in case something came up (and it did), so I arrived a full 4 hours before my departure time.
I noticed this on the way to SBA
, would surely love to give at try next time I’m around. Has anyone used this?.
The line was very long and it was difficult to know which one I should be in. The counters for S3 used to be next to the AA
and now they moved it to the old IB
spot (IB is now practically in the same counter as AA
). I asked someone with an airport tag “Is this the SBA
Airlines line?” and he responds “No, this is Santa Barbara’s”, the branding effort in the SBA
name change a few years ago was not as effective as one would think 6 years after the event.
Line on the left is MIA
and line on the right is PTY
At this point I have around 150 people in front of me. I didn’t want to miss my spot so I didn’t know if the counters were open at this time.
Office for Venezuela’s Public Ministry was right next to me.
Not sure what they do in this office. I think it’s for people who gets caught smuggling drugs or something,
Chaos in the making.
About an hour or so I had only moved like 5 meters, and I get in front of the old SBA
Counters, they’re using them as a resting place for people with disabilities or using a wheelchair.
My family arrives and I get to go grab something to eat as I was starving at this point. As always when I travel I have an Arepa, which is the one thing I miss the most when I’m abroad.
Couple of shots of the Arepa brakefast:
Assortment of cheeses to choose from.
My scrumptious Arepa.
For those who use this airport and have ever tried the only Arepa place in the airport know that the service is not good at all. But the arepas are decent (although short of choices).
So I eat my arepa (standing, there were no empty tables), and I get back to the line. Then I take some time to stroll around and take pictures.
My airline of choice.
So we’re two hours in the line and it has somewhat moved and we stand close to the Pre-Checkin, where this guy checks your ticket and passport.
This is where it starts to go all wrong (at least for me). I don’t think I have printed an e-ticket in the last few years and I’ve never had an issue. This time, the unpolite gentleman in the pre screening said “If you don’t have a ticket get off the line because you’re not going anywhere today”.
I was expecting this kind of treatment so I didn’t get hasty. My niece had printed her ticket for CADIVI and luckily all our names were showing so we were saved from little Emperor Nero in the screening counter.
More hectic lines.
There was someone from SBA
counting people in the line and as soon as she gets to me, she says “This is as far as we’ll go with this equipment”. That meant that we were the only ones getting on the plane.
Hell was unleashed behind me.
Venezuelans are not very tolerant in general and it’s worst when they don’t get all the information.
There were screams, insults and I think I might have learned new ways to curse in Spanish. But the lady that was counting had already left and got to the front of the line. Emperor Nero did not move even when he was being insulted. I think he knew this is how Venezuelans usually react in these situations or he simple did not care.
So counting lady gets back and says “We were using a 767 for this route but there’s been an issue so we’re changing to 2 757s. We’ll go with the first 757 up to here (pointing at me) then the rest of you will get on the next available 757 which will be departing around an hour later that the first one”.
Hell was contained.
Although not happy for the delay, people were at least happy with being able to fly that same day. I guess counting lady could’ve given us that information the first time and not unleashing hell on my or Emperor Nero.
Counting lady was a supervisor as everyone was looking her up to solve issues.
We get to the front of the line and then we get called. I give out our 4 passports and the lady comes up with a strange face “There’s no space” she says to Counting Lady, who at this point starts typing into the computer and says “Send two to business and the other ones in the last two spaces in economy”.
That was a nice turn of events. I just got upgraded to business class. YES!
To the left is Business Class check in screening.
The line behind us.
Hell unleashed. This was the leader of the uprise (in the brown jacket)
Emperor Nero checking our passports.
Whoops, blurry shot of the screens.
This is the line for TAME Ecuador’s flight to Quito (via BOG
). Turns out TAME two of the lasts checkin counters from SBA
and they had to wait for SBA
to finish se they could start checkin their passengers in. The supervisor from TAME was not happy.
The bird in the logo is also Aserca’s logo.
More of the hectic line.
Clear look at the screen with MIA
Staff at work.
So we get checked in and we have about 40 minutes until takeoff. We run to security and passport control and it takes us from landside to airside 30 minutes.
We were going to use the electronic screening but my nephew is under 18 and was travelling without his parents so we needed to go through physical passport control.
So this is the view once we get to the gate.
No time for lounge .
People lining up at the door even when there was no announcement or anything. Typical.
Another view of the gate.
So I stroll around to see what I can find.
in the house!, This is to AUA
Our ride to PTY
So I hear the agents calling passengers and get back to the gate.
People lining up.
My boarding pass.
December 27th 2012
Caracas (Maiquetía) – Simón Bolívar Int’l (CCS
Panamá City (Tocumen) – Tocumen Int’l (PTY
Scheduled Departure Time:
Actual Departure Time:
Scheduled Arrival Time:
Actual Arrival Time:
1A (Business Class)
Nose from our 757
Just about to hop into the plane.
The seat. Notice the blanket and the pillow there.
The front galley.
So an extremely gorgeous FA
comes to our seat and offers us some orange juice and a newspaper, since I had a couple of Time Magazines . Would’ve loved some champagne but there was no offering.
Our orange juice. Sorry for the blurry shot.
Looks a little worn. This bird has done many flights.
Look of the floor lights. Worn also.
I must admit though that the cabin look good in general. Although old it was very clean and neat. I was not complaining.
FAs working. The gorgeous one is on the right , the “purser” is on the left.
As close as I would get to the cockpit. The pilots were talking to someone on an Aserca shirt. Guess he was nonrevving.
So we take off at around 12 noon. About 15 minutes in the air meal service started.
Our table setup.
Drinks were limited to Rhum, Scotch and Orange juice, so I chose Rhum as usual.
Our appetizer for the flight.
Top to bottom: Foi Gras, Cream cheese over a piece of mango and a ham-wrapped strawberry bits.
Oh there was also a carrot.
No menu here.
After finishing the FA
comes to take our order for the main dish with a choice of beef or fish, I chose the first.
The cutlery still has the old Santa Barbara logo.
I will admit the the meal in general was good. I’m very picky when it comes to beef and this proved a successful endeavor bearing in mind that it was a 2 hour flight.
The rest of the flight was uneventful. We arrived into PTY
15 minutes later than expected and it was a quick way out of the airport. I’ve covered PTY
quite a lot in the past so I will not post any pictures on that.
Just thought I’d share this funny pic with you from something I found in the hotel.
Not sure where to use this soap.
Miraflores Locks (Panama Canal). See the differences in the water level.
I went to the City of Knowledge “Ciudad del Saber” to see CM
’s Training Facility. It was closed that day.
Huge ship going through the canal.
Highlights from the return trip
Arriving at PTY
Car rental area.
As usual, AA
with lots of people.
I’m riding Y back to Caracas since the B767 was up and running.
This little guy was going to Caracas too.
Getting checked in.
I asked for an Emergency exit seat. Luckily it was available.
Here you can see the business class line to the left and the eco line behind it.
General view of the check in area.
So we go airside and it takes us about 15 minutes to get through security.
Here’s an AirPanama bird. Not sure what it is.
We head over to our gate #16.
You can see that here there is much more SBA
branding than in its home base of Caracas.
Screen with our flight.
Branding. These were branded “Santa Barbara Airlines” in CCS
Our ride to CCS
. This is a SmartLynx B767-3Y0(ER) YL-LCY
Carry on luggage tag “Equipaje de Mano”
Luggage Tickets and my worn passport.
E-190 right beside us.
A Star Alliance CM
A couple of flight attendants went through the gate and some other ground crew started standing by the door. This for Venezuelans means that you need to start lining up.
And so the chaos begins.
I’m not sure if the SBA
staff is Venezuelan or Panamenian, they did look Panamenian to me. Also, Panamenian Spanish is very close (IMHO) to Venezuelan Spanish, so that made it more difficult.
So before any announcement is made, people in wheelchairs are sent through the gate.
People already lined up. No announcement yet.
And so it begins. Notice that I’m still sitting.
Line gets temporarily closed. Anger starts to build up.
There we go again.
January 3rd 2013
Panama City (Tocumen) – Tocumen Int’l (PTY
C Caracas (Maiquetía) – Simón Bolívar Int’l (CCS
Boeing 767-300 (from SmartLynx Airlines)
Scheduled Departure Time:
Actual Departure Time:
Scheduled Arrival Time:
Actual Arrival Time:
24A (Emergency Exit)
Managed to snap this one while going inside. Notice the “leather” seats.
My seat on the right.
Blurry legroom shot.
More people boarding.
A look outside to CM
Whoops, someone noticed I was taking a pic.
Safety card with SmartLynx branding.
Emergency exit info. The flight attendant was great in giving instructions for this.
We managed to leave on time.
Here’s the look outside.
Before takeoff, the flight attendants went by to check on the seatbelts and found a kid of about 3-4 years old and not wearing a seatbelt. The FA
asks the mother to help him with the seat belt and she accidentally wakes up the kid.
This was no easy kid.
The kid unleashed a non-stop high pitch crying spree that lasted for about an hour or so. Tension was building up in the cabin, mainly because everyone was commenting that the mother was doing nothing, ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. It was a horrendous experience for everyone.
Since I was in the emergency exit, I had a flight attendant right in front of me. She was of age and very knowledgeable of everything related to the aircraft and the airline. She was the one who explained about the kid since hell unleashed 5 or 6 rows behind me.
I thought something was burning from the color of the wing but then I noticed the sun was behind us and it was a reflections of the tail.
So the meal service begins about 20 minutes after takeoff.
A bit worn are they?.
It was not so good although healthy. Couple of pieces of ham and gouda cheese with a bun and dessert (not sure what it was).
The meal is brought in from Caracas as you can see.
More of the meal.
Again the Santa Barbara branding in this Apron 6 years after the changeover is not a good thing in my opinion.
is a good airline. I guess it was good to start with low expectations because they’ve raised them in both this flights. Of course getting upgraded has something to do with it but I guess that trying to be objective I have to say I did have good flights.
The ground crew in CCS
is dreadful. Both Emperor Nero and Counting lady need heavy customer service training. I’m not saying they’re actual work is wrong but the contact with the customer is horrible. It is also important to say that it’s not easy to deal with Venezuelans in this type of business so I’m not sure how they’d be able to improve this particular spot.
As for the equipment, there’s not much to complain. It does the job and they’re fairly well maintained. The cabin crew is absolutely wonderful, I loved their Venezuelan charm.
I would definitely fly SBA
again if the destination and the fare is good. I heard a rumor that they were going to set up a VLN
flight, and that would be a great thing to see and experience (Although AA
is in line for that flight too), so let’s see how it goes.
Thanks for stopping by,
Feedback is always appreciated
Future Reports – Booked Flights
on Lufthansa (LH) – July (First A380 trip)
on United (UA) – July (First B787 trip)
CCS-HKG On AF Premium Voyageur (by mvecchi4 May 26 2012 in Trip Reports)
Part I Peru Trip - CCS-LIM With LA Y Cabin (by mvecchi4 Sep 8 2012 in Trip Reports)
Part II Peru Trip - LIM-CUZ With StarPeru Y Cabin (by mvecchi4 Sep 8 2012 in Trip Reports)
VLN-BOG-PTY On Avianca J Class (by mvecchi4 Sep 15 2012 in Trip Reports)
CCS-ATL-MCO On Delta Y+ Class (by mvecchi4 Oct 24 2012 in Trip Reports)
VLN-AUA On Laser (Q7) DC-9 Y Cabin (by mvecchi4 Nov 3 2012 in Trip Reports)
New BOG Int'l Terminal Review - A Perspective (by mvecchi4 Nov 7 2012 in Trip Reports)
Copa Airlines VLN-PTY-PUJ - B737 And E190 - Y Cab (by mvecchi4 Mar 9 2013 in Trip Reports)