I arrived at LAX around 0500 for my 0645 departure from the Tom Bradley International Terminal. The terminal was ominously quiet, except for the small crowd at the Mexicana check-in area.
There was a short line for elite check-in but it still took five minutes to be served. I was greeted in Spanish and asked for my passport and how many bags I was checking. After a minute of tapping on her computer, the agent handed me my boarding passes and a lounge invitation to the “international lounge” past security.
There was no wait at the TSA checkpoint this morning and I made it to the lounge by 0515, only to find it closed: it was not scheduled to open till 0600. I walked around for a bit then headed over to the gate. Boarding was to begin at 0600 anyway, so I decided to skip the lounge. Without ever setting foot on a Mexicana flight, the airline already had a strike against it in my book for not providing a lounge for passengers on its early flights out of LAX.
Los Angeles (LAX)- Mexico City (MEX)
Seat 1A, Elite Class
3 hrs, 40 min
I boarded the flight and found Northwest Airlines-style Business Class seats. They were dated and more like glorified Economy seats than a modern “domestic” Business Class seat (no audio, headrest wings), but they still beat the seats beyond row three. I was offered a pre-departure beverage of choice and settled in for my first flight on Mexicana.
After a short delay we took off, quickly rising above the morning marine layer over LAX. Ten minutes later the purser sprang into action, handing out menus setting up the drink cart. Next he rolled out the cart, complete with full-size bottles of liquor and various juices, water, and soda and offered beverages to the eleven passengers in the cabin (1B, the seat next to me, remained open).
Next, the purser distributed Digi-style media players. They were loaded with six recent movies, a few television series, musical albums, and games. The system was easy to use and I started The Time Traveler’s Wife, which I must admit I enjoyed.
The Captain came on the intercom and gave us a little info about the flight and weather in Mexico City in both Spanish and English. He also proudly added that Mexicana would be joining OneWorld the following day (November 10). Not that I need them, but it would have been nice to get AA EQMs on the way down to Bogota. As Maxwell Smart would have said, “Missed it by that much.”
Presently, the cart returned with the first course of breakfast. Danish, a bread roll, yogurt, and a fruit plate with a few slices of grapefruit and orange and a half strawberry. Rather skimpy fruit assortment, but better than nothing.
The breakfast choice was between a frittata with potatoes and ham or a cheese crepe. I went the frittata and found it tasty, though it was a bit greasy—as were the potatoes.
The purser spoke decent English and service very adequate until the breakfast dishes were cleared away. Unfortunately, the end of breakfast service signaled the end of all service until descent into Mexico City. The purser drew the curtain in the galley and remained there for the next two hours.
When I got up to use the lavatory, I found the purser and the pilot chatting with the cockpit door open. A little different than the drink-cart barricade on United Airlines, but I appreciated seeing the door open. They didn’t even care that I walked into the lavatory: I could have walked into the flight deck instead!
As we began our descent into Mexico City, the purser simply walked through the cabin, collected all the empty glasses and media players, and went right back to the gallery. To be fair, I could have asked for a drink when I was up using the lavatory or just rang the FA call button, but I cannot excuse the FA’s neglect for passengers in Business Class after the breakfast service.
We touched down in Mexico City and I quickly alighted the aircraft, knowing that I would need to clear customs and immigration even though I was just transiting. (Turns out I did not really need to, but you’ll have to wait till Day 6 to hear why). The whole process was painless and took about 15 minutes.
Next stop: Mexicana lounge. I expected a large and fancy lounge, knowing that Mexicana’s hub is in Mexico City, but found only a medium-sized lounge that reminded me of the Air Canada lounge at LAX. It still beat most Red Carpet Clubs, however: the bathroom was clean, the alcohol was free, there were computer stations, free alcohol, and a small but decent food selection.
I wasn’t hungry and knew I had a lunch flight in an hour, so I just had a small salad. I took a gamble knowing the lettuce was probably washed in tap water, but as it turns out I had no stomach problems the entire trip (and I love South American street food).
After getting a few good chuckles reading the Daily Mail (gotta love those British New York Posts), I proceeded downstairs to my Bogota gate. Boarding had not yet begun so I sat down for a while and continued getting caught up on the latest "news" from London.
Mexico City (MEX) – Bogota (BOG)
Seat 2A, Elite Class
4 hrs, 25 min
We boarded again—another A320—and this time I settled into 2A. There is a generous bulkhead cutout for passengers in 1AB, but it still does not beat being able to fully stretch out your legs under the seat in front of you. The overhead video screens were not working, so a manual safety demonstration was performed before takeoff.
We took off about 20 minutes after scheduled departure and drink service on a cart, similar to last flight, began after the Captain turned off the seatbelt light. I should add that about five minutes before he did that, he turned off the no smoking light and there were working ashtrays in the seats. The safety video on the flight from LAX-MEX forbid smoking, but I thought, for a few minutes anyway, that smoking might be permitted between Mexico and Colombia. No one lit up, even though the no smoking light would remain off till descent into Bogota.
No menus were distributed for this flight, but the choices for lunch were “chicken or fish.” No mixed nuts or other appertifs to start, but a tasty salad was served along with warm bread. The dessert, flan (what else?), was also served on the appetizer tray. I ordered the “chicken” which turned out to be small slices of chicken breast served with mashed potatoes and cooked cherry tomatoes. It was tasty and the flan was too.
There were only four passengers in the Business on the flight and somehow I had been skipped over when the media players were being distributed. Again, the purser had disappeared again behind the drawn curtain after the meal service and I decided to wait and see how long it would take him to come out and check on me.
I waited. And waited. And waited. After 20 minutes, my patience expired and I rang the call button. No response. Five minutes later I rang it again. Still no response. Finally, a FA from Economy walked up from the back and I asked her for a player. 30 minutes…
Sure enough, the FA did not appear until we neared Bogota a couple hours later. This time, though, he served a small fruit and cheese plate: a very appropriate pre-arrival snack in my opinion. We landed in darkness at El Dorado International in Bogota and were herded to the immigration line past the jet bridge and downstairs.
I spied a sign for international connections and followed that instead. Bad idea. I shared about it here.
The Avianca flight to Bogota was delayed an hour and I had been assigned a middle seat near the back of the plane. I inquired about purchasing an upgrade to Business Class, but was told the cabin was full. I was moved up to the bulkhead in Economy, though. It always pays to ask! A window seat in row 7 certainly beat a middle seat in row 33.
Bogota (BOG) – Lima (LIM)
Seat 7G, Turista Class
2 hrs, 55 min
The mechanical problem was resolved and boarding began. A pillow and blanket in a sealed bag was waiting at each seat. Legroom was generous (though I still hate bulkheads) and the middle seat stayed open: one of the only open seats on the plane. A small dinner was served that included bread, chicken or beef with rice, and a small chewy chocolate granola bar. Not bad for a 2200 departure. The food was greasy, but I was hungry and ate every last morsel of food.
The English skills of the FAs were lacking, but I got by saying “pollo” and “agua.” Overhead monitors played some sort of CSI-style American program and after a LONG day of flying, we finally landed in Lima about 0100.