I arose at 0800 and shared a cup of tea with a beautiful Costa Rican girl who was spending a few months in Bogota conducting research for her dissertation. Too bad I only had half a day in the city…
My stomach was growling so the first order of business was to find some huevos from a street vendor. I love eggs in the morning and it did not take me long to locate a street vendor who made me a delicious mix of eggs, chorizo, and salsa on top of a warm tortilla. Yum.
The La Candelaria (colonial) and San Victorino districts were crowded, but I enjoyed meandering around for two hours. I wish I had time to climb or take a cable car up to Monserrate, a church on a hill overlooking Bogota, but I will have to do that next time.
I had arranged for the same cab driver to pick me up and he arrived right on schedule to take me to the airport. Traffic was light and I arrived at the airport 2.5 hours before my flight. I know I could have squeezed in additional sightseeing, but I did not want to take the chance of missing my flight home because I had important family and church activities the following day.
The check-in line was chaotic and there was no special line for Business Class passengers. I was first interviewed (not quite Israeli-style, but close) by a Mexican agent asking me a series of security/travel questions before applying the “cleared” sticker to my passport. Next was the departure tax—another ~$30 down the drain. Finally, I made it to the check-in desk, which only took two minutes.
With boarding passes and an Avianca lounge invitation in hand, I made my way upstairs to passport control and security, stopping to admire the “forbidden fruit” of Cubana (and briefly toyed with changing my plans and making a two-day trip to Havana) and other nifty liveries before entering the screening area. The passport agent was not friendly at all (unless remaining silent, not smiling, and throwing a passenger’s passport back at him is a sign of friendliness in Colombia) but the process took only a few seconds and the security line was empty.
After clearing security, you proceed past duty free shops and eateries before getting to the gate area. At the entrance to the gate area (where the lounges are) there is a group of Colombian soldiers standing around who randomly inspect bags. I dodged a check during my BOG connection earlier in the week, but was a lucky recipient this time and had every last item removed from my bag. The soldier did not quite know what my United premium nut mix was, so he ripped open the package, poured out some almonds and pretzels, then threw everything back in my duffel bag. I had to pack everything else up again, then I was patted down for good measure.
Rather than head to the Avianca lounge, I elected to try to gain access to the AA Admiral’s Club first since Mexicana was now a OneWorld member. I had no trouble entering the lounge and was impressed at how spacious it was. Although the food options were limited, I found the lounge comfortable and clean—even the restrooms.
After 45 minutes in the AA lounge, I walked over to the Avianca lounge and was welcomed by a friendly group of Avianca ladies at the desk. The lounge was a disappointment, though: not only was it crowded but the food selection made even a Red Carpet Club look good. I did manage to snag one of the recliner chairs and rested for a few minutes before heading over to the gate for my Mexicana flight. Note the couple in the third picture down: they seemed to be enjoying each other’s company.
Bogota (BOG)- Mexico City (MEX)
Seat 2A, Elite Class
4 hrs, 45 min
The Mexicana flight was…delayed. But at least the aircraft was there and we only left about 20 minutes late. Upon boarding, I was addressed by last name (first time on Mexicana!) and offered a drink of choice. Sadly, it would be the only time I was addressed by name during the flight, but I give the purser credit for at least making that effort.
Lifting up over Bogota
There was a menu distributed this flight (unlike the MEX-BOG sector) and the choices were chicken kabobs with rice or white fish with rice. I chose chicken and was pleased to find that spiced peanuts were served with the first round of post-takeoff drinks. While I prefer United’s hot mixed nuts, I appreciated the salty snack.
Next came the salad, which included only one leaf of lettuce along with sliced cucumbers, tomatoes, feta cheese, and pickle slice. The balsamic vinaigrette dressing had spilled on my tray (the purser must not have noticed when he served it), but was a nice compliment to the salad.
The chicken was a dry, but acceptable for an airline meal. Additionally, the rice and vegetables were not brimming with flavor, but also acceptable.
Last, strawberry mousse was served.
After the meal service, I thought this purser might be a bit more attentive than the last two, but he was not. Is it Mexicana policy to abandon the customers after meal service? I am not asking for the attentiveness of a Singapore Airlines FA, just occasional water runs. Is that too much to ask for?
We landed at a remote gate at MEX and had to wait a few minutes for a bus to take us to the terminal. I generally don’t mind remote gates because I enjoy physically walking on as many airport taxiways or aprons as I can. Now I can check MEX off my list.
Once inside, I decided that rather than clear immigration immediately, I would head to the Mexicana lounge first so I could drop my bags off. While checking in, I asked about clearing immigration and they said I could wait in the lounge for a little while before taking care of it. I checked my emails and had a little snack before heading downstairs. Downstairs I found what looked to be a thousand people in line for immigration and the line was not moving quickly. After waiting in line for ten minutes, I left the arrivals hall and returned to the Mexicana Lounge. After explaining to them the situation and asking for an escort, they radioed a supervisor then told me not to worry about going through immigration. Cool.
A little note was written in Spanish on my boarding pass and I was good to go. I sat down for a bit longer in the lounge then gathered my belongings and went down one level to the Admiral’s Club where I again had no trouble getting in. The agent at the desk was very friendly and even made a telephone call for me to check on the departure gate and status of my flight. The food selection was more extensive than in BOG and I enjoyed some chips and salsa and a few bean tacos.
I stayed till boarding was scheduled to begin on my Mexicana flight then proceeded to my gate, which was a brisk ten-minute walk away. Boarding had not yet begun (there would be another 20 minute delay), but the gate area did not look crowded. Business Class would be full on the flight, but I think there were quite a few empty seats in Economy.
Mexico City (MEX) – Los Angeles (LAX)
Seat 2A, Elite Class
4 hrs, 0 min
Onboard, I was pleased to see brand new Business Class seats that were larger and looked more comfortable than the NW-style seats my previous three flights. There was audio in the seats, though no power plugs, and footrests in the seat in front. Turns out the seat was not any more comfortable than the last generation seat, but at least the seats (and cabin) appeared clean and new.
Service was rushed onboard and everything was served on one tray. I do not mind express dine options, especially on flights departing after 2000, but the tray was too small to handle all the dishes and this was a four hour flight: there was no need to rush for passengers who did not wish to sleep right away. I ordered fish with rice and the portion was small. I could not tell exactly what type of fish it was (the purser did not know either) but it tasted like cod. The salad and warm bread were tasty.
Don’t throw objects into toilet!
Media players were distributed, but there was also IFE on this flight and I decided to watch Up on the overhead monitor. I cannot comment on the post-meal service because I fell asleep as soon as the movie ended and did not wakeup till final approach.
Immigration lines were non-existent at LAX and with no checked bags, I made it from the plane through TBIT to the curb in less than six minutes—a new record. I had a great week in South America, but it was nice to be back in LA.
I was disappointed with Mexicana’s in-flight service, but for the price I paid I suppose I really cannot complain. While I would not recommend Mexicana if you are looking for a stellar Business Class product, Economy passengers received full meals on each flight which is a big plus in my book (though make sure you get on an A320 (32” pitch) rather than A319 (30” pitch). Unless I get another great deal, I cannot see myself booking with Mexicana again.
I commend Mexicana for its decent meal service and digital media players and provide the following constructive criticism: the flight does not end with meal service is complete. If you really desire to provide a superior Business Class product, train your pursers to anticipate needs of your passengers the entire flight.
Despite my allergic reaction in Machu Pichhu, I had a wonderful time in Peru and Colombia and highly recommend that you take the journey to Machu Picchu at least once in your life. Even though I traveled during the rainy season, you can see from my pictures that my trip was not hampered by wetness and the temperatures for the most part were pleasant.
As I mentioned earlier, this was a fun trip for me because I never do hiking/nature trips. It was a great change of pace. If you are like me and tend to stick to big cities and luxury hotels, I highly recommend you shake things up a little and give the great outdoors a whirl. You won’t regret it!