This was not my first time flying TACA…last time the Lead FA thought I was a terrorist (for taking pictures…). No drama this time and that is exactly the way flying in economy class should be. TACA, or Transportes Aereos del Continente Americano, is now called Avianca El Salvador.
The first leg of the journey was from Los Angeles to San Jose, Costa Rica, where TACA offered four flights per week to Havana until abandoning the route. The redeye was timed perfectly to connect with a morning bank of departures including the two-hour flight to HAV.
Service was friendly but fast…drinks were promptly served followed by a disappearing act by the FAs they must have learned from their flying partners in Norteamericana. Announcements were made in English and Spanish and IFE was only available on overhead monitors. I managed to sleep for the first few hours of the flight.
Rather than serve a meal immediately after takeoff, breakfast was served prior to landing. With morning sunlight streaming in through the cabin windows and the smell of coffee and eggs wafting through, I stirred out of that unique discomfort of half-sleep in economy class that every frequent flyer can attest to.
Breakfast was on par with hospital cafeteria food…edible for the most part. The mushrooms and eggs were cold, but at least the greasy tatertots were warm. I did not touch the bread but did, I am sorry to say, eat the sugary yogurt and had a glass of water to wash everything down.
Oh come on – it’s economy class afterall. It was better than nothing.
We landed on time and quickly taxied to a gate at Juan Santamaria International Airport. I was halfway to La Habana! This time I did not try to leave the airport during my two-hour layover.
I will discuss the unexpected Cuban visa formalities in the next installment, but before obtaining my boarding pass for the connecting flight I did have to hand over some money to get a Cuban migration card. Good thing I had some cash.
The flight to Havana had very few passengers onboard. I had an exit row to myself and we quickly took off from the west for the two-hour trip.
The all-male flight crew was again polite and efficient, though not friendly. A light meal was served consisting of a warmed empanada, potato salad with bonus vegetables, and a cookie. It was actually a better meal than the breakfast on the previous flight.
The seats were new, but already showing wear.
As we flew over the Gulf of Mexico and into Cuba, gray clouds billowed and sprawling farmland could be seen below.
We landed in Jose Marti Airport on time, taxiing past the special terminal for charter flights from the United States to the main passenger terminal. I had made it to Cuba!
Read more of my Cuba trip report:
Planning a Trip to Cuba
Los Angeles to Havana in TACA Economy Class
Visa Requirements for Visiting Cuba
Day One in Cuba: A Tour of Havana
Day One in Cuba: An Evening Surprise
Day Two in Cuba: Accused of Being An American Spy!
Day Two in Cuba: Escorted Flying
Day Two in Cuba: The Juxtaposition of Two Cubans
Havana to Los Angeles in TACA Economy Class
10 Tips for Visiting Cuba
Why You Should Visit Cuba Now