Back at the airport, I had a couple hours to kill before my flight to Costa Rica and used the time to have one final walk around the airport.
Cubana check-in was flooded with tourists queuing for the afternoon bank of departures. Ticketing offices and a smoking lounge were on the bottom floor and a café was upstairs in which I had one last mojito at inflated airport prices ($8).
The departure tax is now included in airline ticket prices, but I had to pay a $25 departure tax at a window adjacent to check-in. A sticker is affixed to your boarding pass and you are not allowed to enter the passport control area and secure side of the airport until that is paid.
Passport control was no problem. I wondered if there were notations made concerning my internal travel earlier in the day, but my migration form was collected and passport handed back with a nod. I asked to again have it stamped and was obliged.
My plane was late and with no lounge access, I had no choice but to sit around the gate area. The air was stale and warm; the air conditioning systems not all that effective.
Finally we boarded and took off. No IFE on this lightly-filled flight, with a rather grotesque snack of a gooey faux-cheese sandwich, hard boiled egg, and cold chicken chunks (the leftovers) with tomato and peppers.
I began to fret over my connection in San José. With the delayed departure, we were due in 45 minutes late, giving me just 20 minutes to connect to my flight to LA.
Upon landing in SJO I sprinted out but found my gate right next door. Security re-clearance was not necessary in SJO, even for the U.S. bound flight. Boarding was in progress, but there was plenty of time left. I had a middle seat in the bulkhead and was so exhausted by this point that I just wanted to sleep.
The crew was pleasant again and promptly delivered meal service, a choice of chicken or beef. The “chicken” option was primarily starch, with a lot of rice, a bread roll, and cookies. A seafood salad was also included on the tray. I did eat the main course then reclined my seat only to awaken as a FA jarred me awake to put my seat back into the upright position for landing.
If I can sum up TACA in-flight service in a nutshell, it is as follows: 1990s economy class in the USA. True, Avianca-TACA has installed personal VOD on many aircrafts, but at least on my planes there was decent legroom, forgettable complimentary food and drink, overhead monitors with B-rate movies (my flight showed the first Transformers), and efficient service.
TACA is a great option for flying to Central or South America with miles and often releases enough award space for the entire family.
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