Wednesday newsletters always feature a hotel or flight review.
Today (April 3, 2019): Review of Avianca’s B787 Business Class from Bogota to Madrid.
I recently flew Business Class onboard an Avianca Boeing B787-8 Dreamliner from Bogota’s El Dorado International Airport (Colombia) to Madrid’s Barajas International Airport (Spain). Avianca is the flagship carrier of Colombia and the second oldest airline in the world (after KLM). I was intially booked on flight AV26 (which was suposed to depart Bogota early afternoon) but that flight was cancelled for unspecified technical reasons, after which I was rebooked on flight AV46 (which left Bogota at 7.50 pm on the same day). I am not sure whether the technical reason had anything to do with the B787 Royce Rolls Trent 1000 engine troubles, which has forced several airlines across the globe (including Avianca) to ground some of its B787 aircraft and operate others with certain restrictions (affected B787s on transoceanic flights must have a diversion airport within 140 minutes of flight times). Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by Avianca’s modern Business Class product (with great seats and layout) although the soft product could be improved, specifically the onboard service and the food presentation. Nonetheless, Avianca has a solid Business Class offering on its B787 aircraft which I would be happy to fly again.
Have you ever flown Avianca’s Business Class? What was your experience? Leave a comment below.
- Trip: Bogota (BOG) to Madrid (MAD)
- Airline: Avianca
- Aircraft type: Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner
- Aircraft registration number: N786AV
- Flight Number: AV46
- Date: 20 February 2019
- On time departure: yes (8 pm)
- On time arrival: yes (12.20 pm)
- Miles: 4990 miles
- Flight time: 9 hours and 20 minutes
- Seat: 4K
- Class: Business Class
In this review (more information & photos below my Youtube clip & slideshow):
- Cost of my ticket
- Facts & figures about Avianca
- Business Class cabin
- Business Class seat (+ best & worst seats)
- Onboard internet
- Other inflight experiences (crew, bar, lavatory & views)
- My verdict (score)
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1. COST OF MY TICKET
I booked the ticket on the Avianca website and paid $3489 USD (including taxes) for my return ticket between Bogota & Madrid. This is more than the usual price (Avianca offers these tickets under $2000 USD when you book in advance during a promotion), but I had to book the ticket last-minute due to personal reasons.
2. FACTS & FIGURES ABOUT AVIANCA
- Avianca has been the national airline and flag carrier of Colombia since 5 December 1919, when it was initially registered under the name SCADTA.
- Avianca is the world’s second oldest airline after KLM.
- Avianca is the second largest carrier in Latin America, after LATAM of Brazil & Chile.
- Avianca is an official member of Star Alliance, one of the world’s largest airline alliances, which offers the possibility to connect to more than 1,300 destinations in 191 countries globally.
- Avianca’s frequent flyer program LifeMiles has 7,2 million registered members, and is regarded as one of the best loyalty programs in the world.
- Avianca operates around 6000 weekly flights to 108 destinations in 26 countries.
- Avianca has 103 aircraft in its fleet. This includes a modern wide body fleet of 7 Airbus A330 planes (average age 8 years) and 13 Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner planes (average age 3 years).
3. BUSINESS CLASS CABIN
Avianca’s B787s all feature the same layout: they seat 28 passengers in Business Class and 222 passengers in Economy Class. The 28 lie-flat Business Class seats are spread over two cabins: the larger front cabin contains five rows of 20 seats, while a smaller mini-cabin behind features only two rows of eight seats (and thus feels more private). The two cabins are split by a small galley while the Business Class’ main galley with two lavatories is located at the front of the aircraft (behind the cockpit). Both cabins feature a neutral design that is more functional than esthetic, with seats covered in chic gray upholstery, sterile white seat walls, black seat tables, and some subtle red touches reflecting Avianca’s brand color (e.g. tv screens upon boarding and leg-side storage compartment at the seat).
The Business Class seats in both cabins are arranged in an excellent reverse herringbone 1-2-1 layout, with the seats on the sides angled out toward the windows while those in the plane’s center are angled toward one another. This configuration maximalizes privacy while ensuring direct aisle access for all passengers. This is currently the best Business Class layout in the skies, and you also find it onboard the planes of American Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Qatar Airways, Finnair, and SriLankan to name a few.
Click here for a seat map of Avianca’s B787 Dreamliners.
4. BUSINESS CLASS SEAT (+ BEST & WORST SEATS)
I had chosen seat 4K for the 9 hour flight from Bogota to Madrid. All Business Class seats feature the same dimensions, with a pitch of 192 cm (72 inches) and a width of 53 cm (21 inch).
One side of the seat – located towards the cabin wall for the window seats or the center line for middle seats – features a large console with some storage space inside. This console holds the noise-cancelling headphones upon boarding, but once you remove them it has enough room to store your smaller personal belonging (e.g. cellphone, wallet, glasses). On this console’s outer wall, you find a reading light (at eye level), the seat controls, a wired controller for the inflight entertainment system, jacks for the headphones, a USB port, and a universal power plug. This side of the seat also features a trapezoid shaped working surface, with a rather small tray table hidden underneath; it’s very easy to slide the table out and swing it back and forth according to your liking. Below the table armrest is also a holder for stowing a bottle of water during the flight. The seat’s other side features a folding armrest and another storage compartment (large enough to fit a tablet or small handbag).
The seat’s sidewall features a 16 inches entertainment screen that swings out towards the seat upon the push of a button. While the screen is not very large, it’s adequately sized, given the small distance between the TV screen and the seat. Unfortunately, it doesn’t tilt up and down, so unfortunately, watching the screen from the near or fully flat-bed position is almost impossible. The suite’s apex, below the TV screen, features an ottoman footrest which provides an additional storage area. When the seat is reclined, the footrest forms part of the fully flat-bed, which is 2 meters (82 inches) long. When sleeping, you may choose to leave the aisle armrest up for more privacy, or down for more space.
What are the best Business Class seats on Avianca’s B787s? For a seat map, click here.
- Solo travelers should choose one of the window seats.
- Travel companions should go for the middle seats. However, due to how private they are, they really don’t lend themselves all that well to traveling with a partner, as you have to lean forward when you want to have a chat (the consoles of both seats are located in the middle).
What are the worst Business Class seats on Avianca’s B787s? For a seat map, click here.
- I suggest to avoid the very front row (row 1) due to its proximity to the galley and lavatories.
- I also suggest to avoid the last row of Business Class (row 7) which is in front of the Economy bassinet seats.
Business Class passengers receive the following amenities on one of Avianca’s longhaul flights:
- A Tumi-branded amenity kit (brown pouch), which holds travel essentials such as toothpaste, toothbrush, eye mask, earplugs, socks, tissues, covers for the earphones, a pen, and skin care products from L’Occitaine (lip balm and hand cream).
- A plush pillow and a soft blanket, comparable to the excellent Saks Fifth Avenue sleeping amenities provided by United Airlines
- Avianca branded noise-cancelling headphones, which aren’t of the greatest quality (I advise to bring your own)
Unfortunately, the one thing that’s missing for optimal sleep comfort is a sleeping mattress (which is not provided by Avianca). Although the seat features great padding in the seating position, it feels a little too hard in the bed mode; in addition, it’s not very hygienic that you sleep on the same cover where many other have slept on before you.
During this overnight flight, two meals were offered: a dinner after takeoff and a breakfast before landing. Menus were nicely executed (with all options mentioned in English and Spanish) although the food presentation was not. Dinner service felt pushed, with the starter and main course served at once on the same tray, and dessert shortly thereafter (although some may like this ‘express service’ as it allows more time to sleep). I had the following selection from the dinner menu:
- Starter: Caprese salad with buffalo bocconcini cheese, seasoned with green pesto
- Main course: ricotta and spinach ravioli in tomato sauce, with shredded beef shoulder, served with asparagus and grilled mushrooms
- Dessert: chocolate ice cream
While the food was not bad, it tasted very salty and I found the meal presentation bland and uninspiring (especially when compared to the Business Class offerings by other airlines).
Ninety minutes prior to landing, I was offered a breakfast, which – unfortunately – ranks among my most disappointing breakfasts in Business Class. It comprised some fruits (which were the highlight of the breakfast) and one dry sandwich. Breakfast was served with one main course (I had traditional pancakes with mascarpone, peach, and walnuts) but a glaring omission on the breakfast menu was the lack of cereals and yoghurt.
As mentioned above, each Business Class seat features a 16 inches entertainment screen in the sidewall which swings out towards you upon the push of a button. The inflight entertainment features a wide selection of movies, series, TV programs, music, games and reads. One of the system’s best features is the interactive 3D Voyager flight map, which ranks among the best in the industry. You can navigate the inflight entertainment by directly touching the screen or by using a handheld remote which has its own small screen. This allows you to watch a movie or TV show on the main screen while you can keep track of the flight’s progress on the wired controller.
8. ONBOARD INTERNET
Avianca offers internet onboard its B787s, in alliance with FlySurfer. Above 10,000 feet, you can access the “Avianca” Wi-Fi network from your laptop, tablet, or smartphone to use your favorite applications, check your email, or browse the web. There are different tarif plans according to your needs.
9. OTHER INFLIGHT EXPERIENCES
#CREW: Albeit professional, my experience with Latin American carriers is that the cabin crew is not overly friendly, sometimes creating a rather rude and cold impression. It was not different on this flight: some flight attendants were very attentive, while others did not seem to care about their job.
# TOILET: There are two lavatories onboard Avianca’s B787 aircraft for Business Class passengers, both of them located behind the cockpit. The lavatories are stocked with L’Occitaine toiletries.
10. MY VERDICT
- Cabin design: 8/10
- Seat comfort (upright): 9/10
- Seat comfort (bed position): 9/10
- Food (quality): 6/10
- Food (quantity): 8/10
- Inflight entertainment : 9/10
- WiFi: 9/10
- Service: 6/10
- Overall experience: good: 7,5/10
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I have heard that the Rolls Royce engine issues were on 787-9s and now on the 787-10s. The 787-8 were not affected. I enjoy your YouTube videos very much. Thanks for your efforts in making them. I use my Bose QC II headphones and the music is beautiful and do you use the Canon G7X for your vlogs?
Yes, you are correct: I use a canon G7X Mark II for my vlogs.