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Monday 14 August 2023

Flying In Colombia With Avianca's Airbus A320CEO (BOG-MDE)

 Welcome to my trip report on Avianca! 


Avianca is the 2nd oldest airline in the world (currently at 103 years old) and is one of the members of the Star Alliance. This airline has a rich history and is also another airline in my list that I want to try. My original plan was to fly with Avianca either from the U.S or Europe to South America but after reading lots of complaints about the airline, I decided to just do a one-stop flight on the domestic route and that's how important, social media is. I could have given more business to the airline if they have not cut cost or downgrade the airline to a service similar to ULCC (Ultra Low Cost Carrier).

When I booked with the airline, just like LATAM, I couldn't book directly through the airline as my credit cards couldn't work, so I booked through a 3rd party once again. The airfare that I paid for apparently was the lowest airfare and for a short 30 minutes flight on BOG-MDE route, it cost me around U.S$72 for the cheapest airfare, the XS only includes 1 personal item which must fit under the seat and that's it. If I choose the more expensive options, I would be paying about $90 or even $100 for M and L options. Since, I was just carrying a small backpack, it makes sense for me to go for the XS option as I would be flying this airline on a one way flight to MDE and return back to BOG with Wingo.

XS = Lowest Price 

S = Basic Travel 

M = More Comfort 

L = More Flexiblity 

Airline's website 

I like the website as its clean and easy to use. One of the most user-friendly websites among the South American airlines, certainly better than LATAM. 

There are 3 options for you to choose from. I did consider flying with this airline from SCL to BOG. However, the decision to fly with LATAM from SCL to BOG via LIM was made after spotting a very good business class fare. 

The add-ons. 

I wanted to book my flight directly with this airline, but unfortunately it didn't work. 

Fortunately, I was able to check my flight status on the mobile app and the website. 

The day before my flight, I was able to do my online check-in. 

The airline selected the seat for me, fortunately it was a window seat. When I tried to change my seat, I had to pay to change it even during checking in. That's a bit too much, right? This airline seems to want to charge you for everything and it's is supposed to be a Premium airline, maybe it isn't anymore. 

At least I got my check-in done and get ready for this short trip. 

History of Avianca 

Avianca means 'Airways of the American Continent', is the national airline of Colombia started operation in December 1919. The initial name of this airline was SCADTA. This airline's headquarters is based in Bogota and main hub at EL Dorado International Airport (Bogota). Avianca group works similar to LATAM group which consists of many different airlines operating under the same branding. The subsidiaries of this company is Avianca, Avianca Cargo, Avianca Costa Rica, Avianca Ecuador, Avianca EL Salvador, Avianca Express and Avianca Guatemala. This company has its ups and downs and even though it celebrated its 100th years recently, it took a lot of hard work and brave decisions to ensure this company continue to survive. In 2020, Avianca filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and had to undergo a lot of changes to ensure the survival. One of the decisions was to liquidated its subsidiary Avianca Peru, the other most important thing it did was to standarise the fleet by implementing cost-reduction plans such as revamp its cabin products, standardizing the fleet to just 2 types, Airbus A320 and Boeing 787. The name was also changed to Avianca Group but its headquarters remained in Bogota. Finally at the end of 2021, this group successfully exited the Chapter 11 bankruptcy. 

Photos of Bogota 

I booked Uber and waited for the driver to turn up. 

I have heard a lot of nice things about this city, now its time to explore. The taxi driver spoke no English but we communicated by using the translate app, thanks to technology. 

This is where I stayed. 

I walked a lot in this wonderful city. Safety issue? Just dont wear any jewellery or flash your expensive stuff, you should be fine. Of course always be on the look out and try not to use your phone while walking. 

I was grateful for the fantastic weather. 

This is Chapinero Central area 

Even though the portion of the chicken was small, it was delicious. 

The streets were busy and there were a lot of eyes looking around and this is when you have to be vigilant especially at night.  

This is at Chapinero Norte. Chapinero district is one of the safest in this city. 

Quinta Camacho 

El Retiro is a shopping district that is worth visiting. 

I spent a lot of time here eating and walking around. After 2 days of sightseeing in Bogota, it was time to enjoy a short trip to Medellin. 

About Bogota Airport

El Dorado Internationa Airport is the biggest airport in Colombia, based in Bogota. This airport started operation in 1959 and currently has 2 terminals. The terminal 1 is used by Easyfly and Satena while for the terminal 2 is used for international operation and domestic flights by other airlines. Both terminals are easily transferred by a free satellite shuttle bus. This airport is home for the following airlines: Avianca, Avianca Cargo, Avianca Express, Wingo, Easyfly, LATAM Cargo Colombia, LATAM Colombia and Satena and operates 2 runway, runway 14L/32R and 14R/32L. This is the 2nd busiest airport in South America in terms of passenger traffic and as for the cargo traffic, it is the busiest in the continent. 

Photos of Bogota Airport 

I am pleasantly surprised with the airport's ambience and this is one of the nicer airports I visited in South America. There are lots of shops and restaurants to check out at the land side in terminal 2. Free WiFi is available but you need to register in order to use and after a period of time, you need to re-login in and that is troublesome. 

The terminal is quite massive and the domestic and international departure hall are at separate ends so do look out for the signboard for direction. 

Somehow this brings memory of my time at PEK (Beijing) Airport. (You can check out my Hong Kong Airlines Trip report PEK-HKG) in my trip report below). 

Avianca is the main player at this airport. 

Are you up for an exercise? For those who need to complete their Apple watch daily activities, can walk up and down the stairs and I did just that to close the rings. 

Overall, I like this terminal. I hope to visit Terminal 1 on my next visit. 

Connecting through this bridge lead me to more eating places at the other side of the terminal.

I had my lunch in this restaurant on the day of arrival (2 days before my Avianca's flight)

This was one of the more popular dishes at this restaurant, Archie's. 

Map of El Dorado Bogota Airport Terminal 2 (Photo: Colombiainfo.org)

I checked my aircraft and I was delighted to be flying on this retro livery! I was originally scheduled to fly on the standard livery A320 but they did a swop just a couple of hours before my flight's departure. 

This would be my first time flying on a retro livery with any airline. Have you flown on a retro livery jet? 

Even though I had the mobile boarding pass, I prefer to get the physical copy. 

Look at the number of flights for that! 

I received the boarding pass and it was time to go.

Security check was a breeze and soon I was at the airside. 

Avianca and LATAM Colombia flights are based at different piers.

This is LATAM Colombia's fleet. 

Of course there will be duty-free shops at the airside. 

Stay tuned for my upcoming Avianca VIP lounge review. :) 

I like how spacious it is and there are some windows which allow photography of aircraft. 

There is an escalator leading to the ground floor. The boarding gates are allocated for flights departing from the remote parking lots and there are airport buses available to transport the passengers to the aircraft. 

Let's go back upstairs.  

This Star Alliance livery A320 of Avianca looks like it needs some cleaning. 


This Boeing 737-800 of Wingo will fly me home later that day. (HP-1537CMP) 

As I was walking, I did a check on my aircraft's location, it was on approach from MDE. 

My ride: N398AV (Just arrived from MDE)

There are adequate cafes to hang around at the airside of the domestic side

This is the standard livery of Avianca 

Wingo's Boeing 737-800 

My boarding gate (Sorry for the poor quality). 

Time to board. 

My waiting is over, finally I am on board the 2nd oldest airline in the world. 

Notice the warning sign? You won't want to mess around flying with this airline. 

My ride: N398AV (Photo: Roger Cannegieter) 

This is the Aviateca Heritage retro livery

Airbus A320-214 (Leased from JLPS)
Delivered on August 2009
Engines: 2 X CFM56-5B4/3
Configuration: C12 Y168
3998th Airbus A320 Built
Built in Toulouse (TLS)

Flight route: BOG-MDE

Miles: 134

My selected seat (Photo: Aerolopa.com) 

Date of departure: 5th June 
Airlines: Avianca
Flight: AV9654
Route: BOG-MDE
Aircraft: Airbus A320CEO
Registration: N398AV (Retro livery)
Gate: 74 
Terminal: 1 
Load: 70%
Schedule departure: 1128
Boarding: 1047
Pushed back: 1122 
Take off: 1147 
Schedule departure: 30 minutes 
Actual flight time: 28 minutes
Schedule arrival: 1227
Actual arrival: 1215
Departure runway: 14R
Arrival runway: 01 

My experience 

I originally booked on a flight which was scheduled to be operated by A320NEO. However, the airline notified me about the cancellation of my original flight and I was rebooked on this flight and it turned out to be operated by the CEO version. Well, the good thing about it is that most of the special liveries (Star Alliance and Retro livery) are painted on the A320CEO so that means I might have a chance of riding on one of them. My wish came true when I saw N398AV on Flightradar24 and later in front of me at the gate. 

Boarding took place quickly and the airport staff were able to communicate in English. My flight comprises of a fresh set of crew and they were friendly when I walked past them on the aircraft. My first impression on board is the how tight the seats are looking at first glance especially the ones after the halfway mark of the aircraft. Unfortuantely for me, the announcements were made only in Spanish so I had no idea what was going on. We departed on time with a load factor of around 70%. The best thing for me is the middle seat remain vacant and I needed that extra space as I can feel how tight this 28 inch legroom space. 

Once take off, we were greeted by the beautiful view of Bogota and the mountains as we flew North-west direction. In-Flight streaming was available on this short flight but I did a look at it to show you guys the contents, after that I relax for the remaining of the flight, watching the world go by. Soon, we started our descend. There was no service on board but I believed we could order from the menu if we wanted to. 

We touched down early and taxied to our gate. This aircraft would then prepare its return to Bogota after my flight. 

This is the old Economy Class cabin (Photo: Luis Portillo)

About the newly designed Cabin 

The new cabin products of Avianca was launched by the airline in October 2021 and the Airbus A320 is the only narrow-body type in the fleet to feature the new products, the Premium, Plus and Economy Seats. These seats are designed by Recaro which according to the airline, offers more comfort. In addition, Airbus' SpaceFlex is also installed on them , combining the galleys and lavatories and that means more more seats can be installed. The total capacity of the A320 now stands at 186 for the airline’s A320 and for now, all the 104 Airbus A320 fleet (CEO and NEO) have been reconfigured. As for the fleet of A319, the airline has plans to retire them so they won’t be retrofitted. They are currently in operation (July 2023) and will retire once more A320NEO joins the fleet.

According to the airline, the cabin redesign will allow lower prices and 13% reduction of CO2 emissions per passenger. For the passengers? Is it better than the old cabin?. Read on to find out why. 

Without further ado, let’s take a look at the cabin! 

Photos of the Premium 

The Premium cabin is available for the first 3 rows of seats in a 2-2 configuration. The seats are the widest and come with a power plug, USB port, adjustable headrest and can be reclined up to 5 inches.

These seats certainly look better than the 3-seater with the middle seat remain vacant, like the one I experience with LATAM. 

Here is the comparison

LATAM's Premium Economy Cabin (A319)

Same seats as Economy Class with the middle seat blocked off. 

Avianca's Premium seats 

(Photo: Avianca's website)

This product looks decent, right?

What do you think of this product? 

Plus Seats (With the Red marking)

These seats are for those who prefer to be closer to the front for early disembarkment. It also comes with USB ports, an adjustable headrest and reclinable seats (up to 3 inches). The seat pitch is around 28-29 inches.

The difference between this and the standard Economy seats is the adjustable headrest and the reclineable seats.

You can adjust the height of the headrest, so that is a cool feature. 

Economy Seats 

These enhanced seats are pre-reclined and doesn't have headrest. However, each row of seats comes with 2 USB ports. The seat pitch is around 28-29 inches. 

The view from my seat 

There are 2 USB charging ports located in front of each passenger near the base of the seats. (Below)


The slimline seats - I didn't find it comfortable especially with the tight legroom space. For flights longer than 2 hours, I rather pay for the seats upfront. 

The emergency row seats offer a legroom space of 37-38 inches. 

Do note that these seats do not recline. 

These are the Plus seats 

My opinion of the Economy Seat


- Availablilty of USB Ports 


- Tight legroom space 

- No headrest 

- Uncomfortable seat 

-Pre-reclined seats (Not adjustable as the seats are fixed between fully upright and slightly reclined) 

More photos of the Economy seat 

I am certainly not a fan of these seats.

As you can see how tight the legroom space is. 

Fortunately for me, the middle seat was vacant. 

Overhead panel 

There is BOB (Buy On Board) service on this short flight. 

The safety card 

I am glad to tick Avianca off the list! 

My thoughts of the new products 

Only the Premium seats impress me, while for the Plus and Economy seats, it is similar to the typical Low Cost Carrier's products. Squeezing in 6 more seats to 186 (capacity of the A320) means legroom space is compromised and that makes it more uncomfortable especially for tall passengers. 

In-Flight Entertainment (Streaming via WiFi) 

To be honest, I didn't expect any form of entertainment on Aviana's narrow-body aircraft so this was a big surprise.

First, you need to register before you can access. 

Once you are online, you can access the following features below. WiFi to connect to social media, email and web surfing was not available on my flight. 

The flight map of our flight 

Nice to know a bit more about our destination. 

You can check out the menu online. 

The selection of movies is not bad. 

(From Take-off to Landing) Window view

Parking beside my aircraft is Avianca's Airbus A319. 

LATAM's Airbus A320CEO pushed back the same time as my aircraft. 

Off we go, it was a nice day for flying.

Fellow company, Airbus A320 just landed. 

Viva Airlines Airbus A320 has said goodbye to the aviation world. 

I believe these aircraft will be leased to other airlines in the near future. At least I get to see the airline's livery in person. 

Off we go, this would turn out to be my 2nd shortest flight in my flight logbook! Just 28 minutes in the air. 

What a beautiful view of the city! 

That is why window seat is so important to me. :) 

Passing through some clouds was a bit turbulent. 

Once we were cleared of the clouds, we get to enjoy some good view. 

Do you know that flying from Bogotá to Medellin is more popular than taking the bus? For flying, the journey time is around 30-40 mintues but for bus transportation, it takes up to 11-12 hours depending on traffic condition. The airfare does cost more but it saves you a lot of time. 

We started our approach to MDE Airport. 

At this point of time, it was a bit windy.

We touched down smoothly and taxied to our gate within minutes. 

This is the spoilers that is also used with the reverse thrust to slow the aircraft down. 

So this was where most of Viva air's fleet are parked.

Welcome to Aeropuerto Internacional de Medellin (MDE)! 

We parked beside LATAM's A320. 

My flight summary 

Welcome to Medellin! 

More information of this airport coming up in my next trip report. 

Thanks for the ride, N398AV! 

Walking towards the exit. 

 I spent about 4 hours at the airport before taking Wingo's 737-800 back to Bogota.

My ratings 

Airline's website/mobile app: 2.5/5 
Airport Staff at BOG Airport: 4/5 
In-Flight Service: 4/5 
In-Flight Experience: 4/5
Cleanliness of the cabin: 4/5 
In-Flight Entertainment System (WiFi): 4/5 
In-Flight Snack/Meal: 0/5
Punctuality: 5/5
Seat Comfort: 2/5
Cabin interior: 4/5
Overall rating: 33.5/50
Percentage: 67%


I see the way the airline operating is not much different from the low cost carriers where you have to pay for almost everything for convenience. The aircraft that I flew on flies on international routes as well so this is why you should be expecting when flying on the A320 aircraft. If I have to fly on this aircraft type on longer routes, I would definitely think twice especially with the more expensive airfare it offers. I would like to try the Premium class though.

Many have complained about the airline's situation, removing business class on key U.S routes but thankfully they have reverted this decision. There is a need for business class and the Boeing 787 aircraft will provide passengers with this offerings, their change of mind could have been due to complaints from the general public and possibly loss of revenue on those affected routes. In addition, the introduction of the new cabin has not been popular among the frequent flyers especially with the removal of the seat back screens and tighter legroom space in Economy. 

Despite the shortcomings, I enjoyed my short flight with this airline. The seats may not be that comfortable but it was an eye-opener for me checking out the in-flight products. What caught my attention is the Premium class seats, what I like is how both the seats (2-seater) spreads out, providing more legroom space and shoulder width and also allow both passengers to rest their elbow on the support without hitting each other. Most importantly, no middle seat. Lastly, the existence of Wi-Fi is definitely a positive for the airline. Passengers are able to enjoy the in-flight entertainment on their own devices, better than nothing. I won't mind flying again with this airline, trying out the Premium Class on the A320 and flying long haul on the 787. I hope to be able to book directly with this airline the next time I plan to fly with them. 

For my previous trip report (LATAM's 767-300ER LIM-BOG), click here.

For my return flight with Wingo B737-800 MDE-BOG trip report, click here.

Thanks for reading! 


  1. Next time you gotta try the flight from Medellin's local airport (EOH)!