Avianca airlines

I mentioned in our monthly newsletter last month that my Avianca flight to Colombia was another reminder just how far the U.S. airlines have fallen in comparison to most of the international carriers.

Avianca made me feel like a passenger again instead of a  number on a spreadsheet to be optimized and squeezed.

This matters because soon Avianca will probably be the name you see the most besides LAN in Latin America. It merged with TACA last year and by the end of May the TACA brands will all change to Avianca. By the end of 2013 the Ecuadorian airline AeroGal will change to Avianca name too.

On the way down to Bogota from Ft. Lauderdale, I was flying in economy but still had a seat-back entertainment system, a real meal, and a glass of wine. The flight attendants smiled instead of just nagging everyone to turn off their Kindle. My business class report will have to wait for another time, but it looked far superior to what I’ve seen on United and American.

Since international and domestic passengers can check two bags without fees, there was plenty of overhead bin space on my first flight and the three that followed. Naturally the plane boarded a lot faster for the domestic ones since there was no economic reason for bringing a rollaboard bag on the plane

We even got drink service on a 45-minute flight from Bogota to Pereira. Nice.

A few fun facts and some history about Avianca:

Avianca is the second oldest airline in the world after the Dutch carrier KLM.

TACA was created in 1931 in Honduras. It grew fast the past couple decades through acquisitions. In 1991 TACA bought all the airlines of Central America that were in financial trouble (Aviateca of Guatemala, SAHSA of Honduras, LACSA of Costa Rica) and merged them into GRUPO TACA.

In 1999 GRUPO TACA created an airline in Peru called TACA Peru

TACA stands for TRANSPORTES AEREOS del CONTINENTE AMERICANO (American Continent Air Transport)

Avianca airline allianceLast year Avianca and TACA joined STAR ALLIANCE, in many ways the best international alliance for frequent fliers.

Avianca and TACA have 4 main connection hubs in El Salvador, Costa Rica, Bogota and Lima and fly to all Central America and South America.

North American gateways (direct or in code shares with partners) include San Francisco, Los Angeles, Dallas, Houston, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, Washington-Dulles, JFK, Chicago-O’hare, Toronto, and Mexico City.

See more at Avianca.com for more info and flight deals. See SeatGuru’s Avianca section for seat pitch and plan configurations.