If you’ve been following along on the blog or social media in the last few weeks, you know that my sweet husband and I had to do a little bit of scrambling to get home from Santiago, Chile, on our way back from our big trip to Easter Island! Hurricane Harvey wreaked havoc on Texas, but his reach didn’t stop there. We were supposed to fly home via Houston but obviously our flights were cancelled.
But we didn’t let that stop us! Thanks to our 1K status with United and their partnership in the Star Alliance (and my flight attendant friend Nick who told me I could use Skype to make a toll-free call to the 1K phone line), we country-hopped our way home on Avianca Airlines via Lima, Peru, and San Salvador, El Salvador! Here is our experience.
Route: Santiago, Chile, to Lima, Peru (SCL-LIM)
Duration: 3 hours 50 minutes
Meal: Breakfast (Get the full details in tomorrow’s blog post: What I Ate on the Plane: Avianca Business Class!)
Amenities: Pillow, blanket, headphones
Thank goodness for the blanket. It was freezing outside in Santiago!
- This flight boarded early! That almost never happens. They were already boarding Economy, but since we had Business Class seats, we got to board as soon as we arrived instead of waiting at the end of the long Economy line. We all get there at the same time, of course, but it’s a small perk that one appreciates when you’re ready to get settled!
- We were given a choice of orange juice or water after we were seated, which is also a nice Business Class perk, and I’m sure they would have given us some hot water for tea or some of the coffee we smelled brewing as we boarded.
- Typically on Star Alliance flights, the seat back TV is ready to go so passengers can start watching movies or TV shows during the boarding process before the safety demonstration starts, but this flight did not have that option. The TVs were there, but we couldn’t select anything. No big deal. We brought books!
The View from the Air: Say so long to the Andes Mountains!
Route: Lima, Peru, to San Salvador, El Salvador (LIM-SAL)
There was a bit of excitement on the layover ahead of this flight. It was delayed two hours! Our layover in San Salvador was only an hour and a half, and we did not expect that they could do anything about that. We’d have to find another way. So we started using all our resources. We could each use Lima’s airport wi-fi for 30 minutes, and we could use the toll-free numbers for United in Lima to talk with a 1K customer service representative via Skype. Except the voice recognition on the line did not recognize my United Mileage Plus Number, so I got booted to the regular customer service. I spent the remainder of my 30 minutes on hold.
At the same time, I was standing in line at the gate to speak with the gate agent about missing our connection and getting a new flight. Unfortunately, that line was really more of a mass of people huddled together, and no one seemed to be getting helped. My sweet husband Steve thought to use the pay phone to try and call the 1-800 number in Peru again, so he went to do that while I stood in “line” and chatted with another American in the same situation, only connecting in El Salvador to a flight to San Francisco instead of D.C.. Just when I was about to give up hope, a cute little Peruvian lady came out to say that the planes waiting for us in El Salvador will wait for all of us! That has never happened before! Luckily, there were about 30 people connecting to D.C. like Steve and I were, and probably at least that many connecting to San Francisco. They held both planes! Hooray!
Duration: 4 hours 22 minutes
Amenities: Angled, lay-flat seats, charging station, pillow, blanket, TV, and headphones
These were nice, wide seats! They are also lay-flat, so I got a quick 30 minute catnap.
Observations: I’ll be honest, one of the flight attendants was belittling and rude.
- She made a whole production of making me adjust my tray table after I’d already been served my meal, so we had to move the food around, adjust my seat, and do something to my tray table. The whole Business Class section could hear how dumb she thought I was that I couldn’t even pull out my own tray table.
- The same flight attendant also insisted on speaking in Spanish to us, with an obvious smirk, and waited for us to ask her for English every time, which she spoke almost perfectly. She was only serving about 6 people–most flight attendants on other international airlines can remember which language to use with customers, especially in Business Class. Either she was exceptionally forgetful or wanted to make a point to the Americans that we do not belong.
The View from the Air:
On the up side, we got nice views of the Andes and the Pacific coast of Central America!
Route: San Salvador, El Salvador, to Washington, DC (SAL-IAD)
We did have to go through security again, so that meant all liquids and laptops needed to come out. And even my sandals needed to come off. Even in the states you can leave sandals on through regular security, but they were a little more strict here than in the U.S., and much more strict than with international flights within Central and South America! I got pulled aside for sunscreen I forgot I had, and I got a mild scolding. Lesson learned! Oh, and no, you can’t bring any water with you either!
Duration: 4 hours 13 minutes
Amenities: Pillow, blanket, headphones, and TV
The flight attendant for this flight was really nice! She totally made up for the negative experience on the previous flight.
The View from the Air:
Sunset over the Caribbean Sea. Nice, right? Those look like Jesus rays.
So what’s the take away? Make the most of every opportunity! If you’re “stuck” in a city (like Santiago) an extra day or two, explore some more! If you have to take longer flights or make more connections, pick up some post cards or a mug at each connection airport to prove you were there! Enjoy the experience. Travel is an adventure!