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Review: Avianca A320 Business Class


As long as Avianca engages in theater of hygiene, it is best to avoid this carrier, especially in business class. Beyond that, the deplorable hard product does not inspire confidence in the airline itself. This review covers my A320 business class trip on Avianca from San Salvador to Los Angeles.

Avianca A320 Business Class Review

After a long stopover in San Salvador (SAL), I was ready to board my plane for Los Angeles. Boarding was due to start an hour before departure and I made my way to the boarding gate at that time. At El Salvador International Airport you go through security at the gate and the lines were long and moving very slowly.

Security check, however, was not that close. I left a water bottle in my bag and it was not caught. My laptop remained in the bag and my shoes remained in place. However, my belt and watch set off the machine and I was reprimanded for leaving my belt in place in the first place.

I noticed an army of wheelchairs lined up for pre-boarding (much more than in the photo below). There must have been 40… and for a brief moment I thought I was flying to India.

Boarding finally began approximately 30 minutes before the scheduled departure. I wasn’t the first on board, but managed to join the wheelchair queue so I could take a few photos of the business class cabin before it filled up. I’ve previewed this flight as part of onboard service before, but it’s a new review.

Avianca Airlines 520
San Salvador (SAL) – Los Angeles (LAX)
Wednesday September 15th
Departure: 7:10 p.m.
Arrival: 11:40 p.m.
Duration: 05h, 30min
Distance: 2,319miles
Airplane: Airbus A320
Seat: 3K (Business Class)

Climbing aboard, it was not immediately clear how bad this flight would be. The flight attendant greeted me and the seats seemed comfortable enough for the 5.5 hour trip.

Seats

Avianca has more than one A320 configuration. Some have folder screens. Mine didn’t. My plane had three rows in a 2-2 configuration, for a total of 12 seats. The seat spacing is 40 inches, which is more generous than what US carriers offer in their “home first” product. The third row also appeared to have full recline, and the seats were 21 inches wide.

If all you care about is seating, Avianca isn’t a horrible option. But also note that the carrier has a whole different kind of business class seat on other A320s that are in a hard shell and don’t look as comfortable.

While the outlets were located in the center console, no power was available: they were either turned off or broken. There was a headphone jack, channel adjuster, and volume control on the armrest and it was even on, but no in-flight entertainment was offered during the flight.

There was also no security card in the folder pocket … and look at the condition of the cabin:

No blankets or pillows either. I still managed to spend most of the flight sleeping. What else was I going to do?

Food + Drink

Wow, that was bad.

After take off the flight attendant appeared with a drinks cart and I noticed that almost everyone was ordering Baileys Irish Cream. It’s strange, I thought. Is this a favorite drink in El Salvador?

Finally, she reached me in the last row and offered me a choice of plain water, Coca-Cola or Baileys. Yes, three business class beverage choices including Baileys.

I had water.

I was also offered a box containing a chicken pita sandwich and plantain chips. It would be dinner on the international flight over 5 hours.

For our safety, of course …

Well, better than nothing I guess. But as I tried to open the sandwich, I found the bread had stuck to the wrapper and come loose as I tried to pull it out, emptying the lukewarm chicken all over the box into box in which it was served.

What a sad meal.

IFE

Nothing.

There was no wi-fi, no streaming video, and no aerial video except for the pre-flight safety briefing. Again the power ports were broken or turned off, so it’s not like I can even pass the time watching movies (yes those new MacBook Pros with amazing battery life are calling me…)

Service

While the flight attendant was kind, she was given very little to work with. After the “snack” service she disappeared and I didn’t see her again until we started our descent to Los Angeles. I got up to go to the bathroom and asked her for a glass of water. It should have been proactive, but beyond the first drink service, no additional drinks were offered.

Certification kits

Nothing

Bathroom

The toilets and looked clean… at least there weren’t any puddles on the floor.

CONCLUSION

I recognize that Avianca is an airline in financial difficulty. It is currently operating under bankruptcy protection (with plans coming soon) and there is real concern about the carrier’s survival.

Still, I expected a little something more on a 5.5 hour flight departing at lunchtime in Business Class. The whole product, not just the meal, is deplorable and there’s no way I’m wasting my miles or business class money on this carrier… because sweet products matter to me.

I intend to return to El Salvador (and actually enter). There is a Hyatt Centric I want to review and I want to stock up on coffee. But, it will be on United, not on Avianca… that’s for sure.

As we approached Los Angeles, the fog set in. It was a beautiful night …

… A lovely night to go straight to In-N-Out Burger on Sepulveda for a real dinner.


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