After a recent Airfare of the day I posted this last week, a LoyaltyLobby reader sent us an email about his latest experiences with Avianca business class service (or lack thereof) on their Bogota – Buenos Aires route.
Email From The Reader:
Morning FreddoHope all is well – Just a word of caution when recommending Avianca: The service level post-pandemic is extremely poor.Catering is a sandwich and a coffee or a coke – no alcohol at all. And only on service per flight – don’t ask for more.In some routes, they are removing business seating as well.In most cases, you can still use the Avianca lounge when connecting.I have personal experience with EZE – BOG , twice this year.- I only used them because flight timings were good for what I had to do.There are plenty of comments on Flyer Talk about the poor quality..Best for nowJohn
Pre-pandemic, Avianca used to have a fairly decent business class service on their long-haul routes, especially onboard their B787-9s, which I reviewed a few years ago on their BOG-BCN route:
Since then, Avianca has gone through challenging financial issues, including the ousting of their previous CEO and majority stakeholder, and of course, their bankruptcy filling due to the global COVID19 pandemic.
The new CEO strategy to exit bankruptcy is to convert the legacy carrier -with more than 100 years of history- into a low cost carrier. Bloomberg (access here) covered this matter in December 2021:
Neuhauser expects the company to post a profit in 2023 after its operations return to pre-pandemic levels. The airline is flying at about 60% of its pre-covid schedule, with domestic business rebounding faster than long-haul flights, especially international business travel, he said.
In response, Avianca is changing its fare offerings and seat arrangement to provide more flexibility, he said.
“We’re designing it to be more focused on leisure and less on business. That doesn’t mean we’re leaving behind our traditional business client, but it does mean we’ll shrink the business cabins and things like that,” he said. “A lot of international business travel before the pandemic was consultants, bankers, et cetera, and we just see that recovery a lot more slowly.”
Coincidentally, a couple weeks ago I had the opportunity to chat with an Avianca purser who mainly works on their Bogota to South America routes, and he confirms both what our reader states on his email and the information published by Bloomberg last year.
The main takeaway from my conversation is that from September 1st, 2022, Avianca is fully embracing the low-cost carrier model, with food and beverages being only available for purchase in all most of their routes, including some long-haul routes like BOG-EZE or BOG-SCL (which are roughly 8 hour flights!). Business class service is being completely eliminated from these routes and even the business class seats will be phased out, going for an all-economy configuration on the planes serving them.
The only exception to the aforementioned will be the BOG-LAX and BOG-Europe routes, which will be served by their B787-9 planes, whre the business class cabin and service will still be available. It was not clear from my conversation if economy class service on these routes will still be provided or if the low-cost buy-your-own-food model will also be imposed.
I have experienced first hand the progressive deterioration of Avianca business class service in recent years. I remember a few years back when I’d prefer their product over Iberia or British Airways on Europe to South America routes, but lately their offering is just ridiculous. On one of my last flights to Bogota I got server a cheeseburger in business class, and let’s say I’ve had better McDonalds than the burger I was served.
I understand a low-cost model can work when you have a short- and medium-haul network, but I doubt extending it also to most of their long-haul network (especially in premium passenger heavy routes as BOG-NYC or BOG-EZE) is the right choice…for the time being, as our reader states on his email, it would be wise to think twice before using them on any long-haul route not served by their B787-9s.