After spending two weeks in Peru, it was now time to fly back home to the US. I arranged for private transportation to Cusco Airport with the concierge of our hotel Tambo Del Inka. The car showed up on time and the bellman loaded our suitcases into the car and we said our good byes to the hotel staff seeing us off. The drive time from our hotel, Tambo Del Inka, to Cusco Airport is about 1 hour 30 minutes. We did hit some traffic outside of the airport but we were in no danger of being late for our flight to Lima. Once we arrived at Cusco Airport, my dad tipped the driver in dollars, and I also gave him about 10PEN I had in 1PEN coins since I did not want it weighing my pocket down or become a nuisance when going through security.
We went into the terminal and got in line at the Avianca checkin counter. There was an employee managing the line so I flagged her down to ask her about checking our luggage all the way through to Los Angeles. Long story short, she said, no they could not check the luggage all the way to Los Angeles for United Airlines even though we bought the Avianca flight ticket through United Airlines and they are both part of Star Alliance. We would have to collect our luggage in Lima and recheck them with United Airlines at their checkin counter.
Our turn came and our luggages were tagged and boarding passes printed and handed to us. Probably because of my dads gold status with a Star Alliance carrier, our luggages were tagged as Star Alliance Priority. With our documents in hand, we head to security check. Everything seemed to go well at security until my backpack went through the x-ray machine. The security agent asked to see the knife in the bag, which jolted my memory and I remembered that I had a Swiss Army Knife in my backpack, which I was planning on putting in my checked luggage but I forgot. The Swiss Army Knife was confiscated and put into a clear bin containing other forbidden items that have been confiscated from other passengers passing through Cusco Airport. After this unfortunate loss of a perfectly good Swiss Army Knife, we found our gate and waited in the spartan holding area.
As it got closer to boarding time, the FID screen at our gate changed to LAN Airlines flight info not Avianca. There was a gate change but no announcements were made. I checked the departure board, got the new gate number and headed there with my parents following behind me. The new gate for our flight to Lima was a non jet bridge, stair boarding gate downstairs from where we were waiting. Once passengers on our flight moved from the original gate to the new one, the majority of them went straight to lineup for boarding instead of sitting down. We joined them in the line.
Once our aircraft arrived, and passengers disembarking in Cusco have all deplaned, boarding commenced. Everyone in line in front of us climbed the front stairs to board from the forward aircraft door, but I asked an agent on the tarmac if we could board from the rear stairs and she said yes. My parents and I were the first to board through the rear door of the aircraft. When we got onboard, passengers who were continuing on to Lima from the earlier flight were still seated on the plane. We found our seats, put our stuff up in the overhead bin and settled in.
This aircraft and the interior looked exactly the same as the aircraft we flew to Juliaca from Lima. Unlike the flight to Juliaca, earphones were not distributed on this flight. Boarding was completed quickly and the flight was not full. Once all of the pre-departure routines were completed, including safety demonstrations, we were on our way to Lima. Cusco airport is surrounded by dense housing all around the airport perimeter. The houses are so close, that it looks as if the wings of aircrafts landing and taxiing on airport ground could easily clip any one of the buildings.
Once we were up in the air, the flight attendants jumped into action after the 10,000 ft chime went off in the cabin. Snack packs were distributed and the drink cart followed behind closely. I ordered a Coke Zero to drink, while others around me were ordering Inca Kola. The snack pack contained giant Peruvian Inka Corn Nuts and a package of vanilla flavored crackers.
After the snack service items and trash were cleared, I took the time to browse through the inflight magazine. My mom decided to kill time playing the puzzles in the magazine, while I decided to try and read the articles written in Spanish to see how much of it I could understand. Time flew by quickly while we were doing this and just as I was getting into reading the articles, announcements were made that we would be landing shortly.
Since I was seated in the aisle, I was not able to see outside, but the landing in Lima was uneventful and after a quick taxi to the gate, we disembarked at the domestic part of the terminal via jet bridge. We headed to the baggage claim to get our luggage all the while trying to figure out how to kill time at the airport until United’s checkin desk opened for us to checkin and obtain access to the lounge.
This was our second Avianca flight and I was surprised at the level of service onboard. Many US airlines will offer an abbreviated service on flights of similar flight time but Avianca manages to offer two pieces of snack and a full drink trolley service. The inflight crew number was 3, just as it is on US carriers that fly similarly configured Airbus A320’s. Avianca gets two thumbs up for making the extra effort to provide excellent service vs blaming lack of service on the short flight time.