After a 4+ hour drive back from Paracas, Benjamin our private driver, dropped us off at Jorge Chavez International Airport in Lima. My dad tipped Benjamin for a job well done, and after our goodbye’s, we headed into the terminal to checkin for our flight to Juliaca, which is the closest airport to Lake Titicaca. At the entrance of the terminal, passports are checked before anyone is allowed inside. Domestic and International flight checkins are all handled from the same area at Jorge Chavez International Airport. We got in line for Avianca Airlines and when it was our turn up at the counter, the whole conversation with the agent, while mostly basic questions, were all communicated in Spanish. I had no trouble understanding or answering the agent’s question back in Spanish. After five nights in Peru, the Spanish that I learned in High School, which I thought I had forgotten started to come back to me and was enough for basic conversation while in Lima and Paracas Peru.
We headed upstairs to the departure level and browsed around a couple of stores before heading to the entrance to security check. My parents bought couple of the traditional Peruvian hats with the earflaps. I browsed around the store but did not buy anything. The store sold many items with Coca Leaf as the main ingredients in them such as tea and candy. Definitely catering to Non USA travelers with these Coca products. As I understand it, even the candies with Coca Leaf as a ingredient in them will be confiscated by Customs And Border Patrol once you arrive back in the US.
We headed through security, which is where the separation for domestic vs international flights occurs. We turned right to proceeded to the the domestic flight security check. Security was quick and easy and bottled water and other liquids in ones carryon luggage is allowed on domestic Peru flights. Once everyone of us were cleared through security, we walked through the terminal to find our gate. As we were walking, I saw a small Peru Rail kiosk in the terminal. Since we had to pickup our Hiram Bingham tickets at a ticket office, I went ahead and asked the lady working the counter if it was possible to pickup our tickets with her. She said yes and after a quick check of my payment confirmation email, she printed out our tickets and folded them into Hiram Bingham ticket folios. I was also asked, if we wanted to pickup the included Hiram Bingham bags now or later. My dad wanted them now, but my mom wanted them later. After about 5 minutes of arguing between my mom and dad, my mom won and we decided to pickup the bags later on the Hiram Bingham Train.
Since, we would be getting into our hotel in Puno late, I suggested that we should find something to eat at the airport. Unfortunately, Lima Airport does not have very many choices past security on the domestic side of the departure level. Just one! We sat down at our only option, and ordered drinks and pizza from the menu. The coffee drinks were fine but the pizza was TERRIBLE! The pizza looked and tasted like frozen pizza that was not cooked long enough in the oven. Even one minute in a microwave oven would have done wonders for this terrible pizza. We should have eaten before security where there are plenty of food options, but we rolled the dice to see what was available past security and we lost.
Once we were done with the terrible pizza and our bill paid, we gathered our belongings and head down to our gate. Our Avianca flight was leaving from one of the lower level bus gate. When it got closer to boarding time, I directed my parents towards the front of the line to board, since I could already tell that this was going to be a chaotic boarding process. It was pretty obvious that there was no order to boarding at all. Many flights were departing from the bus gate area and people were just cramming into something that semi resembled a line. Lines were marked for Business Class, Elites and coach, but the employees seemed to not care nor did the passengers. This lack of caring was evident with the boarding process of ALL airlines with flights departing from the bus gates, not just Avianca Airlines.
When boarding for coach passengers was called, my parents and I were one of the first passengers through the boarding door, where a bus was waiting to take passengers to the airplane which was parked at another part of the airport. We boarded the front of the bus and when everyone was stuffed in tight like sardines, the bus began moving. The bus ride to our aircraft was short, the airport could probably put a walkway between were we got on the bus and where our aircraft was parked.
I tried to take as many pictures of our Avianca Airlines Airbus A320 aircraft as I could before boarding. We boarded the Avianca Airbus A320 from the rear door where the stairs that were attached to the aircraft was about two feet lower than the actual level of the rear door. It was one giant step up for me to get aboard the Avianca Airbus A320 and I am sure the big step up to board the aircraft was a problem for other people who boarded after I did.
We found our row and settled in. While the Airbus A320 aircraft was still fairly empty, I snapped as many pictures as I could without being a nuisance to the passengers or interfering with the boarding process. From what I could tell, this was a full flight. Once everyone was seated aboard our Avianca Airlines Airbus A320, one of the Three Avianca Airlines flight attendants came through the cabin handing out earphones for this short, less than two hour flight to Juliaca Peru. Legroom on this Airbus A320 aircraft was quite generous. I am not sure what the seat pitch was, but It did feel more generous than what is offered by most domestic US carriers aboard their similarly configured Airbus A320 aircrafts.
Once the two boarding doors were closed, announcements made, and safety demonstrations completed, our Airbus A320 aircraft completed the short taxi to runway 15, and soon our Avianca Airbus A320 was up in the air heading towards Juliaca Peru. Once the three Avianca flight attendants were released from their jump seats at 10,000 ft., inflight service commenced immediately. Oreos and plantain chips were handed out in a pouch from a trolley, followed closely behind by the drink trolley. I ordered a soda to go with the two snack items I received earlier.
The Avianca flight attendants were efficient and some more cheerful than others. Nothing wrong with any of the three Avianca flight attendants working our flight today, but one stuck out for being really enthused with her job and greeting passengers with a constant smile on her face vs the other two who never smiled. The flight attendant pictured above was the nicest Avianca flight attendant on our flight, who seemed to be genuine, caring and all smiles.
During the 1:45 flight to Juliaca, inflight entertainment was provided through the dropdown overhead screens. Primarily reruns of American Sitcoms like Friends were played on the dropdown screens aboard this Avianca Airbus A320 aircraft. I did not pay attention to the entertainment but browsed through the Avianca inflight magazine instead.
Before long, preparations and announcements were made for landing in Juliaca. I was seated in the aisle so I was not able to see anything outside. Before I knew it, we landed, the engines reversed and roared us to a stop. There are no taxiways at Juliaca Inca Manco Capac Airport. Our Avianca Airbus A320, double backed on the runway to reach the terminal.
Deboarding the Avianca Airbus A320 aircraft was through stairs. Once I got to the Avianca Airbus A320 forward door, I could already feel a slight difficulty with breathing. My chest felt as if there was a 5 pound weight pushing on it as I walked down the stairs. At 12,549 feet in the middle of the Southern Hemisphere’s winter, it was chilly out on the tarmac.
After taking as many beauty shots of the Avianca Airbus A320 that brought us to Juliaca as I could, my parents and I went inside the only terminal building to pick up your luggage. From what I have read about Juliaca Peru, I was expecting some real dump of an airport, but was surprised at how clean and modern the terminal building was. Once our luggages were collected, we headed out to look for the driver who I arranged with our hotel, Sonesta Posadas del Inca in Puno to pick us up.
Our driver was waiting for us in the arrivals area, with a sign with my name on it. During the short walk to our driver from the baggage claim area, we were mobbed by people trying to sell us rides to Puno from the airport. There are all kinds of services offered, but it is best to have your ride prearranged before your arrival into Juliaca. You do not want to be stuck in Juliaca overnight because you could not arrange a ride at a reasonable price to your hotel in Puno. The drive from Juliaca to Puno takes about 50 min direct by private car, and much longer via minibuses that do not leave until full and make multiple stops along the way to Puno.