Aircraft Type: A330-200
Class: ‘Previous Generation’ Business Class
Flight time: 10:27
Date: July 2015
Best for: People travelling in pairs. The previous generation business class seats are in a 2 x 2 x 2 format. Fares are low, and offer good connections through most of South & Central America, the Caribbean and Europe.
The crowd: Mainly South American business travellers.
Business or pleasure: Avianca’s previous A330 business class cabin is all about a comfortable and efficient product. There isn’t Wi-Fi and a limited entertainment offering, but enough for regular fliers.
Routes: Avianca is well positioned through South America, and has an excellent one-stop network covering the smaller countries of Latin America.
Frequent Flyer Programme: LifeMiles, connected to the Star Alliance as well as Iberia and AeroMexico.
Best bits: Excellent lounges and comfortable solid seats.
Worst bits: The IFE system was a little lacking in programming, however, this has been addressed already and the IFE offers a good selection of movies and TV shows.
Avianca A330 Previous Business Class Trip Report
We were invited by Avianca to experience not only their warm Latin American hospitality, but their new inflight products and designer lounge in Bogota. Our trip included flights on Avianca’s older A330 business class products from London to Bogota and onwards to São Paulo, and the airline’s newest business class products on the A330 and 787 returning from São Paulo to Madrid via Bogota. The airline (incidentally the 2nd oldest in the world) has recently invested into new products and aircraft which make the airline the only one in South America to start offering business class passengers all-aisle-access.
On the ground
Avianca was the second carrier to utilize Heathrow’s Terminal 2 when it opened last year. Situated amongst its star alliance partners, it now offers seamless connections throughout Europe and the rest of the world to inbound and outbound Avianca passengers. It’s no secret we are a fan of Heathrow’s Terminal 2, and Avianca have well positioned themselves in London.
Our flight was one of the last to leave Heathrow, departing at 22:40pm, however we arrived nice and early, after leaving the office, giving us ample time to check-in an relax in the lounge.
On arrival to T2, we headed over to zone D situated on the Southern end of T2’s check in area. On arrival, we were greeted by a terminal at full swing, at one of the busiest times of day. Whilst passengers at Avianca can either use the bag-drop lanes or automated self-check in counters, we decided to head behind the queues to the business class check in counters.
One of the benefits of business class travel from T2 at Heathrow is the use of the check-in desks hidden behind the main bag drop desks, which usually have no queue, and are staffed by friendly and helpful staff.
Arriving 3.30 hours before the flight, we were quickly greeted, with no-one infront, and our bags checked the whole way through to São Paulo. The staff were friendly, and directed us to use the United Lounge situated in the satellite terminal. Although as a business class traveller you can use any Star Alliance lounge you like, including the Singapore Airlines lounge.
After check-in, Business Class passengers are allowed to use the fast track lane, which as always in Heathrow T2 (unlike T4 or T3), is fast, friendly, and painless. Within 10 minutes of arriving, we were airside.
Whilst we’ve complained about the long walk from main airport to satellite terminal in T2, the airport has obviously acted on similar sentiments, and now offers a free shuttle transport that can happily sit 10 people that runs the long corridor, helping transport families, older people, or those with a lot of baggage to get from one side to the other.
We headed to the United Club to spend a couple of hours before the flight. It is well appointed, clean and modern in appearance. There are the usual offerings, such as buffet bar, which offers cold and hot food, a variety of seating options, however the crowning glory is the long marble bar that takes centre stage in the lounge.
On offer are a variety of wines and cocktails tendered by fully trained mixologists. Being fairly late in the evening, there aren’t many United flights (the last one leaves around 6pm) so most passengers in the lounge at this point are connecting or flying on another carrier, so the lounge itself is fairly quiet.
Avianca started the boarding process approximately an hour before take-off, allowing them to normally achieve an on-time departure. With the aircraft situated at the satellite gates, it was just a short walk from the lounge.
On boarding, we entered via the front door, and were greeted by cabin crew dressed in red and charcoal grey. The uniform is not only professional, but iconic too, and matches the colour scheme found onboard.
The business class cabin is split in two. With three rows of business class seats found in the forward section, and a further two behind. There are 30 seats in total, laid out in pairs in a 2 x 2 x 2 configuration. Rows 1 and 4 are bulkhead seats, meaning the TV screens are situated on the bulkhead in front.
The cabin we were on featured the newer grey, red and white interior, which was very smart, and professional and showed very little signs of wear. The bulkheads and finishes found throughout the cabin were pretty standard, and it doesn’t feature art work or customized flooring for example, but as far as cabin designs go, it was very pleasant, and indicative of what you would expect of a business class cabin.
There are two toilets in the business class cabin, both featuring L’Occitane skincare, which is ample for a 30 seat cabin, although just before landing there could be a bit of a queue (not in our case).
Avianca’s older generation seats are very much the traditional angle lie flat seats that many carriers still have across much of their fleets. The forward facing seats are very comfortable in a variety of positions, and recline to an almost fully flat bed that angles slightly towards the floor.
The seat is surprisingly comfortable, and has a lumbar refresh cycle which acts as a back massage function. Being situated in pairs, the seats also have a wide cocktail table between the seats along with a large partition that can be raised for privacy.
The bulkhead seats feature a fold out footrest whilst the rest of the cabin doesn’t, which depending on your height can add extra comfort as you sleep. Generally speaking we found the seat comfortable to sit and relax in as well as to sleep in, and whilst it was angle lie flat, the fact the seat was covered in fabric, meant we didn’t slip during the sleep and had a good few hours uninterrupted sleep.
The seat features a good selection of hard product amenities, from large solid dining table to personal reading light, and variety of power ports including USB power socket.
The best seats if you are travelling alone would be in the centre block (D&G), which would allow aisle access and no need for anyone to step over you.
Once sat down, we were offered sparkling wine, juice or water. Being past 10pm, most passengers were subdued and obviously ready to sleep. Being a late night departure, Avianca offer a speedy dinner, where the whole menu is served on one tray at the same time, to ensure passengers can get as much sleep as they want.
After we were handed our drinks, menus were handed out which showcased both an express dinner and a breakfast.
Cheese & Cold Cuts
Assortment of warm bread and butter
Scallops with mango & chilli salsa served with fried vermicelli
Braised lamb served with mustard gratin mashed potatoes and sautéed vegetables
Sauteed prawns, served with linguini with tomatoes, chives and blached vegetables.
Chicken breast, stuffed with prunes and figs, served with gravy, sautéed cabbage and blanched vegetables
Crème Brulee with strawberry & blueberry coulis
Chocolate Ice Cream
Fresh Fruit platter
Fresh fruit salad
Egg and Spinach pinwheel, served with grilled bacon, hash brown nuggets, grilled tomato and baked beans.
Chocolate pancake with mango coulis
Cereal and yoghurt
Assortment of warm breads, butter and jam
Approximately 20 minutes after take off, drinks service started, which was quick, as some passengers had already reclined themselves to a slumber. Shortly after, our tables were laid with linen table-cloths and our food was served.
We opted for both the prawn linguini and the wrapped chicken, the best of which was the prawn pasta, as it was hot, and perfectly cooked. Sadly the chicken was a little drier.
However, the Scallops were refreshing and the crème brulee tasty. Mid way through the flight we asked for some ice cream, and instead of chocolate, the cabin crew made their apologies and offered vanilla instead, which was just as tasty.
No sooner had we finished our main course than our plates were removed and we quickly assembled our seats into its bed mode. With large comfortable duvet and pillow, it was easy to get a sound rest.
Approximately 2 hours before landing, cabin lights were raised and the smell of food once again filled the cabin. At this point virtually all the passengers woke up and warm smiling cabin crew started their food service.
Once again table settings were laid and breakfast service commenced. We opted for the pancakes, which were filling, sweet and tasty, although we also did like the look of the eggs too, and most passengers opted for this. During the food service, warm rolls and pastries were constantly handed out, ensuring no passenger would go hungry.
Avianca offer large high definition touchscreens and hand controllers for those not wanting to reach ahead to the screens. The system is fairly easy to use, and can be navigated (unsurprisingly) in English, Spanish and Portuguese. Sadly, the entertainment on the older A330s was our only real criticism of the Avianca business class product, with a very small, strangely Marvel-centric movie selection, offering not much to watch for those not liking Superhero movies.
However the TV selection offered a mix of box-sets and single episodes, which seemed a little more comprehensive. Still, for mainly overnight flights on across the Atlantic, the selection was large enough to keep passengers entertained.
Avianca has a good selection of premium amenities which help elevate the carrier’s business class product. From large thick duvets and pillows to noise cancelling headsets, the business class product is certainly of an International level. However, the Tumi amenity kit is a nice touch, and whilst not overflowing in amenities, they are of good quality and useful including shoe bag, tissues, ear plugs, eye mask, pen, chapstick, socks, dental kit and L’Occitane moisturizer.
Avianca’s older A330 business class product is very solid, and perfectly suited for business class travellers. The hard product, even as a lie-flat bed, is comfortable and good enough for a decent night’s sleep. The cabin service is amenable and professional. Whilst the IFE and food offerings were passable, these are elements that the carrier have managed to iron out with their new business class product which is pro-actively being rolled out across the fleet.
Stay tuned for our further stories on Avianca, including our trip on the A330 new business class, 787 business class and lounge reviews, along with a comprehensive look at the airline’s brand proposition.
The Big Picture
Thedesignair.net flew as guests of Avianca, although the opinions expressed here are purely our own.