This is NOT a sponsored post. Let me say that right now. I’ve used Taca/Avianca to fly within South America for the last 2 years, so I figured its about time I write a review.
I Like Flying with Avianca/Taca.
I know, every airline has haters. Many for good reasons. Stupid fees, bad customer service, canceled flights and lost baggage, etc. But I am a fan of Avianca.
(FYI: Taca is a sub-airline of Avianca, in case you were wondering. I have flown on both. Avianca to South America, and Taca within. For the rest of this post, I will use the specific name I flew on, but in general I am referring to the Avianca company as a whole).
Have I flown with Avianca a bunch?
Yes. Almost every flight within South America.
Have I used any other airlines?
Yes, but I didn’t like them as much as Avianca.
Have I had a bad experience with Avianca?
Wait..What? You had a bad experience with Avianca and STILL like and recommend them?
Yes. Yes I did. And here is why…
To me, airlines have to deal with thousands upon thousands of customers a day. They are a big corporations. When you deal with that many people on a daily basis, things are bound to go awry. It happens.
It sucks when things go wrong, but my main concern when this happens is:
HOW DOES SAID COMPANY DEAL WITH THE SITUATION?
It’s all about the customer service to me, and Avianca’s customer service left me with nothing to lack. And I was so pleased with their customer service and response, that I flew them again on my border run to Ecuador a couple months later.
Here is what happened…
I was booked to return to Colombia, from Ecuador, back on December 19th, 2011. I flew Avianca from Miami to Caracas, and Taca from Medellin, Colombia to Quito, Ecuador (Taca has daily flights between the 2 for a great price).
So December 18th, 24 hours before my flight, I tried to do Taca’s online check-in. It wouldn’t work. Every time I put in my information, the internet would either time-out, or bring me back to the Taca home page. I tried about half a dozen times throughout the day with the same results. Obviously there was an internet problem. At midnight, after trying again, I gave up and went to bed.
Early the next morning, on December 19th, I woke up at 6am and tried checking in online again. I still couldn’t check in online, and decided I would just have to do it at the Quito airport. I got ready, and arrived at the Quito airport about 10:30 am. There was already lines of people waiting to check in. And it seemed like each person had about 5 large bags with them. I knew this was going to be awhile.
At the check in counter there were 3 roped off lines. One said it was for people who checked in online, one was for VIP, and the gigantic and packed middle line said it was for people needing to check in. So I asked the girl at the front kiosk which line was for Medellin. She pointed to the middle line and said “Si, Medellin”. So I got in a line behind at least 20 people and waited.
Moving up was painfully slow. I watched the minutes, then hours tick by, knowing I’m getting dangerously close to my flight leaving. Three more times, while in line, I pulled aside the Taca worker and asked her if the line I was in was for Medellin. (Mind you, this was in Spanish. She didn’t speak English. But when you say, “Por favor, aqui es para Medellin?”, and she replies, “Si, Medellin” and points to where you are standing, its pretty obvious you are understanding each other.)
Finally, after about 2 hours in line, and 2nd person from the front of the line, I see the clock change to exactly 1 hour before my flight. I was getting nervous, but since I had been told multiple times I was in the right line, I figured I was ok. Because they would have told me if I was going to miss my flight, right?
About 15 more minutes pass before there is an opening at the check-in counter. I walk up, hand over my passport and confirmation number for the flight, and get told that check-in closes 1 hour before the flight, and there is now only 45 minutes before the flight and I am not allowed to fly today.
WHAT?!? I was totally confused and annoyed. Really annoyed. I pleaded with the worker to let me on, but I was told from multiple people at the check-in counter there was no way. I was upset. Something had gone wrong. They had more people to check in, and I needed to walk away for a minute, to calm down, and asses the situation. They asked if I could wait 30 minutes while they check in the rest of the line, so I agreed and walked outside to catch some fresh air, and return to the counter to talk appropriately about my now available options.
Back inside, the line had dissipated and I was able to talk with the workers at the ticket counter. They went in through my info, and said they will book me on the next flight to Medellin the next day, but that I would have to pay $140 to change my flight. A fee I could pay when I returned the next afternoon. I could not figure out why I was being told I would need to pay for a worker’s misinformation.
Also, I had to talk to 3 different people at the check-in counter, all who kept telling me that another person was in charge, and wouldn’t tell me anything.
(This was annoying. There seemed to be no one who wanted to be responsible. I do hope that this portion gets addressed. There should be one person who will say “I am in charge, let me help you” rather than everyone trying to pawn me off on everyone else.)
So after talking with people, and trying to figure out why I was being charged for someone else’s mistake, I was told to come to the office in a couple hours when they could sit down with me. And I did.
In the office I was finally put in front of someone who did seem to take authority of the situation, and I was also apologized to by the man at the check-in counter who said he had announced the last call to Medellin. He admitted he did not do it over the loud speaker, and that he should have spoken up, and made sure that the line-attendant had announced it to the passengers in line as well.
This new lady I was talking with said that I was booked and checked in on the next days flight, but that they could not tell me until the morning if I had to pay the $140 or not. At least I had a flight, but I did not have an extra $140 to pay for someone else’s mistakes.
This was my bad experience with Taca.
So what happened next?
Did I go back to the hostel and bash the hell out of Taca/Avianca on social media?
Bashing the hell out of a company, for a mistake, that you aren’t even sure will cost you yet, is totally pointless and irrational.
But I did go on Facebook, Twitter, and the Taca and Avianca websites,asking on each basically, “Why do I have to pay? Someone made a mistake. Mistakes happen. BUT, I don’t feel like I should be monetarily punished for that. Especially when I did everything the website says about arrival and check-in for international flights”. No yelling. No name calling. But a sincere (and frustrated) “Why do I have to pay?”
(I may have been annoyed, stressed, and worried about how I was going to afford the potential $140 fee, but yelling at the company, before I even knew the outcome, was not going to help anyone, including and especially me).
I didn’t hear back from the Avianca company that day, but you can bet I was at the airport on the 20th at 9:30 am (for a 1:30-ish pm flight) standing right in the front of where the line would start, even before they set up the ropes to make the lines. I was the very first one in line, and the same man who had told me that I couldn’t board the day before, saw me, and very apologetic and sincerely, greeted me and said he would be taking care of me today.
I really liked the fact that he did not try to avoid me, or pretend he didn’t remember my situation. He pulled my flight info up even before I handed him my passport, and after a couple of minutes, he smiled and told me “You are all set. We are sorry this happened, and you are not being charged for our mistake. Please have a great flight, and I hope you will fly with us again.” (And in English. This man spoke English very well.)
That was it. No fee. I was booked right on the flight in a window seat (which is what I had originally requested) and I was acknowledged and apologized to with the utmost sincerity. There was no fake smiles, no trying to pretend I’m just one in a million people who don’t matter, nothing of the sort. They made me feel like I was there most important client they had, and that my problems were also their problems. Everything was fixed, and I was on the flight with no extra charge.
I was disappointed that I had missed working with a non-profit group in Medellin on the 20th to take Christmas photos for underprivileged and poor families. But other than that, it wasn’t a huge monetary setback. I would have had to pay for a hostel, and buy food, on the 19th no matter which country I was in. I was out a couple cab rides, but luckily that was only about $12.
And every other time; before and after, I have flown with Taca/Avianca, the workers are over the top friendly and helpful to me. Even though my Spanish is horrible and I massacre their language (I’m sorry. I’m learning it.) They always take the time to talk slow and simple, find someone who can help translate if needed. I have even been walked down the hall to where I can physically see the security gate and boarding terminal when I couldn’t totally understand what they were saying. I have always enjoyed the amazing customer service of this company, I find the planes themselves very comfortable. I always enjoy my experiences flying with them.
Things got messed up this time, but to me, they were fixed fast and satisfactory. I even decided that I was so happy with their service, that when I had to go back to Ecuador for a weekend in mid-February, I flew Taca round-trip between Medellin and Quito again.
To me its all about the customer service, and from my experience, when things do go wrong, the Avianca company customer service is above par.
What suggestions could I make to Avianca/Taca?
- I do wish they would take a look at the on the ground assistance at Quito. I still did not like having girl A tell me girl B is in charge, then girl B telling me, she is not the manager, but, ‘the girl over there’ (girl A) is the actual manager. Someone does need to be an authority at the check-in and take the responsibility of dealing with issues.
- I also wish they would do something about their pricing. The site itself is very easy to use. But I almost always booked international flights with Avianca through Orbitz. Within Colombia – booking direct with Avianca is about the same price, more or less, as it is on Orbitz, but internationally I’ve seen the Avianca website offer flights up to 1,000 dollars more than the exact same flight on Orbitz. This seems very odd to me that there is such price discrepancies. I don’t understand why.
I do like Avianca and Taca and will continue to use them when travelling in and around South America. They sometimes have some amazing deals within South American countries.
I originally wrote this review at beginning of 2012. Since then, I have flown Avianca/Taca almost exclusively within South America. They have some amazing deals within Colombia too..AND their rates include 1 checked bag per person. So if you want to fly within South America, I recommend doing so with Avianca/Taca.