Do Not Fly Avianca

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If we agree with famous saying said “First impression matters”, we might react the same way. Can you imagine how exciting the experience at the first time you travel to South America? I had two important events in Peru: first, the trip to Custo and Machu Picchu and second, joining APEC conference. It supposed to be amazing unless you had a delayed flight for more than 10 hours! It was scarier than a nightmare although you slept in a fancy hotel. Avianca provided me with those.

I booked with Avianca for the first time for flying to Lima. I was so excited, so I departed early from Birmingham to London. I was scheduled to depart from London to Bogota (AV 121) on 09th November 2016 at 22.05. After lining in a long queue at Heathrow, Avianca’s officer told me that my flight was delayed until tomorrow. I asked her why I did not receive any notice by email and phone, but she kept telling me, “The closure of Bogota airport affects all airlines, not only Avianca. We are very sorry, but the only option is tomorrow at 09.40. We have prepared your room to stay tonight; the bus will take you to the hotel and get back here tomorrow morning”. I replied, “I have a connecting flight with LATAM airline tomorrow morning, could you help me to talk officially to them? Cause your delay will ruin all my schedule, so please kindly help.” Then I was surprised with their response, “You booked a different airline so you must contact them by yourself, we can only provide you with this information letter.” I (still) kept my emotion and asked her, “The problem is I have a trip on Friday morning in Cusco so can you please arrange me to the earliest flight from Bogota to Lima?” She wrote on my ticket while explaining, “It depends on seat availability, so you only got a flight at 22.15 from Bogota. Sorry.” What do you feel if you were me? Unfair? Yes. They put no respect on customer satisfaction. Even they did not try to calm me, at least. I was so panic indeed down, but I have no option, so I joined other passengers to go to the hotel.

Avianca provided us with a deluxe room in a four-stars hotel. Smart enough to apologise, huh? For some passengers who have no fixed schedule, it might be such leisure. But for me, I did not enjoy my deluxe room because I almost did not sleep. My head was full of worries. I called the customer service of LATAM Airlines and explained the reason for changing the flight. A lady on the phone tried to calm me down while she typed my explanation on a case form. She promised that she would pass this form to her supervisor and asked me to wait several hours to be contacted. I also emailed SAS Travel, an agency who arrange my trip to Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu, so they know that I will arrive lately. I was waiting for their replies, hoping for a certainty. Till the day changed, I got no email from both, and I had to depart to the airport with puffy eyes. An hour before boarding, I called LATAM again to recheck my case form. But, still, I had to wait till someone calling me back. Then, I should hold my dizzy head, thinking of uncertainty for last 9 hours during the flight to Bogota. Avianca must not know how it feels!

After arrived in Bogota, I run to see a schedule board. I found there was the earliest flight to Lima, so I run to the departure gate. I asked the Avianca officer about the possibility to change my flight. When I tried to explain my problem, she said “Sorry, your flight was scheduled at night, and this plane had no available seat. If you want to complain, you can go to the customer service. Maybe they could help you to find an Avianca’s direct flight from Bogota to Cusco.” I was like find an oasis in the desert. But then, it just a false hope. I was asking the airport officer about customer service, and in fact, there was nothing. Again, I had no choice except waiting for my flight. During that time, I opened my laptop to recheck email from LATAM, and I found that they had tried to contact me during my flight from London to Bogota. I called them again, asking for the earliest flight from Lima to Cusco. Yes, I was still optimist that I can get into my trip until I faced an hour delayed from Avianca. Again? Yes! But now, they kept letting us wait without any reason until one passenger came to their desk and got angry. The pilot came to the passenger and explained the air traffic as the cause for delaying. For those who depart from Bogota, this was not a big issue. But for us, who came from London and had experienced over 10 hours delayed, we were very disappointed! I saw no smile on everyone’s faces while we were boarding.

After arrived in Lima and took my baggage, I ran to the domestic departure area to find LATAM desk. For several times, I turned into down. I missed my connecting flight to Cusco because of Avianca’s delay. With the rest of my energy, I explained the reason I came late but unfortunately the available seat only for the flight at 08.10. I was crying at the airport and went back to Avianca’s desk. I found there was one flight to Cusco, which I could depart soon, I was hoping that they could be responsible to me for a customer who missed her flight. But what I got? Even with the tears falling, they only could say “Sorry, but you booked your flight to Cusco separately, if you did in the same booking, ‘maybe’ we could help you.” I kept telling them “Yes, but if your flight was on time, I wouldn’t miss my flight, what could you do to help me?” And again she replied, “Sorry, we could do nothing.” In fact, yes they did n't do anything, even to calm the customer they could not do!

I only have an hour at that moment, so I tried to find a WIFI at Starbucks and sent an email to SAS travel, telling them that I would arrive in Cusco at very late. I surrendered to them about my group day trip to Sacred Valley; I knew that I did not have money that much to repay it privately. After that, I tried my luck to LATAM, and yes, God saved me. I got a seat although had to pay additional $30. I straightly went to boarding gate after checking in. 

Later, after I back home, I tried to contact Avianca through email. I wanted to complain for the treatment. But they replied my email as you could read below:
"We regret to inform you that any compensation can be authorized by Avianca. Please accept our most sincere apologies for any disruption which our delay may have caused your schedule. We hope that the arrangements we made and assistance provided by our staff were satisfactory. Unfortunately you had another ticket for your flight from Lima – Cusco and we are unable to assume liability for separate contracts.We hope to have the pleasure of welcoming you back on-board our airline sometime soon and replace any negative impressions with a more positive one."

Last, I could only say that I am not the only customer who got unfair treatment. Just type on google with keywords 'Avianca complaints' and enjoy to read! I don't need a second experience to ensure my opinion cause there are so many airlines beating your low prices with a (much) better service and punctuality. Thank you fo the unforgettable moment we had. 
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