Read verified Avianca customer reviews, compare flight deals, and find out if this airline based in Colombia is a good choice 🤔
Avianca is the flag carrier airline and largest airline of Colombia. It has been in operation for over 100 years, making it the second oldest airline still operating in the world after KLM. Avianca operates an extensive network within Latin America and also serves North America and Europe. But is Avianca a good choice for your next flight? Here is an in-depth look at the passenger experience, services, and reputation of Avianca airlines.
Avianca’s Fleet and Network
As of 2024, Avianca’s fleet consists of over 150 aircraft from Airbus and Boeing, including widebody planes like the Airbus A330 and Boeing 787 Dreamliner used for long-haul routes. Avianca utilizes these aircraft across its network of over 110 destinations in 27 countries. Major airport hubs include Bogotá’s El Dorado International Airport in Colombia, Lima’s Jorge Chávez International Airport in Peru, and San Salvador’s Monseñor Óscar Romero International Airport in El Salvador.
In addition to domestic service within Colombia, Avianca flies to major cities across South America, Central America, Mexico, the Caribbean as well as New York, Washington D.C., Los Angeles and Miami in the United States. The airline also operates some flights to Europe including London, Madrid, Barcelona, Paris and Frankfurt.
Experiences with Check-In and Boarding
Many Avianca reviews comment on inconsistent experiences with airport check-in and boarding processes. At major airports like Bogotá’s El Dorado International Airport, Avianca’s hub, the check-in area can become extremely crowded and chaotic at peak times. Travelers report long lines and disorganization, with staff providing unclear or contradictory instructions. The boarding process also earns low ratings, with delayed boarding calls, overcrowding at the gate, and inefficient group boarding policies.
However, at smaller airports Avianca’s check-in and boarding tends to run more smoothly. Savvy travelers recommend arriving very early to allow extra time for lengthy check-in procedures, especially at larger airports. Checking in online in advance can also help bypass lines. Overall, the airport experience seems to be one of Avianca’s weaker points.
Baggage Allowances and Fees
One area where Avianca generally receives positive marks is their baggage allowances, especially in premium cabins. In economy class, the standard free checked baggage allowance on international flights is 1 or 2 bags at 50 lbs each depending on your fare class. Business class passengers can check 1 or 2 bags at 70 lbs each while first class allows a whopping 3 bags at 70 lbs per bag.
Carry-on allowances are also generous at 1 personal item plus 1 carry-on bag weighing up to 22 lbs in economy and business class. Domestic flights have lower baggage allowances so be sure to verify the specific policy for your flight. Keep in mind that basic economy fares come with no free checked bags and restrictive carry-on rules.
Onboard Experience in Economy Class
When reviewing the economy class experience on Avianca, passenger feedback is quite mixed. On the positive side, legroom is adequate at around 31″ pitch on average. Meals served on international long-haul flights tend to be decent as well. The airline offers complimentary beer and wine on international routes too.
However, many travelers complain that economy seats themselves are poorly padded and rather uncomfortable for long flights. There is also very limited in-flight entertainment available in economy, with no seatback screens or streaming entertainment. With outdated cabin interiors on some planes, the overall economy class experience leaves much to be desired. But you get what you pay for as a budget traveler.
Business Class Reviews
As Colombia’s flag carrier airline, expectations for Avianca’s business class product may be elevated. On modern aircraft like the Boeing 787, business class is configured in lie-flat seats arranged in a 1-2-1 layout. This provides direct aisle access for all with plenty of privacy. On these planes, Avianca’s business class earns solid reviews for comfort on overnight red-eye routes between North America and South America.
However, on intra-Latin America flights business class is less impressive. Seats are older recliners in a 2-2 configuration resulting in mediocre comfort and privacy. Service can be hit-or-miss too, though most passengers compliment the cuisine served on board in business class. Ultimately, Avianca’s short-haul business class leaves much to be desired compared to other carriers. But expectations may be reset for travel within Latin America or the Caribbean exclusively.
Customer Service and Reliability Issues
One of the most serious complaints leveled at Avianca Airlines in travelers’ reviews relates to poor customer service policies and practices. Many customers have reported extremely long hold times when contacting Avianca’s customer service department by phone for issues such as itinerary changes, cancelations or lost luggage claims. In some cases, service agents provide incorrect or contradictory information. Resolution of issues is often slow.
The airline’s handling of passenger refunds and compensation for delays and cancellations is a notorious weak point as well, with many reports of denied or drawn-out claims. Travelers have also criticized Avianca for bumping passengers from oversold flights without sufficient compensation. Unfortunately, the consensus is that Avianca’s customer service falls well short of global standards and can really sour the travel experience.
In terms of reliability, Avianca earns generally mediocre scores for on-time performance and flight completion rates. Delays and cancellations do happen, so schedule adequate connections and give yourself plenty of wiggle room for domestic or international travels.
Safety and Quality Ratings
On the critical criteria of safety and regulatory compliance, Avianca meets global aviation standards. The airline is certified by major international aviation agencies. According to AirlineRatings.com, Avianca maintains a 7 out of 7 safety rating. Its accident and incident record through the decades has some blemishes but is not a major area of concern for most passengers.
In terms of quality, Avianca is ranked as a 3-star airline by Skytrax, indicating an average quality of product and service. The airline was previously ranked at a higher 4-star status but lost ground due to its cost-cutting initiatives and reductions in service over the past several years. There is room for improvement to meet top-tier airline standards worldwide.
Is Avianca Recommended?
For budget-conscious travelers on trips solely within Latin America, Avianca can be an acceptable choice when you find a good fare sale. Just keep expectations around cabin comfort, entertainment, food, and service calibrated lower. However, for journeys to/from North America or Europe, you may want to explore full-service carriers that offer a more consistent and higher quality passenger experience.
While historically Avianca maintained a reputation as a leading premium airline in Latin America, its standards have slipped over the past decade. Cost-cutting has clearly impacted the passenger experience both in the air and on the ground. Unless you snag an excellent deal or have no other flight options, Avianca would not be an airline that we’d go out of our way to recommend flying in 2024 and beyond. The carrier has lost prestige as younger low-cost competitors offer better service. There is hope that with Avianca emerging from bankruptcy, the airline can elevate its offerings and regain status as a top pan-Latin airline.