A LoyaltyLobby reader sent us a question regarding Avianca long-haul flight delay due to mechanical and what a business class passenger should expect.
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Here’s the question from the reader:
I was scheduled to fly business on Avianca AV46 from Bogotá to Madrid yesterday (02/21). Departure time 23h20, arrival in Madrid at 15h40 local time.
Half an hour into the (rocky) flight, the plane turned back citing ‘technical difficulties’.
We were greeted on the runway by a bunch of fire trucks and after a half an hour sitting on the plane finally told to disembark. Hotel and food vouchers were to be issued.
The new flight time was set for 1pm the following day (02/22), so a 13h+ delay. flight
The process was a complete mess. Announcements were in Spanish only. No priority was given to business passengers. Polite requests for information simply went ignored.
In particular I wanted to know whether I could opt for a full refund and rebook myself on a different carrier for a morning flight out. I also asked whether I could book myself into a hotel and claim the money instead of using the 50 dollar hotel Avianca gave a voucher for. Both questions were ignored.
By now it’s past 3am and I just cleared immigration to go to the designated hotel.
Could you share how you would have approached this and advise what to aim for in terms of compensation?
Let me start by saying that none of the airlines in Latin America, based on my personal and reader feedback, are great when it comes to customer service and especially when there are irregular operations.
It seems that Avianca is not adequately prepared to handle mechanicals even at their main hub. They should have separate hotels and allowances available for business class passengers.
I don’t think that the reader can extract much in terms of compensation from Avianca. I would look for any possible travel insurance products, whether paid or those that come with some credit cards, that may provide better assistance when it comes to compensation for hotel and other expenses in case of long delays.
I have booked a hotel on my own a few times in case of long delays or cancellations and claimed the money back from the airline or insurance company. I have no desire to stay at a low-quality hotel, even if it is free.
You have to consider less than stellar customer service experience if things go south with airlines in Latin America + those in the Middle East.
As a matter of fact, Avianca canceled/delayed one flight in 2019 that I was ticketed on that would have led to a misconnect in Central America on my way to Toronto (I was flying from Havana on paid business).
After a while, they did rebook me on Copa (they tried to move me on Air Canada Rouge that I refused). They did offer a hotel too (I cannot remember what), but I just returned to the Grand Hyatt (where I had checked out very early in the morning) and stayed until it was time for the Copa flight to Panama.
You should have travel insurance if your travel a lot. Yearly travel insurances in Europe are relatively inexpensive (100 or so euros per year) and well worth the money. Mine currently comes from Amex, which requires paying the airline tickets using the card (I do most).