Mar 262013
 

Fortunately our train out of Aguas Calientes was in the afternoon, so we had a chance to sleep in and take it easy in Aguas Calientes before we had to be at the train station for the ride back. We grabbed a casual lunch near the train station as I mentioned in another post, and then it was back to Cuzco first by train, then by shuttle bus, and finally a taxi to our hotel. We’d decided to stay at the Hotel Monasterio again, and they had our driver waiting at the train/shuttle station and our stored bags already in our new room. Absolutely perfect.

One last dinner in Cuzco, and it was up early for our series of flights back home. One last breakfast at the hotel, and they arranged a taxi for us to the airport. Once again, everything at this hotel was flawless, and geared towards people visiting Cuzco and/or Machu Picchu. A very early breakfast before our taxi, taxi to the airport arranged and on time…it was excellent.

The Cuzco airport is relatively small, and the business class/Star Alliance Gold line had a 15-20 minute line before we could check in. However, when we did, we were surprised to hear the agent say “I am adding your name to the list, you can ask about an upgrade at the gate.” I didn’t question her, but why was this? Are Star Alliance Gold members (and companions!) automatically upgraded space available at the gate on TACA?!

Immigration and security were maybe a 10 minute affair, and soon we were in the very congested departures area for our flight.

TACA Peru flight 830
Cuzco, Peru (CUZ) to Lima, Peru (LIM)
Depart 8:05, Arrive 9:30, Flight Time 1:25
Airbus A320, Registration N498TA, Manufactured 2008, Seat 2K

About two minutes before boarding, the gate agent called our names, and wrote new seat numbers on our boarding passes…upgrade confirmed!  I still don’t know why, since coach was only about 75% full, and we were two of four in business, but I’m not complaining at all!

It was a pretty routine flight, with a small meal offered.  Seats were typical US-style up-front seats, so nothing special, but it was nice having all sorts of extra room!  A shot of the meal:

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We had to wait around in Lima for a little over an hour, since the COPA check-in counter didn’t open until 11am and we’d arrived a bit after 9.  Our bags were first off the belt (these were separate tickets) and we managed to kill a bit of time trying to wake up at Starbucks.  Check-in was quick and efficient, and soon we were through immigration and security (very quick) and off to the SUMAQ lounge.

Now, a few things about this lounge.  First, there are awards everywhere announcing it has won lounge of the year for this year and that.  So, with that expectation…

1)  COPA had told us no invitations were necessary.  Not true, and they wouldn’t let us in.  Calls to the COPA desk went unanswered.  I was hot and cranky at this point, so used Priority Pass to get into the lounge, paying for a guest . They promised to keep calling COPA, and if COPA would bring them an invitation they would void the Priority Pass charge.  This did happen after about an hour, and wasn’t the lounge’s fault, but was still severely annoying.

2)  The lounge was absolutely packed to the point there was not a seat anywhere.  It was also extremely warm and uncomfortable.  After about 30 minutes it did clear out a bit (there appeared to be a flight that took 50+ people out of the lounge) but there were still maybe only 10 power outlets in the whole lounge.

3)  Choice of food was absolutely horrid.  A few cookies and cakes and nuts, but that was absolutely it.

4)  The lounge was packed with screaming children playing videogames without headsets.  It was absolutely horrid – and maybe it’s not the lounge’s fault, but contributed to an already unpleasant atmosphere.

All that said, I serious have no idea how this place was named lounge of the country, much less worldwide lounge of the year any time in the last 100 years.  I promised on Facebook I’d give an honest review of this place, and there it is.

That said, there was plenty of cold beer, its one redeeming quality in my book…

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COPA flight 760
Lima, Peru (LIM) to Panama City, Panama (PTY)
Depart 13:53, Arrive 17:28, Flight Time 3:35
Boeing 737-700 Registration HP-1379CMP Manufactured 2002, Seat 2F

Flight was pretty similar to the previous COPA flights.  Every seat was taken, and the meal was roughly the same we’d had on the way from JFK to Lima on the way down.  Maybe all catering into Panama is similar?  Started with the standard nuts:

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Followed by an unusual appetizer I can’t quite remember:

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The mains were exactly the same as our JFK to Panama flight, and the rest of the flight…well, there’s nothing interesting to say at all.

Our layover was barely an hour in Panama due to being slightly late, so we were straight to our departure gate.  There was additional security screening at the gate and bag x-rays (due to it being a flight to the U.S.) but other than that, boarding was on-time.

COPA flight 804
Panama City, Panama (PTY) to New York, JFK (JFK)
Depart 18:23, Arrive 23:25, Flight Time 5:02
Boeing 737-800 Registration HP-1536CMP Manufactured 2009, Seat 2E

We were on time, meals were same as above, and service was, as the other three flights…mostly indifferent.  I wish I could say more, but none of the flights stood out service-wise on COPA.  The attendants were friendly enough, but never seemed to do anything more than absolutely necessary.  They were relatively stingy with drink refills, but I suspect that was more due to just not being service-oriented than being cheap.  Whenever we did ring the call button for anything they were happy to help, but there was absolutely no proactiveness.

Upon landing, I thanked the U.S. for getting something right with Global Entry, and was waiting for my bag less than 10 minutes after getting off the plane.  It’s a good thing I was, since the bags took more than an hour to arrive!  The first bags of the belt had a horrid smell that can only be described as dead fish.  This was the first 100 or so bags, and at this point we were actually praying our bags were lost so they didn’t end up in this horrid state.

They were some of the last off the belt at just before 1am, and fortunately they had no fish smell.

Nice efficient New York cab to the Sheraton LaGuardia East (which we had to use the iPhone to give directions to, because the driver had no clue) and we were there by 1:30.  This hotel…wow.  Perhaps the most customer service-oriented Sheraton I’ve ever stayed at.  An extra 500 point platinum amenity on top of the required one, proactively asking what we needed, and when we asked if they had any two bed rooms we were told unfortunately all the suites were kings, but they could give us two doubles on the club floor.  Can’t complain at all there!

Perhaps most amusing to me (as someone who doesn’t know New York well) is that when we got our paper in the morning, instead of the New York Times, Post, etc, we got this near our door:

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Walking around the hotel honestly felt a bit more like being in Taipei or China than being in New York, but that’s also part of what made it fascinating to me!

Free courtesy shuttle to LaGuardia on the hour in the morning, and honestly this hotel couldn’t have done anything further to make it a great stay.  Yes, it was a bit expensive for an airport Sheraton, but this is New York, so that’s to be expected.

US Airways Shuttle flight 2173
New York, JFK (JFK) to Washington, DC, National (DCA)
Depart 12:00, Arrive 13:09, Flight Time 1:09
Airbus A319, Registration N756US, Manufactured 2000, Seat 2F

Check-in was fairly quick, with a relatively surly agent, but TSA was efficient for a change and we were there plenty early.  Decided to see if I could get us into the Delta lounge (since there’s no US Airways lounge) with my Amex card, and yup it works.  This is one place that flying US Airways but using a Delta lounge with Amex actually works.  Not sure if it’s for all cards, but at least it worked for us!

The lounge was actually quite nice, and switched over from breakfast foods (mmmm muffins) to lunch/snacks (yay cheese) at around 11am so we were plenty fueled despite missing breakfast.  Soon, it was time to board:

shuttle

Boarded, had a few drinks, 45 minutes max in the air, and we were in DC.  I’ve actually grown rather fond of US Airways in the last year.  I guess it’s just because they’re predictable.  I know they’re generous with snacks and drinks, seats are comfortable enough, and there’s a certain charm from the crew.  Maybe I’ve just been really lucky, but so far I’ve been having really good luck!

Add to that that 1,000 per segment Shuttle Bonus, and it was a nice little milage earner as well!

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So, that’s it for the trip to Peru!  Next up….a quick bout of insanity with a Trip to South Africa…for 36 hours!


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