Tag Archives: Copa Airlines

Overnight in Quito, Ecuador

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Today I finally realized that travelling by air through the United States and to some African countries, has jaded my expectations of the airport/airline experience, in a wholly negative way. I secretly expect:

  1. My luggage will not be fully intact when I receive it (scratches, dents, tears, missing pieces and/or missing luggage);
  2. Chaos and confusion when going through the immigration line (whether one  is a citizen of the country or not, is not indicative of the level of dysfunction one may experience);
  3. Lost baggage (I know I already said this but it bears repeating…Delta and Air India, please take note);
  4. A time consuming and generally frustrating process.

Welcome to Quito International Airport in Ecuador, the complete opposite of everything I described.  Our flight landed at about 11pm and we arrived in a beautiful, clean, brightly lit international terminal where we were welcomed by a huge bouquet of fresh long-stem and beautiful red roses (Ecuador is a major exporter of flowers). We also got our first view of the city.

Ecuador essentially has an open border policy getting our passports stamped, our bags out of baggage claim and through customs took a total of 20 minutes (mostly because we were the last ones off the plane and the immigration had to get more immigration forms for us to fill out.

Our flight out of Quito to Cuenca was the following morning, so for overnight accommodation I chose to stay at the Sheraton Quito for a couple of reasons:

  1. Airport Shuttle – I just spent the last 19 hours on the road/in the sky with an 8 year-old who was tired and cranky after the last flight.  The driver was waiting for us front and center as soon as we exited the arrival area, with a large sign that would be hard for anyone to miss.  He had my name on a pre-printed list, took our baggage and walked us out to the shuttle van.
  2. Known Entity – Because of our arrival time, I did not want to worry about what type of place we would be staying in and the level of service.  Sheraton was a great choice.  The staff were friendly, multi-lingual, and the complimentary toothpaste in our bathroom was awesome.

Below is a slide show of our room, breakfast ($17 for all you can eat buffet and kids eat free)  and the view of Quito from our window.

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The Flight Plan – Panama Stopover

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Our Chicago to Cuenca itinerary is straightforward enough.  Depart Chicago at 8am (CST) –arrive in Panama about 2pm (EST) – depart Panama at around 9pm –arrive in Quito 11pm (EST).  Why the long lay-over in Panama?  My thinking is, pay to visit one country and visit another one for free (excluding any departure taxes not included in your flight fare and the roundtrip cost of a taxi or bus into town).

Panama has been a destination spot for multiple waves of émigrés.  From those seeking employment along its shipping lanes, to those who flock there as an escape from their USA norms, for many, Panama holds a dichotomous image – at once utilitarian and exotic.  The pull for me is one of family history…lost and not yet fully recovered.  It is, to be more specific, my eldest daughter’s history.

Born to African immigrants, I have always found delving into the histories of black families in the United States a draw and when I became a mother, my awareness of the importance of family history became that much more acute.  As a result, I would often essentially interrogate my ex about his story of genesis.  It ends up that his is the story of migration: emigration, integration and immigration. On the first layer, he is from the US Virgin Islands (USVI), on the second layer; his parents are from Jamaica but moved to USVI, and subsequently the US, because of work and educational opportunities.  The third layer is where things become even more interesting and dynamic for my daughter:

  • One great-grandparent was south-east Asian – most probably part of the large southern Indian and Sri Lankan population who went to Jamaica for work;
  • One great-grandparent was born in Panama to Jamaican parents. She grew up there then moved to Cuba where she married and raised children, then moved to Jamaica where she remarried and had more children; and.
  • One great-grandparent was half Irish.

I love these layers because they point to the fact that “black history” and African-American history encompass a set of diverse and sometimes disparate experiences that are linked to a greater diaspora.  In our combined travels, we have touched on Ireland, southern India, and Jamaica. So to be in Panama, this land that is so personally connected to my daughter, and not at least attempt to “step into it”, if only for a few moments, would be tragic.  Perhaps a bit melodramatic…but I reserve the right to be occasionally dramatic, it adds texture and depth and it makes us think!

Positive thinking keeps the train from stalling but

Critical thinking drives it to be nimble, innovative, and a game changer.

You are the train.

Copa Airlines – To Ecuador

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Copa Airlines is a Panamanian based airline focused on servicing Central and South America.  It you have never heard of it before (and I would suppose most people have not), that most probably means Copa does not directly service your North American city (Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Orlando, Toronto, Washington DC) or you have not been travelling in the region.  Copa began service in Chicago in December 2011 and considering that, our flight is relatively full (about 85%).

If you are accustomed to international/long-haul flights with Delta, Virgin Airlines, KLM, Etihad, etc., then Copa will leave something to be desired.  This is definitely a “budget” class airline.  There are no individually controlled TV monitors, with all of the associated program and gaming options.  Seats and leg room are reminiscent of the average American’s size in 1980 (okay side note, if you live anywhere in the Americas, North or South, yes you are American…but I am being US specific here) and our breakfast of tostadas fransesas (French toast) was akin to hospital food fare.

Having bared my soul on the negatives, I can now say that I LOVE Copa Airlines for three reasons:

  1. Awesome Roundtrip Ticket Price
  2. Friendly and courteous staff (from the first to the last)
  3. I think my luggage is on that same plane that I am currently seated on, and I will continue to think this until proven otherwise.

So how does one compensate for the lack of bells and whistles?

  • Sleep
  • Bring a book and read
  • Break out your computer (laptop/netbook) and create your own personalized entertainment/gaming experience…. or write something interesting to be shared with the world (or not) at some later date.
  • Bring your own socks and dress appropriately, if you usually need a blanket…because you will not get one here.  They do have nice bright blue pillows though.

In all fairness, there is entertainment on the single screen overheads on each side of the cabin, which accommodate six viewers each (that is, all six of you are looking at the same screen).  Over the last four hours if you have not enjoyed watching: an episode of Glee,  a clip about animals that look like ferrets, a movie about a girl and a boy who meet annually, finally get together, and she dies unexpectedly at the end (One Day), well then….too bad! There is a range of music channels to listen to, as an alternative to the hovering screen.

 

Lack of airline bells and whistles = More productive “Me” time.

Basic Costs for Travelling to Ecuador

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To follow-up on my previous posts regarding our trip, I wanted to share that the actual costs have been thus far.  All costs are based on a single adult fare.

  1. Midwest, USA to Quito, Ecuador on Copa Airlines (Roundtrip) – $523
  2. Quito, Ecuador to Cuenca, Ecuador on AeroGal (Roundtrip) – $100
  3. Sheraton Hotel – Quito, Ecuador (1 night) – $125
  4. Hotel Apartamentos Otorongo – Cuenca, Ecuador (6 nights) – $290
  5. Taxi Ride from Airport to Hotel (estimated) – $3

Had we stayed at the Hostal Hogar Cuencano the price (6 nights) would have been $122 for a private room with an en suite bathroom, for two people.

A week at Disney World will definitely cost you more…even without the kids.