Saturday, November 17, 2012

The New El Dorado Airport in Bogotá

The new addition is on the left; the old 1950's tower is on the right.
Arrivals and departures out of Bogotá will be both easier and more enjoyable now that the all-new El Dorado airport has opened. There was not a hint of this wonderful outcome when I returned in September, although I have known there was work going on on this project since my first arrival several years ago at the outdated 1950's terminal. It is now managed by Operadora Aeroportuaria Internacional (OPAIN), a consortium composed of Colombian construction and engineering firms and the Swiss Flughafen Zürich AG, and the light and airy design is a winner in my book.

 Imagine my surprise and delight when the taxi from the bus terminal pulled up the ramp to the totally modern glass and steel structure to let me out. (By the way, the Wikipedia information is no longer totally correct as they have no new photos of the new facilities.)
The all modern, 'green' banjos will
try to minimize usage of paper.

Moving walkways are a great addition!
And there has been barely a hesitation as the staff adjusts to their new surroundings and bags are quickly processed while people are hustling off to their new gates to await boarding. The high ceilings and glass windows make it seem like each gate is really an open invitation to the mountains beyond, making it even harder to leave this wonderful and interesting country.

My trip from Barichara to Bogotá was smooth (as the busses go) and I even slept a little this time. We arrived at the bus terminal in record time and because there was no festival ending or starting, the crowds were light, so I was able to get a taxi right away. As I was leaving my art class earlier the day before, my teacher just had to tell me a sad story of a woman he knew having a travel problem, but I put that out of my head and continued to intend my story was going to be different - and it was.
The shift in size is as big as the new facility; I'd be guessing, but it feels as
if the airport has quadrupled in size overall. Much needed, and as a traveler,
much appreciated! This is in one of the gate areas.
But one aspect of the airport will not get my praise. The restaurant Crepes and Waffles, usually offering great service and quality food, really disappointed me. At 5:30 a.m. there were not a lot of customers, but I still had to wait 20 minutes to even get my order placed. Then my fresh juice arrived, but nothing else... not hot tea, not sugar, place settings only. The men and couples around me who had arrived after me were served first as I waited and waited. Finally I called the manager over and explained what was NOT happening and immediately it was corrected. But the egg, while hot, was not cooked as I requested, and the croissant was not made that day. The wait staff did not come over to see if I wanted anything during my meal, and in fact only showed up to clear the table and then after 25 minutes of waiting for her to return with my check, I finally got annoyed and tried to find the manager again. No luck, but seeing me get up caused a reaction and the check was delivered. I have concerns about the ability of this restaurant to meet the needs of an international traveling public wanting to make their flights on time, not to mention keeping up their former reputation of being a great place to eat.
The full view of El Dorado Nueva from the runway.

JetBlue, American, Delta all have service counters here (as well as Avianca, Copa, LAN and Spirit airlines to name a few), but JetBlue still gets the nod from me for being the best airline to travel back and forth on. They have streamlined the ticketing and baggage handling process so that I didn't have to wait long in line, and their bi-lingual staff make any travel problems easily solved. They continue to provide affordable daily service to and from Orlando, not to mention LEGROOM on their aircraft!

Travelers waiting for their flights will appreciate the free and fast WiFi services, the many highly visible modern arrival and departure information kiosks, and soon (I hope!) more trash receptacles.
Preparing to take off from the runway at El Dorado.

It was clear that there is still a lot of work to be done in these early days of the new airport, and some glitches (I wonder what word is equivalent to that in Spanish...?) still have to be worked out - like having signs after clearing Customs that direct you to the gates - but the moving walkways, the new shops, and the duty-free options for buying, were all very operational. I think if you are just arriving in Bogotá, this new airport is going to give you a great first impression of the country and its people.

UPDATE: Read about the cease-fire between FARC and the Colombian government which will benefit everyone, but particularly it will be good for tourism because visitors will want to come and see this remarkable country if they can be assured of their safety.
Much of Colombia was under heavy clouds as we took off for the U.S.


  1. well, sandy you have been such an wonderful ambassador of columbia, and biachara. and now you have given your readers who might be excited to plan a trip to explore all their wonders - of all the nature, diverse culture, the people, and the hallmarks of the area's unique south american history - even more reason to GO VISIT!

    i hope by the time you read this you have arrived safely, had a good rest, and found your happy landing place.

    warm hugs ,

    karen, TC

    1. Safe arrival, plenty of wet, windy and wild weather greeted me, as did two cute - getting cuter - babes and an energetic 8-year old. More on that soon.... thanks for your comment, Karen!

  2. UPDATE AUGUST 2013 ... I hope my recent arrival with a very long wait in the Customs-Immigration line was not a trend. The nacionals (locals) were rushed through, but we easily had over an hour in line. This was not nearly as efficient as previously experienced. The continued updating of the airport makes it a much more visually appealing experience, but even I do not like looking at the same modern structure for a long while as I shifted from foot to foot needing a banjo... TIP - make sure to use one before getting in line!