AC 1944 / 1945 Flight Report
(Toronto - Bogota Roundtrip)

Cheap Trip to South America

Getting to South America from Asia is a very long journey, so when I had a chance to stay in Canada for a prolonged period of time, heading south for a short winter escape seemed much more manageable. In late 2017, prices to Colombia became very affordable, costing less than CAD $600 including taxes costing over half of that total already.

On the aviation forums, Rouge has a notably bad reputation, being dubbed a low-cost leisure carrier. However, this 6-hour international flight came with surprisingly free perks, including 2 free checked bags and a meal on board. To put into perspective, my earlier trip to Yellowknife, which had a longer overall flight time, provided none of these.

AC 1944
Scheduled Departure : 16:10, Scheduled Arrival 22:05

My gate today would be a long way from the security check at the further parts of the pier. Even with the express moving walkways, it was a fairly lengthy journey out there.

Air Canada has a respectable South America network out of Toronto. From the departures board, I could see flights to Sao Paulo, Buenos Aires, and Santiago later in the evening.

With a meal expected for free, I wasn't interested in stocking up on food before boarding. Some of the eateries had nice modern decor though that was quite attractive.

Toronto's winter can get unpredictable. Luckily there wasn't much snow on the ground this evening.

Today's flight is operated by an old but renovated 767, which is a nice widebody with a 2-3-2 configuration, a far more preferable option than the high-density 777 on the mainline. My window seat would only be 1 away from the aisle for easier washroom access. However, the plane didn't seem thoroughly cleaned with lots of food bits strewn on the floor's corners. I had this problem with the mainline as well.

The crew looked younger than the mainline and were dressed in more catchy red uniforms. They also appeared to work faster to get everyone on board, luggage stowed, and seated. We departed on time and took off towards the east. My left window had a good skyline view as we turned south shortly after take-off.

As we left wintry Toronto, the first meal was served. The main's portion was a bit small but in-line with mainline meals I've had on other international AC flights. The bread and dessert seemed disproportionately large though.

There are no television screens on board, but wifi is available to stream their entertainment. Make sure you download their app before departure, which the crew announcement also noted.

I didn't want to watch a full-length movie on my mobile's small screen, so I opted to look out for the sunset instead.

Complimentary juice was also provided.

Otherwise, the flight was uneventful and we landed in Bogota just slightly behind schedule at 10:12pm. Here are some parting shots of the Economy cabin as I exited.

The worst part of the journey would be at the airport. Canadians and foreigners use different lines to cross immigration. Canadians have a dedicated line as they need to pay an extra head tax to enter the country. I understood this was a reciprocity tax as Canadians want the same from Colombians, so this diplomatic spat would cost Canadians extra. The major difference with their counters is a credit card machine to make payment.

However, the other foreigner line was also long and snaked around for quite a bit. Then the power went off intermittenly, but the agents' computers seemed to still work. An hour and a half later, I was finally out to the baggage claim. Welcome to Colombia.

AC 1945
Scheduled Departure : 23:30, Scheduled Arrival 06:40

The inbound from Toronto has about an hour and a half to turnaround and head back home. The red-eye is not really long enough for a decent night's sleep, but saved me an extra day of sightseeing. Flying in from Santa Marta earlier in the day, I was worried delays could impact making this trip, so I had to buffer an extra few hours and frequencies to make sure I get to Bogota before dinner time.

Luckily, the domestic flight landed without a hitch and it was a leisurely walk outside from the old domestic terminal to the new building for my next flight.

El Dorado is a nice airport to use although they don't have enough benches to sit land-side. I wasn't sure why there were so many people out there though. I didn't want to go air-side and wait in there for a few hours, hoping perhaps an Uber ride back out to Zona Rosa for dinner could be feasible.

Air Canada had many counters open for check-in, the traditional style. I had done the formalities online beforehand to save time and to confirm my seat.

Security didn't take long and I emerged air-side looking for shops to spend my last pesos. Prices were much higher than out in the city. Luckily I didn't have much left, although few were willing to split payment between cash and credit cards to top up the residual.

We pushed back slightly behind schedule at 11:48pm. I opted for a lighter meal before dozing off into the night. Legroom was decent to stretch a bit and we landed on-time in chilly Toronto. At this early in the day, immigration and luggage retrieval didn't take long.

Air Canada Rouge runs a decent international service, with the product hard to be differentiated from mainline. Standard seat selection, checked baggage, and food were all complimentary despite the relatively short 6-hour flight. The crew were young, energetic, and willing to help store and fit your hand carries in the overhead. Seems their bad reputation at home applies to the relatively shorter flights. This part of South America didn't seem so far from Toronto after all, although Buenos Aires is another 6 hours away. My first trip to South America confirmed there ought to be a second.

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