In this post: Hide
I’ve been interested in flying Conviasa, Venezuela’s national airline, for a while. It’s intrigued me because of the destinations it has served over the years–Damascus, Tehran, and Moscow–as well as the fact that virtually nobody has reviewed their business class.
At long last, this morning, I flew in business class on Conviasa’s A340-600 from Caracas to Mexico City. Having just landed, I’ll take the next couple of days to write a full review, but I wanted to share my thoughts on the experience in this shorter post first. Below are four takeaways from the flight.
The ground experience was excellent
Upon entering Caracas’s International Terminal, I was confronted by a line that snaked from one side of the terminal to the other and back again. Since I didn’t see a sign for business class check-in, I approached a Conviasa employee holding a clipboard to ask about its location. Before I finished my sentence, she turned the clipboard towards me and pointed to my name, the only name at the top of a large sheet of paper. “Is this you?” she asked.
Had she not been so friendly, I might have thought something was wrong. Fortunately, everything was fine, and this was just the level of personalized service I would be provided during my time on the ground. At every point in my journey through the airport, I was lavished with employee attention, often escorted by at least one (or more) employees through check-in, immigration, and multiple security screenings.
At times, it was overbearing. In the lounge, for example, I was the only passenger, which meant a staff-to-guest ratio of four-to-one and near constant oversight. Normally, I wouldn’t mind this, but it made taking pictures undisturbed slightly awkward.
The hard product was very dated but well maintained
Though the A340-600 I flew has changed hands many times since it was delivered to Virgin Atlantic in November of 2002, its interior has, as far as I can tell, undergone few changes over the last 20 years. For example:
- An onboard bar, a Virgin Atlantic trademark, still sits in all its glory at the back of the business class, though it sadly went unused during my flight
- Unlike nearly every commercial wide-body these days, this plane has no personal IFE screens and instead has a single, large screen at the front of the cabin.
- The business class cabin still has the original angled-flat seats that were delivered to Virgin Atlantic, though they’ve been reupholstered
But despite the cabin’s age, I found it clean and very well cared for, with almost no visible scuffs, cracks, or stains.
The soft product was subpar
While the ground staff was extremely warm and attentive, I found the cabin crew colder and disengaged. Throughout the five-hour flight, I was checked in on just once, and flight attendants spent most of their time sitting at the onboard bar talking and laughing loudly–enough that I could hear it even while using noise-canceling headphones. Given that only three of 48 business class seats were occupied, it would’ve taken the cabin crew little effort to be more attentive.
The food and drink were also poor, comparable to an average economy class service than an international business one. For example, not a drop of alcohol was served on this flight. That’s bizarre, and the only explanation I can come up with is that this policy is an homage to the plane’s former Iranian owners, Mahan Air. The food was also bland and cold, much more fitting of economy class than business.
The flight deck door was open the entire flight
This is something I’ve truly never seen before. Every time I went to the bathroom, the flight deck door was open. Like, wide open. I eventually began making unnecessary bathroom trips just to check whether it had been closed—which I imagine looked fairly suspicious—but the pilots and crew remained unconcerned and kept the door open the whole flight.
In many ways, this flight was better than I expected, though still somewhat of a mixed bag. While the attention to personalized service on the ground was superb, the cabin crew’s lack of engagement was disappointing. Despite being visibly outdated, the aging yet well-maintained cabin had a certain nostalgic charm. The food and drink service was far from expected business class standards and the continually open cockpit door was weird. All in all, it was an intriguing flight and offered insight into a fairly mysterious airline. There were lots more interesting tidbits I didn’t mention here, so stay tuned for a detailed review coming in the next few days.