Slight change of plans for the trip.
Turns out that Qantas and Avianca are having a bit of a problem with invalid fare codes in the booking system, meaning that we can can’t actually book Avianca flights correctly right now (not without jumping through too many hoops). This has made the whole trip rather more complicated – the original plan was to fly SYD-EZE (Sydney – Buenos Aires) on Qantas, and then EZE-BOG (BA – Bogota) on Avianca and finally BOG-CLO (Bogota – Cali) also on Avianca, and then return the same way. There were two main reasons for wanting to fly via Buenos Aires, firstly that the flight is direct and hence faster than flying via Santiago (which stops in Auckland). The second is that the Buenos Aires flight is operated by Qantas (the Santiago flight is operated by LAN), and hence is upgradable – I have enough frequent flyer miles to upgrade us all to Business Class on both legs.
However, the downside to travelling via Buenos Aires is that the visa for Andres to enter Australia is approved and processed by the Australian embassy in Santiago, so if we wanted to fly via Buenos Aires, we would need to wait for the embassy to process it and send approval to BA so that the embassy there could issue the visa. This would have added 7 – 10 days to the overall length of the trip.
We were prepared to stay the extra time required to fly via BA, but what I hadn’t taken into consideration was that we weren’t just flying on eTickets which are relatively easy to change – we also will have paper tickets for Andres, which adds an extra complication. With the problems relating to booking the Avianca flights, it all just got too complicated for my liking. If there’s one thing I learned with all the international travel I did while working for IBM, it was that keeping things simple is really important to avoid problems which can (and do) happen. Given that this trip is already pretty complicated with visas and lots of paperwork, it was looking pretty questionable to fly via BA.
The final straw was that the only upgradeable fares the travel agent could get for us were significantly more expensive (250% more) than the non-upgradeable fares, which simply made trying for an upgrade (which is not guaranteed anyway) simply too expensive to justify all the extra hassle.
So I decided it would be better to just travel via Santiago and put up with the longer flight in economy class and the annoying stopover in Auckland. We now also get to fly LAN airlines from Santiago to Bogota, which means we will get a few more frequent flyer miles out of the trip – although it does limit us somewhat with flight flexibility, since they only fly direct three times a week. This meant we had to change our schedule – rather than flying to BA (or Santiago in this case) on Wednesday and then to Bogota and Cali on Saturday, we now have to fly Santiago to Bogota on Thursday, since the next flight isn’t until Sunday – which I prefer not to do. I’d rather have at least one full day in Cali before we got to pick up Andres, just to settle in and familiarise ourselves with the area and facilities.
So we are now booked SYD-SCL (Santiago) on Wednesday (arrives the same day in Santiago due to crossing the date line), and then SCL-BOG on Thursday, with our final leg of BOG-CLO (Cali) on Saturday. This gives us all day Friday to explore Bogota and a full day on Sunday to explore Cali. We will be staying in Bogota for a few days on the return journey to finalise some paperwork, so having a chance to familiarise ourselves with that city on the way over is handy.
It’s not quite the way I had hoped we would be able to travel, but I’m okay with it. The fares are looking significantly cheaper than what we ended up spending on flights back in January last year anyway, so that’s a bit of a bonus. I’m just hoping that the AUD continues to gain in strength over the next few weeks as it should help to minimise the costs of flights, accomodation, and other expenses we will have while away. Much of the money we spend will be in USD, with mostly only day-to-day spending in COP (Colombian Pesos).
I’ll post more about our return trip later once we have confirmed our plans – we won’t know exactly when we will be ready to fly home until we are pretty much done, we just have to wait for the process to be completed, and there are always the possibilities of delays. At this point, we expect to be home before the end of June.