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Seriously liking Taca Airlines

Seriously liking Taca Airlines after my first flights with them yesterday, from deep South America (Montevideo, Uruguay) up to San Francisco, USA.

I’m normally not a fan of narrowbodies for intercontinental long-haul, and Taca is an all Airbus 320 (plus some of the largest big-for-regional jet Embraer E190s) narrowbody airline. So I was expecting being cramped.

But the 3-flight (Montevideo to their Taca Peru subsidiary hub in Lima, Lima to their main hub in San Salvador, El Salvador, and thence to SFO) was great.

One really smart thing Taca does: they bought Recaro seats (yes, THAT Recaro) rather than the cheap seats, for all their seats including Economy class. With a deeply scooped-out lower seatback that does not have a traditional seat pocket; that’s a special magazine rack above the tray table instead. Result: way more leg/knee room than you’d expect for the seat pitch. Which is on the order of Economy Plus/Economy Comfort 34-ish-inch seat pitch by my eyeballs. Put it this way, I could cross my legs comfortably, and even manage it when the seat in front reclined all the way back. Even on the first leg, a shiny new Taca Peru A320 with multi-color mood lighting (oranges, purples) and seatback on-demand audio/video and USB charging, there was just as much room, and not too much space taken up by the typical AVOD underseat power box in the center. Also Airbus narrowbodies have about 1 inch wider per seat than Boeing, so all in all, a nice ride.

Very friendly staff onboard; both the Peruvian subsidiary and the main Salvadoran airline. Food was ok. I got better-fed on Panama’s Copa on the way down in coach last week – each coach meal was good, and there was a 2nd Copa hot food service on a 7-ish-hour flight while there was not any second service, not even a snack, on the over-6-hour Lima to San Salvador Taca flight, and the free hot meals were not as good as Copa’s. But still, free hot breakfast, lunch, and dinner between my 3 Taca flights, multiple beverage services, free booze if you want it (I was trying to stay awake so declined), and two free bags. On a modern, safe, clean, friendly airline. What’s not to like?

Nice work, amigos!

Check them out at taca.com on Facebook or the web, and seriously consider them for flying not only to their primary home of Central America (El Salvador, connections throughout centroamerica, and their other hub San Jose, Costa Rica for their LACSA brand), but also for connecting all the way into any of the South American countries further down. Including all the way into the Southern Cone countries of Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Chile.

Taca (and its subsidiaries/partner companies Taca Peru and LACSA Costa Rica) are also routinely the cheapest by hundreds of dollars for round-trips, and by many hundreds of dollars for one-ways (say if you’re using somebody’s miles the other way) to South America. You almost always can find a sub-$1000USD USA to Montevideo Uruguay round-trip or an $800 or less 1-way from either LAX, SFO, MIA, or occasionally one of Taca’s other USA gateways. It’s impossible to find that ever on American, the only US airline that flies to Uruguay, nor almost never on LAN, the big South American airline that flies all over the continent via Santiago and Lima. I like LAN, but Taca is a much better deal.

Taca also is far better organized and modernized than Brasil’s TAM, which I love once on the plane but detest on the ground. For example, they do not have that ridiculous ” stop at the gatekeeper for the check-in line for permission to enter the check-in line” that many South American (and some European) airlines have for no sensible reason whatsoever.  Entirely modern experience, complete with online check-in and bag drop, but with no fees involved and a far more personal sense of service. Yet no unnecessary personal money-wasting time-wasting service.

San Salvador Comalpas Aeropuerto Internacional was a breeze to connect through. Like Panama’s Tocumen International on Copa last week, there is no transit-security nonsense at all. Walk off plane at gate 12, walk to departing plane at gate 14. That’s in. Well not quite, because my plane at gate 14 was to the USA, so there was all that horrible TSA-mandated-for-other-countries, paranoid USA invasive security. But since we were already “airside” of security, it consisted of the typical foreign carrier at home-airport desks of nice agents manually checking your carry-on, and then being patted/wanded in a totally respectful manner, with your shoes still on of course. If I had been connecting from Lima to let’s say Guatemala or Mexico, there would have been no transfer security whatsoever. So even though the connection time was blocked at only 55 minutes arrival to departure, it was trivial to make the connection and even enjoy a quick snack, paid for in El Salvador’s currency, the US Dollar.

Lima was a bit more of a transfer pain, but not due to Taca. I’ve flown in and out of Lima a few times now, but always on deliberately arranged 1 or 2-day stopovers for some Lima tourism. So yesterday was my first time actually connecting through Lima, which has won awards for being the best South American Airport for connections. It is quite modern and lovely airside, as long as you don’t mind South American Toilet Paper Rules (mostly “West of Andes Toilet Paper Rules” in my experience), but you do have to clear transfer passenger security with x-rays and metal detectors (basic pre-9/11 USA-style security). However they were very fast and efficient, and of course polite, never being perros malos barking at passengers the way US Geheimstadtsicherheitministerium* TSA still too often does by culture.

So based on this admittedly single-day (but 3-flight and 3-airport) experience, and their excellent LifeMiles frequent flyer program which is where all my Taca, Avianca, Lufthansa (if any), US Airways, and United Airlines flights will be credited nowadays, I can highly recommend Taca.

Which of course means my next Taca flight will become the Flight From Hell. jejejeje.

*Department of Homeland Security always sounds best in the original German. 

About Mark Mercer

Expat aging sometime-ski-bum former corporate tool. Currently living in the beachside aging resort town of Atlántida in Uruguay. Sometimes skiing and teaching in Breckenridge, Colorado, USA. Location and velocity cannot be simultaneously observed.

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