Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Is Peruvian Airlines Any Good?

For the first time in three years, I missed a post yesterday, but the reason for that will become clear soon enough.  For today, I´d like to tell you a little bit about my experience with Peruvian Airlines.

For most of the time that I´ve been in Peru, I´ve made an effort to travel with LAN.  In general, LAN is the best airline I´ve been on anywhere.  However in Peru, they´re a little irritating because they charge non-Peruvians a $170 tax on basically every flight.  For that reason, I decided to give Peruvian airlines a try.

Well, it all started out right, the price for a round trip ticket to Cusco was $200 (as opposed to the $370 or so my friends were paying with LAN).  The people at the ticket office were very friendly and professional.  

The problems, however, began when I showed up at 5 AM in the Lima Airport to catch my flight.  The second I arrived I noticed that all the Peruvian airlines flights were delayed because of bad weather.  The strange part was that NONE of the LAN flights to the same destination were delayed at all.  Apparently Peruvian airlines flies very old planes that don´t have any instruments (or something) and they can´t land in fog.  Not very frickin encouraging.

To make a long story short, my flight that was scheduled for 7 eventually left at about 1:30 in the afternoon.  It was really annoying to sit there in the airport and hear announcements like, ¨Peruvian airlines flights are delayed due to bad weather¨ followed by other announcements like, ¨LAN flight 223 to Cusco has just departed.¨

Well, in the end, I got to Cusco, but we´ll see if I make it back to Lima today, another Peruvian airlines flight awaits me and I´m not really looking forward to it.


  1. I meant to write about this a while ago, during rainseason in Cuzco. I like the service on Peruvian Airlines as well as LAN, no issues with either.

    The problem with your delayed flight is not the airline's fault, but the Peruvian DGAC (aviation authorities). The airport in Cuzco is basically a nice-weather only airport. No matter how good your airplane or airline or pilots are, the airport infrastructure is limited. If the cloud cover is less than 3,800 feet above the airport, you cannot land. For comparison, in Lima it's minimum cloud cover of 200 feet.

    In the past year or so, LAN found a way around this by developing a proprietary RNAV/GNSS approach, which allows airplanes to land in practically any weather. LAN spent a fair amount of money to develop this procedure. In the US, practically all airports down to the small general aviation airports have had RNAV approaches for the past 10 years or better, all developed by the aviation authorities.

    The Cuzco airport is limited in other ways as well, the approaches are only part of that. For example, in the windy month of August your flights can be delayed because airliners can only land to the West and takeoff to the East in Cuzco. Even in an A319 there's no way you'd have the required performance to clear the 14,300 ft mountain at the end of runway 28 if taking of to the West. So if winds are too strong (most airliners are limited to 10-15 mph tailwinds on takeoff) you're stuck, even if you're flying LAN.

    With the amount of tourists (and money) coming into Cuzco there's no excuse for the Peruvian DGAC not to improve the infrastructure in Cuzco. There's been talk of a new airport for 20+ years, so don't hold your breath.

    You just happened to have bad luck to find the only week of rainy weather in Cuzco this time of year. Completely unheard of.

  2. Just for the record, charges are based on residency, not nationality. A foreigner residents of Peru pays less than a non-resident Peruvian(It may be an agreement with the government to promote internal tourism).
    On the other hand non-residents, foreigners and Peruvians alike, do not pay sales tax on hotel accommodation which residents do (19%).
    Just become a Peruvian through your wife, get a DNI with a Peruvian address for your LAN tickets and use your US passport for your hotels, and you will have the best of both worlds.
    I will do that next time.



  3. Are they any good? Apparently not, since they've just been suspended for irregularities.

    It might have something to do with a certain dominant airline paying the right people in the Ministry of Transport to remove the competition, or the fact that Peruvian Airlines run antique aircraft disguised with a shiny paint job. Or both.

    And the missus just paid for a flight with them the day before they got suspended. Oops.