When I found a $400 flight from New York City to Quito (via Guayaquil) on Aerolineas Galapagos, or AeroGal for short, I couldn't bear to pass it up. The fact that I had no knowledge of this Ecuadorian airline was a secondary concern to getting the cheapest price possible.
Of course once the payment was made, I then began wondering if AeroGal was a comfortable airline to fly, let alone a safe one. After all, it's an entire airline geared around a tourist destination in Ecuador, albeit the country's biggest, and one of the world's most popular.
I even tweeted my concern, upon which I received positive feedback from fellow travel bloggers who'd also flown AeroGal en route to the Galapagos Islands.
Based in Quito, AeroGal began service to the Galapagos in 1986, and currently has domestic routes within Ecuador, as well as international service to Lima, Bogota, and New York City. In October 2009, it merged with Colombia's Avianca, which now owns a majority stake, though AeroGal continues to operate under its own brand.
We flew out of JFK International at 12:30 AM, and were promptly served an unexpected, late night dinner. I'd already eaten at an overpriced airport bar, but ate once again as it was something to do.
As the food service wound down, the cabin lights were dimmed. I'd gotten a refill on my cup of water as I didn't have a bottle on me.
(Sidenote: Airport terminals should always have at least one drink vending machine available for late night flights. Yea, I'm looking at you JFK Terminal 5.)
I apparently fell asleep and then knocked over the cup, because the next thing I knew, the water had spilt all over my lap — I was soaking wet.
I immediately hit the stewardess button on my armrest, hoping to get some napkins, but nobody showed up. I always get a window seat, so I was boxed in by a sleeping passenger. Being drowsy myself, I wasn't in the mood to rowse him to get to the bathroom.
In my semi-unconscious haze, I continued to look back down the aisle behind me for help, but none arrived despite my light remaining on for at least 30 minutes, if not all night. It's ironic one of the rare times I use the stewardess button, nobody arrived. Eventually, I gave up and caught a few hours of sleep.
Around 7 AM'ish, we landed in Guayaquil's new international airport. I had to pass through immigration and customs, then re-check my bag, and find the gate for my connecting AeroGal flight to Quito. In all it took about an hour, which was a pleasant surprise.
I even had a little time to grab breakfast before the 35-minute flight to Quito. And what a scenic flight it was!
The weather was clear enough that we were able to see multiple volcanoes, including the giant 5,897-meter Cotopaxi (which I'd later mountain bike down).
Quito is perched at 2,800 meters above sea level, amidst the Andes Mountains, and our approach to the airport involved more than a few special banks and maneuvers.
We landed safely for the second time, and I was collecting my bag and heading for the taxi stand within minutes.
Overall, I was satisfied with my first experience flying AeroGal, and am happy to recommend them.
Just try not to spill anything on yourself at 2 AM!