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Arriving in Quito

This is going to be an interesting trip. We bought our airplane tickets just two days ago. We drove home from camping in Canyonlands on Monday evening. Wednesday around noon Brett said he found cheap tickets to Quito this week and we had 2 hours to decide if we were going. We have talked about visiting Ecuador for years. Our only choice was to say yes. So we bought tickets Wednesday afternoon to fly out at the crack of dawn Friday morning. We drove to Salt Lake Thursday after work and started planning the trip that night. We figured out a good outline of what we wanted to do and see, booked the first few hotels and activities, and went to bed sometime after midnight. About 4 hours later we were driving to the airport. I think that’s a record turnaround for us.

Delta Airlines is a Scam

I have to rant a little about how terrible booking a ticket with Delta has become. We tried to buy tickets through Delta’s website. It showed great prices flying out of Las Vegas (only 2 hours from our home). But the prices were a complete bait-and-switch scam. With Delta you have the choice of buying “basic economy” or “main cabin”. They have multiple pop-up banners letting you know that you can’t pick your seat with basic economy, but if you pay a little more for main cabin you can “choose and change your seats anytime”. It’s the only way to guarantee two people can sit together. That is super annoying since knowing your seat ahead of time probably saves the airline money. It certainly doesn’t cost extra for that. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg of this scam.

We chose to buy main cabin so we could get seats together. Except wait, we couldn’t. There were plenty of open seats next to each other on each leg of our journey, but to pick anything other than a middle seat costs extra… like $100 per flight extra. So buying main cabin did NOT allow us to sit next to each other unless we paid more than $400 extra. Sure, we could pick seats, so long as we each picked a middle seat nowhere near the other. How does that make any sense? Then I thought maybe I would suck it up and pay the fee for one of us to have an aisle or window and then pick the “free” middle seat next to the paid seat. When you choose to do that, a banner pops up warning that if you pay to choose a seat the payment is non-refundable and you will not be allowed to switch seats without abandoning the fee you paid to reserve it. So every single reason for paying extra to buy main cabin is a lie. You CANNOT choose seats next to each other, and if you decide to PAY EVEN MORE so that you can sit together then you CANNOT SWITCH YOUR SEAT. It’s a complete scam. The bottom line is they claim the price is $X so the Delta tickets seem cheaper than their competition. But then they tack on the airline equivalent of “resort fees” by forcing you to pay even more to pick a seat. It meant our tickets would be 25% more than the advertised price. It would be 50% more than the advertised price for a single flyer wanting to sit in an aisle seat. That is a complete scam and should be (probably is) illegal. In our case the original ticket was supposed to be $880 per person, but add 4 legs of picking seats together and the final price was just over $1050 per person (an extra $400+ divided in half). That’s a scam and it would have prevented me flying on Delta this time, except we really needed to arrive in Quito the same time as Brett and Jess. Brett has Diamond status with Delta and was able to buy our tickets on his reservation, which allowed him to pick seats for free. The flights out of Salt Lake were more expensive than the flights from Las Vegas, so we wound up paying the extra anyway, but that meant we would all fly together on every leg of the trip. If anyone got delayed, we would all be delayed together.

We have two Delta credit cards and flew about 50,000 miles on Delta last year, but we didn’t spend enough on the cards to get status this year. Status with Delta has never been worth much, so we spent on other cards that give us much better benefits. It seems the only benefit to having status with Delta is to avoid being scammed by Delta, and that’s not a great reason to work toward status. After this experience I think we might finally be done with Delta. We have already stopped using the Delta credit cards, so it’s probably time to cancel them and start flying an airline that doesn’t try to scam us on every trip… if one exists. Rant over.

The New SLC Delta Lounge is Great

We had plenty of time to kill at the Salt Lake airport this morning. Brett used a combination of his Delta credit cards, Diamond status, and some sweet talking to get us all into the Delta Lounge this morning. We used the opportunity to book the rest of our hotels and activities that we hadn’t had time to complete last night. I don’t remember a trip where we were booking hotels and activities during the trip other than when Charmaine and I went to Israel back in 2011. Since then we have been pretty good at making sure we at least knowing where we are going to sleep each night. The new Delta lounge in SLC has comfortable seats, good internet, and some nice little breakfast treats and snacks. I particularly enjoyed the chia seed pudding, fresh raspberries, and chili hardboiled eggs. The food on the plane to Quito was also some of the best I have had back in cattle-class. They gave us a cheese, fruit, and nut plate. It was unexpectedly good for airplane food.

We arrived in Quito around 8:30 at night, but by the time we went through immigration, picked up our bags, got an Uber, and drove to our hotel (the Dann Carlton near the Parque Carolina in the center of town), it was already 10 pm. On the way from the airport to the city, our driver (who knew nothing about us) went out of his way to point out a “really cool church” right next to the freeway. It turned out to be the nearly brand new Mormon Quito Ecuador Temple (dedicated Nov 2022). I tried to snap a picture as we drove by, but my phone refused to do anything but night mode (long exposure), so it didn’t turn out very well.

A Quick Taste of Quito

Ecuador doesn’t participate in Daylight Savings Time, so for most of the year they are only one hour ahead of Utah. It was at least a 40 minute drive from the airport to our hotel. We basically stayed up all night last night, then spent the whole day in transit today, so we were feeling pretty tired. We still wanted to get a quick taste of Quito before bed, so we went out for dinner at a local shawarma place (they’re everywhere). I was pretty underwhelmed by the shawarma. I would say it was mediocre at best. It seems to be the most popular street food here, but it’s almost always chicken and the flavors we had tonight were nothing special. Maybe we just picked a bad location? I’m betting we’ll wind up trying it again somewhere else.

After dinner we walked around the block the long way back to our hotel and came across Sweet & Coffee, a little bakery that looked good. Unlike the shawarma, the baked goods impressed. We got a Pan de Zapallo (pumpkin bread) that was really moist and delicious. We also got a slice of Torta de Manzana y Nuez and that was probably my favorite thing. There was a nice sized slice of Carrot Cake and a smaller slice of Apple Pie Bread Pudding. Those were both fantastic. We also tried a slice of their Pasión de Maracuya (passion fruit pie) and it was fantastic. The Queso de Coco (coconut flan) was another favorite. We must have tried about 20 different items and none were disappointing. So we ate way too much, way too late.

Tomorrow morning we’re meeting for breakfast at 8. I would like to sleep in longer (and get some of this food processed), but we’re starting a food tour of Quito in the morning around 10 am. So there will be no shortage of food. Somehow we will survive.

After just a couple hours in Quito, we are already pretty impressed. The weather is just amazing. The airport was very clean and modern. The city streets seem really clean and we felt safe walking around the area around our hotel at night. I think we expected it to be more like Guatemala City, but right now it feels a whole lot nicer. We’ll see how we feel about it after the walking tour tomorrow.

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