Pros:Fast convenient transport in southern Mexico
Cons:Small planes, limited services, limited schedule
The Bottom Line: If you want to get around in the Oaxaca region, Aerotucan is a safe bet for reliable and convenient transportation. I like 'em...
The State of Oaxaca is a rugged place, dominated by the peaks and valleys of the Sierra Madre Sur mountain range. Distances between towns and cities in Oaxaca aren't always great as the crow flies, but they can be impractical obstacles to the traveler who wants to do a lot of different things without investing a lot of time sitting in cars or buses. Major airlines serve the state capital, Oaxaca, and they serve the Oaxacan coastal resort areas of Huatulco and Puerto Escondido. But to get between places within Oaxaca, you really want short regional service. That's where Aerotucan steps in. They are the practical choice for getting around in Oaxaca.
Recommend this product?
I recently flew with them between Oaxaca City and the beaches at Huatulco. The guide books are right when they tell you that tell you the views from an Aerotucan flight are spectacular --- they are. They're also surprisingly comfortable, punctual, and I thought the people working for Aerotucan were top notch. A good experience all the way around, and I highly recommend them to anybody else who might be planning a trip to Oaxaca.
Aerotucan is a very small regional airline. They fly only three routes in southern Mexico: Oaxaca - Puebla, Oaxaca - Huatulco, and Oaxaca - Puerto Escondido. All scheduled flights are in the morning. They are on the web at: www.aerotucan.com.mx
Website links to buy tickets online take you to a page managed by a Oaxaca hotel chain. There's a service charge to buy online, but its waived if you also make a hotel reservation. (Most of the hotels listed on the page are good properties.)
You can buy by phone. In Oaxaca, their number is 951-501-05-30 (precede with 011-52 if dialing from U.S.) In Huatulco, 958-58-72-427. There's an Aerotucan ticket office in the centro historico in downtown Oaxaca, and they have another outside the Hotel Castillo in Huatulco. In Mexico, you can call toll-free: 01-800-640-4148.
Tickets cost $100 each way. There's no price advantage to buying round-trip. All of the flights seem to be the same price.
If they tell you that a flight is sold out, ask to be put on a waiting list if a second flight opens. Aerotucan often adds flights during peak periods if enough people have left contact info.
The Flight Experience...
Aerotucan fly small aircraft (12-seat Cessna Gran Caravan, single-engine prop). These are great aircraft for the region where Aerotucan flies because they never go to very high altitudes, and you can get some stunning aerial views of the mountains between Oaxaca city and the Pacific coast. Along the way, you'll see the meandering highway below, full of twists, turns, and switchbacks. From the air, its easy to understand why the bus takes 7 hours to make a trip you can do by Cessna in 30 minutes.
Calling the plane a Gran Caravan is apropos. The interior reminds me of being in a mini-van. 2-person bench seats on one side of the tight aisle, a single on the other side. The seats are leather, and they're all reclined more than typical airline seats. You need to stoop down to get in, since the ceiling is only about 5 feet high, but once in the seat, it's a very comfortable ride.
The flight itself was smoother than a baby's bottom --- both ways. You notice a little swaying on take off and landing, but that's about it. Great ride!
The only disadvantage to flying small planes is that there are no sexy flight attendants (no flight attendants at all, for that matter --- just passengers and the pilot). By the way, our pilot looked like a dead ringer for Antonio Banderas...not exactly what I consider "sexy", but your opinions may vary...
If you're traveling in the Oaxaca region, Aerotucan is a great option. It might be only a couple hundred kilometers from the coast to Oaxaca City, but it's through the mountains all the way and it takes at least 7 hours by car, up to 9 hours by OCC first class bus --- you need an entire day to do it. Aerotucan cuts that time commitment down to 30 minutes. You pay 5 times more to fly Aerotucan than to take a bus, but in my opinion, the expense is more than worth it.
Friendly service, good punctuality, good value for the money.
The downsides are that its a very small regional airline with very limited flight schedules. A lot of folks have phobias against small planes (though they're really quite comfortable). Also, flights arrive into Huatulco and Puerto Escondido at a very non-busy time, so it may be harder to snag inexpensive ground transportation. If you must do big planes, your only option between the Oaxacan coast and Oaxaca city is to use Mexicana and connect in Mexico City --- the only competitor Aerotucan has for direct Oaxacan flights is Aerovega --- and they fly 6-passenger Cessnas.
Until next time, see you on the road.
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