Some places in the jungle can only sensibly be reached by plane and Peru is so vast that the odd flight can save a lot of time. There are three major companies; Aero Continente, who fly to all of the main cities and many smaller destinations; TANS, the commercial arm of Peruvian Air Force; and Lan Peru, which has strong links with Lan Chile. A couple of smaller companies – Aero Condor and Aero Santander – are currently gearing up their operations. Tickets can be bought from travel agents or airline offices in all major towns. The most popular routes, such as Lima-Cusco cost upwards of $60 and usually need to be booked at least a few days in advance (more during the run-up to and including major fiestas). Other less busy routes tend to be less expensive.
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In addition to the commercial airlines, Grupo Ocho , the Peruvian Air Force, carries passengers on some of its standard flights. Less regular or reliable than the commercial companies, these compensate by being very much cheaper. Check availability at the major airports, but don’t be too surprised if the promised plane never materializes.
On all flights it’s important to confirm your booking two days before departure. Flights are often cancelled or delayed, and sometimes they leave earlier than scheduled – especially in the jungle where the weather can be a problem. If a passenger hasn’t shown up twenty minutes before the flight, the company can give the seat to someone on the waiting list, so it’s best to be on time whether you’re booked or are merely hopeful. The luggage allowance on all internal flights is 16kg not including hand luggage.
There are also small planes (6- and 10-seaters) serving the jungle and certain parts of the coast. A number of small companies fly out of Jorge Chavez Airport in Lima most days (their counters are between the international check-in counters and the domestic departure area), but they have no fixed schedules and a reputation for being dangerous and poorly maintained. The jungle towns, such as Pucallpa, Tarapoto, Satipo and San Ramon, also tend to have small air colectivo companies operating scheduled services between larger settlements in the region, at quite reasonable rates. For an expresso air taxi , which will take you to any landing strip in the country whenever you want, you’ll pay over $200 an hour; this price includes the return journey, even if you just want to be dropped off.
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All the Peruvian domestic airlines offering flight passes went bust in the late 1990s, and airline companies are in a state of flux in Peru. As new ones arrive and competition for passengers increases, passes are likely to become available again, and it’s worth checking with your travel agent or with the major airlines on arrival in Peru.