Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Hardware

Now its time to tell you about the important part of our recently completed trip to Argentina: the hardware we flew on.

Our trip was booked entirely on LAN. We did this for two (2) reasons:
(1) We had a domestic flight to Iguazu and thought that it would be best to book all the flights together; and
(2) There is always a risk of a work stoppage with Aerolineas Argentinas, and with such tight schedules, we preferred to avoid unnecessary delays in our travel.

We booked flights from JFK - which is where it was easiest for us to catch a LAN flight. From JFK, we flew to Santiago, via Lima, Peru. This leg of the flight was on a B767, sans winglets, much to my disappointment.

For a few years now, LAN has been operating the short hop from Santiago to Mendoza on the A320. This flight across the Andes offers, in the humble opinion of this writer, the most bang for your buck. From gear up to touch down, the flight can't take more than 30 minutes, but each of those 30 minutes are spectacular - if the weather cooperates, that is. On a clear day, you get a stunning view of the high Andes, including close ups of Aconcagua and Tupungato (both of which, I kindly remind you, are in Argentinian territory).On our trip, we were fortunate that the sky was clear enough to offer this spectacular view. However, Aconcagua and Tupungato were not visible due to a white out during the middle portion of the treacherous cross.

We also flew on LAN A320s to Iguazu, via Aeroparque Metrolitano Jorge Newberry in Buenos Aires. Aeroparque is set beautifully in downtown Buenos Aires and offers both a great view of some downtown skyrises as well as the majestic Rio de la Plata (which is the world's widest river). Landing at Aeroparque is always entertaining, and at times terrifying.Our scheduled return trip on LAN had us flying from Iguazu to Aeroparque, transferring in Buenos Aires to the international airport at Ezeiza and then flying (on an A340!!!) to Santiago, where we would then board a nonstop flight to JFK. Yes, quite a roundabout way to get to New York, but on the bright side, I was excited about flying on an A340 for the first time of my life. I was going to lose my A340 virginity!

Well, as it turns out, the A340 which was going to carry us to Santiago was running very late - so late, in fact, that LAN rebooked us on American. Our new trip home would be more direct, but less exciting. We ended up flying from Buenos Aires to New York via Miami. At least the Buenos Aires to Miami leg was on a B777, which provides a greater level of excitement than the B767. Sadly, we were all stuck in middle seats in the 2-5-2 seating plan.

Here are some parting thoughts about the travel and service:
(1) LAN has excellent service. We were given snacks and meals on every flight (even the 30 minute hop from Santiago to Mendoza). The flight attendants offered (and in fact almost insisted on) multiple drinks. The booze was free on the international flight, which is a nice touch since it does make sleeping a bit easier when you have a glass of wine.

(2) ALWAYS check your LAN itinerary for changes. I am one of those people that books a flight and does not keep looking for changes, or confirms the day before, or tracks flight status before heading to the airport. Well, it turns out that LAN likes to change things up quite a bit. And for the most part (actually for the entire part) the changes were negative. For example, they moved our departure time from Mendoza from 10am to 7am. Our flight from Iguazu to Aeroparque was delayed from 10am to 1pm. This particular change was rough since we had scheduled the trip into Buenos Aires with a 6 hour layover to allow for some speed tourism and a relaxing transfer to Ezeiza (which takes a good 1 and a half hours). Instead, we only had 3 hours between flights and were not able to see any of Buenos Aires and instead had to hurry hurry hurry to the next airport.

(3) Less is more in terms of onflight entertainment. Both of the long hauls (one on LAN and the other on American) had seat back entertainment units. The problem is that neither of them worked. AT ALL. I would much rather prefer a working movie to help me fall asleep to nothing. So while the fancy screens with on demand movies seem like a nice touch, they are only worth it if they work. And it was not just my bad luck - none of my fellow travelers had working screens.


Waverly said...

this is awesome.

Carla said...

It is important to share experiences so tha we all know what to expect when it comes to foreign countries. I have to say good things about the flights system in Argentina. It really works. They don´t leave you waiting for nothing and if they do, they pay for all the expenses that may occur at that time. I realized many companies there do that, For instance, I rented an apartment with this company called 4rent Argentina. Just because the representative forgot my name, they paid for the taxi and dinner that day. If that is not good customer service, what is??