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Topic: Great Experience With The Sun Of Paraguay -ASU-EZE
Username: Marambio
Posted 2012-07-10 19:00:26 and read 8591 times.

Since state-owned Líneas Aéreas Paraguayas (LAP) disappeared in the early 1990s, Paraguay lost its only local airline. By that time, Brazil’s TAM bought LAP and at first re-branded it as “TAM Mercosur”–with a bunch of Fokker 100 and the flags of the four Mercosur member states on the back of the plane–, and then simply merged it with its Brazilian operations. Even though TAM Mercosur still operates under a separate IATA/ICAO code (PZ/LAP), the airline is completely integrated in the JJ network, and doesn’t even have its own airplanes.

Foreign airlines took advantage of LAP’s fall and in the last decade Asunción has seen more new companies than ever before – TAM, Aerolíneas Argentinas, Taca, Copa Airlines, Gol, Aerosur and Pluna fly there (or used to at some point: Aerosur and Pluna are sadly gone).

But it was sad to see no ZP-registered commercial airplanes, Paraguay being the only country in South America without its own flag-carrier, something we Latinos are very fond of. So a group of Paraguayan and Argentine entrepreneurs decided to create a new airline, inspired by LAP (which, at some point, even flew a DC-10 all the way up to BRU and FRA) and with a Paraguayan attitude.

Sol del Paraguay Líneas Aéreas (literally “Sun of Paraguay Airlines”) was born.

Right now they operate three Fokker 100, all of them previously with Click by Mexicana and baptized with Paraguayan names: “Héroes del Chaco” (Chaco War was fought between Paraguay and Bolivia in the 1930s), “Lago de Ypacaraí” (Ypacaraí Lake) and “Itapúa Poty” (in Guaraní language, “Flower of Itapúa”, a region in the south of the country, and also a typical song).

Beside charter flights, Sol del Paraguay (IATA: PI) serves Buenos Aires (EZE) on a daily basis and flies twice a week to Ciudad del Este (AGT), Paraguay’s second-largest city and biggest commercial centre.

I took advantage of a special offer on PI’s EZE-ASU-EZE route and booked a flight through its website www.viajaconsol.com (in Spanish, “travel with Sol.com”). The site does not allow online purchases (only reservations), so I had to contact PI’s call centre in Buenos Aires, where everything was sorted out in a few minutes.

I think this will be the first trip report about Sol del Paraguay and probably one of the very few covering Paraguay at all.

---

Sol del Paraguay PI 902
Asunción Silvio Pettirosi (ASU) – Buenos Aires Ministro Pistarini / Ezeiza (EZE)
Estimated/Actual time of departure: 1805/1810 (GMT –4)
Estimated/Actual time of arrival: 2050/2040 (GMT –3)
Fokker 100 MK-28
ZP-CAL “Lago de Ypacaraí”

MSN 11341: previously with Click by Mexicana and TAM, and originally delivered to Aviacsa in 1992.

I got to ASU two hours before departure using the local bus, which stops right at the airport’s main entrance. The bus ticket costs 2300 guaraníes (PYG), around 0,50 USD, whilst taxis to the airport charge 20 USD. No way I’m paying 20 dollars, especially in cheap Paraguay.

ASU has got a layout typical of the 1960s, when it was built. Gen. Alfredo Stroessner was the dictator of Paraguay at the time, and everything in the country was named after him – including the airport. I think KLM.com stills lists ASU as “Aeropuerto Presidente Stroessner”. In the 1990s the place was re-named after Silvio Pettirosi, a Paraguayan aviation pioneer.

http://img9.imageshack.us/img9/4439/img41201e.jpg
Asunción Internacional Airport (ASU / SGAS)

http://img194.imageshack.us/img194/4526/img41211.jpg
Goodbye sign in Guaraní, Spanish and English

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Main entrance

I got to the check-in counter where there was a small queue, but the whole process didn’t last longer than five minutes. The young agent, who spoke with a notorious Brazilian accent, addressed me by my name and asked me if I had a seat preference, something that does not happen at many airlines. Afterwards she handed me the boarding pass (which looked like a credit card ticket or a supermarket receipt( and asked if I wanted to take the free shuttle bus from EZE to downtown Buenos Aires, which I declined for somebody was picking me up.

The free shuttle, I have to say, is a great idea. Not only because EZE is 30km away from Buenos Aires, but because AR and PZ fly from ASU to AEP, which is right at the heart of the city.

http://img502.imageshack.us/img502/2742/img41231.jpg
ASU - Departures hall

http://img36.imageshack.us/img36/4756/img41221.jpg
PI check-in counters

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AR and G3 counters. JJ's were full of people, so taking a picture was impossible.

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PU and CM, PU's counter being closed - just like the airline. Oh well...

Immigration and security were done in a breeze (in South America we couldn’t care less about gels and liquids and so on) and I settled in the crowded waiting lounge, where a musician was playing some traditional Paraguayan melodies on the harp, a typical Guaraní instrument. I also enjoyed the free wi-fi – do you hear me, major airports, ASU’s got free wi-fi!

Boarding was called a 5.30 pm (the exact time my boarding pass showed) and even though there was no priority for families and disabled, the packed F100 was loaded so quickly it didn’t even matter. Right at the gate, free candies and local newspapers were offered.

http://img269.imageshack.us/img269/2855/img41281.jpg
Boarding area at ASU

http://img534.imageshack.us/img534/7271/img41291.jpg
Live music

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PI's ZP-CFL "Itapúa Poty" and ZP-CJK "Héroes del Chaco" standing still at the platform.

Once onboard, welcome announcements were done in Spanish, English and Guaraní, which I thought was a very nice touch. There were 5 flight attendants onboard, four girls (gorgeous all of them) and a guy.

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Cabin view

IFE consisted of PI’s in-flight magazine and the newspaper they offer before boarding. The magazine (Spanish only) is quite interesting, with a few nice articles regarding hidden Paraguayan treasures, like Ypoá Lake and Ybytyruzú National Park (“Y” means “water” in Guaraní, hence the letter is used in pretty much every place name in the country, including “Paraguay”).

http://img842.imageshack.us/img842/4706/img41381u.jpg
Reading material, safety card and a comments form.

Once we reached our cruising altitude at FL340, the crew started with the service, which consisted of a warm pizza (with mozzarella, tomato and olives), some slices of ham and cheese, a slice of cake and some crackers. Very nice for a flight of only 1:30 hours. All kinds of drinks were on offer, including sodas, juices, beer, wine, whisky and even vodka.

http://img337.imageshack.us/img337/1325/img41331.jpg
Meal time

A second round of drinks was offered once the meal trays were removed, and an announcement was made informing passengers that both mate and tereré were available. Mate is a warm infusion very popular throughout the Southern Cone, and tereré is its cold counter-part, very common in Paraguay and Northeastern Argentina. I actually felt like having some mate, and the flight attendant handed out this a receptacle, a thermos let’s say, were boiling water and yerba mate were already poured. I saw some other passengers having tereré as well.

The thermos wereon sale for 90.000 PYG (roughly 20 USD) and some people actually bought hem. I gave it a serious thought (it could be very useful when driving alone on the car), but the same thermos you can get for half the price in any Buenos Aires supermarket.

http://img215.imageshack.us/img215/2109/img41391.jpg
At 34.000 ft, probably the world's highest mate

As I said before, all of PI’s airplanes are former Click by Mexicana, and there were some hints on the seats and the carpet showing who was the previous operator.

http://img4.imageshack.us/img4/2382/img41411.jpg
Click 1

http://img443.imageshack.us/img443/3696/img41401.jpg
Click 2

Right after finishing my mate we started our descent towards EZE, where our captain, Mr Caballero, made a very soft landing, literally kissing the ground. Afterwards we were bussed to the terminal.

http://img803.imageshack.us/img803/3149/img41431.jpg
Getting off

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Buh-bye

Immigration at EZE was done in a breeze and while there were a lot of people at the customs checkpoint (an AR flight from MIA and a 4M flight from BOG had just landed), the whole thing lasted less than I expected.

---

I have to make a special remark about PI’s service, which I found really above average. Everybody, from check-in agents to flight attendants, were extremely nice and sympathetic, really trying to make their best in order to satisfy each passenger’s needs. That kind of service is hardly ever seen in South America, where robotic crews are the norm, and I was very happy to find it onboard Sol del Paraguay.

Paraguayans are among the nicest people in South America. Simple, sympathetic and always willing to help. I was very happy to find that PI is a true ambassador of the Paraguayan people, and I’m writing this report in order to send a real “congratulations” to them all. And to tell you that I absolutely recommend Sol del Paraguay to anyone travelling to the heart of our continent.

Thanks for reading and comments are of course most appreciated.  

Saludos,
Marambio

Topic: RE: Great Experience With The Sun Of Paraguay -ASU-EZE
Username: AR326
Posted 2012-07-10 20:13:24 and read 8478 times.

Great trip report Marambio! Thanks for sharing. I flew that route back in February - did EZE-ASU on VARIG-GOL and ASU-AEP on TAM and, even though the service on both carriers was courteous (all Brazilian crew on both flights), it was quite robotic, as you say, and the crews didn't make any effort to go beyond their very basic duties. Your experience on Sol del Paraguay sounds delightful.

Cheers

Topic: RE: Great Experience With The Sun Of Paraguay -ASU-EZE
Username: Widebodyroga
Posted 2012-07-11 04:22:54 and read 8067 times.

What a unique report about a very rare airline and a country that doesn't come up very often in this forum.

Quoting Marambio (Thread starter):
I think this will be the first trip report about Sol del Paraguay and probably one of the very few covering Paraguay at all.

Most definitely. Sol has a very interesting, retro-esque, livery. Not the prettiest thing out there but at least it's not boring.

Quoting Marambio (Thread starter):
( and asked if I wanted to take the free shuttle bus from EZE to downtown Buenos Aires, which I declined for somebody was picking me up.

The free shuttle, I have to say, is a great idea. Not only because EZE is 30km away from Buenos Aires, but because AR and PZ fly from ASU to AEP, which is right at the heart of the city.

Wow, free shuttle to downtown 30km away? Those guys are spoiling you!  
Quoting Marambio (Thread starter):
Once onboard, welcome announcements were done in Spanish, English and Guaraní, which I thought was a very nice touch.

That's great and very appropriate given that it's the second official language of the country.

Quoting Marambio (Thread starter):
Once we reached our cruising altitude at FL340, the crew started with the service, which consisted of a warm pizza (with mozzarella, tomato and olives), some slices of ham and cheese, a slice of cake and some crackers. Very nice for a flight of only 1:30 hours. All kinds of drinks were on offer, including sodas, juices, beer, wine, whisky and even vodka.

All I can say is ...*sigh*. I'm glad to see that they are keeping it real in South America.

Quoting Marambio (Thread starter):
I have to make a special remark about PI’s service, which I found really above average. Everybody, from check-in agents to flight attendants, were extremely nice and sympathetic, really trying to make their best in order to satisfy each passenger’s needs. That kind of service is hardly ever seen in South America, where robotic crews are the norm, and I was very happy to find it onboard Sol del Paraguay.

Paraguayans are among the nicest people in South America. Simple, sympathetic and always willing to help. I was very happy to find that PI is a true ambassador of the Paraguayan people, and I’m writing this report in order to send a real “congratulations” to them all. And to tell you that I absolutely recommend Sol del Paraguay to anyone travelling to the heart of our continent.

I'm so glad to hear that. I haven't meant many Paraguayans but the few that I have seem to be very nice people.

Good luck to Sol. Hopefully they will avoid the fate of Pluna, about the closure of which I'm still very upset.

Thanks for putting this together,

WBodyroga

Topic: RE: Great Experience With The Sun Of Paraguay -ASU-EZE
Username: taichen
Posted 2012-07-12 12:43:21 and read 7599 times.

Really nice to read about Sol, I was curious about them.

Topic: RE: Great Experience With The Sun Of Paraguay -ASU-EZE
Username: SkyHigh777
Posted 2012-07-13 08:37:29 and read 7267 times.

Great report! My family is Paraguayan and I go down there every couple of years to visit my grandmother/friends and family. That's the same guy playing the harp at the airport from the last time I was there about 1.5 years ago.

I'm excited to try Sol next time! Sounds like a great airline.

Topic: RE: Great Experience With The Sun Of Paraguay -ASU-EZE
Username: Marambio
Posted 2012-07-15 22:28:56 and read 6947 times.

Quoting AR326 (Reply 1):
Great trip report Marambio! Thanks for sharing. I flew that route back in February - did EZE-ASU on VARIG-GOL and ASU-AEP on TAM and, even though the service on both carriers was courteous (all Brazilian crew on both flights), it was quite robotic, as you say, and the crews didn't make any effort to go beyond their very basic duties. Your experience on Sol del Paraguay sounds delightful.

Gracias! Actually I wrote this report because it's been a while since I last enjoyed a flight as much as this one - and I get to fly quite a lot.

Quoting Widebodyroga (Reply 2):
That's great and very appropriate given that it's the second official language of the country.

Yes, but I never thought they'd use Guaraní onboard, hence my (positive) surprise. For some reason, even though all Paraguayans are perfectly bi-lingual, when affluent people are strolling around Guaraní suddenly disappears. It's good to see that is changing.

Quoting Widebodyroga (Reply 2):
All I can say is ...*sigh*. I'm glad to see that they are keeping it real in South America.

Only on PI. Try AR and you'll get a tasteless granola bar. Oh well...

Quoting SkyHigh777 (Reply 4):
Great report! My family is Paraguayan and I go down there every couple of years to visit my grandmother/friends and family. That's the same guy playing the harp at the airport from the last time I was there about 1.5 years ago.

Things hardly change over there, don't they?  

Thanks all for your comments.

Saludos,
Marambio

Topic: RE: Great Experience With The Sun Of Paraguay -ASU-EZE
Username: CaptainRed
Posted 2012-07-16 11:10:34 and read 6836 times.

Hi Marambio,

what an interesting and enjoyable trip report. We don't read about Paraguay here every day. So good to read that Paraguay has again a national carrier, let's hope they will succeed. Quite impressive service here on these rather short flights.

Thanks for sharing your flights
CaptainRed

Topic: RE: Great Experience With The Sun Of Paraguay -ASU-EZE
Username: lychemsa
Posted 2012-07-16 17:55:24 and read 6755 times.

Impressive. Our US airlines could learn from them how to treat Y passengers and make the trip"pleasant."

Topic: RE: Great Experience With The Sun Of Paraguay -ASU-EZE
Username: The777Man
Posted 2012-07-22 02:36:47 and read 6302 times.

Hi Marambio1

Thanks for a very nice report on an airline I never heard of !

They seem very impressive in everything from checkin to on board service to the livery of the aircraft! Very nice to with the complimentary shuttle to downtown Buenos Aires.

Would love to try them one day.

Looking forward to your next report!

The777Man

Topic: RE: Great Experience With The Sun Of Paraguay -ASU-EZE
Username: abrelosojos
Posted 2012-07-26 22:46:39 and read 5915 times.

What an amazing trip report from one of my favorite A.Netters! Thank you so much for taking us with you on an indeed rare report and country on A.Net. Amazing huh - so many of us in Latin Am here, and we keep forgetting about Paraguay!

Quoting Marambio (Thread starter):
inspired by LAP (which, at some point, even flew a DC-10 all the way up to BRU and FRA) and with a Paraguayan attitude.

= LOL.

Quoting Marambio (Thread starter):
I got to the check-in counter where there was a small queue, but the whole process didn’t last longer than five minutes. The young agent, who spoke with a notorious Brazilian accent, addressed me by my name and asked me if I had a seat preference, something that does not happen at many airlines. Afterwards she handed me the boarding pass (which looked like a credit card ticket or a supermarket receipt( and asked if I wanted to take the free shuttle bus from EZE to downtown Buenos Aires, which I declined for somebody was picking me up.

= Wow. This is indeed great! I might be needing a new airline in LatAm to cheer, and this might just be the one. It might not have hope, but we need to support the smaller guys - otherwise, this big diverse continent will only have the 3 airlines left - and I am not a fan of any of them. Used to love TAM until the whole LAN stuff. And I could write a book on what I think of Chilean "customer service" attitude ...

Quoting Marambio (Thread starter):
Once onboard, welcome announcements were done in Spanish, English and Guaraní, which I thought was a very nice touch. There were 5 flight attendants onboard, four girls (gorgeous all of them) and a guy.

= REALLY great to have Guarani being spoken and addressed. I always find it amusing how we Latins try to clamor for rights in places like the U.S. where we completely ignore our native population in so many places.

Thanks again for writing this up. It is really refreshing to read it.

Saludos,
A.

Topic: RE: Great Experience With The Sun Of Paraguay -ASU-EZE
Username: LatinPlane
Posted 2012-08-04 01:25:56 and read 5395 times.

Hey Marambio! So nice to see you around here - been a long time. Hope your doing well my friend.

Just loved your trip report. Paraguay is such an interesting country in that it's the only one in Latin America to completely adopt and keep its native national language instead of fully ceding over to Spanish for linguistic homogenization after independence.

I'm amazed at what LAP - Líneas Aéreas Paraguayas had accomplished before it was shut down due to its mounting losses. Sadly, as with all airlines that have been based in Paraguay, Sol Del Paraguay has just shut down operations effective August 1, after only nine months of operation. As history has proven time and again, the country just cannot afford to maintain its own airline. While Paraguay is probably the fastest developing country in the region and business travel is picking up, high fuel prices, as well as the competition from the bigger Latin players is too strong for a new incumbent to tackle. Sad, but the true. http://www.viajaconsol.com/comunicado/index.html

Best regards!!!

Apolo  

Topic: RE: Great Experience With The Sun Of Paraguay -ASU-EZE
Username: saleya22r
Posted 2012-08-08 11:38:29 and read 4948 times.

Hello Marambio, thanks for sharing!
I flew AEP-BRC with LAN in February, service very basic compared with this.
They don't usually serve warm meals on domestic flights in Argentina do they? What about mate?
Saleya22R


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