StevePER From Australia, joined May 2004, 74 posts, RR: 0 Posted (7 years 2 weeks 5 days 15 hours ago) and read 6357 times:
As part of our big South American holiday, we started in Buenos Aires and then wanted to make two other stops in Argentina - Puerto Iguazú (for Iguazú Falls) and El Calafate (for Moreno Glaciar). This gave us the chance to try the two major domestic operators, LAN and Aerolineas Argentinas.
Friday, November 2, 2007
Buenos Aires (Aeroparque Jorge Newbery) (AEP/SABE) - Cataratas del Iguazú (IGR/SARI) Duration: 1h45, 652mi Departure: 07:30 (scheduled) 07:35 (actual) Arrival: 09:15 (scheduled) 09:25 (actual) Seats: 5K/L (economy class) Aircraft: Airbus A320-233 LV-BFO
We left our hotel in central Buenos Aires around 06:00 and took a taxi to the centrally located Aeroparque, only around 10 minutes away in light traffic. I really like the concept of these centrally located domestic airports! On the way there we saw lots of people just going home from the night before - I guess Buenos Aires is just that sort of place. As we were getting out of the taxi, the driver told us how it is extremely hot in Iguazú, which worried us a bit but turned out to be completely wrong.
At the airport, check-in was slow with queue jumpers who found themselves in the wrong place, and others who were called forward to check-in for their earlier flight. Theoretically, my Qantas Silver status should mean that we can use business class check-in, but this option doesn't exist at Aeroparque. Anyway, once we got to the front we were quickly given boarding passes to our pre-selected seats, 5K and 5L.
We bought a snack in the food court area since we hadn't had breakfast and didn't know what to expect in terms of in-flight catering. Security was reasonably fast. There was a sign that said all passengers had to pay an airport tax, but the sign was apparently wrong because nobody else was paying, and there was no check for it.
Boarding was a few minutes late for no apparent reason. Once onboard we found our seats and sat through the LAN safety demonstration, which was already getting tedious after seeing it three times previously. It's an animated video in both Spanish and English, and it seems to drag on for a very long time.
After takeoff we found out that there was catering on this flight, but it was served in a box and was just some crispbread and two chocolate biscuit things. I didn't think it was very appropriate for this time of the day - surely they could serve something more breakfast-like?
They had some TV programs showing on the LCD screens that dropped down from the ceiling (like all LAN flights, the programming had been "specially selected for this flight"). There was Just for Laughs Gags (which was as bad as it sounds) and a home improvement show in Spanish.
It was very overcast in the north of Argentina, so it wasn't possible to see much from the window. As we descended into Iguazú we got occasional glimpses of the rainforest through the clouds. The landing was the first time I've ever noticed that we've landed with a crosswind, so that was a bit more interesting than normal.
The airport at Iguazú has a nice modern terminal with two aerobridges. After landing the bags came out pretty quickly but my wife's case was wet and a bit battered from rough handling. Outside, a driver was waiting for us to take us to our accommodation in the town of Puerto Iguazú.
Aerolineas Argentinas AR2725
Sunday, November 4, 2007
Cataratas del Iguazú (IGR/SARI) - Buenos Aires (Aeroparque Jorge Newbery) (AEP/SABE) Duration: 1h50, 652mi Departure: 13:00 (scheduled) 13:08 (actual) Arrival: 14:50 (scheduled) 15:00 (actual) Seats: 5A/B (economy class) Aircraft: McDonnell Douglas MD-83 LV-AYD
I have to admit that I was a little bit nervous about having connecting flights with Aerolineas Argentinas. Especially since there was only 50 minutes to connect, which didn't seem like a lot if things went wrong. We were talking about it over drinks with people we met in Puerto Iguazú, and they agreed that it was risky. The only reason I booked such a tight connection was that it was far cheaper, and Expertflyer showed the first flight was on average far less late than the second one.
We were dropped off at the airport at about 11:45 to find a slow, inefficient check-in process. There were between two and four check-in desks operational, varying every few minutes apparently at the discretion of the staff. It took half an hour before we were checked in, but thankfully we were given boarding passes for both flights and our bags were checked through to El Calafate. I noticed that our flight number had changed from AR1725 to AR2725, but I didn't think much of it at this point.
Before we could go through security, our boarding passes and identification were checked. This seemed a bit strange to me and was a different process to what we had experienced in Buenos Aires. At security, there were no trays for small items so people had to get coins, wallets, etc into their bags as they approached the xray.
The gate area had the usual plastic seats and a good view over the tarmac, where there were no aircraft and nothing happening. I would feel a lot more comfortable once our aircraft arrived! When it did, I realised the reason for the change of flight number - our 737 had been replaced with an MD-83. This was good because it's a type not operated in Australia, but bad because I would have the same type of aircraft on both flights. At least the aircraft had arrived at a reasonable hour so we would have a good chance of making our connection.
On board, the seating is in a 2-3 configuration (which made me wonder about whether they have any balance issues) and we had luckily selected 5A/B without knowing the aircraft type. Our departure was only a few minutes late so our connection was looking good! The safety demonstration was conducted manually in Spanish only and then we were off! The aircraft seemed quite noisy compared with the A320, and even the 767s that had flown us across the Pacific Ocean. I wasn't expecting that because the engines are at the back.
On the way to Buenos Aires the weather was clear and we had great views - initially of the jungle and then later of the river that divided Argentina from Brazil and Uruguay. At this point of the trip I hadn't got over my reluctance to take photos on planes, so I apologise for the lack of photos. We were given a snack box with a few biscuits inside, and there was one drinks service on the flight.
We arrived at Aeroparque about 10 minutes late, and parked at a remote stand that further delayed us in getting to the terminal. But even so, we seemed to have made it in plenty of time for our connecting flight to El Calafate.
Aerolineas Argentinas AR2804
Sunday, November 4, 2007
Buenos Aires (Aeroparque Jorge Newbery) (AEP/SABE) - El Calafate (FTE/SAWA) Duration: 3h13, 1285mi Departure: 15:50 (scheduled) 16:06 (actual) Arrival: 19:03 (scheduled) 19:30 (actual) Seats: 5D/E (economy class) Aircraft: McDonnell Douglas MD-83 LV-AYD
We had to go through security again at Aeroparque, but there were no queues at all so it was very quick. We still hadn't had lunch at this point, and didn't know what we were going to get on our next flight, so we bought overpriced sandwiches (25 pesos for both of us, which is only about US$8 - it doesn't seem so bad in hindsight).
We were watching the monitors as our scheduled departure time approached, and were quite concerned when they starting displaying "ask agent" next to our flight. But there was no cause for concern (and no need to ask an agent) so they were probably just trying to make sure everyone was awake.
Our aircraft for this flight was at a remote gate, so we had to take the bus out. Turns out it was the same aircraft that had carried us from Iguazú, so there was never any risk of a misconnect. Unfortunately we were sitting on the right hand side for this flight, so we had some next to us. I didn't realise when I allocated seats that the seating configuration was 2-3, and it seemed too hard to change it subsequently.
Shortly after take-off we were offered food (a salami roll, coincidentally this was what I had at the airport), soft drinks and beer. The service was quite minimal after this, and there was no in-flight entertainment at all. Consequently the flight seemed pretty long, but as we approached El Calafate there were great views over desolate areas of Patagonia.
We landed at El Calafate about 25 minutes late, but we were pleased to have made it. The terminal is quite modern because the airport was only opened in 2001 - previously travellers would need to fly to Rio Gallegos and then drive the remaining 315 kilometres. There was one aerobridge, which we used.
Inside the terminal, it took ages for the bags to start coming out. When they did, my wife's bag was subjected to some sort of security check which they did by pulling it off the belt and holding it behind a desk until the owner came forward to open it. Very strange system and I have no idea what they were looking for. There was another check as we left the airport to make sure that we had taken our own bags. This really seems unnecessary at such a small airport, and this was the first time I had seen this anywhere.
The airport is located 20km outside the town of El Calafate. I don't know why they put it so far away. We took a transfer bus to our accommodation, which was a mistake. In hindsight we should have spent the extra few dollars on a taxi. We probably drove down every street in the town before we finally got to our hotel (we were the last to be dropped off) but on the way we saw an unusually wide and well-paved street which had runway markings on it. I would like to know the story behind this.
Having had the chance to compare the two major domestic airlines in Argentina, neither stood out as being significantly better than the other. Aerolineas Argentina has a reputation of being less reliable than LAN, but this was not evident on our two flights. The service on board both airlines was similarly minimalistic. If I had to choose between them I would say LAN was slightly better because of their newer aircraft.
After our short stay in El Calafate, we travelled by bus across the border into Chile (the Cootra Bus staff at El Calafate were excellent, so I recommend them over Turismo Zaahj!). We stayed over night in Puerto Natales, had two nights in Torres del Paine, and then one night in Punta Arenas before our next flight which will be featured in my next report. Coming up... LAN around South America - PUQ-PMC-SCL-GIG-SCL-LIM.
Lima From Argentina, joined May 1999, 1122 posts, RR: 14
Reply 1, posted (7 years 2 weeks 5 days 13 hours ago) and read 6233 times:
Calafate grew a lot on the past two decades. Perhaps the markings you saw belong to the former Lago Argentino airport, the airfield that served the city before the opening of the new airport. This base used to be served by Lade's F27 and Twin Otters.
Rogerbcn From Andorra, joined Sep 2006, 1209 posts, RR: 20
Reply 2, posted (7 years 2 weeks 5 days 11 hours ago) and read 6161 times:
Thanks for your TR.
It made me remember my holidays last summer in IGR where I probably flew the same flight from AEP. LAN service was a little above AR, just because of the plane I'd say as you pointed in your TR: newer and fresher looking.
Quoting StevePER (Thread starter): After our short stay in El Calafate, we travelled by bus across the border into Chile (the Cootra Bus staff at El Calafate were excellent, so I recommend them over Turismo Zaahj!). We stayed over night in Puerto Natales, had two nights in Torres del Paine, and then one night in Punta Arenas
That part was the best when I got there in January 2006. I loved going by bus to Puerto Natales, it was a great trip, the road to Punta Arenas was also great. I Then went down to Ushuaia: about 12 hours trip from Punta Arenas. Really recommendable and worth the time, especially when you cross the Magellan's strait.
El Calafate Airport, Argentina
I thought it was really cozy. Later I found that Mr and Mrs Kirchner use to spend holidays in that particular village in their summer home.
"At reise er at leve" H.C. Andersen (Travelling is Living)
EddieDude From Mexico, joined Nov 2003, 7646 posts, RR: 42
Reply 3, posted (7 years 2 weeks 4 days 3 hours ago) and read 5647 times:
Quoting StevePER (Thread starter): On board, the seating is in a 2-3 configuration (which made me wonder about whether they have any balance issues)
Hey Steve, pretty cool report. Thanks for taking the time to write it and upload it with the pics. I really want to visit Argentina.
About the Mad Dogs, the 2-3 configuration is standard. I don't know of any operator that does 2-2 in coach (in business yes) and I am certain 2-3 is not possible due to the width. I always wondered, too, whether asymmetrical configurations would poise balance issues, but there are none. I don't know if the cargo is loaded in a way to compensate for this, or if the weight offset is minimal, hence being irrelevant.
Cgnnrw From Germany, joined May 2005, 1174 posts, RR: 2
Reply 4, posted (7 years 2 weeks 3 days 15 hours ago) and read 5430 times:
Nice report. It brought back memories of my trip to Argentina back in 1996. I also flew several domestic segments with Aerolinas and Austral (now a part of AR). I agree with your opinion of the flights, nothing spectacular but not the horror scenerio we expected. When we told people we were flying domestically in a South Amrerican country it seemed everyone had a horror story to tell. Not so on our flights.
We also visited El Calafate. The glaciers are incredible. At that time we flew into Rio Gallegos and took a bus to El Calafate. That wasn't much fun. Back then AR's 747s stopped their on their way back from Auckland. The airplane was bigger than the terminal.
ATLTPA From United States of America, joined Nov 2007, 137 posts, RR: 0
Reply 5, posted (7 years 2 weeks 3 days 10 hours ago) and read 5332 times:
Wonderful report. And super photos!
I also will chime in and say that I had relatively positive experiences with Aerolineas Argentinas-- despite all of the horror stories. I'm glad you weren't scared away by them!
I had 4 flights with AR in December and January of this year after hearing negative feedback about their service from others (I flew them to Buenos Aires from Miami and to Porto Alegre, Brazil from Buenos Aires). Everything worked out, more or less on time.
Still, AR has big corporate and labor problems that challenge it in scary ways-- look at the delays, cancellations, and brief strike at Ezeiza airport in Buenos Aires over the past month.
My take is that from a passenger's perspective, when things work (and they usually do), AR is fine. I found that their service was slightly better than what I get on American or Delta here domestically. And at least Aerolineas doesn't charge for food or earphones!
Argentina is a neat place. Your trip report photos make me want to return there and see El Calafate and Iguazu-- which I have not. Incredible!
Marambio From UK - Scotland, joined Oct 2004, 1162 posts, RR: 25
Reply 8, posted (7 years 5 days 5 hours ago) and read 4656 times:
Very nice report, Steve. Thanks for putting this up.
Quoting StevePER (Thread starter): On the way there we saw lots of people just going home from the night before - I guess Buenos Aires is just that sort of place.
It definitely is.
Quoting StevePER (Thread starter): There was a sign that said all passengers had to pay an airport tax, but the sign was apparently wrong because nobody else was paying, and there was no check for it.
Actually, I've seen that sign and it does not make clear that the airport tax must be paid only by passengers travelling on international flights, i.e. to Uruguay. When flying within Argentina, the tax is included on your ticket price.
Quoting StevePER (Thread starter):
Before we could go through security, our boarding passes and identification were checked. This seemed a bit strange to me and was a different process to what we had experienced in Buenos Aires.
I think it's something common on most airports located near an international border, for I have also experienced that kind of check at JUJ.
Quoting StevePER (Thread starter): previously travellers would need to fly to Rio Gallegos and then drive the remaining 315 kilometres.
Been there, done that. Are El Calafate and Río Gallegos only 315 km apart? That drive took ages!
Quoting StevePER (Thread starter): We probably drove down every street in the town before we finally got to our hotel (we were the last to be dropped off) but on the way we saw an unusually wide and well-paved street which had runway markings on it. I would like to know the story behind this.
If not mistaken, the runway you saw used to be Lago Argentino Airport, the small airfield used by Air Force-run LADE for flights within Patagonia years ago when FTE wasn't built.
Aerolíneas Argentinas - La Argentina que levanta vuelo