I have elaborated a bit on the itinerary of which the flights covered in this tripreport form a part. To recap, I am off to Bolivia and I have composed a nice assortment of three airlines to get me down there from Munich. While the experience of the first course, Antipasto all’Air Dolomiti, was impaired by improper behavior of some of the present fellow men,
I savored the second course, an impressive, but rare Brazilian specialty, all night long. The third course and a quick dessert would be going to be the finishing touch. When I placed the order I thought that the main ingredients for the finale (of the 733/734-nature) were nothing special. However, the kitchen surprised me with an exotic medley of vintage flavors which almost no one dishes up anymore.
If my memory serves me right (what it probably does not), in the recent years there have been two reports about AeroSur here on A.net:
After I killed about eight hours at the airport in several lounges I went to the Terminal 2 departure area in order to check in for my flight with AeroSur. Neither online check-in nor advanced seat selection were possible. The check-in desks were manned by two ladies.
There was only a small queue and after five minutes I was served by one of the agents. I asked for window seats in the rear of both planes. She also informed me that I still needed to pay the departure tax of 63 Reais (25€/36$). When you are on a connecting flight, you only have to pay the tax when you leave the sterile area. Having some time on my hands I started to argue with her that I don’t see why I should be paying the tax, as I had to leave the sterile area in order to reclaim my luggage and that it is not my fault that JJ and 5L do not interline. So that got too complicated too quickly for the check-in lady and she asked if I could repeat this in Castellano. Well, so I did and she said I could try and argue with the airport staff. She suggested I show them my e-ticket printout and my luggage tag with the destination “GRU”. So I went off, my boarding pass in hand, to a grumpy airport staff lady checking whether you have paid the departure tax (which is indicated by a sticker on your boarding pass). I started making my case but I was quickly interrupted by the agent “You need stamp! Stamp you need!” Well, it was worth a shot. Now, back to the AeroSur counter to inquire if I could pay with credit card. Of course not. So down to the arrival floor, retrieve some Reais, back up to the AeroSur desks to pay the tax. From time to time the queue at the check-in desks grew and grew, but the check-in agent always invited me to come up to the front. Nice gesture. Interesting sidenote: The bag they used as a wallet to collect the cash from the passengers was the TAM amenity kit packaging.
Terminal 2 FIDS. Flight shows up as on time. Also notice the other flight to Bolivia, BoA to Cochabamba.
Being a little frustrated now (although I never really thought I would get around of paying the tax), I decided to head airside immediately to balance the budget with some lounge booze. Quickly past the departure tax checkpoint and through security in no time (no need to put my laptop out of my carry on, no special interests in my liquids) and up the escalators to the Smiles VIP lounge. This is a Varig lounge, but also used by Lufthansa’s business passengers for example, if I am not mistaken. No windows, just pre-packed sandwiches and some heated appetizers, so nothing to write home about. Luckily for me, they had some hard liquor (Smirnoff, Tanqueray,…) available, unlike as in the landside lounge. So I settled down with a Vodka Tonic and made myself comfortable. When I took a closer look at my boarding passes, I got a little excited:
Not because of what was written on that one. But seriously, 1430 boarding time for a 1600 departure!?! Notice also the departure tax sticker and the handwritten “G3”, meaning I was in the third boarding group.
Now, this made me excited: CHG EQUIP
CHG EQUIP… in AeroSur's case this can (almost) only mean a good thing. Originally scheduled for the hop from VVI to LPB was a 737-300. Their other aircraft flying to LPB are a 737-200, 737-400 and 727-200. Great, seeing as they operate only one of each the chances were not too bad to catch a rare classic. A quick search on AeroSur’s website produced a big grin on my face:
This was big for me. Having started flying a little more frequently only a couple of years ago (the odd holiday charter flight with my parents aside), there was absolutely no way for me to get on a 727 so far. It was clear for me that while I am in Bolivia that I will try my best to get on AeroSur’s last remaining example. But it being handed to me on a silver platter just like that… Awesome! Little did I know this would only be the first of two surprises waiting for me.
This calls for a toast! Note the Varig branded glass.
After some quick Skype calls to Germany I made my way to the gate about one hour before departure. One hour you say? Well, I wanted to see why AeroSur needs about 75 minutes to board a 737. Needless to say, when I reached the gate the desk was unmanned. Hence, ye shall spot!
Hard working men, a concrete mixer, a Passaredo ERJ-145, Webjets and further bound jets in the back
Not the shiniest plane around
AZ 772 bound for FCO
And a first glimpse of my plane
BAM! Surprise number two!
Yes! It’s CP-2561, “Bufeo”, AeroSur’s last 737-200 in operation. I actually planned on catching the type while in Bolivia. I was leaning towards a weekend sidetrip on SkyAirline’s 732 on their La Paz-Arica route, but the high prices (compared to a Bus journey) and the obligation to buy a return ticket have so far put me off of doing so.
Boarding then started about thirty minutes before scheduled time of departure. The several boarding groups were called up and the whole boarding process was, surprisingly, very orderly. No “ILBST” whatsoever!
04 October 2011
Flight 5L 301
1600-1745 (arrival 15 minutes late)
Now, it’s time for a little history lesson (Info taken from airfleets.net). The bird was first delivered in November 1978 to the government of the United Arab Emirates and flew or it as A6-HHK and A6-AAA until 1995.
In 2006, it was reactivated and spent a couple of years at Aloha Airlines, flying as N835AL until they ceased operations in August 2008. Then it was back to Mojave until April 2009, when the frame was taken up by AeroSur.
At the aircraft door I was greeted by one of the flight attendants: ”buenas tardes”. I then made my way down the aisle. The load in Economy was light, at a little over 50%.
My row of seats
Oh my, hello there!
Seat pocket contents: Safety card, the third edition of AeroSur’s magazine “Aire” (with an incredible smart design, imho) and “air sickness”
Safety card closeup
The necessary legroom shot. Definitely bearable.
View towards the front. A flight attendant is catering to the needs of a business class passenger.
My row stayed empty at first, but before pushback a nice American gentleman moved to the aisle seat. Before pushback, the captain came onboard and announced a flight time of 2 hours and thirty minutes. We left the gate on time. Before our departure we had to queue up a bit for our departure. On our way to the runway I could observe the interesting mix of airlines and aircraft present at GRU.
El Al, Delta, BA and Air Canada. Sorry for the blurriness of the pictures, the window was smeary.
Speedbird following us
United, LH, AA, AeroMexico and Swiss among some TAM birds
About half an hour after takeoff, inflight service started. I opted for a red wine which turned out to be Kohlberg, which is an omnipresent wine in Bolivia. The bottle comes in at around 5€/7$. And, unsurprisingsly, too tasty it wasn’t. After drink service I was handed what is certainly the most peculiar sandwich I ever got on a plane.
It starts out with the wrapping. Simple paper, no plastic for the bread. And what lovely wrapped little chocolate dessert!
And then the sandwich itself!
Although the bread was too soft and too dry for my taste, the meat, sauce and veggies made for a great eat.
Overhead panel. Notice the three differently colored call buttons.
In-flight entertainment on this flight consisted only of the Airline’s magazine, which was an interesting read.
The magazine contained a full overview of all the aircrafts flying for AeroSur. Interestingly, it lists two 727s, but I only know of one active one.
At the time of my flight, every AeroSur aircraft featured a special livery. Mid-October, AeroSur has put a third 737-300 into service which does not feature a special livery (yet?).
The magazine contained a special feature about the aircraft I was flying on.
Quote: An ancient legend tells that “bufeos” (fresh water pink dolphins of the Amazonas basin) can transform into men at night and seduce women and take them forever. The fear n (sic!) riverside communities due to this myth, as well of the climatic changes and men’s actions who kill them for their eyes and genitals as talismans and to attract fish, have all brought them to the brink of extinction, specially the Inia Boliviensis species.
AeroSur tries to help rescue the river dolphins that still survive in Bolivia by calling attention to their existence and the need to save this beautiful mammal.
The “Bufeo”, Boeing 737-200, flies the Bolivian skies, covering national routes to integrate the country.
In today’s world, no one would probably come up with a story of pink women-seducing dolphins anymore.
Domestic route map
Cruising over Brazil
After some time, a second drink service followed. My neighbor and I opted for another glass of wine. The flight attendant disappeared into the rear galley and returned with two half full cups informing us that this was the last bit of wine they had on board.
Later, I explored the cabin a bit.
Rear galley. Note the paper sign at the trolley: ”Don’t remove from airplane CP-2561”
The Y-Cabin from the back
Nice improvised 5$ smoke detection system in the lavatory. Funny thing: they should change the battery of the smoke detector soon; it was already beeping every 15 seconds.
Signs pointing to the first owner of the aircraft.
The Bolivian Rio Grande
Lining up for finals
You can watch the landing and hear the roaring sound of the engines here:
Santa Cruz de la Sierra – Viru Viru International Airport
In the end, we arrived at the gate about 15 minutes late. But no problem, as I had a lot connection time. When we entered the terminal there was an AeroSur staff member who took care of the connecting passengers. In addition to my La Paz flight, there was also a flight to Cochabamba leaving. As we were the only international arrival at that time, immigration was painless. After immigration I said goodbye to my American seatmate who just had to fork out 135 $ for his visa. I, as citizen of an EU member, can enter Bolivia for 90 days for free. Retaliation visa fees are funny. Anyway, as soon as you pass immigration you enter the landside area at Viru Viru International. Having some time to spare I went outside to enjoy the more than 30 degrees centigrade it still had here, retrieved some Bolivianos, purchased a Bolivian SIM card and went to an internet café to catch up on some e-mails. There was not much going on at that time at the airport. About one hour before my departure I passed security (I was probably the only one doing so in 15 minutes) and went to the boarding area of my flight.
FIDS @ VVI
In the gate area there was only a cafe and a newsstand. Also, there were free water fountains. Great for me to rehydrate before reaching 4000m high La Paz and counter possible symptomps of altitude sickness. About half an hour before scheduled time of departure boarding was “called”. The boarding call consisted of an airline staff member simply yelling “La Paz”. This time, although having a larger aircraft, there were no boarding groups or a special boarding call for business class passengers. However, a very orderly queue formed and soon I was released to the tarmac in order to walk over to my plane.
After Laker ceased operations the bird was taken up by now defunct Lloyd Aéreo Boliviano (LAB) where it flew as CP-2463 from 2005-2007. After their bankruptcy AeroSur expanded to fill the void left by the end of LAB and took up the aircraft.
Taking photos on the tarmac was not a problem at all, on the contrary: there were even ground staff members taking pictures for passengers. Great for me. I was snapping away.
There she is!
Notice the ground staff member. He is about to take a picture of the passenger walking towards the stairs.
Antonov An-12 (?) and an AeroSur 737-300, ”Yacaré"
I had to use those stairs of course!
The rearmost exit row
A row of seats
BoA 733 next to us. Lucky that we didn't get a jetway!
Safety card closeup
A nice atmosphere in the cabin. Load was about 70%
And the obligatory legroom shot. No complaints here for the 45 minute hop ahead.
There was a very relaxed atmosphere in the cabin. The crew were joking with the groundstaff and it seemed they had a good time. One could see they had fun with what they were doing. It was a huge difference between the crew here and the rather cold crew on the GRU-VVI flight.
We pushed back on time and headed for the runway. The takeoff was quieter than I expected.
The seatbelt sign remained on for the entire duration of the flight. The F/As conducted a quick snack and drinks service. They served a tiny ham and cheese sandwich.
Domestic inflight snack
I chatted a little with my seat neighbor on the aisle seat (the middle one remained empty), a very nice woman. I learned some interesting facts about La Paz and its surroundings and she gave me some info on cab prices and stuff.
Before we knew it, we descended into El Alto International Airport.
The airport is most commonly known to be one of the highest airports in the world, at 4060 m/13300 ft. It is situated in the middle of the city of El Alto, the sister city of La Paz on the high plateau Altiplano. La Paz, then, lies in a valley. The rim of the plateau essentially marks the city limit. The lower you get, the more affluent the population.
Landing in La Paz (what I have only done by night, until today) is a remarkable experience. You fly over the dim outskirts of El Alto until you see the brightly colored pit that is La Paz in the distance. However, my camera (or my photography skills) could not cope with this.
Due to the altitude it took very long until we slowed down. We parked again on the tarmac and could walk over to arrivals. In contrast to the 30 degrees centigrade we had in La Paz we were now down to about 4 degrees. Still, I walked slowly to arrivals as my body was not used to this height.
I reclaimed my luggage, grabbed a cab and got driven to my flat in La Paz. Going down from the plain into the valley that houses La Paz for the first time is an unforgettable sight. I hope to add some destination pics in a future report.
Wow, flying AeroSur has been a great experience. I highly recommend flying this airline on hops like that. While the inflight experience might not be the best in the world (the service, disregarding the rather odd sandwich, was far from special) it’s the peculiar little things that make the flights something to write home about. I don’t know however if this also applies to their long hauls to IAD or MAD on their 744 and 762 where the in-flight experience counts and were possible flaws can’t be covered by the fun of flying a rare aircraft. There were several aspects that made flying with AeroSur fun: The great, informative inflight magazine, the friendly check-in staff and the attentive staff member helping with connections at VVI. I had the feeling that AeroSur tries to go an extra mile within its capabilities to give their passengers the feel that flying is special. This is mostly true for their special livery on every plane. Aside from that, what makes AeroSur interesting for us aviation enthusiasts, is it’s interesting fleet. I don’t know how many airlines still exist which operate both a 737-200 and 727-200 in scheduled commercial passenger service. Plenty they are not. In addition to a photography-friendly policy aboard the plane and on the ground it is a great way to fly and maybe also say goodbye to those types.
I total, my itinerary MUC-MXP-GRU-VVI-LPB was a total success. In addition to flying the 722 and 732 I also tried out TAM on their currently stored A340-500. Neither did I encounter significant delays nor greater inconveniences throughout the trip. I hope you enjoyed following me on this little journey.
Tigerguy From United States of America, joined Aug 2010, 1037 posts, RR: 0
Reply 3, posted (3 years 2 months 3 weeks 18 hours ago) and read 13753 times:
Good job once again! It's always good when one is able to get a ride on one of the old birds, and if the actual experience can't happen, then reports like these are the next best thing!
In accordance with the way these trips have odd ways of connecting people, I am obligated to relay a couple of tidbits:
1. It's no small secret that the 727 is a rare and excellent find; it's obviously the crunchiest of carrots dangling in front of my face at this moment.
2. The most interesting thing was this:
Quoting volvair (Thread starter): Then, the bird was registered in the US as N1PC and started flying for Frontier.
The first picture caught my eye; I'd recognize that elk anywhere! He would later be named Montana. He currently graces an A318 and an A320 for Frontier, both of which I've had the pleasure of flying on. It's nice to know that (in spirit, anyway) there's a third Montana still plying the skies! And people think history is boring...
Keep the good work coming, okay?
Flying friendly for a while, but is that a widget I see in the rear-view mirror?
PlaneHunter From Germany, joined Mar 2006, 6972 posts, RR: 77
Reply 4, posted (3 years 2 months 3 weeks 17 hours ago) and read 13643 times:
excellent third part of your series! You were really lucky to get both the 732 and the 722 in these days! And Aerosur doesn't even belong to those many obscure operators out there.
I had the pleasure to fly on a 732 exactly one week ago in Indonesia...more than seven years after the last flight on that type. And the plane was in immaculate condition.
Quoting volvair (Thread starter): Their other aircraft flying to LPB are a 737-200, 737-400 and 727-200. Great, seeing as they operate only one of each the chances were not too bad to catch a rare classic.
They have four 737-300s in service.
Quoting volvair (Thread starter): Having started flying a little more frequently only a couple of years ago (the odd holiday charter flight with my parents aside), there was absolutely no way for me to get on a 727 so far.
I flew on IB's 722 shortly before the type was retired. My travel partner and I even managed to get jumpseats for landing at BCN! Amazing experience!
My source, ATDB, shows "MRO/conversion at CBB" for CP-2515. And the status of CP-2424 is "damaged at VVI". So who knows which plane they are referring to.
Quoting volvair (Thread starter): Mid-October, AeroSur has put a third 737-300 into service which does not feature a special livery (yet?).
That's already the fourth frame it seems.
Quoting volvair (Thread starter): After immigration I said goodbye to my American seatmate who just had to fork out 135 $ for his visa. I, as citizen of an EU member, can enter Bolivia for 90 days for free.
Wow, that's a rip off! What do they do to Bolivians in the US?
Quoting volvair (Thread starter): After Laker ceased operations the bird was taken up by now defunct Lloyd Aéreo Boliviano (LAB) where it flew as CP-2463 from 2005-2007.
It was also shortly leased out to Ecuatoriana.
Quoting volvair (Thread starter): Taking photos on the tarmac was not a problem at all, on the contrary: there were even ground staff members taking pictures for passengers.
Quoting volvair (Thread starter): I total, my itinerary MUC-MXP-GRU-VVI-LPB was a total success. In addition to flying the 722 and 732 I also tried out TAM on their currently stored A340-500. Neither did I encounter significant delays nor greater inconveniences throughout the trip.
That was an amazing trip! Hopefully we don't have to wait too long for your next adventure.
airbuseric From Netherlands, joined Jan 2005, 4281 posts, RR: 51
Reply 5, posted (3 years 2 months 3 weeks 15 hours ago) and read 13586 times:
congrats scoring both very interesting aircraft types on Aerosur. I envy you with the 727, I think a lot of others do here. Would love to get on this bird also, although it seems a mission impossible for me with no plans to travel to South America. The 732 is nice also, but a bit less special with still numerous examples flying around. Isn't the landing great on the 732 when the engine reverser gets in action during braking?
Lovely pics btw, they give a good overview. Catering on your flights seems to be ok too!
"The whole world steps aside for the man who knows where he is going"
sultanils From Belgium, joined Mar 2010, 1804 posts, RR: 30
Reply 7, posted (3 years 2 months 3 weeks 13 hours ago) and read 13410 times:
Buenos dias volvair,
What an awesome experience & report: catching 2 classics on 1 day is really something. I must as well agree on the AeroSur liveries: they look very inviting. I guess it would’ve even been greater experiencing the VVI-LPB flight in daylight but you can’t have it all… I as well have logged these 2 classics some years ago: 727 on Aviacsa (now defunct) from Cancun to Mexico DF and 732 on Aerocontinente (defunct as well) from Cuzco to Lima. If I had known, I had taken some photos For the rest I hope you have settled in nicely and don’t have too much problems with altitude sickness.
Wow, you beat the Wright Brothers to it But seriously, if you fancy a farewell ride, Bolivia seems to be one of the best places to catch a 727, with the Air Force Airline TAM (Transporte Aéreo Militar) also operating a 727 since October.
CaptainRed From Germany, joined Oct 2010, 720 posts, RR: 20
Reply 14, posted (3 years 2 months 3 weeks 1 hour ago) and read 12720 times:
wow, what a great report and of course congratulation on logging two such rare plane types, very nice. Good to read something about Aerosur as well, I have seen their B747 "Super Torisimo" in MAD recently and wondered how they are. These liveries are really great, good idea to have a special livery on each bird. Interesting story here about the bufeo
Quoting volvair (Thread starter): It starts out with the wrapping. Simple paper, no plastic for the bread. And what lovely wrapped little chocolate dessert!
Sandwich looks indeed nice, interesting filling. And good that they don't use plastic here, no need if the sandwich is fresh.
Beautiful as well. Wonder if there is also a story about that livery, but well, looks a bit abstract though, so probably not. I have only one flight on the 727 in my log, back in the 90s between ORD and STL on United, also a memorable flight because I experienced my first (and so far only) go around on this flight.
Quoting volvair (Thread starter): Going down from the plain into the valley that houses La Paz for the first time is an unforgettable sight. I hope to add some destination pics in a future report.
Yes, please do so. I don't know why, but La Paz is one of the places in the world I always dreamed about visiting, but never managed to do so. It has such an exotic sound to it, with the location high in the mountains, and nearby lake Titicaca. Did you have problems with the altitude there?
Thank you again for this report and looking forward to read more about your adventures
Disregarding the first night when I woke up a couple of times, gasping for breath (which is perfectly normal), no problems at all. I knew, however, that I would not face serious problems as I was doing sports at 3500m before. Also, my doctor cleared me for it. Apparently, having sufficient iron in the blood is important to rebuild red blood cells. Also, doing some cardio exercises beforehand and being well hydrated helps of course.
FlyingFinn76 From Finland, joined Jun 2009, 1706 posts, RR: 28
Reply 22, posted (3 years 2 months 2 weeks 6 days 3 hours ago) and read 12125 times:
Now what an excellent and amazing trip report! You certianly had your (or your company's?) moneys worth of experiences here. Not only did you log one but two very hard to get and rare classic birds on that same trip plus one very exotic carrier as well. Just loved the whole report, thank you very much for posting it (and after that teaser in FB you bet I've been waiting for it! ).
Quoting volvair (Thread starter): Terminal 2 FIDS. Flight shows up as on time. Also notice the other flight to Bolivia, BoA to Cochabamba.
Hmm, why are there domestic flights shown here as well? One stop services to international destinations?
Quoting volvair (Thread starter): I decided to head airside immediately to balance the budget with some lounge booze.
Those seats definitely aren't the original ones in this bird!
Quoting volvair (Thread starter): I opted for a red wine which turned out to be Kohlberg, which is an omnipresent wine in Bolivia. The bottle comes in at around 5€/7$. And, unsurprisingsly, too tasty it wasn’t
Are soft drinks free? Interesting name on that wine - sounds Deutsch to me.
I've always loved the name of this airport (and before I knew it always wondered about the VVI code!). Viru is BTW "Estonia" in Estonian .
Quoting volvair (Thread starter): chabamba leaving. As we were the only international arrival at that time, immigration was painless. After immigration I said goodbye to my American seatmate who just had to fork out 135 $ for his visa.
Ouch! That is steep - just like the 100 dollars for a Brazilian or Turkish visa...
Interesting to see all the three flights so close together.
Quoting volvair (Thread starter): Taking photos on the tarmac was not a problem at all, on the contrary: there were even ground staff members taking pictures for passengers. Great for me. I was snapping away.
Hey, that's so nice. Just like in Colombia - nobody cared.
Heh, on many places it is exactly the opposite - you have nice villas up there on the hillsides.
Quoting volvair (Thread starter): In contrast to the 30 degrees centigrade we had in La Paz we were now down to about 4 degrees. Still, I walked slowly to arrivals as my body was not used to this height.
Sounds like the contrast between Medellin and Bogota I experienced on my recent trip to Colombia. The altitude can certainly do some weird things to temperatures and to you as well - I experienced this first hand at Bogota which is "only" 2600 meters above sea level.
Quoting volvair (Thread starter): I total, my itinerary MUC-MXP-GRU-VVI-LPB was a total success. In addition to flying the 722 and 732 I also tried out TAM on their currently stored A340-500. Neither did I encounter significant delays nor greater inconveniences throughout the trip. I hope you enjoyed following me on this little journey.
I most certainly did! Hope to see more stuff from you, maybe some nice domestic flights in Bolivia or the return trip (although it doesn't sound like you are going back anytime soon, are you?). All in all your outbound journey was definitely one worth reading about and a huge success in rare aircraft types - a 345, 732 and a 727 - WOW!
There's still time and a lot of carriers in South America boasting large fleets and therefore good chances not to fall victim to a last-minute aircraft swap. Maybe your visit to Colombia has whet your appetite for a return to S/A. And, you know, those left populist regimes make for ultra-low domestic airfares