MEA-707 From Netherlands, joined Nov 1999, 4453 posts, RR: 33 Posted (13 years 1 month 1 week 4 days 16 hours ago) and read 5399 times:
Inspired by Captain Picards earlier post about the amazing cheap Iberia fares to Latin America (see his tripreport elsewhere), I also decided to visit Argentina on quite short notice as I had 10 days off in mid june and I took a special interest and have friends in this country already for a longer time. Indeed the pricing was amazing, only 379 Euro from Barcelona (so including the connecting A-320 flight to Madrid without additional costs) or Madrid. Bad planning made me book the flight already, assuming I could get in Barcelona for a few Euro as there’s a price war going on between Easyjet, Basiq Air and KLM. But that seemed harder than I expected, all flights were full and/or expensive, so to avoid spoiling the savings and spend another 200 Euro (while normal AMS-EZE pricings start at around 580 Euro), I decided I had to use my United FF miles on Lufthansa to bring me to Barcelona.
This as my 250st flight wasn’t a special one in itself, only memorable as it was the first of many etappes on my first visit to South America. While regional jets are aimed at the business passenger, it always amazes me the boarding and waiting process often lacks any style. We boarded a cattlecar bus (hardly any seats) at 12.30 already but had to wait and stand for two last passengers till 12.51. Of course one bus is enough for 50 passengers but I guess it would have given a more pleasant and maybe even more efficient experience if they had brought the big group of passengers straight to the aircraft and bring the last ones separately.
But then we boarded and could taxi right away to my relief, as I was getting a bit worried about my tight connection in Munich. We were off the ground at 13.11. The weather was good so I could see Amsterdam and Utrecht before it turned cloudy. We got a nice fresh sandwich (I chose one with ham and pickles) and there were two rounds with drinks. We landed at 14.23 at Munich. As we were a little beyond schedule, a small transfer bus was waiting for two pax for Rome and two pax (incl. me) for Barcelona, who brought us to our respective planes.
Sat. 8 June 2002, Avro RJ-85 D-AVRM, Lufthansa Cityline, MUC-BCN LH 5864, seat 12A
We took off at 15.10. The small meal was a pleasant surprise, again a little better than the service last year on comparible Lufthansa flights, one of the few times I saw service actually getting better. The small plate contained a fresh and tasteful selection of shrimps, cheese, sate, dumplings, a drove. A roll was handed out and there were two rounds with drinks, choosing both a soft drink or wine/beer ánd a cup of coffee or tea was being enhanced. We still had a nice view on the mountains on the French/Spanish border but then the weather deteriorated as we flew over Spain and approached over sea, so we landed on a rainy Barcelona at 16.58.
Sat. 8 June 2002, A-320 EC-HQM Iberia IB 2781 BCN-MAD
There was free seating on this flight, I choose seat 18F. The plane was about 3/4rd full. We pushed back at 20.55 and took off at 21.03. A choice of small ham or cheese sandwich and a softdrink or wine was passed out. The weather was better and I enjoyed the sunset while flying over Spain. We landed at 21.54.
Sat. 8 June 2002, 747-341 TF-ATI Iberia (lsd from Air Atlanta Icelandic) IB 6841 MAD-EZE
The 747-300 looked a bit drab from the inside, although the trademark Iberia seats (of a 70s style green/red cloth) make even the newest A-320 look like a 70s worn charter plane. Funny idea I flew now in yet another ex Varig 747, as I once flew on Garuda’s 747-441 PK-GSI which was also a hand me down from Varig.
We pushbacked at 23.44 and took off at 23.56. Even while dark, I noticed the take off was a bit more sluggish than most other aircraft. The flight router told us we climbed about 1000 ft a minute, which isn’t that much, I think. After the climb, the F/A’s handed out earphones and socks, but no drinks or so till about 0.45 when dinner was served. It was a small uninspiring meal; paella-rice with a bit of chicken flavour (couldn’t figure out if it actually contained chicken) a small sweet chocolate cake and a dull roll, but no additional salad. We routed near over the Azores. As there was a movie and later the cabin turned dark, there was only a flightmap in the first and last stages of the flight. But I was amazed to see we were overland again after about 6 hours already, I figured out this had to be northern Brazil already. Before landing when the routeplanner appeared, it confirm we flew streight south over the middle of Brazil, let’s say from Belém streight south to BsAs.
The flight was packed, so I was amazed to read in Capt. Picards report the daytime flight on the A-340 was almost empty. I wish I could have flown this flight too; I have never flown an A-340 yet. Same as with his flight, there were absolutely no drink rounds, the F/A’s didn’t even react if you pushed the button with the little man on it, so when you have a middle or window seat and don’t want to annoy your neighbors, you can really get dehydrated! Luckily I slept most of the flight. Indeed (as follow up to the other post), our F/A’s were old and formal, reminding me of Captain Peacock and Mrs. Slocombe of the comedy “Are you being served.” By the way I usually have nothing against the service of older F/A’s, United and Swissair ones treated the pax courtuous like your grandma would. So while I would have enjoyed the flight if it were empty (enabling me to freely walk around for some extra water and drinks) I now hated the service. One hour before landing, breakfast was served. A dull roll, a few slices of ham, a slice of peach on syrup and a little cake. Early, at 06.14 we landed on a still completely dark Ezeiza Airport (flying time 12 hours 18 min)
Tue 11 June 2002, DC-9-41 LV-YOA Dinar L.A. D7-4196 Buenos Aires AEP-Jujuy, seat 9A, actual flying time 13.41-15.52
Flying in Argentina is now extremely cheap for foreigners due to the Peso crisis (in which the local currency devaluated from being worth $1 to $0,29), a long domestic flight of about 2 hours costs about 130 Peso (ar. $37 or 40 Euro), like this flight to Salta (with a stop at Jujuy which is actually further away) in the northwest of Argentina, near the Bolivian/Chilean border.
The DC-9 (ex Finnair) was a bit cramped, with 124 seats I (6 ft 4) really felt squeezed in. As all my flights, the weather was stable and the flight was smooth. In the clear skies I could see the river delta northwest of Buenos Aires. The area stayed flat for quite a while, only later on the mountains came into sight. There was a small meal, and my second airplane meal (after a flight with Carpatair in Romania) that I got something which I couldn’t tell what it is, but it was quite good. One part was a bunch of stuff which looked like rasped carrot, although it was red and purple (and not orange) , the other part was a cube made of green stuff which tasted a bit like mashed broccoli. Cheese, pastry, a really good hot roll and a cold drink. My neighbor was a composer working on his music sheets, quite interesting to take a peak at. The last half hour there was a wonderful sight of the larger mountains which had a flat mass of clouds stuck in between it. We dove through the mountains and ended up at a small deserted airport (with no other houses or building anywhere around to see). Amazingly, almost half the passengers deboarded and were replaced by others. I had to stay on board as the down time would be only 20 minutes.
Jujuy-Salta; It might have been my shortest flight yet, we took off at 16.24 and landed at 16.37 already. Still we reached a considerable hight, took a short sunbath over the thick layer of clouds and to pass the mountains. No inflight service apart from a mother behind me singing beautiful songs to her baby child. No passengers who boarded at Jujuy exited at Salta already, there are hourly buses, both airports are quite far away from the cities (10 km or so) so even if tickets were available I don’t think many people would fly it.
this photo is the same type but not the exact aircraft
After spending the night (not a happy night as I was told by a bunch of funny drunk young guys next morning, as Argentina didn’t win the footballmatch, shown at 3.30 AM local) and early day looking around, I headed to the airport in the afternoon. Now this flight to Tucuman instead of taking a direct flight back to AEP I only took to log another flight on an interesting carrier, as the short flight was only (equivalent of) $13.
I was the last to board as my foreign passport caused some suspicion (actually the only hassle on this whole trip, it was comforting that both in Europe and Latin America the customs and check procedures seem to be streamlined). Right after I boarded , the door closed, like always the right prop started first at 15.26, we taxied at 15.29 and took off at 15.31. My seat 7A was just OK to have a glance beside the huge engine cowlings of the DHC-8, but it was impressive to see the wheels, still spinning, being swallowed up in the cowlings after take off. We landed at 16.04.
Even while the short flight didn’t have service, I felt that Southern Winds sort of tries to stand out against their competitors. The plane looked clean, modern and the inflight magazine (in Spanish only though) was like a book on luxurious heavy paper.
Wed 12 June Boeing 737-228 LV-ZTX Austral LA AR 2485 Tucumán-Buenos Aires AEP
After a few hours spent in Tucumán, I went back to the airport for the evening flight. It was filled for about 75%. We took off at 20.44. Cold drinks and a plastic container with two sandwiches (sloppy white bread) with ham and cheese were handed out. It was dark outside but I could see the lights of the towns we passed, Cordobá, Rosario and then the huge outskirts of Buenos Aires, which we approached from the northwest.
First an intermission about the flights which were not meant to be;
As a F-27 fan, I hoped to fly CATA as they have both versions of the rare Fairchilds, the F-27 and FH-227. Even while carrying mail is their core business, they used to take passengers along on their flights to make an extra buck (there was an inspiring article on it in “Airways" ). But they didn’t fly, at least they told me when I called them and even visited their small office in town in person (they didn’t even let me in).
My second option was to fly LADE, who flies cheap early morning flights from Buenos Aires to the south (too cold there but I figured I could get the first sectors or so). But also LADE stopped flying from Buenos Aires, but are restarting locally in the south this month. As the appartment I stayed during the week was near the approach and take off path of Aeroparque in the center of town, I could confirm no single F-27 (with its distinctive Dart whine) or F-28 movement was at Aeroparque during the week. So I decided to do another trip with the more standard carriers, a one day trip this time, adding at least one new airline to my logbook. Again very cheap ($15 one way). Rosario was the only one possible as all other flights were packed (as it was Friday, the start of a long weekend in Argentina).
Aerovip is a connector of AIRG (yet another new name of the former LAPA as Aerolineas Argentinas wasn’t happy with “ARG” so they sort of squeezed in an Argentine flag strip making an I ) so the aircraft was in its colours. I sat in seat 7A, the 19st seat besides the microscopic toilet (6 rows three abreast). As it was the first flight of the day, the cabin was freezing. There was no F/A, and the pilots said nothing about safety (didn’t check seatbelts or so) and only made a Spanish p/a halfway. All seats were taken, we took off at 8.30 and landed at 9.17, another smooth flight enjoying the view of the river delta.
Another evening flight, but as the jet is quite quicker than the Jetstream, only a short one; we took off at 20.52 and landed 32 minutes later already. There were only 30 passengers, so I choose a better seat (13F). There was only a quick cold drink service. (Interesting though for US readers is I never saw a single peanut or pretzil or nut or raisin on all the flights on this whole trip).
I liked the busterminal feeling of Aeroparque. While touching down at 21.24, I could walk streight outside, take the local bus and I were in the appartment in the center at 21.45 already.
Mo 17 June, Boeing 747-341 TF-ATH Iberia (Air Atlanta Icelandic) IB 6840 EZE-MAD seat 53L
I took a taxi to EZE, quite a distance from town, quite early, both to catch an early place in line to get a window seat (no advance reservation possible) and to spot at EZE. There are some possibilities to see the place from the canteen in the Air Force Building, a drab and dirty building in between the terminals. Because it was late morning, there were many more interesting sightings. The highlight was the Cubana Il-62 (Friends told me Cuba is the country liking Argenina most, because it is Che Guavara’s birthplace), American Falcon 732, LAB 722, TAM F-100, Varig 737, LAN Chile 732 and A-320 etc. Only later I read I just missed the new combined colours of Aerolineas/Austral (Finnair like) by one day.
Without announcement, boarding didn’t start till 14.05. We pushbacked at 14.19 and had another sluggish take off at 14.36 which took 52 seconds.
Again a full aircraft. The weather was clear so I could enjoy seeing how we left Argentine area south of Buenos Aires, near La Plata, crossed Uruguay and kept to the coastline. Lunch, served after 90 minutes, was quite good. No choice, everyone got spinach, shrimps and other unidentified fish, a tunasalad, caramelpudding, creamcrackers and two rolls and one drink serving, the last for the next 8 hours... We flew at 30000 foot over Sao Paulo, where you could see the airport in the northern part of town. Then we went land inward, over Belo Horizonte, with another airport to be seen. Then it became cloudy, no announcements and movies instead of the flightrouter but we had a more eastwards routing compared to the westish routing on the way to Argentina. Much later after a nap (still dark) I saw some lights, probably Mauretania or Cape Verde, then nothing and then very bright lights which even make the wings glow at 11 kilometers, as if the sun already came up. I could recognize Gran Canaria below us. Later, a breakfast was served, also better than on the way to Argentina; fruityoghurt, a can of orange juice, a dry ham cheese sandwich and a croissant, pastry and syruped fruitchunks. The first time in more than 8 hours we saw a F/A (apart from the annoyed guy who asked all the people storming the galley midflight for drinks and small bread snacks to back off). Only above Portugal the sun came up so we landed in a pleasant early morning light at 6.45 (flying time 11.09)
Tue 18 June, A-320 EC-HDO Iberia, MAD-BCN IB6840 (same flnr), actual 8.35-9.26.
This was quite an interesting service, it filled up strictly with people connecting from different intercontinental early morning arrivals. We were bused to a corner near the freight platform of Barajas to board the aircraft. Immigration formalities only took place at BCN. As you can walk about at Barajas waiting for this plane (while other transfer passengers and pax with final destination Madrid were lead to customs), I wonder if this system isn’t a loophole for illegal immigration; you just buy a BCN ticket, claim to continue to Barcelona, but secretly escape out of MAD with hardly or no passport check if you first walk to the domestic terminal. Or they have probably thought about this?? Service was OK for a short flight like this; coffee or cold drinks and some biscuits. So on short flights Iberia is OK but a disaster on longhauls (while for instance the US airlines are the other way around). Again the weather was good, so I could see the Spanish inlands. We were still quite high in the air when we passed Barcelona on the right, descended over sea turned around and approached from over the sea.
Tue 18 June A-300-600R D-AIAU Lufthansa LH4331, BCN-FRA.
Nice to fly an A-300 again, I hardly ever fly Airbus widebodies. It was only filled for 40% so my neighbor relocated to a row for himself. The small cold meal was a salad containing pasta, cheese, barbequed chicken and ham. Added was a Twix-like candiebar and again abundant drink service (coffee and refil, two cold drinks). We took off at 13.01 off coast, we flew around the coast area, again over sea southwest of Montpellier and then north over easter France. Landing at 14.45 at Frankfurt.
Tue 18 June A-319 D-AILB Lufthansa LH4438 FRA-AMS, seat 9F
We had a powerful take off in this 70% filled aircraft at 16.23. Service on this short flight was one drink and a very nice big sandwich, again better than on my two earlier Frankfurt/Amsterdam flights in 1999 and 2001 (drinkservice only). We landed at 17.10 over Aalsmeer to the northeast, very unusual to land on this runway at Schiphol. The only problem was my luggage was lost when I arrived at Schiphol. It was only delivered to my appartment two days later and I remembered the intern at BCN (being clumzy in a very cute way) must have printed a wrong flightnumber on the tag.
Well that’s it for now, any comments and questions are more than welcome. Hope it is a nice addition to the report of Capt. Picard.
nobody has ever died from hard work, but why take the risk?
Latinplane From United States of America, joined Dec 1999, 2753 posts, RR: 11
Reply 1, posted (13 years 1 month 1 week 4 days 11 hours ago) and read 5175 times:
Great trip report.
Iberia seems to have almost all of their South American routes on sale. I guess that they are having a hard time selling seats. They haven't really increased flights for the summer season like they did last year.
Ryanair!!! From Australia, joined Mar 2002, 4776 posts, RR: 24
Reply 4, posted (13 years 1 month 1 week 4 days 8 hours ago) and read 5158 times:
What a long a detailed report! Excellent read. A shame abt Iberia though... I always thought that they have such a timeless color scheme which gives the airline a cheerful feel, unfortunately the service is not such!
Welcome to my starry one world alliance, a team in the sky!
Latinplane From United States of America, joined Dec 1999, 2753 posts, RR: 11
Reply 6, posted (13 years 1 month 1 week 4 days 7 hours ago) and read 5147 times:
By the way, It was nice gesture of you to decide to visit Argentina. Not only did you get a great bargain, but you also helped their economy by leaving foreign currency in the country at this time when it needs it the most.
Lima From Argentina, joined May 1999, 1122 posts, RR: 13
Reply 7, posted (13 years 1 month 1 week 3 days 23 hours ago) and read 5133 times:
Thank you for the detailed trip report. Very interesting flights in Argentina.
I think the seats on the B747-300 were the same used by Varig, with bright green and yellow colours.
Once again I hear that Iberia service on long haul is not that special. Alitalia offers a better service if you consider its flight leaves at similar times from Buenos Aires. After take off, a lunch is served, later in the evening a dinner and then a breakfast before landing in Europe. The crews were very corteous and they distribute newspapers in tourist class.
CFM-56 From Finland, joined Sep 2001, 239 posts, RR: 0
Reply 8, posted (13 years 1 month 1 week 3 days 23 hours ago) and read 5128 times:
Nice report! very interesting. I must say that Iberias long-haul inflight service is not comparable to the European ones. I flew several times between Helsinki and Madrid and from Amsterdam also and the service has always been impeccable. Strange and sad to see this happening,I will not travel with Iberia intercontinental that's for sure..I'm too spoiled with SAS
MEA-707 From Netherlands, joined Nov 1999, 4453 posts, RR: 33
Reply 9, posted (13 years 1 month 1 week 3 days 22 hours ago) and read 5121 times:
thanks for the remarks. Lima > The 747-300s were refurbished to Iberia standard (as earlier it also has flown by Air Atlanta Iceland itself for Saudi hadj flights in a Y500 configuration or so). Iberia put in their own seats, I forgot to check but I meant blue/green cloth, the same like in this A-320
. Indeed there were newspapers in tourist class, one brand Spanish paper (I read it more or less though).
Latinplane > Yes, that is what free trade is about; if more people discover Argentina as a nice budget destination and a source of affordable goods and labor, the peso might get stronger again and everybody has advantage. But that's wishful thinking for now, unfortunately I saw the country was financially in a worse state than I expected.
nobody has ever died from hard work, but why take the risk?
TriStar500 From Germany, joined Nov 1999, 4704 posts, RR: 40
Reply 10, posted (13 years 1 month 1 week 3 days 4 hours ago) and read 5068 times:
Thanks for your report!
Concerning the MAD-BCN flight strictly for international connecting passengers: I had a somehow related incident two years ago. After my originally scheduled flight from BCN to MAD was cancelled, I was put on a BCN-MAD flight, which "collected" passengers for Iberia's various South America services (the flight had about 6 different flight numbers!). Much to my surprise, we didn't arrive at the domestic/ Schengen terminal in MAD, but at the international one!
After I had overcome my slight confusion about this unplanned change to my travel plans, I had quite some problems to get out of the airport, because I had to make my way through immigration - quite amazing after a short 1h domestic flight within Spain!
Homer: Facts are meaningless. You could use facts to prove anything that's even remotely true!