I arrived at Aeroparque at an insane hour. My watch told me it was five o’clock in the morning, 24 July 2007 and I still didn’t understand what was really going on. An insomniac from the very beginning, I hardly ever work at the wee hours of the morning.
As I walked towards Aerolíneas’ Web Check-in counter, I congratulated myself for having printed my boarding pass the night before. The whole hall (excuse the pun) was a terrible mess. Holydays were just starting in Buenos Aires, and we porteños
were eloping to cozier places than our concrete jungle. In the meantime, vacations were finishing for those in the provinces, who were rushing back home to get back to real life. I think I heard all the different accents and Spanish pronunciations available in Argentina whilst queuing for the baggage drop-off.
After watching how an Asian man tried to avoid excess luggage penalties (without any success), I gave the clerk my boarding card and put my bag in the scale. He tagged it to Tucumán, wrote the departure gate and said: “Boarding time is 6 am. Have a nice flight.” No delays appeared on the screens for flight AU
2472. Apparently my holidays were getting off with the right foot.
I heard it was boarding time while finishing my light yet extremely overpriced breakfast, and the queue for security moved quite quickly. I’ll never understand our national tradition of queuing at the gate twenty minutes before boarding time. Clapping on landings is cute – this is picturesque. Perhaps my fellow countrymen believe airplanes work just like city buses. Who knows?
Finally, we were bussed to the airplane, an MD
-83 baptized under the Christian name of LV
-WGM. She’s an old acquaintance of mine, and I celebrated they took a whole row of seats off her, for legroom is now tolerable. “Cabin crew, all doors in flight.” After the typical welcome and security speeches, we taxied to runway 31 for an ATOVO2B departure to W5
airway, the classical thing when going up north from Aeroparque.
I had never taken off Aeroparque during the night. The city looked huge, endless. Sadly my pictures turned out horrible, but the whole plane remained silent looking through the windows as the powerful metropolis became smaller and smaller until it disappeared below the clouds.
Breakfast didn’t come with the happy meal box, which was something good. The flight attendants were as sleepy as we were, but still they did their best to smile. So-called “service” consisted of a muffin, a jam mini-cake (pastafrola
, as we call it here) and a plethora of drinks. It was nothing to write home about, but still good.
The sun set somewhere in central Argentina, and I slept for a while. As soon as I decided to settle and start enjoying the flight, the purser said we had just started descent towards “la ciudad de Tucumán.”
We left through the jetway, and I was amused by the fact signs directed us towards the immigration counters. Obviously those counters were closed, because, after all, Tucumán was the place where they signed the independence declaration of Argentina, and not the one of another country.
Bags came out quickly, and to my surprise mine were among the first to appear. A friend of mine had told me there were minivans going downtown, but I found none and decided to take a cab.
My holidays definitely got off with the right foot.
After visiting Tucumán and several small towns in the highlands unknown to most foreigners, I made it up to Jujuy on the 30th. On August 4th, the day I was supposed to leave, I woke up with a reputable hangover, and thought “What a moron, I should’ve changed my ticket.” I was having a great time with my relatives, I still had one more day of holidays to spare, and The Nieces had just arrived from Córdoba the day before, so I could hardly see them at all. Anyway, I gave up my thoughts and packed my stuff: there was no way I could change my ticket.
The Cousin drove me to the airport after lunch, which had been longer than expected. We were actually getting there very close to departure time, but I decided to settle in Northwestern Mode (people there take things on a very
relaxed way) and I didn’t really care.
“- You’re already checked-in, aren’t you? – Said the employee at the counter
- Err – no.
- The flight was overbooked. You can do nothing by now but fly tomorrow. Aerolíneas is a real mess these days.
- Are there any seats from Salta? – Salta is a bigger city, with more daily flights to Buenos Aires, 100 km south from Jujuy.
- No, Salta’s situation is worse than ours.
- Well, it doesn’t matter. What time does it leave tomorrow?
- Half past two. I wish all passengers took things the way you do.”
I didn’t make it to change my ticket, but The Force wanted me to stay one more day. I sent an SMS to The Favorite Niece telling her she wouldn’t be able to get rid off me so quickly, and thanked The Force for making everything so easy. Before, I wanted to stay but I had no chances. Now I had to stay. I could do nothing by now but fly tomorrow – and I was extremely happy about it.
Whilst The Stranded were getting really mad at Aerolíneas, I smiled. The Cousin and The Nieces didn’t allow me to go to a hotel, so I refused the compensation (free night at a 4-star hotel with meals and transportation to and from the airport). Aerolíneas’ Chief of Base at Jujuy gave me my boarding card for my new flight, and let me fill in a page of their complaints book, so as to ask for another (cash) compensation once in Buenos Aires. “The wannabe lawyer’s got his first case”, said The Cousin laughing.
The Favorite Niece replied back, saying she’d wait for me, and with The Cousin we drove back to the city.
The following night was one of those when you drink too much, smoke too much and have lots and lots of fun (you never have too much fun), so I thanked Aerolíneas for overbooking the flight. I made it to The Nieces’ place by eight in the morning and caught some of sleep. Before noon, whilst having a late breakfast with The Bohemian Niece, the phone rang – it was The Cousin: “Alright, I’ll be there by half past and then we’ll go to the airport. We don’t want to repeat yesterday’s thing, do we?”
I bid farewell to The Nieces (The Favorite, The Bohemian and The Queen) and once at the airport I met some familiar faces from the day before. “So, it looks like we’re leaving today. Shitty airline this one”, told me one of The Stranded, who was carrying with him, like a crucial award, a card noting his status of employee at the Nation’s Economics Ministry.
The Chief of Base shook hands with me, said he couldn’t contact Buenos Aires regarding my compensation (“You’d better go to Perú 2 [AR’s main offices in downtown BA
] yourself. With some firmness you’ll get something from them.”) and gave me a copy of the local newspaper, El Tribuno de Jujuy. First time I’m offered a complimentary newspaper on Aerolíneas. Afterwards I did the ID
Check, a Jujuy classic due to its location, not too far from the Bolivian border.
With a half-an-hour-delay, the 737-200 made it to the tarmac. I was happy it was good old 200 – I hadn’t flown the type for ages, especially since all-MD Austral took the lead over Aerolíneas in the group’s domestic network. The registration was LV
Boarding began for flight AR
1499, and I entered the place through the rear door just for the sake of it (it had been a long time since I last boarded through the rear). Once settled in my seat, I realized it was an aisle seat, so no chance for pictures.
During the climb, Sierra Whisky shook like hell in the middle of a turbulence area, and kids started crying. You can bet the rest of the passengers were really pleased by this. Once we reached the cruising altitude of 33.000 feet, the flight attendants appeared with the “service” – and with the infamous happy meal box. Inside it, one pack of crackers, one granola bar and one candy. It was quite sad. The crackers were ok, but the rest…
Following my tendency on flights to and from the Northwest, I slept for a while and when I woke up we were starting descent. I hadn’t missed Buenos Aires until that precise moment when I could see the highways and the buildings and the places I know… I was coming back home, and home is the only place one really feels comfortable in.
We parked next to T-01, Argentina’s presidential aircraft, and were bussed to the terminal. Aeroparque was the exact same chaos than two weeks before, with thousands of porteños
coming back home to restart their real life. Luggage took ages to appear and we shared the belt with an Austral flight coming from Puerto Iguazú, so I had to fight in order to find a place to catch up my bag.
My holidays ended just like they started – with the right foot. Now it’s time to think about the next trip. Maybe Córdoba, to visit The Nieces. But we’ll see…
Thanks for reading. As usual, excuse all the spelling and language mistakes, and comments and questions are most appreciated.