Reasons for the trip –
My parents were doing their classic January trip to New York City and I was invited to join them for a week. Since I am a Gold Elite Plus with Air France, I looked for the best fare among Skyteam airlines. Delta was an absolute rip-off and Continental and Aeroméxico were practically on a tie. Just to try something different, I decided to go the Mexican way.
Aeroméxico’s website only allows purchases with Mexican and US credit cards, so I made the booking through Expedia. I then called AM
’s office in Buenos Aires to confirm my booking appeared on their system and to choose my seats.
Aeroméxico AM 29
EZE Buenos Aires Ezeiza – MEX Mexico City Benito Juárez
19 January 2008
ETD/ETA: 23:55/05:35 +1
ATD/ATA: 23:55/10:30 +1
Estimated/Actual Flight Length: 9:40/15:40
Seat 4H – Clase Premier
Boeing 767-200ER – XA-TOJ
Since Aeroméxico only allows web check-in for flights within Mexico, I got to EZE
with plenty of time. Counters opened three hours before departure, and I was checked in by a very nice lady at the Clase Premier (Business Class) counters. She tagged the luggage all the way to JFK
and gave me my boarding pass for seat 11B, which was the one I had previously selected, and an invitation for the “Salón de las Américas”, a VIP Lounge located near gate 2 and used by a whole bunch of airlines.
EZE - Passenger drop-off
EZE - RG advertisement: "Varig - it's more than flying"
EZE - Crowded check-in hall
Checkpoints & Lounge – EZE
was a complete mess that night, with lots of people going on holiday, especially to some beach resorts in Brazil, so security and passport control took a long while to be cleared. After that, I went to the Salón de las Américas. It is not that great, but at least they offer a good selection of drinks and newspapers. I went to the bar for a scotch and the girl apologized for only having J&B and JW
Red Label. Even though my mother would usually say “if you respect yourself you don’t drink Red Label”, I went for it. Afterwards I sat down on one of the comfy armchairs and made some last minute calls.
EZE - Salón de las Américas VIP Lounge
EZE - Salón de las Américas VIP Lounge
I left the lounge at around 22:40, some ten minutes before boarding time. As I walked towards the gate, I heard an announcement – “Your attention please, we are looking for passenger Marambio, traveling on Aeroméxico. Please proceed to gate 9.” Once I reached one of the AM
agents, she asked for my boarding pass and gave me a new one, which had “Seat 4H UPG” written on it. I guess sticking to only one alliance sometimes pays well! With a huge smile on my face, I went through the aerobridge and entered the plane, where the smiling, male purser welcomed me onboard. As I walked towards my seat, a female FA
took my coat away and offered me the amenity kit, Mexican immigration forms and a welcome drink. AM
still offers French champagne – other airlines, including some Skyteam partners (cough – KLM – cough) should make a note of this. The seat itself wasn’t spectacular, but Business Class is always better than Economy and AM
compensates the lack of lie-flat seats and good IFE with a terrific service.
Welcome Drink - Moët & Chandon French champagne
We took off on time and once we reached our cruising altitude of FL360 service begun. First, we were offered some canapés and a drink – I stuck with scotch, and the purser said “I’ll be back in a minute with a new bottle of Chivas Regal.” Smart guy. Main course was either chicken or beef. I had the beef and it was perfectly cooked. The salad was very good too. Dessert was a tasty chocolate cake and some cheese. To drink, I chose a French red wine and some water. After such a great meal, I slept all the way from the Chile-Peru border to the Mexican coast, waking up a mere half an hour before entering Mexico, just when lights were turned on for breakfast. Breakfast consisted of a plate of fruits, some Danish pastries and yoghurt - a light-yet-tasty, typical Latin American breakfast.
Starters - Canapés and Chivas Regal scotch
Main course and dessert
Plate of cheese
Clase Premier cabin view
Once we started our descent towards Mexico City, the captain came on the PA and said MEX
was below minimums because of heavy fog. We would therefore hold over Santa Lucía VOR for roughly half an hour and, if the airport didn’t re-open by then, we would have to divert to Acapulco for re-fuelling. He tried nonetheless to land but we went missed after noticing how deep the fog was. The 767 was quite empty of fuel by then, and it could be really felt – we skyrocketed towards the skies after going missed. By that time I accepted the fact that I was to miss my connection to JFK
and decided not to worry about it. After all, I was on holiday!
Sun was rising over Acapulco as we landed there. Apparently we were the first ones to come, and an incredible amount of airplanes followed us, to the extent that an Iberia A340 had to park at the taxiway because there was no room at the platform. I got an extra hour of sleep, and then went to the stairs to talk with the crew and some other passengers. Due to “immigration reasons” we were not allowed to leave the airplane, so a crowd of people congregated at the door to breathe some fresh air. We had some good laughs and the FAs told us about the places they fly. They were particularly excited about going to Tokyo. Overall the whole thing wasn’t that bad – weather in Acapulco was great, and the crew were in very high spirits and making jokes all the time. Some three hours later we were cleared to Mexico City. When the purser announced we were about to leave, the whole plane started cheering and clapping. Flight time to Benito Juárez Airport was 50 minutes and we left the plane though a brand new aerobridge at MEX
’s five-days-old Terminal 2.
ACA - Not supposed to be here!
ACA - IB A340 parked at the taxiway
ACA - Our plane as seen from our plane
ACA - All waiting for MEX to re-open...
Landing & Connection –
Something weird at MEX
is that even if you are on an international connection, you have to clear immigration and customs. I actually liked that, for it meant an extra passport stamp and the opportunity to check out the new terminal both before and after security. One word to describe it: beautiful yet cold. I suppose it will be nicer once more shops and restaurants are available. Right now there are only some cafés and souvenir stores. On the bad side, I was surprised they only sold Mexican newspapers. MEX
is Latin America’s biggest airport and has lots of flights across the North Border, so why not offer at least some US papers and magazines?
My flight to New York indeed left without me, so I went to the Aeroméxico check-in counters, where a very cool agent apologized for all the inconveniences and for not being able to upgrade me (the flight was almost sold-out) and re-booked me for AM
’s next flight to JFK
, due to depart at 5 pm. We also had a nice talk about Buenos Aires, where he planned to go next month with his girlfriend. I then went for brunch (it was too late for breakfast and too early for lunch) to a café called Barón Rojo, where I had a traditional Mexican dish called “Divorciadas” (Divorced Females). It was really nice and spicy, just the way I like it. The lady couldn’t give me all the change in US dollars, so I now have got a crispy, blue 20 Mexican pesos note as a souvenir. Coincidentally, the 20 pesos note has got a portrait of Benito Juárez.
I cleared immigration and security in no time and after spending only 2 hours in Mexico, I was now officially on that sort of legal No Man’s Land you are when taking an international flight. I went upstairs to check out the Club Premier Lounge and was surprised by what is possibly one of the best Business Class Lounges I have ever been to. The place is very modern, has got free wi-fi and laptops to use, and even a proper restaurant were you can order any kinds of food. I spent my time surfing the net with one of the laptops they let you use, and having a Diet Coke.
I went back to the waiting area at around 4:30 pm. Soon afterwards our flight to JFK
was called for boarding.
MEX - Arrivals hall
MEX - Departures hall
MEX - AM's Club Premier VIP Lounge
MEX - Boarding gates
MEX - AM 772 leaving for CDG
MEX - Guess who is the main carrier at Terminal 2
MEX - Terminal 2 Overview
Aeroméxico AM 404
MEX Mexico City Benito Juárez – JFK New York John F. Kennedy
20 January 2008
Estimated/Actual Flight Length: 4:45/4:25
Seat 6D – Economy Class
Boeing 737-700 – XA-***
Boarding was first called for passengers requiring assistance, those traveling on Clase Premier and Skyteam Elites. There was an extra security check at the gate but thankfully I was just asked whether I was bringing any liquids onboard, which was not the case. At the plane’s entrance there was a huge selection of Mexican newspapers, so I picked a copy of “Excélsior” and jumped in the 73G, where I was greeted by a female FA
. The guy at the check-in counters had told me he’d do his best to find me a good seat, and he was right – he put me on the first row of Economy Class, which was really appreciated, especially considering the flight was absolutely packed.
We took off on time and once we reached cruising altitude, FL380, the FAs came around distributing the USA immigration and customs forms, asking each passenger whether they were US citizens, citizens of a visa-waiver country or of a country which needs visa. The third option was the most popular today. Surprisingly, forms were in Spanish, which was a nice touch. Afterwards dinner was served – either chicken or pasta. I went for the pasta and it was actually very good. The rest of the flight was quite uneventful and I spent it reading the newspaper and watching one of the movies we were shown, “Rush Hour 3” with Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker. Before starting our descent, the captain came on the PA to tell us we would have to wait for some 20 minutes to land because JFK
was very congested. We actually waited for roughly 10 minutes and then landed at New York’s biggest airport.
US immigration and customs forms
Immigration & Baggage Claim –
Immigration took quite a long time because most counters were closed at that hour. The process itself was very easy, and after being asked how long I was staying and being fingerprinted and taken a picture, I was waiting for the luggage, which came in no time – the Clase Premier tags were not ignored. It was time, finally, to take the Air Train to Jamaica Station and then the subway to Manhattan and to enjoy New York for a whole week.
The Verdict –
I am very impressed with Aeroméxico. When I first bought my ticket, I didn’t know what to expect. I learned that Latin America can also have a world class airline and, even though the seats cannot compete against the biggest carriers, service is its strongest point. From checking in at EZE
to landing at JFK
, everyone at AM
was happy and always smiling, and they really knew and (looked like they) loved their jobs. The whole process of getting me on a new JFK
-bound flight was really well handled and, despite my initial concern, even my luggage made it all the way to New York. I now officially became Aeroméxico’s #1 fan.
Stay tuned for part 2 of this report, covering the return flight to Buenos Aires via Mexico. Thank you very much for reading and, as usual, comments will be really appreciated.