I hadn't really planned on doing any international trips this summer, but with AA's announcement of the termination of ORD-EZE, I decided I needed to get on the flight before it's gone. So, after some quick last-minute planning, I threw together an itinerary to get on AA961 ORD-EZE and AA 964 EZE-ORD. Many thanks to LAXdude1023 for his help in answering my countless questions about EZE before taking this trip!!
13 June 2008
Block Time: 11 hours, 05 minutes
Seat: 2A, NextGen Business Class
Photo © Airwim
Well, this was my second trip into the southern hemisphere, my first being to SYD back in April. As usual, my work and school schedules prevented me from getting any decent amount of time off for a proper vacation, so I was only going to have 11 hours to visit EZE. Turned out to be enough time to see a good bit of stuff though - Argentina is a very cool country.
Anyhow, the road to ORD was a bit of a long one. Of course the DEN-ORD flights were oversold, so I listed on NW DEN-MSP-ORD. I got to MSP just fine, only to find out MSP-ORD was canceled. The storms that have been hammering the US midwest passed over ORD, which of course created a operational meltdown akin to Three Mile Island. Of course it happened on Friday the 13th too, and that was the day I needed to get to ORD. So, by pure luck and the grace of the nonrev gods of wrath, I got on a UA flight MSP-ORD which was wideopen. Even then, I had about 8 hours to burn in ORD, so I walked around and did some sight-seeing.
AA158, ORD-DME, in final boarding
N792AN, pushing back for Moscow - DME
As an aside, my next "goal" flight is to get on AA158/159 to Moscow. I've wanted to see Russia forever, and with relatively light load factors I'd imagine the ORD-DME route won't last too long at AA. Afterall, ORD-EZE route lifespan will be 9 months from start to finish, so if ORD-DME lasts the same approximate amount of time, I have until March to get on it. So, awhile yet, but the sand in the hourglass is falling!!
Gate screen for AA961 to EZE
The 767 seems to be a bit of an unsung hero, so to speak, in terms of longhaul workhorses. I never quite fully appreciated how long-ranged those planes are. EZE-ORD has a blocktime of 11:30 currently, and I believe it was 11:45 during the winter. Impressive long flight for a 763.... they seem to have a range near of what the A332 does. Maybe not in published figures, but in flights that are actually done, the 763 can definitely hold its own. I know DL has a route or two that eclipses 12 hours in duration, requiring a full double crew (4 pilots) on the 763.
Cabin of N399AN during pre-boarding. I love the AA NextGenBiz seat.
Slightly different angle of Business cabin. The flight went wide-open... easy to tell why AA is terminating the route, unfortunately.
View out the window. The Super 80 next door was going to SFO, I believe.
During boarding, AA plays this very nice music, which I could only describe as being music off of one of those "Songs that promote sleep" CD's. Very soothing & relaxing. In addition to this, they show pictures and short video clips over all the cabin screens of waterfalls, the beach, snowy mountains, and other various relaxing nature scenes. It's quite nice!!
Sorry for the weird lighting - pic of boarding video being played.
Looking across row 2. No one in sight.... quite nice!!
Boarding went quickly for such a light load factor. I almost felt bad for AA, as there was a very slim chance they were actually making money on the flight. Hopefully they had a good cargo load. We departed exactly on time. During taxi, menus were handed out and dinner orders taken. The FA's also handed out the eternally glorious Bose noise-canceling headsets.
Takeoff out of ORD
The dinner service was fantastic. I've experienced World Business Class on NWA, First Class and Business Class on UA, and NextGen Business Class on AA. Of the three, AA wins by a longshot as far as quantity and quality of food goes. NW would be an easy second, and UA would be a bit of a distant third. The seat comfort too, AA also easily wins again. AA's NextGenBiz seat got a hot & cold reception on a.net. It's interesting to note though, most of the complaints come from people who judge through pictures and not having actually flown in them. The seats have VERY comfortable preset positions. The lie-flat sleep mode is also fantastic, very conducive to 8-9 hours of sleep on the long flights.
Sunrise on descent into EZE
We flew right over EZE, which gave an interesting aerial perspective of the airport. Maybe it's just me, but it seems a lot smaller than most major international airports... only a handful of gates.
Domestic terminal at EZE. It's in such bad shape that all you can do is chuckle.
AA's domestic product has slipped quite a ways in recent years, but their international product is still fantastic. Dinner service is excellent, and their new business seats were not a half-assed upgrade by any means. Those seats are quite nice and will definitely keep them competitive, even with the likes of UA's new business class. Their entertainment players are quite nice, though I'd only suggest one thing done differently. You cannot assemble your own music playlists from them, you have to listen to their pre-set playlists. So, in that way, it's almost like channelized audio, not Audio On Demand.
N399AN at gate on arrival in EZE.
14 June 2008
Block Time: 11 hours, 30 minutes
Seat: 5G, NextGen Business Class
Photo © Jid Webb
For having only 11 hours layover in EZE, I actually got to see quite a bit. I will say, I definitely need to go back. Argentina is VERY cool. I'm hoping to go later in July or August... when it's the height of winter down there and the low-point of tourist season - still good for nonrevving!!
Streets of Buenos Aires. Interesting to me was how EZE looked more like Europe than Central or South America (my own preconception).
Check in area of the international terminal.
Easily the largest duty free shopping area I have ever seen. The place was absolutely huge.
Even though there were window seats available on the way home, there were none with the aisle seat vacant next to them. I decided I wanted direct aisle access for a few frequent bathroom breaks (Argentinean wine is really good), so I got Biz seat 5G for the return flight on AA964. While the load factor was heavier, it was still quite light and I was the only nonrev on the entire plane.
View down the aisle, during final boarding just prior to closing the door.
Again, the dinner service was fantastic, my compliments to AA. For entertainment I watched a few episodes of one of my favorite shows "The Office" (US version). After that I watched "Jumper", which was an entertaining movie, IMO. After that, I hit the sack and was out like a light until breakfast. Actually, I take that back. Somewhere overwater between the northern tip of South America and the southern tip of Florida, we ran into some ROUGH turbulence. I might have slept through the initial few bumps, but it got violently rough VERY quickly. I was in the full flat recline when I woke up. I'm the type who enjoys turbulence, so I just went back to sleep "enjoying the ride", so to speak. With a few glances around though, some people were beginning to look pretty nervous as water bottles and other items were being bounced off tray tables and the like.
Waiting for the door to be opened on arrival into ORD.
AA964 is scheduled to arrive into ORD at 505am, and we arrived near exactly at that mark. Luckily we were the first plane into the customs hall at ORD. Incidentally, passing through customs was the quickest it has ever been for me anywhere. The time from stepping off the 767 into the gate until stepping outside the doors after clearing the customs hall I would guess took no longer than 2 to 3 minutes - no exaggeration.
Well, that's it for my first trip to South America. Can't wait to go back either. Just this time around I needed to make sure I got on both AA961 and AA964 before they're both terminated in September. Thanks for reading, and all comments & responses appreciated!!