I've always wanted to visit Argentina. have heard interesting stuff from people who've been there, and decided that would be a perfect opportunity. after all, sea & sun I have at home practically all year long, so I was looking for something different than GIG (I know, some of you will find that hard to believe, but I prefer my vacations ocean-free), and GRU didn't appeal to me too much - though I definitely will visit Brazil at another time. still, I had my heart set on EZE for a while and that was going to be it.
So it was going to be LY to Brazil, and as for the competition from GRU to EZE - well, I'm not sure there is any. I was never too keen on AR and RG, LA has only 1 daily flight which didn't have the best connection (and so does BA), so the only option for me and the one I was really looking forward to the most was JJ. the timing couldn't be better: 2 hours in transit on the way to there, 3 hours back (which is needed with LY's harsh security). the choice was made, the tickets booked, and all I had to do now is wait for my flight.
Load factor: 45%
And as long as I'm honest with you guys, I'll admit it: I'm not LY's biggest fan, to say the least. I think the airline has the potential but is too busy in doing so many things wrong, it'll never get anywhere. it's quite a while that LY is trying to get into one of the airline alliances, but without success - TLV is by no means a hub, and the fact the airline does not fly on Jewish holidays and Saturdays as to not anger the orthodox community is a huge problem (and as long as we're on the subject, the fact that all other airlines do fly around the clock does not bother those hypocrites flying with them, nor the fact that LY is now launching a big campaign targeting gay tourists to come to TLV. but god forbid if LY have a delay on a Friday which might cause the aircraft to be in the air during Saturday... and it might just be that I could forgive LY for all the rest, if they weren't such cowards of a minority of no more than 15% of israeli citizens, which as I said is using OAL anyway when they feel like it).
Then again, not everyday LY launches a brand new route. and as I was surprised when I heard it and first reported it here on this site only 6 months ago (and to very sceptic replies), I had to check it for myself.
The last time I sat my behind on an LY seat was in October 2007 when I flew TLV-BKK. I wasn't impressed then, just as I wasn't impressed with them to MUC in 2006, FRA in 2004, SXF in 2002 and YYZ in 1998. with over 50 flights under my belt during the last decade (yes, I do keep track) I think the fact that TLV is my home and I still didn't make even 10% of these with the national carrier, says it all. but hey, who am I to keep a grudge. maybe things have changed, I came with such great expectations this time. at least I know that with the launch of such an important route for them, LY will do everything to make this route their best, at least for starters, right?
Let's start with the ground service: LY has a very, but VERY bizarre rule to not employ people for a period longer than 5 years, the maximum amount they can do it without giving tenyure. what this idiotic rule causes, is that the staff is quite new (the ones working 2-3 years they move to the prestige check in), and the service is rarely professional. and how do I define "professional"? when I ask the agent at the gate how many passengers are on board, and the answer is "I have no idea". "not even an estimate?", I wonder, and she simply replies "no". ah well. if no, then no. how rude was I to ask.
just one more thing before I finish with the ground part: I don't think many are aware to the fact that in TLV itself, the security is not special to LY but it done by the airport security division and is exactly the same for all airlines. just on a side note, in case you feel LY would be "more secured" to fly.
|An ad in the gate area for the new route|
|A look at the aircraft from the gate|
|Business class on this 772|
|Boarding the 772|
Security, check in, boarding - and I enter the 772, simply to find out that low and behow, LY put on this flight one of it's older 772s, meaning no AVOD on the PTV. I'm disappointed, very much so to be honest. on such long flights, equipment is everything and can make a real difference. boarding comes to an end, and apparently the aircraft is less than 50% full from what I can see. I'm happy about the fact I have a row of 3 all to myself (LY configuration is 3-3-3), and relax.
But not for long. as soon as we start taxiing, I hear a yapping. constant endless monologue, and not very quietly. while I'm wondering who's talking on the phone (or at least it seamed that way) during taxi, I look up and discover that the F/A seated in her jump seat next to the door, is talking with her colleague which is seated at the opposite door! loudly! like she was in a cafe on the beach, and not a person who's suppose to give service for a bunch of passengers who are right in front of her!
We took off exactly at 2200 local time. the aircraft seemed nice and clean, not too old, and I tried to relax again, not that the human boombox went into the galley. but as soon as the seat belt signs have been turned off, one of the flight attendants come and ask me if that's my bag on the aisle seat. I say yes, and whoop - there's a passenger seating next to me. man, that was when I really got furious. I explained nicely to the F/A that I requested to block this seat for me so I could get some sleep, and was answered in "I'm sorry but this lady was seated next to a baby". ok, I'm not that cold hearted - but for the love of god, right in front of us, row 33 was empty. wide open, completely, on both sides. and why is that? because at some point, LY decided to charge USD 50 from any passenger who want the questioned honour to be allowed to sit in an exit row. of course, no one pays that, and those seats remain empty. but this is not the problem - the real farse is, that LY keeps those seats empty for the first part of the flight and will not let people seat there. perhaps someone will decide after an hour that he doesn't enjoy his seat quite enough, pays and move to the exit. but dammit, you know that after the first hour you will not say anything if anyone moves there, why seat someone next me when that's open?!
At this point I just tried yet again to relax and unwind. put on some music on my player and was browsing through LY's inflight magazine, all full of the news of the new route. just one thing was missing there - a guide to this new place you're flying to, you know, GRU?? no, why should they. it was more important to give an article about how to make Brazilian barbecue (big deal: put the meat, turn over, eat).
A look through LY's map of destinations, discovered mainly that they no one told them that Serbia & Montenegro got a divorce a couple of years ago. nothing exciting apart from that.
A look at yet another map, the interactive flight map, showed that the route is like a trip to Europe - going over LCA, ATH, FCO, MRS, BCN, MAD and LIS before turning left towards South America. now, isn't this trip long enough? can we really not avoid going over main cities in classical Europe?
The fantastic service kept being at its best throughout the flight. and in case you didn't get the irony, I will explain that LY's "no staff over 5 years" rule apply to F/As as well, except for pursers. what LY fail to understand, and can easily learn from European airlines, is that senior cabin crews know how to give better and more professional service, unlike a bunch a 20-30 year olds that did not comprehend fully that they are here to give service, and not to get from TLV to their next vacation lay-over. the service is therefore amateur at best, and far from being professional. so unprofessional, no one even knew how to stop the P/A system from giving a high pitch feedback during a couple of announcements (move away from the speakers, dummies!).
|Another ad, this time in the form of a heardrest|
|Old age PTV on this older type of 772|
Dinner time, finally. first, the crew do the drinks round. first and last, that is. no drinks (apart from water) will be offered again, throughout the flight, until breakfast time. and no, not even during dinner. you drank now? good, that's enough for you. no go to sleep. I thought I could at least have something alcoholic that would get me sleepy. little did I know, that no alcoholic drinks (apart from that cheapo wine) are served in economy class, at all. so ok, soft drink it is then. the drinks are served with a small corn flour snack, followed by dinner.
Now, about dinner - it's not unheard of that an airline will celebrate a new route with a special meal service. I didn't expect Brazilian steaks and Caipirinhas, but come on, the same old beef?? again??
and old is the operative word here... this funky cow have seen much better days, even in the refrigerator it was stuck in until now. the odd thing is, that like most airlines LY have also its own catering company for their flights out of TLV. one would expect that at least from here the meals will be better. and I do wish to remind once again, that there are no drinks to get it down with. a yes, coffee or tea, both lovely options when you wish to sleep.
After dinner, it's time to take out the trash. so here come's an F/A, with a big green plastic garbage bag, holding it open, and asking you to throw your trash inside. ok, WTF? too lazy to go around with a trolley? it looks like he was actually taking the garbage out. so unprofessional.
|Dinner. looking better covered...|
|YUMMM. Appetizing, isn't it?|
Lights are out, so I think I will try to get some sleep. I can't lie down anymore, so I'm trying to sleep while seated (while everybody else are already horizontal because they sit alone), but it's hardly comfortable. I open up a blanket to cover myself, hoping that will get me in the mood - but well, with that thing I could only cover the meal tray. LY, as it seems, are offering blankets that are thin as paper and the worst part is, they are just wide enough for a 15 year old girl. the thing hardly covered me from shoulder to shoulder. I've had more pampering blankets in the army, for god's sake...
No sleep, of course. I browse through the TV channels, catch the middle of some movie, then there are news. lovely, news from Israel are always a great mood setter to start a vacation - or maybe that's the whole idea, to make you happy you're flying away.
Six hours after dinner and 8 into the flight, and still no sleep. an F/A comes with a wicker basket like she's about to go pick flowers on some mountain in Switzerland, and ask if I would like a tuna or a vegetable sandwich (whatever that is). I opt for the tuna, and get the dullest sandwich I have ever eaten. if my mom would ever make me something like that for school when I was younger, I would not come back home. speaking of Switzerland, the sandwiched LX gives on mere 1 hour intra-european flights are much superior.
Three hours before landing and 12 into the flight, the lights are turned on and breakfast is served. and so follows: a bread roll that is so dry it actually disintegrates, a rubbery and well oily omelette, and instead of a proper knife something that looks like a scalpel, with which I am suppose to smear the rock hard butter on the even harder roll.
To make the entire event even more appetizing, I spot an F/A going around holding an oxygen balloon in her hand but at this point I am too tired to even try to figure what's that about.
Being awake now for almost 30 hours, I doze off just at the point where my new unwanted neighbour decided she slept enough and would like to read. how sad it is to discover that her reading lamp, although she's in the aisle and I'm in the window, is aimed at my seat and I get a sunny wake up. as I'm trying to understand if I died and that's the bright light or what exactly is happening here, she apologizes and tries instead the light of the middle seat. that one, miraculously is aimed at her aisle seat.
I manage to sleep a bit before the purser announces we are approaching GRU and asks everyone experiencing a high fever, coughing, and other flu symptoms to notify the crew. I understand why people are cautious with the swine flu, but is the appropriate message to give the passengers is bluntly ask that "if you have it, confess now"?
I was so happy and excited when one of the F/A came to me and ask to fill a questionnaire about the flight. oh, I gladly did. 20 minutes later, I just as gladly got off the aircraft into a nice Brazilian morning, swearing that if the former experiences weren't enough to understand, this is definitely the last time I'm flying LY.
|Breakfast. and yes, that was the amount of olives and tomatoes. I did not eat half before taking the pic|
|Nip/Tuck's version of a knife|
|Route Map just before entering Brazil|
|Cabin shortly before landing|
Flight time: 02:40
Load factor: 95%
Boy, was I happy to arrive to GRU. that was the most excruciating flight I've ever had, and I was happy this part is behind me. the apron was full with aircraft: RG, AV, AF, BA, IB, AA and two LH, which made me wonder if LH is flying MUC-GRU as well. I tried to think hard, but wasn't sure. As I entered the terminal, I was directed by an agent to the connecting flights section. now it's time to see how the Brazilians are doing it.
As criticism is constantly being heard about how STAR is getting bigger and bigger, I wanted to check for myself what the soon-to-be member is up to. the only thing I can think of now is, where they hell were they until now.
In the connecting passengers area awaited a young beautiful agent (apparently, Brazilians are damn sexy and no one told me) who smiled and asked me where I am headed and if I sent any luggage, and wished me a good flight. afterwards I was checked in by another very nice and smiley agent, which took exactly 30 seconds and I had my JJ boarding pass at hand. at this point, I already got from JJ in mere few minutes a better service than I got from LY during 16 hours.
|Departures screen at GRU|
|The beautiful JJ A330 at the gate|
|Last one. I just love this aircraft|
At the gate, half an hour later (I did not have too much time as LY flight was 40 minutes late into GRU), boarding commenced pleasantly and I was very excited to get on my first ever JJ flight. I was greeted by a beautiful A333 with a nice interiors, sparkling clean and looking brand new, comfy seats with good leg pitch and a footrest, and - with AVOD on a touch screen! yes, for this two and a half hours flight!
The cabin crew, just like their ground colleagues, were very charming and greeting passengers with a big but honest smile. during the boarding the passengers were also greeted 3 times over the P/A system. F/As were courteous, happy to assist with luggage, and basically give a great service. maybe it's coming off from an LY flight, but I was genuinely amazed by how nice this crew was. it showed that they really tried their best to make passengers feel welcomed. even before we moved an inch, F/As were going through the aisles, handing out butterscotch toffees (a nice touch), good and high quality amenity kits (again, I remind that this is less than a 3 hour flight), and even warm refreshing towels.
|Boarding the A330|
|A look at the new seats|
|A better looking, brand new AVOD PTV|
|And again from the side|
|Even the lavatories are new and inviting|
|including a flashy sink!|
|A look at the cabin during flight|
We were on our way right on time, and shortly after take off the crew served a hot breakfast and did the first drinks round - but this time, not the last. the choices for breakfast were very good Empanadas with ham and cheese or a sweet option which from my non existing Portuguese I gathered was some kind of flan with something. the meals were presented on a very inviting looking and colourful tray, with the title "Brazil on board". everything was great, even the dessert which tends to be very suspicious on most airlines' economy class meals. during the meal there was another drinks round (including many fruit juices), after which coffee and tea were offered as well. after the meal I took the time to go over some og JJ's inflight magazines - their regular one, and an additional very interesting bi-monthly one called "Red", which might just be the most interesting and informational inflight magazine I've ever read.
|Breakfast. beautifully presented and actually tasty!|
|Route map midway between GRU and EZE|
|AVOD PTV menu|
The flight went by like a breeze. I even managed to watch a movie just before I found out an online questionnaire regarding JJ's service quality on board, on the IFE system. just as with LY, I guess you could imagine the scores I gave JJ for their wonderful service, throughout. I arrived into EZE with a big smile, when I remembered a line from the CEO editorial in their magazine, saying how the employees are committed to making JJ your favourite airline.
Hey, guess what? you succeed.
|A final look at the JJ A330 from an exeptionally dirty EZE bus. no, actually, they were all as dirty as they were old|