Following a trip to South America, here is a trip report, which I hope some of you find interesting! It was my first trip to South America, and my first time on Air Europa, Aerolineas Argentinas and Pluna…
I’ve split the trip into two sections, this is the first, LGW
and back on Air Europa and Aerolineas Argentinas.
There is a second trip report on the Pluna flights.
There were several options flying from London to Buenos Aires. British Airways fly direct, but were expensive, and right now a bit risky what with all their striking, so they were off the list. Lufthansa, Air France, Iberia, Air Europa and Alitalia were all over £800, as were Air Canada and LAN. This left Aerolineas Argentinas which was quite a lot cheaper at £579 return, so I took it. As Aerolineas no longer fly direct to London, the connecting flight to Madrid was on Air Europa.
I was a bit unsure about booking Aerolineas given all the stories about cancelled flights, rescheduled flights and the very poor ratings you can see on skytrax etc, so when I booked it couldn’t wait to find out!
We left London Gatwick on time, on board one of Air Europa’s Embraer 195. We were glad it was on time because we only had 90 minutes to connect in Madrid. The flight was more or less full, and almost 100% Spanish people. Air Europa must really target the Spanish city trippers to London?
Take off from Gatwick:
Over Eastbourne and Beachy Head, leaving England behind:
The service onboard was good, there was food available to purchase, and the flight was pretty uneventful. We landed on time in Madrid and docked a couple of gates away from our connecting Aerolineas flight.
The terminal building was pretty shabby and very crowded as there were people already waiting for the Buenos Aires flights on Aerolineas and Air Europa which left a little later. We had time to grab an overpriced sandwich and spot the beautiful aircraft we would travel on…I think the Aerolineas livery is classic, it looks great on the 747-400! Their new website looks like they will soon phase out this livery in favour of an updated version, which I think also looks good.
Boarding was announced which was done by seat row numbers, and we entered the aircraft, welcomed by the flight attendants. The plane was full, and there were a few connecting passengers from our Air Europa flight from Gatwick. The plane had no IVOD system, only screens in the aisle. The cabin decor was simple with dark blue seats, and looking worn and dated. But when I sat down, a nice surprise – really great legroom! I was expecting the worse following my trip on an Air France 747-400 last year, but the seat pitch on Aerolineas was very good. Even when the seats reclined (they seemed to recline more than I had experienced anywhere else) there was still lots of legroom.
The screens showed a safety demonstration, although there was no sound, and no announcement that they were showing one. The cabin crew did not stand in the aisle or do a demonstration (this was the same on the return leg). We took off from Madrid on time and dinner was served. Let’s just say, it’s wasn’t the best. There was a choice of chicken or beef. I had the chicken, which came with green beans. There was a small salad and a sweet cake. I was glad I had the overpriced airport sandwich because it wasn’t a lot considering the length of the flight. Another drink was served straight after the meal.
Aerolineas has two inflight magazines:
Aerolineas’ extensive domestic network:
And their international route map:
Once dinner was over a film was put on the screen and the lights dimmed. The film stopped halfway through and then cabin lights went off for the next 8 hours! As there was no personal entertainment screen, I figured I’d just follow everyone else and get some sleep. I woke up just before breakfast was served, with absolutely no idea where we were or how long we’d traveled! On every other long haul flight I’ve taken there was always a flight map ticking away either on the personal screen or the main cabin screen, but nothing on Aerolineas. Anyway, breakfast was served which was a huge disappointment, a piece of bread, some tinned fruit and a yoghurt. It was pretty bad. But we were almost in Buenos Aires, so excitement took over hunger
It was still pitch black outside, and apart from a few lights here and there over what I think was Brazil, we could see nothing until the yellow hue of Buenos Aires. Even though it was 5am and still dark, you could see the smog above the bright lights of the Argentine capital. We landed on time at 5.30 in Buenos Aires and deplaned pretty swiftly, through immigration to collect our bags. After waiting an hour at the slowest luggage carousel I have ever seen, we figured one of the bags had lost its way so went to the luggage counter. Apparently it missed the connection in Madrid, but was on the later Air Europa flight. Eventually they dropped it off at our hotel in the city which was nice. We went through customs control (very long queue) and entered the mad world that is the Arrivals hall at EZE
! We took the Manuel Tienda Leon coach service into town– it was 9 Euros one way to their bus terminal in the city. In the Arrivals hall in EZE
there are loads of taxi touts waiting to get you into their cab, which you are warned not to take, it really is chaotic.
As soon as you get into the hall from the baggage claim there are loads of taxi and remise stands, the airport should really reorganize the area and clear some space, its crowded and daunting if you’ve never been there before. Anyway, we were finally in Argentina!
Buenos Aires is a great city – chaotic, noisy, brash, beautiful, edgy – we loved it!
Our return flight to Europe was from Ezeiza, Buenos Aires’ long haul airport, some 20 kms from the city. Aerolineas flies from terminal B which seems to be the old terminal. The check in hall is very depressing and in need of some renovations. We were handed luggage info before checking in:
Not sure why Argentina’s national airline flies from the old terminal and not the newer one. We checked in 4 hours early and went through immigration to the departure lounge. The area was cramped with some small duty free shops and two cafes. There was also one of the strangest things I’ve seen – designated smoking areas within an enclosed space, ie the departure lounge. It was as if we had time-warped back to 1988 or something. There were two areas located in the corners of corridors, which whilst they had air ventilation going on, you still had to walk through to get to the other side. There was also another area which was like an open pod where people could smoke in the centre again with air vents, but which were pretty useless, because the smoke just wafted into the rest of the lounge. It made for a pretty groggy couple of hours waiting for the plane.
View of the newer terminal A:
We could see a couple of Aerolineas and TAM aircraft and a Lufthansa 747 bound for Frankfurt. There was an Aerolineas flight to Johannesburg – maybe especially for the World Cup? As I don’t think they normally fly to South Africa anymore.
Our ride back to Madrid:
We boarded on time, but then had to sit for 90 minutes. The pilot tried to do an announcement but the PA system was very bad and you couldn’t hear him. I think it was to do with the bad weather. While we waited on the ground the seatbelt signs were on, but people were standing and walking up and down the aisles. I was getting bored so put my Ipod on. Oops! A flight attendant cast her eye on me as she walked by and rather rudely told me to switch it off because the seatbelt signs were on…although half the aircraft were walking up and down…We took off, again with no announcement or sound on the safety demo on the aisle screens. The crew were uninterested and did not seem to mind that people’s seats were reclined on take off, including the guy in front of me. Anyway, dinner was served, again, a culinary delight (sarcasm).
Some of the cabin crew were ok, one older lady especially who I overheard talking with a passenger that she used to work for British Airways and Qantas. She served us the meals and was very friendly. The others were unfortunately quite cold and bordering on rude. The guy in front of me asked the flight attendant in the crew seat sitting opposite why we were delayed, and she just shrugged her shoulders.
The film was a terrible romcom with Jennifer Aniston. Even she could not keep me awake and I fell asleep until the morning sunlight woke me up.
Breakfast was served. Again, breakfast was quite bad. The medialuna (Argentine croissant) had surely seen better days. It was saved by the mini portion of dulce de leche though
We landed 90 minutes late, so I thought we’d missed our connection to Gatwick. We deplaned very slowly onto the tarmac and onto a bus, always a treat from a 747
A guy was lighting his cigarette at the top of the stairs, as soon as he stepped off the aircraft, but no one said anything. When we reached the terminal building, ground staff called out for connections to London and we found out that our flight was delayed, so we didn’t miss it. It turned out we had an hour wait as the flight was delayed by 2 and a half hours. Many other flights were also delayed, I’m not sure why. When we got on the plane, the pilot explained the reason for the delay in Spanish, then started in English but cut off halfway, so I’m not totally sure of the reason. The highlight of the flight was flying over the Channel Islands, and seeing Jersey and Guernsey from the air – I made my mind up there and then that I want to go there soon!
Guernsey, Hern & Sark:
We sighted the Isle of Wight and the English mainland – it looks so green! We landed at Gatwick and I spotted an Air Seychelles bird which was a nice end to a great trip to South America.
Aerolineas wasn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but I enjoyed travelling with them anyway. Plus they were over £200 cheaper than the next option to Buenos Aires, so that made up for the lack of IFE and bad food
Would I fly with them again? Probably yes, and hopefully soon (as that would mean I’m heading back to Argentina
Hope you enjoyed the read…