Since state-owned Líneas Aéreas Paraguayas (LAP
) disappeared in the early 1990s, Paraguay lost its only local airline. By that time, Brazil’s TAM bought LAP
and at first re-branded it as “TAM Mercosur”–with a bunch of Fokker 100 and the flags of the four Mercosur member states on the back of the plane–, and then simply merged it with its Brazilian operations. Even though TAM Mercosur still operates under a separate IATA/ICAO code (PZ/LAP
), the airline is completely integrated in the JJ
network, and doesn’t even have its own airplanes.
Foreign airlines took advantage of LAP
’s fall and in the last decade Asunción has seen more new companies than ever before – TAM, Aerolíneas Argentinas, Taca, Copa Airlines, Gol, Aerosur and Pluna fly there (or used to at some point: Aerosur and Pluna are sadly gone).
But it was sad to see no ZP-registered commercial airplanes, Paraguay being the only country in South America without its own flag-carrier, something we Latinos are very fond of. So a group of Paraguayan and Argentine entrepreneurs decided to create a new airline, inspired by LAP
(which, at some point, even flew a DC-10 all the way up to BRU
) and with a Paraguayan attitude.
Sol del Paraguay Líneas Aéreas (literally “Sun of Paraguay Airlines”) was born.
Right now they operate three Fokker 100, all of them previously with Click by Mexicana and baptized with Paraguayan names: “Héroes del Chaco” (Chaco War was fought between Paraguay and Bolivia in the 1930s), “Lago de Ypacaraí” (Ypacaraí Lake) and “Itapúa Poty” (in Guaraní language, “Flower of Itapúa”, a region in the south of the country, and also a typical song).
Beside charter flights, Sol del Paraguay (IATA: PI
) serves Buenos Aires (EZE
) on a daily basis and flies twice a week to Ciudad del Este (AGT), Paraguay’s second-largest city and biggest commercial centre.
I took advantage of a special offer on PI
route and booked a flight through its website www.viajaconsol.com
(in Spanish, “travel with Sol.com”). The site does not allow online purchases (only reservations), so I had to contact PI
’s call centre in Buenos Aires, where everything was sorted out in a few minutes.
I think this will be the first trip report about Sol del Paraguay and probably one of the very few covering Paraguay at all.
Sol del Paraguay PI 902
Asunción Silvio Pettirosi (ASU) – Buenos Aires Ministro Pistarini / Ezeiza (EZE)
Estimated/Actual time of departure: 1805/1810 (GMT –4)
Estimated/Actual time of arrival: 2050/2040 (GMT –3)
Fokker 100 MK-28
ZP-CAL “Lago de Ypacaraí”
11341: previously with Click by Mexicana and TAM, and originally delivered to Aviacsa in 1992.
I got to ASU
two hours before departure using the local bus, which stops right at the airport’s main entrance. The bus ticket costs 2300 guaraníes (PYG), around 0,50 USD, whilst taxis to the airport charge 20 USD. No way I’m paying 20 dollars, especially in cheap Paraguay.
has got a layout typical of the 1960s, when it was built. Gen. Alfredo Stroessner was the dictator of Paraguay at the time, and everything in the country was named after him – including the airport. I think KLM.com stills lists ASU
as “Aeropuerto Presidente Stroessner”. In the 1990s the place was re-named after Silvio Pettirosi, a Paraguayan aviation pioneer.
Asunción Internacional Airport (ASU
Goodbye sign in Guaraní, Spanish and English
I got to the check-in counter where there was a small queue, but the whole process didn’t last longer than five minutes. The young agent, who spoke with a notorious Brazilian accent, addressed me by my name and asked me if I had a seat preference, something that does not happen at many airlines. Afterwards she handed me the boarding pass (which looked like a credit card ticket or a supermarket receipt( and asked if I wanted to take the free shuttle bus from EZE
to downtown Buenos Aires, which I declined for somebody was picking me up.
The free shuttle, I have to say, is a great idea. Not only because EZE
is 30km away from Buenos Aires, but because AR
fly from ASU
, which is right at the heart of the city.
- Departures hall
and G3 counters. JJ
's were full of people, so taking a picture was impossible.
's counter being closed - just like the airline. Oh well...
Immigration and security were done in a breeze (in South America we couldn’t care less about gels and liquids and so on) and I settled in the crowded waiting lounge, where a musician was playing some traditional Paraguayan melodies on the harp, a typical Guaraní instrument. I also enjoyed the free wi-fi – do you hear me, major airports, ASU
’s got free wi-fi!
Boarding was called a 5.30 pm (the exact time my boarding pass showed) and even though there was no priority for families and disabled, the packed F100 was loaded so quickly it didn’t even matter. Right at the gate, free candies and local newspapers were offered.
Boarding area at ASU
's ZP-CFL "Itapúa Poty" and ZP-CJK "Héroes del Chaco" standing still at the platform.
Once onboard, welcome announcements were done in Spanish, English and Guaraní, which I thought was a very nice touch. There were 5 flight attendants onboard, four girls (gorgeous all of them) and a guy.
IFE consisted of PI
’s in-flight magazine and the newspaper they offer before boarding. The magazine (Spanish only) is quite interesting, with a few nice articles regarding hidden Paraguayan treasures, like Ypoá Lake and Ybytyruzú National Park (“Y” means “water” in Guaraní, hence the letter is used in pretty much every place name in the country, including “Paraguay”).
Reading material, safety card and a comments form.
Once we reached our cruising altitude at FL340, the crew started with the service, which consisted of a warm pizza (with mozzarella, tomato and olives), some slices of ham and cheese, a slice of cake and some crackers. Very nice for a flight of only 1:30 hours. All kinds of drinks were on offer, including sodas, juices, beer, wine, whisky and even vodka.
A second round of drinks was offered once the meal trays were removed, and an announcement was made informing passengers that both mate and tereré were available. Mate is a warm infusion very popular throughout the Southern Cone, and tereré is its cold counter-part, very common in Paraguay and Northeastern Argentina. I actually felt like having some mate, and the flight attendant handed out this a receptacle, a thermos let’s say, were boiling water and yerba mate were already poured. I saw some other passengers having tereré as well.
The thermos wereon sale for 90.000 PYG (roughly 20 USD) and some people actually bought hem. I gave it a serious thought (it could be very useful when driving alone on the car), but the same thermos you can get for half the price in any Buenos Aires supermarket.
At 34.000 ft, probably the world's highest mate
As I said before, all of PI
’s airplanes are former Click by Mexicana, and there were some hints on the seats and the carpet showing who was the previous operator.
Right after finishing my mate we started our descent towards EZE
, where our captain, Mr Caballero, made a very soft landing, literally kissing the ground. Afterwards we were bussed to the terminal.
Immigration at EZE
was done in a breeze and while there were a lot of people at the customs checkpoint (an AR
flight from MIA
and a 4M
flight from BOG
had just landed), the whole thing lasted less than I expected.
I have to make a special remark about PI
’s service, which I found really above average. Everybody, from check-in agents to flight attendants, were extremely nice and sympathetic, really trying to make their best in order to satisfy each passenger’s needs. That kind of service is hardly ever seen in South America, where robotic crews are the norm, and I was very happy to find it onboard Sol del Paraguay.
Paraguayans are among the nicest people in South America. Simple, sympathetic and always willing to help. I was very happy to find that PI
is a true ambassador of the Paraguayan people, and I’m writing this report in order to send a real “congratulations” to them all. And to tell you that I absolutely recommend Sol del Paraguay to anyone travelling to the heart of our continent.
Thanks for reading and comments are of course most appreciated.