For this trip report I'll have to go all the way to the very very beginning, so please bear with me.
I was going to be in Auckland for business for one week and decided to take a break afterwards and go to Sydney for an additional 5 days. Most fares between AKL
were in the US$400 range on QF
, Emirates, and Thai. For the dates I wanted to travel AR
offered a promotion of US$290 return so I decided to book with them. To avoid service fees for paper tickets I opted to make my booking through the AR
website which was easy enough (or so I thought). After making my booking I received an email confirmation that AR
had received my info. My assumption was that the paper tickets would arrive by mail within a week or two, probably from AR
's USA office in Miami. However, a day later a received a second email confirming, once again, my itinerary and asking me to contact my nearest AR
office to finalize the booking. The email contained a lengthy list of all of AR
's phone numbers throughout their entire system. I called the US number, which, interestingly enough, was automatically forwarded to their call center in Buenos Aires. So, over a crackling phone line I gave the agent my confirmation code, along with my credit card number (again), and she proceeded to confirm payment. She then indicated that I would now have a "pre-paid' ticket waiting for me in Auckland, and to arrive at the airport a full three hours prior to departure to receive my ticket and to check in. The outbound flight, AR1182, departed Auckland at 6:10am, meaning I'd have to be at the airport by 3:10am! I asked why the ticket couldn't be issued to me and mailed, and I was told that it would have to be couriered to me in the USA at a cost of about US$40, and that it was best to pick the ticket up at AKL
. She also said that I would need to call AR
72 hours prior to departure to confirm (I didn't think today's airlines required this anymore).
It just so happens that I would be working around the corner from AR
's Auckland sales office. One afternoon I went there and the friendlily agent was able to issue my ticket as well as do the confirmation for both outbound and inbound flights. Thankfully, with this I was able to shave at least an hour off the time that I would have needed to show up at AKL
Date: 10 May, 2005
Aerolineas Argentinas Flt. #1182, Dep. 6:10am
Equip: A340-200, LV
Flight time: 3 hrs. 5 min.
I left central Auckland at 3:30am to get to AKL
by the required time of 4:10am. The only option at this hour was by taxi. We pulled up to an empty international terminal at around 4:00am and then proceeded to the three check in desks for AR
that are handled by Air New Zealand. There was a small line requiring about a 5 min wait. When I got the counter the rather surly NZ
agent took my tickets, typed into her computer, and then shot back at me that I didn't have an "ETA" (Electronic Travel Authority). as required by Australian immigration. She said that usually airlines will obtain this for the passenger automatically at the time of booking, but that AR
oftentimes doesn't. I was very fearful at this point that I wouldn't be allowed to travel to SYD
dor not having proper documents, but was told by the agent that Air New Zealand can issue me the required ETA, but at a cost of NZ
$25 (waived if I would have been traveling on NZ
). So, I had to lug my baggage with me over the Air New Zealand sales desk to purchase the ETA, and then get back in line at the AR
check-in. By now, the line was much longer and I had to wait for about 20 min to make it to the front. From what I could tell, it appears that Air New Zealand handling agent staff wanted to distance themselves from AR
operations as much as possible. This was evidenced by the agent constantly using the term "they", e.g., "they" are requesting that you report to the gate by 5:40; "they" will only allow you one carry-on piece, etc.
I then proceeded upstairs to the departures level and bought a coffee and them walked up one more level to the observation deck. It was plenty dark at this hour, but I at least got to watch the NZ
arrivals from North America, as well as the arrival of LV
-ZPO, my A340 to SYD
I then went through security and immigration checks to gate 9 where our aircraft was waiting along with several transit passengers who had arrived from EZE
. At precisely 5:40am boarding began in the usual order. I proceeded down the jetway and was greeted by two cabin crew who looked at my boarding pass and directed me to the appropriate aisle. Today's flight would see me in 17B in the first section of economy. The flight was about 60% full, with plenty of room to spread out. The interior of the aircraft was pleasant enough with a lot of blue. No PTV's though, only the main screen. Pushback began with the screening of the safety video in English and Spanish, and all cabin announcements were made in both languages. Shortly after take off, a breakfast service was provided which consisted of a croissant, jelly role, sweet cake, and fruit plate. Cabin crew then came around with coffee (Nescafe). We would get the movie "Coach Carter" on the main screen, followed by some arrivals information for SYD
. The flight was largely uneventful, and our descent was smooth and ended with an ontime arrival into SYD
Date: 15 May, 2005
Aerolineas Argentinas Flt. #1183, Depart. 9:20am
Equip: A340-200, LV
Flight time: 2 hrs. 40 min.
I was told by my hotel concierge that SYD
can be pretty busy in the mornings, so I decided to get to the airport a bit early by train from Sydney Central. I arrived at the terminal at around 6:30am and proceeded to check- in area A. Because AR1183 originates at SYD
and terminates at EZE
there were a lot of passengers waiting to check-in for both AKL
. I would be connecting to NZ
's Flight #8 from AKL
, and fortunately, the Qantas handling agent was able to check my single piece of baggage on to SFO
. This would be great as I wouldn't have to clear immigration and customs at AKL
to make my connection. I made my way through security and immigration to gate 32 where LV
-ZPX was waiting. The gate begin to fill up quite a bit indicating that we were going to have a relatively full flight. Boarding began as usual, but with a general boarding after special needs and Condor Class. I managed to survive the scrum and make my way down the jetway, once again to be greeted by two cabin crew and directed to my seat. Servicewise, things were replicated from the previous flight except that we would get lunch, consisting of a packaged ham and cheese croissant, cake, and cheese and crackers, and that there would be no movie, only a special feature on AR
Upon an ontime arrival into AKL
, I proceeded to the NZ
transit desk for my boarding pass onwards to SFO
allowing for a full four hours of time to wander and spot at AKL
before my connection.
After my long 12 hour, full flight, on Air New Zealand's NZ8, I arrived at SFO
eager to get home. Immigration was a breeze, and then I proceeded to baggage claim. I waited and waited as bag after bag came over the conveyor, until no more bags came out. I was astonished. This had never happened to me before that my luggage didn't turn up at my final destination. I walked over to a uniformed NZ
agent and explained the problem, she went over to the odd-sized claim area to ensure that my bag hadn't been missorted over there. She came back saying that it hadn't and to have a seat and that someone would come to speak with me. Needless to day I was sooo mad. After a couple of minutes a male agent came over and sat next to me to record a "baggage incident form". I probably had the worst attitude towards that guy, which, unfortunately was really misplaced as it would turn out to be AR
's fault my bag didn't arrive. After taking all of my information, the guy said he would call me later that night or early the next morning to see if my bag could be located. He called the next day and said that they had no luck in finding my bag, in fact he said that it hadn't even been scanned onto flight NZ8 from AKL
. In other words my bag wasn't transferred to my onward flight at AKL
as it was supposed to be (remember, it had been checked through to SFO
). As a courtesy, Air New Zealand said they would forward my baggage incident info to LA
where their central baggage office could do more. The next day (two days after my arrival frim AKL
) I finally received a call from Air New Zealand LAX
saying they had located my bag in Buenos Aires! Evidently, AR
never offloaded it in Auckland, and it went all the way to EZE
. Air New Zealand had already made arrangements for it to be delivered to me in San Francisco, and that it would be sent to JFK
and then on UA
arriving three days after my flight from AKL
. Rather then wait for it to be delivered to my house, I went to the airport and claimed my luggage in person. Needless to say I was shocked when I saw my bag: the combination lock had been forced open and my bag pilfered! Gone were a pair of sneakers, an expensive backpack, three shirts, and a pair of jeans. Everything else had been stuffed back into the case in disarray. I felt so angry. UA
was no help whatsoever and told me to contact Air New Zealand to file a claim. Air New Zealand told me to file a claim with AR
as it was them who lost and then pilfered my bag, most probably at EZE
. I wrote an email to AR
but have yet to receive a response.
What I thought would be great value for money turned out to be nothing but a big pain of the neck. I doubt I will ever fly Aerolineas Argentinas ever again.
From issuing the ticket, to getting the ETA, to losing my bag, to pilfering my bag, I initially thought it was just a lot of bad luck. But, after thinking about it further, AR
really needs to go back to the drawing board on some of its operations, especially when it comes to their trans-Tasman service. This is probably a good warning for all of us who opt for the cheapest fare and it happens to be on a 5th Freedom service.
Not all who wander are lost....