Way Down South: Aerolíneas Argentinas Club Economy AEP-USH

Delta Business Elite ECP-ATL-SCL
Four Points by Sheraton Santiago
W Santiago
Exploring Santiago
KLM World Business Class SCL-EZE
Hilton Buenos Aires
Exploring Buenos Aires
Aerolíneas Argentinas Club Economy AEP-USH
Alto Andino Hotel Ushuaia
Exploring Ushuaia
Aerolíneas Argentinas Economy USH-AEP
Sheraton Libertador Hotel Buenos Aires
Aerolíneas Argentinas Club Economy AEP-GRU + Delta Business Elite GRU-ATL-ECP

Most flyers in the US probably have not heard of Aerolíneas Argentinas, and those who have probably know it’s reputation as being a poorly-run airline with flights that are never on time and matching customer service. That and the reviews of their long-haul business class kept me from booking one of my long haul sectors on them, but when flying around Argentina, they are pretty much the only choice. I had read enough horror stories of delays and other issues on domestic sectors that put a little bit of worry into the back of my head…but getting to Ushuaia this was the (almost) only way and the most affordable since Aerolíneas Argentinas is a member of SkyTeam and hence I used my SkyMiles for the flight (in case one is interested there is also LADE-Líneas Aéreas del Estado, which is owned by the government and uses Argentine Air Force transports). But, I figured that by taking the first flight of the day to Ushuaia, pending and major malfunction in the Argentine air system, I would at least stand a better chance.

I left the Hilton Buenos Aires in the hotel’s car around 4AM to sprint me over to Aeroparque Jorge Newbery, which is Aerolíneas’ main domestic hub (compared to Buenos Aires’ other airport – Ministro Pistarini International Airport which is the primarily International hub). Given that it was early in the morning, there was no traffic on the roads and not many people checking in at the terminal. I headed inside and quickly found the Sky Priority counter for check in, which had not a single person in line for. Even the regular counters only had a few other passengers checking in.

Aerolíneas Argentinas Check In

I handed over my ID and Platinum Medallion card since my reservation, which was booked through Delta for whatever reason did not have my SkyMiles number associated with it. That didn’t seem to be too much of a problem, but for whatever reason I still didn’t wind up with a boarding pass that said Sky Priority on it. But at least my bag had been tagged as a priority tag, although I would find that like so many other places, that doesn’t exactly mean anything.

Boarding Pass – No Mention Of Sky Priority

From there I made my way to the security checkpoint, which almost seemed like a joke. It was so rudimentary with a simple X-Ray machine and walk through metal detector and you didn’t have to do anything: shoes on, nothing came out of your bags, or anything. Honestly it felt more like a “show” than them actually trying to keep things from getting through. On the plus side, it did mean that it was rather quick to get through…

Once past security, I found myself in a rather modern terminal, but given the time of day, only a few cafes were open and there weren’t really any shops to peruse. I found myself a seat in an empty gate near the one for my own, and yet again I found myself confused. On the other side of the glass opposite of my gate, was an Austral E190 versus the Aerolíneas 737-800. I started to wonder if the flight had been substituted, but I soon enough found out that my gate was actually a bus gate. On a side note, despite this being an important domestic hub for Aerolíneas, they do not operate a lounge here.

On Time For Departure

The Terminal, While Quiet, Was At Least Modern

Boarding seemed only slightly disorganized, but with Sky Priority called, I was at least one of the first people to crowd on to the bus. Although there was some confusion once several of us had gone down the jetway and had no idea where we were going – there wasn’t an open door or anything, but eventually with there being 10 or so of us, we just went for it.

Like almost any bus gate situation, the bus ride seemed to take you all over the place before arriving at the aircraft operating the flight. Upon disembarking the bus, I tried taking a few pictures before walking up the stairs, of course trying not to linger as to not anger any of the authorities.

Getting Ready To Board The 737

Aerolíneas Argentinas #1878
Buenos Aires-Aeroparque, Argentina (AEP) to Ushuaia, Argentina (USH)
Thursday, May 8, 2014
Depart: 5:25AM Arrive: 9:00AM
Aircraft: Boeing 737-800 Seat: 1A (Club Economy)

Upon walking on board I was greeted by the front attendant in the front galley and immediately stashed my bag and got into my seat, 1A. I was seated in what Aerolíneas Argentinas calls Club Economy. It’s their front cabin, and I can’t help but wonder if it named what it is for some sort of political reason. In terms of seats, it is just the same as a domestic First or Business Class seat (depending on airline) in the US, so the Economy moniker is not quite accurate. As far as SkyTeam Awards are concerned, it is considered Business Class for the purpose of award tickets and comes with all the other usual Business Class perks, such as Sky Priority services.

The Aerolíneas Argentinas 737-800s don’t feature any sort of in-flight entertainment. Strangely the only aircraft that Aerolíneas Argentinas operates that has IFE, is actually the E190s that their regional subsidiary, Austral, operates. However for a flight this early in the morning, having IFE wasn’t exactly a big concern; given that I was flying to the bottom tip of the country, this is a 3.5 hour flight and I wanted to try to get a little more sleep before a long day of exploring Ushuaia. Luckily they did the meal service fairly quickly after take off, which remarkably was on time (my fears had not been realized on this leg – success!). And by meal service, I should probably say “snack service” the entire aircraft is given a snack box, although the Club Economy one is larger with a more substantially sized snack inside which included a sandwich, yogurt, a cookie (or something like that). Considering that I was going to spend the majority o my flight sleeping, I didn’t need a big meal and this was good enough to get me to Ushuaia.

Club Economy Breakfast

I Found It Interesting That The Route Map Showed Argentina’s Claim In Antarctica…

Once I was done with that, I started to make my attempt to catch a few Z’s. I managed to probably get about an hour and a half in before I woke up and then stayed awake for the last hour of the flight. Luckily I had a window seat so I could take in all the colors of slowly rising sun, and get a view of the practically still dark out Ushuaia and Beagle Channel upon landing (Yes, even at eight-something in the morning, it was nearly dark). What was probably amazing about this whole flight was that we actually got in a few minutes early. Perhaps flying Aerolíneas isn’t as bad as people make it out to be.

Just After Landing In Ushuaia

Ushuaia’s airport is by no means huge with only a couple of jet bridges and no other aircraft on the ramp. Being seated at the front of plane meant a quick disembarkation, but downstairs at the tiny baggage claim it became a crowded mess quickly. Of course, my Sky Priority tagged bag had to be one of the last ones to come out, which was only slightly annoying. Strangely they had a Customs check of sort upon leaving the bag claim area, as apparently certain items are prohibited from being brought to this part of the country. I didn’t have anything of the sort and had no issues as I made my way out into the terminal and then outside to a waiting taxi.

This was my first experience with Aerolíneas Argentinas, and I have to say they did exceed my expectations overall. Of course my expectation was that this was going to be a disaster with delays, lost luggage and other things, but the fact is my flight went out on time, arrived slightly early, in-flight service while I was awake was decent (although by no means stellar – basically doing the least acceptable amount of service), the aircraft clean and the seats in Club Economy comfortable. Don’t get me wrong, we all like to fly on the airlines with attentive flight attendants, extra plush seats, IFE with 1000 movie choices and so on, but if you can at least hit a baseline the things that they were able to hit on this flight, then you don’t have that much that you can complain about.

This entry was posted in Aerolineas Argentinas, South America, Travel, Trip Report. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

There are no comments yet, add one below.

Leave a Comment

%d bloggers like this: