Way Down South: Aerolíneas Argentinas Economy USH-AEP

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

Just a little less than 24 hours after I had landed in Ushuaia, it was time to check out of my hotel in the dark and catch a cab to the airport. The time here wasn’t long enough to properly explore the area, but this afforded me the best opportunity by taking this flight back to Buenos Aires to allow me the afternoon to finish checking out that city. Luckily, award space on Aerolineas was really good when I was booking my tickets, but instead of opting for Club Economy for the route back, in order to save a few SkyMiles, I decided that I would fly back in Economy and try out that product. Besides, it’s not like I was expecting a very full flight anyways.

Ushuaia – Malvinas Argentinas International Airport
The ride from the hotel to the airport was quick – Ushuaia, despite having a population of nearly 60,000 is rather quiet. Especially given that it was still dark out, which was something I had forgotten about since it was entering winter in the Southern Hemisphere and getting much closer to a pole compared to home. Walking in the doors of the terminal, I made my way over to the Aerolineas Argentinas check-in counters where it was not very busy at all. Given that there was only a few people, I made my way to through the regular Economy class line to check-in and drop my bag. I was handed my boarding pass in return and instructed that I had to go pay a departure tax…something that is included in the cost of tickets in most places around the world, but apparently Ushuaia is one of those places that still does things the old fashion way. So I shuffled over to the separate counter on my way to security, handed over the required amount and walked away with a few stamps on my boarding pass.

Aerolineas Argentinas Counters

There wasn’t anything really on the landside of the airport terminal, so I headed upstairs to make my way through security. I expected the surprisingly low-level screening based on what it was like Buenos Aires. Here though, it was the complete opposite…basically what you would expect at any airport in the developed world. IDs were checked multiple times (although I’m sure one was to make sure I paid the departure tax) and the screening process seemed to be actually there to keep something from getting on a plane.

Once you clear security at Ushuaia, there really isn’t much to do, like any other relatively minor airport for a similarly sized city. There’s the required seating areas at the gates, a small cafe, and what appeared to be a gift shop that was closed. I grabbed a drink from the cafe while I sat there waiting for the Aerolineas 737-800 to land and pull up to the terminal.

The Plane Has Arrived…

Luckily, I was continuing to experience what I felt was an abnormal experience (based on all what I had read online about Aerolineas) in terms of the aircraft arriving on time. As soon as the plane disembarked, everyone started queuing up for boarding which started pretty quickly. With out zone boarding, they called for Club Economy and Sky Priority to start, of which there was few of either.

Waiting At The Gate

Aerolíneas Argentinas #1879
Ushuaia, Argentina (USH) to Buenos Aires-Aeroparque, Argentina (AEP)
Friday, May 9, 2014
Depart: 9:50AM Arrive: 1:18PM
Aircraft: Boeing 737-800 Seat: 25F (Economy)

I made my way towards the back of the aircraft thinking “well this certainly is the farthest back I’ve sat in a while”, having been accustomed to sitting in the front cabin or near the front of Economy at least. But, it appears that Aerolineas did not have priority seating for SkyTeam Elite Plus members, but that’s not a terrible thing on a flight that isn’t very full. In fact, I had a window seat selected for this flight, which is a little unusual for me, since I don’t like to have to disturb others to get up. Fortunately, for this flight, the low load meant that no one else was sitting in 25D or 25E. A row to myself and a window to Argentina below. Not a terrible thing to have!

Watching Boarding Continue From The Back Of The Plane

One of the interesting thing about this aircraft that I noted is that this aircraft had previously been flown by Air Berlin; in fact the control screen in the front galley still had the Air Berlin logo as the screensaver and the backs of the seats still had instructions in German, like: “bitte gurte waehrend des sitzens geschlossen halten”. Obviously, Aerolineas figured they could save a few bucks if they didn’t worry about changing any of the interiors….at least the exterior of the plane was painted in their livery.

Schwimmweste Unter Ihrem Sitz!

As for the service onboard, once we got to the cruising altitude, the flight attendants came through to do the cabin service. Like my flight on the previous morning in Club Economy, a snack pack and beverages were passed out. In the Economy class cabin, the snack box was substantially smaller and was less a meal and more a snack. Since I had already ate breakfast, it wasn’t like I was going to starve on the three hour flight, but nonetheless this is still more than what you would get for free on any domestic flight in the US.

Snack Service

After the cabin service, the flight attendants pretty much disappeared (same as with the flight down), and I conked out for a little bit while listening to music and looking out the window. There wasn’t much of a view on this flight, as the clouds were pretty thick and stretching out to every direction across the horizon.

Clouds Everywhere

Arrival back in Buenos Aires was on time and despite being at the back of the aircraft, thanks to being at a “bus gate” again it served as an equalizer with a large number of other passengers from the flight. Once back into the terminal, I took my time making my way to baggage claim to pick up my bag, thinking that this way I could guarantee that I wouldn’t stand around forever waiting. By the time I got there, luggage still had not started coming out and everyone from my flight was gathered around. It took at least another 15 minutes for bags to start popping out and as bags kept coming, I started to wonder if my bag was going to be there. A few times the carousel even stopped, which had me and several other passengers a bit disturbed…where were our bags? Luckily, no one’s was lost, but several folks with priority tag bags were among the last few to make it – including mine. If there is one thing that I learned from this trip, it’s that Aerolineas Argentinas has no clue how to properly manage “priority” bags; and the flights to/from Ushuaia wasn’t the only hiccup, as you’ll see in my segment that took me through a connection in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Exiting On To The Ramp Is Probably My Favorite Method Of Disembarkation From An Aircraft….I Think You Know Why

…And Bus Rides Across The Ramp Aren’t Bad Either

From there, it was time to make my way to my final hotel for my final night in Argentina, so I headed outside and jumped into a cab. This guy, I’m pretty sure ran up the meter in how he drove me to the hotel, but eventually we settled on $40US as a fare. It was more than it should have been, but whatever. Also, another reason why it can pay to have a few US bills in your wallet in case you run low on local currency.

My second flight on Aerolineas wasn’t anything special, and despite the luggage issue, flying their economy product domestically was just fine. In the future, honestly I probably would just book Economy versus Club Economy for a domestic route; no different than I would in the US. The service in either cabin wasn’t spectacular, but wasn’t rude or anything – pretty much just the bare minimum. I guess when you look at your options in Argentina, there really isn’t much of a choice – LAN has flights but not at the same frequencies, and the other airline with an extensive route network is run by the Argentine Air Force (LADE – Líneas Aéreas del Estado).

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