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Tim Foolery

LATAM Flight AEP – MDZ | Economy

We took three intra-Argentina flights on this trip. Two on LATAM Argentina and one on Aerolineas Argentina. I’ll be sharing a couple of different LATAM experiences in this overall trip report. You’ll also see a comparison to Aerolineas Argentina – a new airlines for us.

After our little snafu upon arrival, we managed to make it to to the right airport with enough time for some pizza before our 1 hour and 54 minute from to Mendoza. Like every other experience with LATAM, the check-in lines were long, but moved fairly quickly. Even though we were transferring from another flight, it was booked separately, so we were treated as a new customer, not a transfer.

Boarding

We were scheduled to leave at 15h55. We didn’t start boarding until 15h50. Adding to the boarding time, we were leaving from a remote stand. Unlike most airlines I’ve flown, the boarding process with LATAM Argentina is a little funky. Elite members board early, like every airline. Next, we were organized into two groups: small hand luggage and larger hand luggage.

We were traveling just with briefcases (or in my case a duffel), so we were in the small hand luggage line. I think the intent is board the small stuff first, which should fit under the seat, then everyone with larger bags boards and dukes it out. After our bus filled up, we were the first five people on the plane. We put our bags in the overhead bins and there we no issues. Easy enough.

I was in row three. The all-economy configuration was totally retro. These seats were the old formerly padded (now compacted) leather recliner style seats. No, these weren’t the first class style recliners. The pitch was awful. My knees were slammed into the seat in front of me from jump.

LATAM Argentina Flight
LATAM Argentina Legroom

This was only exacerbated by the guy in front of me who couldn’t get out of his seat without leaning back as far as possible, nearly dislocating my patella. At least he only got up about 10 times on this less than two hour flight.

Once seated, the flight would never be ready for departure. The plane was nearly full and all the “large hand luggage” people struggled with their bags. There was plenty of room for bags. Unfortunately most people wanted their bags up front, so they would move bags in the first couple of rows, to fit theirs in. I had to ask three separate people not to move my bag. One guy took my bag out and set it on the ground, put his in its place and walked away. I called him back and handed him his bag. Crazy, no?

The Flight

The flight itself was uneventful. We were served drinks and some nuts. There was no in-flight entertainment. I’m happy we charged our gear on the United flight, otherwise this would have been long and boring.

I’ll say that each time I fly LATAM throughout South America, I get a different experience. It’s never been stellar, but it seems like each of the planes is quite different. This one was so old, not to say that it was bad. The really new planes have the slimline seats that are like sitting on a bus bench.

Despite leaving nearly 30 minutes late, we landed in Mendoza right on time. We deplaned, at a gate this time and made our way immediately into baggage claim. The claim area was small, with only a couple of belts. Our bags were some of the last off the plane. Departing baggage claim was a mess. Security routed all passengers through an additional screening checkpoint. Most people ignored this and just pushed by. You could choose to wait in the line, or just walk around. We chose, initially to follow the rules. It wasn’t long before we made a different decision. We decided to just walked on by with about 100 other travelers.

LATAM Argentina Baggage Claim
Baggage Claim in Mendoza – Free For All

After a long day of work, travel, surprise airport transfers, we finally made it to our first actual destination in Argentina. Mendoza. Hopping in a taxi we were off to the Park Hyatt and a couple days of wine tasting and wonderful spring warmth.

Have you flown LATAM Argentina? How did it differ from LATAM in other countries throughout South America?

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Wait. Wrong Airport?

As we deplaned from our 10 economy flight from Houston, we had about four hours to kill at the Buenos Aires Airport We figured that we may be able to move to an earlier flight if we can make it through customs and immigration quickly. Well, that wasn’t going to happen.

Customs and Immigration

As we made our way to the checkpoint, we were herded into the foreigner line (rightly so), which had about 500 people ahead of us in line. With about six stations open, we knew we’d be here for a while. Luckily, I went to the bathroom before hopping in line.

Fast forward a little over an hour, it was our turn. I never know if we should go through the line together when entering a foreign country. We are married, but sometimes other countries don’t recognize same sex marriages and once, I had to go back into the line, which caused lots of people to think I was cutting. No issues in Buenos Aires though.

We grab our bags and head out to re-check and try for an earlier flight. As we check the big board, we don’t see our flight listed. We see flights to Mendoza, but not at our scheduled time and not many on our scheduled airline. My first thought was that there was a schedule change and we didn’t get notified. Or perhaps our LATAM flight was operated by someone that we hadn’t heard of before. We continued to ponder the big board and I grabbed our itinerary and found the problem.

A New Problem For Us

We were at the wrong airport. Instead of leaving from EZE (Ministro Pistarini International Airport) we were leaving from AEP (Aeroparque Jorge Newbery). This helps explain why the fine folks at United couldn’t check our bags all the way through to Mendoza. AEP is 43km (27 miles) from EZE, so it looks like we won’t be getting on an earlier flight, but we better get cracking if we don’t want to miss our current option.

We waited in the taxi queue for about 20 minutes, then another 25 for the taxi. At EZE you order a cab through a central dispatch, you are given a number and then eventually a driver shows up to transport you.

The ride to AEP was pretty uneventful and fast. It took us about 30 minutes, but the taxi was more like a fancy lawn mower than a car. Loud. Spewing fumes. Rickety. The driver was really nice and helped with our luggage and kept us safe among the other wild drivers. His car reminded me of an old roller skate – it’ll probably get you there, but a wheel could break off at any moment.

We arrived in plenty of time to make our flight, but there were absolutely no options for an earlier departure. So to kill time, we snagged a pizza in the food court, which was really great, by the way.

AEP - Aeroparque Jorge Newberry the Wrong Buenos Aires Airport
Wrong Buenos Aires Airport Pizza Lunch

Our best laid plans for an early transfer fell short today. As we waited to board the flight to Mendoza we remembered that we chose the flight with the long layover because it saved us about 75USD per person. If we had gone with the earlier option, we would have missed it – likely leaving us with more travel troubles.

Have you ever realized you were at the wrong Buenos Aires airport? How about the wrong airport in ANY city?

Another Peloton Milestone: 350 Rides

Last week I crossed another major milestone on my Peloton cycling journey. Several months ago, I wrote about my first 200 rides, now I’ve crossed 350 rides. I decided to share some additional stats and some goals for the near future.

First off, my first 200 rides were made up of mostly 30 and 45 minute rides. I found it very hard to make the time to do 45 minute rides regularly. Notice I said “make the time” versus “find the time.” Fitness is all about pushing yourself to do it. My struggle was scheduling exercise. I feel better when I do it early, but I couldn’t consistently push myself to get up an hour earlier than normal just to ride. After work, I didn’t want to hurry home, ride then eat dinner later than normal. I had lots of excuses.

Starting in late October, I started riding twice a day. I found that doing a 20 minute ride in the morning before work was doable. Closing out the day with a 30 minute ride also wasn’t daunting – and I could eat at a reasonable hour.

So my 350 rides are quite varied. I’ve taken some 90 minute rides and some 10 minute rides, plus even some 5 minute rides. Those shorter ones are usually cool down rides.

I am a metric guy, so let’s take a look at some stats from my first 350 rides.

Peloton
Peloton
Peloton

My Next Goal

Now that I’ve passed 350 rides, my next goal is to hit 400 by my 40th birthday. At the time of write this post, I’ve actually ridden 365 rides. I’ve got 16 days until my birthday, which means I need to right more than 2 rides a day, which isn’t outside the norm. On the weekends, I’ve been trying to ride three times, so I’m not too stressed on this goal. My real goal is to time my 400 ride and my 40th birthday.

Do you ride with Peloton? Who is your favorite instructor? Are you one of those riders who believe that rides don’t count if they are less than 45 minutes? If you are a Peloton user, hit me up on the Leaderboard – my username is TimFoolery (obviously).

United Flight Houston to Buenos Aires (IAH – EZE) | Economy

Our upgrade to Buenos Aires didn’t clear, so we ended up paying more than we should have for an economy seat for the 10 hour flight. Using the Global Premier Upgrades has usually worked out for us, but not this time.

United operates a two-cabin Boeing 777 on this flight to Buenos Aires. The economy seats were in a 3-3-3 configuration. The Economy Plus seat was surprisingly comfortable. While not a lay flat seat, I had enough room to drop the tray table, and rest my head for a couple hours of decent sleep. I’m just about 6′ tall, so the pitch between seats was pretty good. Although I did have a bit of a stiff neck when I woke up.

United 777-200 Business Class
United 777-200 Business Class

Speaking of the tray table, the food on this flight was very mediocre. The meal was standard United Airlines Economy Class Food. Luckily, we grabbed a bite to eat in Houston at Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen. We figured the upgrades wouldn’t clear and even if they did we were pretty sure the food would be disappointing. We planned perfectly here.

Crab Cocktail at Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen Houston Airport
Crab Cocktail at Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen Houston Airport

We’ve been fortunate enough to have our upgrades clear – or just book Business Class with miles – fly business class for flights this long. While it sure wasn’t an ideal travel experience, it was good for us to fly Economy. It helped remind us that it isn’t really all that bad.

We landed a few minutes early and made the way through customs, which was quite heinous. The line was well over an hour long. This just goes to show how spoiled I’ve gotten with Global Entry. Clearing Customs and Immigration we grabbed our checked luggage and made our way to our connecting flight. Our layover in Buenos Aires was nearly four hours. We planned on hopping on an earlier flight to Mendoza…or so we thought…

Flight Planning: Argentina

We had so much planning to do for our trip to Argentina. First things first: Getting There. Our Argentina Flight Planning followed our standard logic. Do we use miles and fly Business Class? Maybe we pay for Business Class? Do we pay for Economy and just deal with it? Or do we pay for a higher fare in Economy and use our Global Premier Upgrades (GPUs) to upgrade to Business?

Our Plan

Since we both needed the Elite Qualifying Miles to keep our status with United we knew that we couldn’t cash in miles for this trip. We earn nearly 12,000 premier qualifying miles for this round trip from Chicago. We couldn’t let those miles go to waste. When we flew to Lima, we found round trip Business Class tickets for about $1,800 per person. If we could find something like that for this trip, we’d book it in an instant. Unfortunately all Business Class tickets were going for well over $5K each. The only way I’d pay that much money for a flight is to hurry home to someone’s deathbed or to flee the country with no notice to avoid a criminal indictment.

Flight Planning Argentina
No direct flight to Buenos Aires from Chicago, so we routed through Houston and Newark.

The difference between the upgradable Economy Fare and the normal Economy Fare was about $200 more per person. Basically, we’d pay $200 more for the opportunity to use our GPUs. If the upgrades didn’t clear, we’re out that money.

United 777-200 Business Class
United 777-200 Business Class

We followed this same logic as we booked our tickets to Rio in 2017. We booked airfare about eight months out and the upgrade cleared about a month later. Figuring that Argentina wasn’t a huge Thanksgiving destination, we thought this was our best bet.

The days, weeks and moths passed. No upgrade. We had some flight schedule changes, still no upgrades. We chatted up the fine folks at United and they couldn’t do anything, but tell us that they were pretty sure we’d clear.

The Results

Finally, it’s day of travel. We checked in and our upgrade still hadn’t cleared. We kept refreshing the upgrade list. The frustration set in. We’d paid extra money to sit in the same old Economy Seats for nearly three hours to Houston and 10 hours to Buenos Aires.

Fast forward to the return trip. The exact same scenario played out. We watched the list. Our names hovered towards the top of the list, but never crossed that magic threshold. Once we checked in at the airport, we were notified that our upgrades had cleared – for the leg between Newark and Chicago. Of the 26 hours of flying time with United we’d have on this trip, two of those hours would be in Business Class.

I’ll touch on a couple of the details on these flights later on, but at the end of the day, these flights were fine. We arrived safely. The United crew was a good mix of fun and surly, mostly surly. While our Argentina Flight Planning didn’t end up exactly as we wanted, we did have a pretty great trip.

Do you follow the same logic as we do when determining how to get somewhere?