It’s time for another trip report! This report will recount my airline travel and adventures in South America in July.
United Airlines once had a powerful presence in South America. Rio De Jinero, Sao Paulo, and Buenos Aires remain, but Caracas, Lima, Santiago, and Montevideo have been cut. With TAM now a member of Star Alliance and Continental boasting a notable presence in South America, the losses have been somewhat compensated for.
Nevertheless, I continue to be drawn back to United—perhaps in hope that I’ll have that rare great flight where FA service levels surpass that of industry leaders like Singapore, Lufthansa, and Swiss. So when I found a fare to Buenos Aires with a 14 hour layover in Boston that was cheaper than a trip to Boston alone on the same dates, I gladly set aside a few extra days to visit Argentina.
On my way to Burbank airport to ticket the itinerary, just a few hours before the hold expired, I still wasn’t sure if I wanted to go. I get tired of traveling alone and it was winter in South America. But I booked it. And I’m glad I did.
In addition to my meeting in Boston (which was postponed the day after I booked the ticket), I scheduled in a long layover in Denver on the outbound and a long layover in Las Vegas on the return. United has not tightened the routing restrictions on most of their international tickets so it is still possible to book four segments in each direction, with a layover of up to 24 hours between each segment.
I was booked into L-Class, which meant the only way to upgrade the international segments was with a large chunk of miles and co-pay. Though I love United’s lie-flat business class seats, I wasn’t about to fork over so much for a leisure trip. But economy isn’t too bad, especially on international flights where the younger and more energetic FAs (relatively speaking) tend to work the back. I ordered a Hindu meal (generally decent out of IAD) and did not give flying in business class a second thought.
The plan was to stay one night in Montevideo and three nights at the Park Hyatt in Buenos Aires. Using “Welcome Back” nights from my Hyatt account, I booked the room and really looked forward to staying at a $500/night 5-star hotel rather than a $15 hostel. But then my friend Laura sent me a text message asking if I was going to Iguazu Falls. I hadn’t thought about it, but started doing a little research to see if the 650 mile trip north was feasible. Flying was expensive and there was no award space on LAN Argentina from AEP-IGR on the dates I wanted. Most of the guides I read heralded long distance busses to go from Buenos Aires to Puerto Iguazu. They were also relatively cheap—more on that later—so I planned to take the bus. That meant only two nights at the Hyatt and only two full days in Buenos Aires. But it all worked out.
Fasten your seatbelts. It’s time for another trip report.