Welcome to my first Flight Report series! I've been a fan and lurker of the site for a few years and just never have gotten around to actually putting reports of my travels together. After some gentle reminders from a dear friend of mine, I swore that I would prioritize getting some reports published. So here goes…
This report is in a series of six legs of a trip from Richmond, Virginia USA (RIC) to Asunción, Paraguay (ASU).
As my husband is a native of Paraguay, we travel to South America a few times a year and our relatives come visit us in the U.S. on a fairly regular basis. Until April 2015 we had been a loyal OneWorld family as AA was the only U.S. airline with a direct MIA-ASU flight a few times a week. Our home airport of RIC has a twice daily MIA route and it made the flight down pretty reasonable with only two legs.
From what I understand, the Paraguayan government lobbied quite hard to get a U.S. carrier to again offer a direct flight from the U.S. to Paraguay. Unfortunately, the Paraguayan government also kept raising landing tariffs on all carriers making an already underserved market less desirable and AA decided to “seasonally suspend” the MIA-ASU route in April (read- AA unloaded the route before they reached their tax exemption cap).
When we didn’t catch the MIA-ASU route, we were always very happy with TAM out of Miami, transiting in São Paulo to Asuncion. The level of service in Y is always extremely high, the cabins are consistently comfortable and the connections in São Paulo are easy.
After the “seasonal suspension” started in April, both the North and South American branches of the family had been traveling with United and Copa because the timetables worked to our advantages during the South American off-season. So, when we needed to travel to PY, I was excited about the chance to try our the new carriers and routes.
After a fairly uneventful but comfortable commute from RIC to ORD…that included the good chuckle thanks to a duct-taped tray table… I arrived with just enough time to walk from my arrival gate to my departure gate. I love traveling with Brazilians–they're also some of the most lovely people to talk with (see my report about the RIC-ORD leg of this trip and my chat with the FA). So, instead of wandering around ORD for exercise, I went on to the gate and easily struck up conversation with some fellow passengers–that is, those not already waiting to board.
About a half an hour until boarding, I, too, went ahead and got in the Priority Access line to board. I struck up a conversation with a really interesting lady traveling to Johannesburg via Sao Paulo…she had some great stories to share.
With the exception of a First Class passenger complaining about the five minute delay in boarding to the gate agent, boarding went swiftly and I was anxious to see my home for the next ten hours.
Having never traveled UA BusinessFirst, I was excited, curious and even concerned about the seating arrangement (with both forward and rear facing seating configurations). I was also worried about the 2/4/2 configuration with lay flat seats. What do you do when you are sleeping and your seatmate has to get out?! I was in a rear facing seat on the aisle–luckily, I was asked if I was willing to swap with the seat directly behind me so a couple could be together. I was happy to oblige and ended up in a forward facing seat–even though it was sometimes awkward looking face on at the passengers across the aisle from me in a rear facing seats…
Moments after switching, our very attentive FA set the tone for the journey my immediately asking what I would enjoy as my pre-departure drink–which is always Vodka on the rocks.
I stretched out and relaxed while boarding continued. The footrest is a bit tiny but serves it purpose. I was a bit upset that there wasn't any place to really stow my personal belongings I'd need during the flight–they ended up just falling to the side of the seat…
Our FA then distributed menus for dinner and breakfast…
You'll see what I ordered later on in the FR!
The PGA themed Amenity Kits were distributed (ugh…). I had packed my own items to freshen up with as I had to hit the ground running upon my arrival in Asuncion. I didn't really care for neither the theme nor the bag…
My view into the First Class cabin… With the exception of the seat configuration, I really didn't see much difference in the Hard Product between First and Business…
During Taxi and Takeoff I explored the IFE system which I was impressed with. The screen size was wonderful and the variety was impressive. I tend to listen to music during flights instead of watching movies and I really thought the pre-made mixes were well composed.
After takeoff, our FA came around and distributed another round of cocktails and warm mixed nuts…
…at which time my IFE crashed.
Without even having to ask, our FA went to reset my system and I was back live within ten minutes.
Dinner was served around Atlanta…
The salmon appetizer and salad were served followed by my choice of warm breads. The salmon was delicious along with the mustard sauce. The salad looked like it was prepared by my 3 year old daughter–which is cute when she does it but a bit shocking when something like this is presented at either a restaurant or in a premium cabin….look at the size of those tomato slices and the lettuce was in chunks!!
The main course followed. I had ordered the Fillet of Turbot…only because my husband hates all fish and I jump at the opportunity to enjoy a good fish dish. I found the presentation to be really…uhh….bad. Luckily, the taste made up for the presentation.
The cheese course followed with a delightful Brie, nice Swiss and a horrible, horrible goat variety. I could have used another cracker in addition to the pre-packaged two I received. The Port was surprisingly nice.
Finally, our FA came through with the ice cream trolley. Since this was a South America destined flight, Dulce de Leche was available as a topping…YES PLEASE! Turns out it was just a glorified caramel sauce…still very nice.
Around South Florida/The Bahamas decided I would wind down and try to get some sleep. I went to the well attended to lav to brush my teeth and wash up for some rest. Sorry–no pics of the lav–but they were well appropriated with higher end face wash, soap, and skin fresheners. Very clean as well.
I left the IFE on the air show so that I could tell where we were in case I woke up. I woke up over Suriname but then went back to sleep, awakening for good over central Brazil–which was only 20 minutes before they turned the cabin lights back on for Breakfast service.
I had ordered the eggs and potatoes au gratin the evening before. They were delivered piping hot along with the worst American variety coffee one could imagine…I should have ordered a bloody mary…
The eggs were delicious and I was impressed with the potatoes–I would have gladly had the potatoes at any restaurant on the ground.
About thirty minutes after Breakfast concluded we made our way in to Sao Paulo's overcast skies.
All in all, a very comfortable flight with extremely good service.
Since I was transiting to a connecting fight to Asuncion, no need to go thru customs. Instead, I made my way through Brazilian security and walked the very, very, very lonely walk to Terminal 2 whilst doing some spotting…
I made my way through a very nice Duty Free shop and got a good chuckle at the rainbow Cristo Redentor statuettes.
I then wandered to my connection gate's general area to wait on my brother in law who was flying in for the same connection to Asuncion.
Chicago - ORD
Sao Paulo - GRU
This was a very comfortable flight with an above expectations level of service. The presentation of the catering has room for improvement. I do not care for the BusinessFirst seat configuration but it was still good considering my options. If possible, I will make my next trip on this route back with TAM (maybe LATAM...?!?).
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