…or "Go, Argentina!" was Andes Airlines' cheerful message during the latest world soccer championship.
Did you know that there's a church - yes, A CHURCH - in Argentina, called the Maradonian Church, dedicated to Diego Maradona, the soccer player? That should give you a slight idea of what soccer means to Argentines.
So, "Go, Argentina" might be a bit of a cruel thing to say now that Argentina lost to France (yeah, I know, "Allez les bleux") but it's a perfect introduction to this four-part series of reports on my trip around Argentina during my last winter holidays.
My invitation now is…
VAMOS A ARGENTINA! (Let's go to Argentina!)
It's going to be a fantastic trip! We'll start off in Bariloche, in the Argentine Patagonia. From there, we will fly to Buenos Aires and visit some famous landmarks. Then we'll continue north to the point where Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay meet, and we'll visit the most amazing and breathtaking and magnificent waterfalls on earth: Iguazú Falls.
All this on an airline that has not yet been introduced to the readers of flight-report.com: Andes Líneas Aéreas, with a fleet made up of B737-800s, and the respectable MD-80. I'm crossing my fingers that I'll have the chance to fly on one of those for the first time!
This is leg 1 of 4 of this trip. You can also read the report for leg 2.
This article says that Andes offers low prices, but avoids being labelled an LCC, that the airline is a family company, and that they have become the third largest airline in Argentina with 7% marketshare.
Low prices they say? Indeed! At least until 2018.
When I purchased my ticket for this July 2018 round trip six months in advance in December 2017, I paid 2808 ARS (Argentine pesos) = 73 USD. What's more, they have three fares - basic, intermediate and premium - and the three of them were at the same price! (Webmaster mistake??) So I chose the premium fare, of course, and didn't have to pay for picking a seat or adding extra baggage:
But wonderful as this is, this low price is really puzzling to me.
The first thing I fail to understand is how Andes was able to charge less than AR before Argentina's airfare price floors were removed in the second half of 2018. Before that, airlines were forbidden to charge less than Aerolíneas, afaik.
And the second thing that leaves me scratching my head is why, now that the airfare floors have been removed - which should have led to a dramatic fall in airfare prices - exactly the opposite has happened! Look at Andes' prices for the coming 2019 winter holiday season. The cheapest fare is 9665 ARS (253 USD), almost four times what I paid!!
Andes is beaten by Aerolíneas Argentinas most of the time now. These are the prices for the BRC > AEP leg next July. As low as 2714 ARS!
I don't know how Andes will survive with other LCC alternatives like Flybondi (report coming [relatively] soon) offering much cheaper prices. Round trip at 3598 Argentine Pesos for the coming summer holiday season, for example.
So, why did I pay so little for the Premium fare back in December 2017?
Special promotion? Fuel was four times cheaper? Webmaster's mistake?
My conclusion is:
The thing is, there's no way I will stay home during the school winter holidays when I can visit Buenos Aires and Iguazú Falls for a ridiculously low price and, who knows, with the (probable) bonus of flying on an MD-80 for the first time!
Do you like seat maps? Good, because here comes a long one.
I don't have to pay for picking my seat because, with all the fares at the same price, I have chosen the premium fare, of course. So smart. XD
75 USD for the Bariloche > Buenos Aires > Bariloche trip.
Fast forward six months, and I have my boarding pass. Not sure if I can carry it on my phone, so I'll print it.
The longest transfer evah!
Technically, Bariloche is a 5-hour car or bus ride from my hometown. It takes longer, though, because of the border controls. We can't move as freely around South America as they do in Europe. :( We don't need visas, at least. Only our ID card.
My "transfer" for the next 8 hours or so will be Andesmar. 30 USD "classic" seat, 37 USD first class. We leave from Valdivia's bus terminal early morning.
The only problem: the windows are dark brown, spoiling my photographs. :( But never mind, I will include some photos from a previous trip to Bariloche, when I travelled with one of my classes in summer. Look! That's Osorno airport! I wonder if my bovine friends are doing well… or were they "invited" to a barbecue? Meet them here and here.
The whole road trip is very scenic. We head east toward the Andes (which are little more than rolling hills in this area) surounded by the beautiful farmland around Osorno, with the view of snow-covered volcanoes like Puntiagudo…
Needless to say, tourists flood into the spas and other resorts in the area, like Termas de Puyehue.
The name of this spa comes from the beautiful lake Puyehue, on our left. The word puyehue is Mapudungun for place (hue) of puyes (a kind of small fish that live in the lake)
In the stretch between both border controls there is evidence of the latest eruption of nearby Cordón Caulle…
…which covered the landscape with pumice.
The border. Chile on the left. Argentina on the right.
Those cliffs nearby are part of the Cordón Caulle, which is not a single volcano, but a series of craters and fissures from which lava erupts violently. Puyehue volcano is only the largest crater. Hence the word "cordón", meaning a string, or a series.
Here's a photo of the last eruption in 2012. Ain't it lovely??
The mountains might be lower than in the north of the country, but so is the line of snow, so it's freaking cold in here…
…which doesn't mean Argentines will lock themselves at home.
At last! The eastern tip of lake Nahuel Huapi!
Going round the tip of the lake…
…and here we are! This is the Centro Cívico, in downtown Bariloche. More photos when I come back from Buenos Aires.
Later (days later, actually) I find the first setback in this long transfer: No Uber in Bariloche! Ouch! (⇀‸↼) You either have to take a taxi to the airport, which will charge you some 400 ARS (11 USD), or wait for bus 72 here on Moreno street…
…across from this park.
Be punctual because the service is not very frequent.
Here's the timetable. Nine trips to the airport a day, one every 2 or 3 hours. Info taken from here. "Centro" is where I'm waiting now.
The dirty windows don't help to enjoy the landscape, either. The bus fare is less than 30 ARS. Make sure you have the SUBE card with the necessary amount previously charged. I bought mine when I arrived at the bus terminal. Buses don't accept cash.
The airport is quite close to the city. The bus ride took about half an hour. It should be ten or fifteen minutes by car.
We pass by the bus terminal on our way to the airport. This reminds me that, on arriving from Chile, I heard plane engines roaring over my head. It was one of Andes' MD-80s!! I hope that's a good omen!!
The road is flanked by pines. Forestry used to be an important business here, but then the area was declared a national park…
…so a last harvest was allowed, and the remaining shoots grew into forests again. Pines grow faster than native species. The airport terminal is just beyond this roundabout.
Then this ramp…
…leaves us outside departures.
Parking allowed for three minutes only…
…at the entrance.
Opposite the entrance, down there, is the parking lot…
…and the bus (aka colectivo) stop for the trip back.
Taxis wait downstairs. Can you see that old red Renault 4 down there? We stopped seeing those in Chile in the 1980s, but they are still commonplace in Argentina!! Argentines love them! I saw several during my trip…
…like this one…
…or this one.
In fact, Argentines seem to be very attached to their old cars!
Beyond the taxis and the roundabout… my beloved mountains. Ha! I'm starting to sound like Heidi! XD
On the other end, the way out of the airport. Hm! Who's sitting over there?
A private Bombardier Challenger 600.
Let's get inside. You're greeted by the FIDS. Wow! BRC is quite well connected! I could even reach Sao Paulo from here! But with a stop in Buenos Aires. Too bad. SCL would be still more convenient for me in that case.
BRC doesn't seem to be very large. View to the left…
…and view to the right. And that would be pretty much all landside.
But let's have a look at this ground plan. To the left is the hall principal (main hall), with the check-in counters first, and a salón confitería (aka cafeteria) at the bottom. There's a special corner in the cafeteria called sala de espera espacio arte, meaning "art space waiting room." Bottom right is the access to a… free shop? (I guess they mean "duty free shop") from where you get to the international boarding room. Finally, in the middle of the building, opposite the entrance, is the access to the waiting room for domestic flights (pre-embarque nacional) Both waiting rooms - domestic and international - appear separated in the plan, but they are connected today, as you'll see later.
Afraid of missing the last morning bus, I came really early today. The check-in couters are still closed, so I have a couple of hours to pull my bag around and get acquainted with BRC. First shop on the right is Rapa Nui Chocolates. Glad to see that this Chilean island (aka Easter Island) is well known here. I just wonder if a single cocoa tree ever grew on it!!
Opposite Rapa Nui Chocolates, the competition: El Turista Chocolates. What if I tell the assistant "Hey. In the other shop they say that your chocolates suck"? Then they might start a chocolate war and throw chocolate bars at each other while I'm in the middle. Mwa ha ha!
Beyond all this diabetes-inducing trade, some places to sit (and eat chocolate) and the access to safety check for international departures. This is the end of the hall, so I have to…
…turn around and retrace my steps.
Middle of the hall. Should I wrap my bag? Someone might want to get their hands on the smoked salmon I'm carrying for my host. Nah.
Access to national departures. But not yet.
Counters still closed for one more hour.
In the meantime…
…a little snack from the cafeteria sounds like a good idea.
Very well provided and fast attention.
The "art space waiting room"…
…is very spotter friendly.
If only there were more airlines to spot around here. :/
And from that window on the other side…
…there's a view of the way out of the airport. I wonder if I can check in now.
At last! Whoops! Almost 14kg?! The heaviest item were my boots… and I never took them out of the bag! :/
Feeling lighter, I can now look around the rest of BRC. LATAM's kiosks are placed…
…by the stairs that lead…
Quite "fome" (boring). Well, arrival areas are usually boring in small airports, aren't they?
No shops. No nothing. It's like you're being told "Please, leave soon. We need the space."
But the restrooms are usually better at arrivals, don't you think? They usually have less visitors!
Bariloche is inside Nahuel Huapi National Park.
Not much more to see around here. Let's go back upstairs…
…to security check.
No shortcut. :(
Fantastic. It took no time. The access to gates 3 and 4, bottom right, was closed in the ground plan…
…but both rooms seem to be permanently connected now.
The international departures side, according to the ground plan. The cafeteria here is a branch of the one landside. Same products, same prices.
Duty free shop behind that metal curtain.
A spacious and well-lit…
…very spotter friendly. AR is leaving at the moment.
These G20 signs are everywhere, allusive to the meeting held in Buenos Aires last December.
According to this article, until September this year all airlines in Argentina were forced to hire the services of Intercargo…
…and its subsidiary…
Only Aerolíneas Argentinas and American Airlines were exempt.
I wonder if that was the old terminal and control tower.
Whatever it is, it's needing some maintenance!
Austral is part of AR. The red line in its livery is a reminder of its independent past. I've written two reports on Austral so far, here and here.
Back in the first waiting room, someone else is preparing his own flight report!
Unlike domestic flights in my country, which are full economy class, AR offers Club Economy, a sort of domestic business class. There were plans to axe this class in order to make room for more seats, though.
Hello? A pizza with double pepperoni, please. […] What?! That will look very ugly in my report, you know?
I saw one of these in Torres del Paine! Beautiful!
Argentines either have rock-hard buttocks from so many hours in the gym, or they simply like a sore bum. I haven't found a single cushioned seat in Argentine airports so far!
My plane should be arriving by now. Will it be an MD-80??
Er… nope. Bad luck.
Boo - hoo. It's just a 737. :'(
What do you think of OY's livery? That reddish brown color of the word Andes is quite unusual. But I don't think it's ugly. I like the typeface, too.
Born in 2001, LV-HHK has had an exciting life, flying for South African Airlines, Malasia Airlines, and now for Andes.
But we won't see much of the livery from here. I hear that we'll be boarding through gate 4, so…
And a nice touch - the Argentine flag on the winglets. Learn from them, LATAM! "Ahora somos latinoamericanos." SHAME ON YOU!! Why don't you take your headquarters to Brasilia, huh? Huuh??? Dorks. >:(
As we stand in the queue…
…I realize I forgot an important detail: A photo of my boarding pass! The simplest BP I have ever seen.
The baggage tag on the back.
Great, I'll be among the first passengers to board. […] Wait. What are they saying over the PA? We have to queue up according to our seat row? And I am in the worng line?!
It's very sad when you are sent to the end of the queue. :(
There are more important things for them, of course.
You thought you were avgeeks? Look at this grandpa and his jacket.
"Captain"!! Captain what? Captain Nursing Home? Hahahaha. The things you can buy on ebay these days! XDDD
I follow "Captain" down the jetbridge.
LATAM passengers have to stand the cold weather outside. Nya, nya. XD
Just don't forget about the G20! As if I were invited. XD
This jetbridge is very scenic!
Frozen? Tired? Or listening carefully?
This is it.
First impression - A bit like what LATAM used to look like before they renewed their cabins.
Antimacassar used as advertising support.
Legroom is still OK in spite of the thick seats.
Simple… and old. LV-HHK was built in 2001. I didn't know you could smoke on planes then! Or are these seats older than the plane?
I might need this if I look in there again. :D
Decent, clean tray table.
And look here! Andes has a magazine! It's quite thin, but it's better than nothing.
Safety instructions both sides.
Andes Magazine is promoting the airline's birthplace, Salta.
I'm so happy to hear that. Really.
"Live" safety speech.
Wonderful! Looks like I won't have a companion today.
That means I can take my neighbor's magazine, too. :D It's a different issue! We visited Villa La Angostura on our way from Chile, remember?
Inside, time to modernize Puerto Iguazú's airport. You bet! In the third report for this series (IGR > AEP) you'll see why!
Pushback! Woo - hoo!
According to flightradar24.com we're leaving with only some minutes delay. They don't seem to have updated its database, and the OY code is still assigned to a different airline. All I can say is "O! Y is that?" XD
Building work started in 1952 and finished in 1954.
I feel I'm being observed.
One by one they abandon us.
We are the stars of the show today, aren't we?
Then we hit the road…
…before her Majesty AR has our heads cut off.
The runway is…
…just meters away.
Whoops! Where's the fire?!
The captain (the real captain, not the cosplay one we saw earlier) seems to know that we are a bit late…
…because he puts the pedal to the metal…
…and we leave BRC in the dust. XD
Unfortunately, Bariloche and most of its attractives are on my left…
…but it doesn't mean we are not in…
…for some amazing views of the Argentine Patagonia.
We head north-west above the east suburbs of Bariloche, towards lake Nahuel Huapi…
…and slowly turn north-east as we climb above the tip of the lake.
Look at that! Isn't it a breathtaking view?
On the left, the road to Chile and Villa La Angostura. On the right, the birthplace of river Limay, and the small village called Dina Huapi.
Look at that! We follow river Limay for a while, at the same point where…
…I went rafting with my students…
The river when we went rafting there.
At first… yours truly terrified to death in the middle of the raft. Heeelp!! I'm too young (and fabulous) to die!!! .·´¯`(>▂<)´¯`·.
Twenty minutes later, yours truly in complete control of the situation. Woo - hoo! (Holding row over my head)
So relaxing! Just lean back and let the students row.
Yaaawn…. Whatever happened to the rapids? (▀ ͜͞ʖ▀)
Back in 2018, we keep climbing until…
…the fog and the clouds hide most of the landscape from our view.
The clouds only break once in a while to let us see…
…the flat pampas underneath.
But the real magic is happening onboard!
Isn't it fantastic when you are expecting a BOB, but you get free coffee and…
…a nice, intriguing little bag? (Ahora todos pueden volar = Now everyone can fly)
This bag is anything but silent. In fact, the cabin is filling with creaking and crackling as passengers open their snack bags. Let's open ours.
The thin BOPS tray is not less noisy! What's in there?
Salty and sweet snacks. I bought a bag of those madeleines at the supermarket in Bariloche. Not bad. Each one comes in its small little bag.
So, how does it compare to Argentina's flag carrier? The following was the service on my INTERNATIONAL flight from SCL to AEP last year:
A cereal bar, a piece of cake and a little sweet.
I get ready to enjoy some peace and quiet for the rest of the flight, when…
…the typical hyperactive child behind me, yelling, playing, kicking, and fighting with his older sister. I breathe in deeply, reminding myself that this will last only one more hour or so. But then he spilled his soda and his mother lost her temper. I'm not sure about her motherly procedures, but whatever she did worked wonders! :D The cabin behind me.
…but I don't see amenities like soap, and the previous passenger left water in the basin.
Shortly after I go back to my seat…
…I see we are flying above…
…the town of Navarro, in the province of Buenos Aires.
And that's how my first flight with Andes Líneas Aéreas…
…comes to an end.
But as if destiny was making fun of me…
…there she sits. She should have been waiting for me in Bariloche!!! (⇀‸↼)
LV-HYY in AR's old livery.
We go for a little tour of AEP.
As you see, AEP's terminal is a long building…
…tucked between the runway and the river.
Getting lost is impossible! You either go right or left, and that's it.
After a little zigzagging…
…we end up in a (not so) remote position.
While we wait for the door to open… there she goes. She thinks she's out of my reach, but we will see.
Oh! We had an extra passenger…
…in the cargo bay.
A last look at my seat.
It's a glorious evening in Buenos Aires today.
The hidden reason for my trip
As I bid farewell…
…I keep in mind that I still have a job to do…
…before I leave the airport. Yes, getting my bag, of course, which comes in less than five minutes later.
But also, after leaving baggage claim…
…I have to find Aerolíneas Argentinas' offices. I wonder if they are on the right…
…or the left?? A man tells me they are on the second floor, so I take the escalator.
Here they are!!
Why the interest in Aerolíneas Argentinas? Well, because of… a WOMAN.
Un momento! It's not what you think!
In July 2017 I flew to AEP from Santiago. That morning something very unusual happened. It snowed over Santiago!! The whole valley looked so beautiful that I couldn't stop taking photos during takeoff, like this one:
Months later, Aerolíneas Argentinas invited passengers to post photos of their flights on their Facebook account, in order to publish some of them in their inflight magazine, ALTA. I posted the photo you see above these lines, and some weeks later I got a message from AR asking for my authorization to publish it!
And that's how my photo was published in the March 2018 issue of ALTA…
On page 192.
I could have downloaded the PDF version of the magazine, but it was not the same as having the real thing in my hands, so I asked AR if I could get a copy from them.
An airline representative - Julia - contacted me by email. She told me that it was not possible for them to send me a copy, but I could pick one… at AEP!
Gosh. From Valdivia to Buenos Aires only for a magazine??
WHY NOT!! ( ͡ᵔ ͜ʖ ͡ᵔ )
So that's how Julia kept a copy of the magazine in her desktop drawer for about five months until I came and picked it. And, of course, I'm bringing a little present for her, as a way to say thanks.
Of course, you can see this photo and other wonderful views of Santiago covered in snow in the report I wrote for that flight, here.
And don't miss the next leg!!
Thanks for reading! :D
Andes Líneas Aéreas
San Carlos de Bariloche - BRC
Buenos Aires - AEP
Do I recommend Andes Líneas Aéreas?
I'd say... it depends on what you are expecting. If they were an LCC, I could call them a GREAT LCC. But since they like to be called a legacy airline, I have to evaluate them as such: Not outstanding.
When I purchased my ticket - a year ago - they had unbeatable prices, just like those of an LCC. But that has changed, and now Aerolíneas Argentinas has better prices.
Just like Aerolíneas Argentinas, Andes offer a free snackbox, though a very unhealthy version.
No IFE apart from a thin magazine.
The cabin was old, which doesn't necesarily mean uncomfortable.
Andes Líneas Aéreas: If you were an LCC, people would love you!
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