Buenos Aires is always a good choice, and in my opinion, the coolest and most elegant city in Latin America. After a rather excruciating year, I was really looking forward to this trip to spend New Year's Eve in my favorite place in the whole world, after months of waiting. To get there, and back, we chose to fly LATAM, which operates six weekly frequencies between ASU and EZE, using the A320-200. I will be describing my experience in the next two flight reports. The routing is the following:
We booked our tickets a little less than two months in advance. Currently, the ASU-BUE route is operated by four airlines: Aerolíneas Argentinas (AR), LATAM (LA) and Paranair (ZP); all of them flying to EZE (Ezeiza). The remaining one, and the newest in the market, Flybondi (FO), flies to EPA (El Palomar, the low cost airport of Buenos Aires). Of these options, the cheaper one was FO by far. However, the timing (late afternoon) and it operating in EPA discouraged us from booking it. AR and LA had identical fares in Economy (Y), and LA's early morning schedule was a definite advantage over AR. LA offers three types of fares in Y: Light, Plus and Top. In the "Light" fare, you have to pay for your luggage, as it is not included on the ticket price. We also paid for seat selection, as it was not free.
We arrived at the Silvio Pettirossi International Airport around 3:00, two hours before our scheduled time of departure (STD), 5:00.
ASU's check-in hall is compact and easy to move through. As we approached LA's check-in counter, an employee directed us to the self check-in machines, and kindly helped us with the process. After we got our boarding passes, we dispatched our luggage.
Departures and arrivals board, AV's flight to LIM was to depart 20 minutes after ours:
After baggage drop, we headed to the security and customs area. As there were absolutely no lines (one of the advantages of small airports), we were airside after just 10 minutes. Note that the signs are also in Guarani, Paraguay's other official language.
The bridge connecting ASU's two sections, one including gates 1, 2, 3 and 4, and the other gates 5 and 6 (gates 7 and 8 will be opened in the new expansion being built).
We still had 40 minutes to spend before boarding, so we decided to drink something at the only cafe available in that part of the airport.
My boarding pass. It was printed by the self check-in machine in paper.
- Airline: LATAM (LA)
- Aircraft: Airbus A320-200
- Registration: PR-MHP
- Age: 12 years
- Scheduled time of departure: 5:00 (ATD 5:06)
- Scheduled time of arrival: 6:50 (ATA 6:37)
- Take-off from runway: 02
- Landing on runway: 11
The process started around 4:20, and was done through gate 1. I was impressed on how efficient and organized LA's ground crew was. They divided us in 4 groups, each boarding the plane after the other. When I got to the plane, I was greeted by the chief purser (she was more senior than the resting flight attendants) and one smiling flight attendant. Note the VIP Gold Lounge on the first picture. There are only three lounges in ASU: the VIP Gold, the BBVA, and the Sudameris. I didn't have access to any of them.
The cabin was in optimal condition, and the seats seemed fairly recent. They were slimline RECARO seats. The cabin was all Economy; for Business class they blocked the middle seat and moved the curtain depending on the number of passengers, as in Europe.
View from my seat, 17A. We couldn't see an Avianca A320-200 parked at gate 4.
After 15 minutes, we started pushback. Despite the fact the A320-200 has overhead screens, the FAs did the safety demonstration manually, instead of playing the safety video. After the engines started running, we taxied to runway 02. Lightnings could be seen on the sky, despite no storms being predicted.
We entered the runway, and after a short wait, the pilots pushed the throttle and the plane started racing. After half a minute, we left the ground. Immediately, the plane turned right and headed southwards. City lights could be seen below.
As we climbed, the first rays of sunlight started to rise in the horizon. During the next 30 minutes of flight, those of us on the left side of the plane witnessed amazing sights of the sunrise. There was some mild turbulence in the climb.
35 minutes into the flight, breakfast service began. It was rather simple, as it consisted only of a muffin with chocolate chips, and a beverage of your choice (Coffee, water, juices, coke, etc). I drank coffee, which was outright awful. It is a huge downgrade from the Juan Valdez coffee they used to serve like four years ago, when it was still TAM Airlines. The muffin was tasty, but greasy.
As I ate, the sun kept on rising.
All of the flight attendants were genuinely kind and gentile, and always had a smile when interacting with the passengers. Besides the purser, there were other 2 or 3 flight attendants. With the two pilots, the crew was of 5 or 6.
On the seat pocket, you could find the in-flight magazine, titled "Vamos", and two safety cards, one in Spanish, and the other in Portuguese. Besides, there was a barf bag.
Outside, it was daytime already. It seemed the weather was very overcast below us.
It is worth noting that before the flight, you can download the app LATAM Play, which connects to the Wi Fi network on the plane, and it contains a decent selection of movies, TV shows, games, music, and most importantly, the flight map with data. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a screenshot of it.
View of the cabin some moments before descending:
Around 1 hour and 10 minutes into the flight, we started descending. The weather was very overcast, and we had moderate turbulence as we broke through the clouds.
We occasionally got a peak of the sun through the clouds.
Some minutes later, the cities of the Buenos Aires metropolitan area began to be seen.
Views on direct final, just a couple of minutes before touching the ground.
We landed on runway 11 at EZE, after 1 hour and 31 minutes of flight. There was a lot of humidity on the windows, so I apologize for the rather blurry pictures.
We had a short taxi to gate 2, on Terminal A. On the way there, several AR planes could be seen, with the highlight of a diverted FO plane (EPA has a curfew). A LA A320-200 and 767-300ER were parked on the terminal.
Before leaving the plane, I asked the crew if it was possible to visit the cockpit; coincidentally, Captain Gavilán opened the door, and he kindly let me in.
We left the plane through the jetway.
Our plane seen from the terminal.
As we walked to customs, we had time to appreciate how beautiful Terminal A looked after the refurbishment a couple of years ago.
This KLM 787-9 had just arrived from Amsterdam.
Lines at customs were long, and the process took one hour. We were fortunate to miss the rush hour, as these days the customs sections is frequently saturated by the tourists coming to Argentina on this season, with lines beginning on the tarmac. After having cleared customs, we went to collect our luggage.
As it was still early to check-in in our Airbnb, we stayed at the airport for another forty minutes. Then, we took a remise (transfer service by car) to the city.
When travelling from Asunción to Buenos Aires, LATAM has the best service among the other carriers operating the route, in my opinion. It was overall a pleasant flight, with a comfortable cabin, kind flight attendants, and streaming of entertainment to personal devices. However, the meal was mediocre, and it could be better. The Asunción Silvio Pettirossi Aiport is calm, small, and efficient, but has limited services and stores. Buenos Aires Ezeiza airport is very clean and pleasant, but customs lines these days are very long, so I would recommend all of those travelling to EZE to be prepared.