Once again, welcome to another flight report! After spending my first five months living in Rio, it was time to go back home on a two week visit. Because of situation brought by the pandemic, the only airline currently flying regularly between Brazil and Paraguay is LATAM, so I hadn't much of a choice when it came to choosing. Unlike my previous reports, which were in Premium Economy, this one will be in good old Economy. The routing is as follows (I've decided to cover only the GRU-ASU leg, as it is the only one that I haven't covered before, unlike the other legs).
The tickets were bought through the LATAM Paraguay website. This type of Economy fare included a 23 kg checked luggage and a 10 kg hand luggage. It also allowed for free seat selection, which, for me, is a huge aspect to consider when choosing a fare.
My previous flight from SDU landed at GRU around 11:55, a little more than two hours before the scheduled time of boarding to ASU, 14:05. I had plenty of time for going through customs and grabbing lunch at Terminal 3. It was my first time departing from it, so I was curious to see the inside for myself.
Terminal 3 check-in hall. As I was connecting, and my lugagge was dispatched directly from SDU, I didn't need to go to a counter:
Departures board. In pre-pandemic times, the international departures in the same time period would fill three screens.
After going through security and customs quite quickly, I went through a duty-free hall.
To my delight, I could already see some planes as I came closer to the gates concourse, like this Iberia A350-900. Behind it, there was a LA A320 (Spoiler alert: it turned out to be the one flying me to ASU), an LA A321 and a Swiss 777-300ER.
Terminal 3's main concourse:
View of the apron. You can see a Copa 737 MAX 9, a United 777-200 and a Lufthansa 747-8.
There was also a UA 787-9, and in the background, a Delta A330-200 and a Aerolineas Argentinas E190 (still in Austral livery). On a sidenote, it's strange to see a perfectly clear, blue sky in GRU, isn't it?
Spotting didn't end there, as I found myself with a majestic Air France A359.
As I still had more than an hour left to boarding, I decided to grab lunch. I found a Subway close to my gate, 323. Here you can see the main corridor. Perhaps as a reminder of the harsh pandemic times, there was a considerable amount of closed stores and restaurants.
Just as I finished lunch, all passengers of our flight were summoned to gate 323 to show the documentation required for entering Paraguay. Besides the usual documentation, as ID or passport, Paraguay nowadays requires, vaccinated or not, a negative PCR result done at least 72 hours before the flight, and a QR code generated by filling out an online health declaration. After showing said doccuments, I decided to stay near the gate. This allowed me to get a more detailed sight of the IB A359. I noted how much LA advanced in the process of repainting its whole fleet in the new livery. During my whole stay at GRU, I just saw one 767-300ER still in the old TAM livery.
Our A320, PR-MAG, was parked besides the A359.
- Airline: LATAM (LA)
- Aircraft: Airbus A320
- Registration: PR-MAG
- Age: 19 years (2002)
- Scheduled time of departure: 15:05 (ATD 15:06)
- Schduled time of arrival: 16:05 (ATA 16:00)
- Flight duration: 02:00 (Actual duration: 01:54)
- Take-off from runway: 27R
- Landing in runway: 20
Boarding started at 14:18. We were divided in five groups. Priority and Premium Economy passengers comprised the first two groups, while the rest of us formed the last three. I, with my seat being 8A, boarded on group 4. It's worth noting that social distancing was not kept during the process.
Proceeding to the plane.
We were greeted by the flight attedants at the door, who directed us to our seats. The plane, despite its age, had been refurbished with the current standard LA interior, featuring leather slimline RECARO seats with adjustable headrests.
My seat, 8A.
View from my window. The IB A359 was still there.
The front seat pocket contained contained the safety card. I guess LA descontinued their Vamos magazine during the pandemic.
We started pushback at 14:57, 8 minutes before our scheduled time of departure. Soon after, we began taxiing to runway 27R.
A LX 77W waiting to go home to ZRH.
A LA A321 and 77W parked in remote positions, beyond Terminal 3.
Entering runway 27R.
After a short stop, the IAE V2500 engines roared and we started take-off roll. After a few seconds, the wheels left the ground at 15:06, 1 minute behind schedule.
It was a beautiful afternoon down in São Paulo!
Climbing to FL340.
Initially, the sky was clear with scattered cirrus clouds. However, as we headed to the west, it became increasingly overcast.
The meal was served 36 minutes into the flight. It consisted in a bag of chips, a cereal bar, and a beverage of your choosing, along with a moist towelette. I went with a Coke. In my opinion, the service could be more elaborate in an two-hour international flight; for example, I would have liked a hot sandwich instead of the bag of chips. However, I understand we aren't in a position of asking too much during these hard times for the industry. The FAs were polite and smiled when interacting the passengers, without reaching a hyper-polished, SQ-like level.
The plane was equipped with Wi-Fi, but only to support the LATAM Play entertainment app, which included a selection of movies, series, games, and, most importantly, a map. It's worth noting the plane had power ports located down between the front seats.
As we crossed the Paraguayan border, more clouds began to appear.
Because of the overcast and rainy weather conditions, we entered Paraguayan airspace from the north, which is unusual in this route. We started descending towards Asuncion's Silvio Pettirossi International Airport at 15:34 PYT, 01:28 into the flight. As you can see, we had to penetrate several layers of clouds.
After a brief period of total whiteness, ground came to sight.
On final approach to runway 20. We overflew Asuncion's northern suburbs.
We landed at 16:00, 5 minutes ahead of schedule.
After vacating the runway, we were assigned gate 2. Besides us, there was a Air Europa 789 and an Eastern (the shabby reincarnation, of course) 763.
The deplaning process, as the boarding back in GRU, was done by groups, and, much to my surprise, was very organized and ordered, so kudos to the crew for that.
The best angle I could get of our plane, PR-MAG.
Going through customs was a lengthy process, because passengers now have to go through a Health Ministry desk and present the required documentation (Covid test + QR code) before continuing to customs. To make things worse, only half of the customs booths were functioning. Almost an hour passed from deplaning to getting to baggage claim. From there, it was just walking to the arrivals hall.
Because of social distancing measures, only passengers and staff can stay inside the terminal building. Because of this, relatives now wait outside. As I went outside to meet my family after five months, I had the chance to take a picture of the already veteran (41 years-old) terminal building.
On this short South American flight, LATAM provided what was expected, without going further. From the modern cabin, polite flight attendants, to the simple catering, it was a nice experience overall. The only unpleasant experience was going through customs at ASU, but that can be blamed on local bureaucracy.