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Aerolineas Argentinas Business Class Review

Aerolineas Argentinas is a bit of a running joke in Argentina. They are usually late – if they fly at all. There are often work stoppages. They have been hemorrhaging state money for years. People try and find any other airline to fly if they can. Well, things may be looking up…

I had previously written about using Delta SkyMiles to fly Aerolineas Argentinas to Buenos Aires and how there was a ton of award availability with Aerolineas. I finally had the chance to fly business class (Club Condor) on their new(ish) JFK to EZE route  last month and was pleasantly surprised. (I did have to tell my wife it was a Delta flight, as she was worried about me flying Aerolineas Argentinas.)

Both flights were on time, and the one from JFK to EZE even got in at least an hour early. Supposedly they have an excellent on-time record for this route.

The new Airbus A330-200 planes that they’re flying on the EZE to JFK route are really nice. The business class section has soft blue lighting, built-in entertainment centers and lie-flat seats. I can honestly say that these were the most comfortable business seats I have flown in so far (vs Delta, American and AeroMexico). I was able to lie on my side, partially curl up and sleep for a good 5-6 hours, which is pretty impressive for a flight.

The food was good. Nothing to write home about, but perfectly acceptable. Service started a bit slowly as they did not offer drinks at boarding, but the flight attendants were around regularly once the flight was in the air.

A great benefit of flying business class is that you can use the British Airways lounge at JFK as Aerolineas does not have their own. This lounge was spacious with a self-serve bar, including draught beer on tap. If only I had known, I would have gotten there earlier! On the Ezeiza side, I opted to visit the new American Express Centurion Lounge rather than the Aerolineas Lounge which I had been to before. The American Express Lounge is great, but way too crowded. On the two times I have been there, I had to wait to find seats both times.


Using Skymiles To Get To Buenos Aires On Aerolineas Argentinas

I still have a few hundred thousand Delta Skymiles from a promotion that they ran in 2011 where you could effectively buy miles for 1.06 cents each. This has meant that low-mileage (60,000 mile) coach tickets from the US to Buenos Aires have been costing me U$S 636 and low-mileage (100,000 mile) business class tickets only U$S 1060. As a business class ticket is typically U$S 3700 or more, this is quite a deal.

New York to Buenos AiresThe problem, of course, is that Delta is notorious for not having much low-mileage availability. Things are so bad that Skymiles are often referred to as Skypesos. Still, by being very flexible and checking the Delta website frequently, I have been able to book three Delta business class flights, one Aeromexico business class flight and a Delta coach flight with these miles.

Sometimes though it can be impossible to find any low-level space, even with being flexible, as I recently found when looking for a trip back to the States in the April/May timeframe. Delta was showing nothing at all. Nada. Zilch.

Luckily, I remembered that Aerolineas Argentinas was also a Skyteam member (as of August 2012) and had recently added a new Buenos Aires (EZE) to New York (JFK) direct flight as of December 2013. Of course, the Delta website does not show any of this award space.

Lots of Buenos Aires to New York award space

Lots of Buenos Aires to New York award space

That meant it was time to head over to the Air France website and search with their award booking tool. (Just sign up as a free Flying Blue member and you’ll get access to the site.) It worked great! Aerolineas Argentinas had a lot of low level award business space available. Plus they’re flying new Airbus A330-200 planes with lie-flat seats in Club Condor.

As they had a lot of availability, my next step was to see what low-level mileage options Delta had from New York to Boston (my ultimate destination). For this I went back to the Delta site and looked at First Class award availability from JFK-BOS in that same time frame. Luckily, a couple of options came back and I then compared those with the Aerolineas Argentinas availability to find flights that worked. I wrote all of the flight numbers down and then called Delta to book this itinerary as it could not be booked online.

Luckily, the Delta rep that I got was pretty good and while he had never booked Aerolineas Argentinas before, when I fed him the flight segments with flight numbers (EZE to JFK, JFK to BOS, BOS to JFK, and JFK to EZE) he found the same availability and the trip priced out to 100,000 miles plus U$S 107.32. There’s a $25 phone booking fee that cannot be avoided.

He was able to book my seats for the Delta flights from New York to Boston, but could not assign seats for Buenos Aires to New York. He gave me a Aerolineas Argentinas record locator and with that I was able to call them directly and get my seats assigned. All set!

Of course, Aerolineas is notorious for their poor performance and customer service, so we’ll have to see how it goes. I’ll be sure and post a review of the flight afterwards.

Some things to know if you want to use Skymiles to get to Buenos Aires on Aerolineas Argentinas:

  • I only touched lightly on how to look for these award tickets. You can also read the Rapid Travel Chai blog on how to book Aerolineas tickets with Skymiles for some extra details.
  • Delta just recently devalued their award chart. After June 1, 2014, low-level award flights from the US to Buenos Aires will cost 125,000 miles. 🙁
  • If you’re not in New York, you can also search Aerolineas availability to Miami as they also have a lot of low level space. The biggest issue is getting to JFK or MIA if you are not in those cities.
  • If you’re coming from the US to Buenos Aires, you may be able to add on a stopover in Buenos Aires and continue on to another city as well for the same number of miles. For example, New York -> Buenos Aires (4 day stopover) -> Mendoza -> Buenos Aires -> New York.

If you need to get Skymiles, there’s a few good ways:

  • The Chase Sapphire Preferred card is one of the best all-around travel cards. Points earned here can be transferred to numerous hotel and airline partners. They currently have a 40,000 point signup offer.
  • The Delta Amex cards (personal and business) offer 30,000 miles at signup.
  • American Express Membership rewards points can be transferred to Delta.
  • The Starwood Preferred Guest Amex cards offer 25,000 points at signup and can be transferred to airlines. For every 20,000 miles you transfer to Delta, you’ll get 25,000 Delta miles.

Anyone have any experience on Aerolineas Argentinas to the States?


Buenos Aires News: Edition 4

Seems like our new Buenos Aires News idea was popular enough to be “borrowed” on another site, so I guess we’re doing something right.  (Though some credit would have been nice.)

Argentina Playboy Bunny Campaigns for Whales in Chile  [Merco Press]
Argentine top model Vanesa Carbone cat-walked topless in front of the Japanese embassy in Santiago de Chile to protest Japan’s indiscriminate whale hunting and the use of animal skins in human clothing. Save the whales! (And yes, there is a photo on their site too.)

Spain’s Bets Sour in Latin America [Wall Street Journal]
Argentine lawmakers Wednesday approved a draft law to seize back the country’s largest airline Aerolineas Argentinas and its subsidiary Austral from its owners, the Spanish group Marsans. The measure approved by Argentina’s lower house of Congress Wednesday declared Marsans’ properties to be “of public utility,” which is enough under Argentine law to allow expropriation. Marsans claims the airline is worth $250 – $450 million while the Argentine government wants to pay 1 peso (.30 cents) for the airline.

Argentine political soap opera bubbles along [San Francisco Chronicle]
Argentine Vice-President Julio Cobos has become an outcast in the government after he cast the tie-breaking vote in July’s farmer’s strike against his boss President Cristina Fernandez, but his popularity soared.  His approval rating is twice that of the president in some approval polls, but that doesn’t mean it’s any easier to come to work for him.

Yes, We Have No Monedas! [Slate]
Subtitled “Inside the world’s most annoying economic crisis,” this is yet another story about the shortage of coins in Buenos Aires and the many interesting ways people are dealing with it. Michelle and Tom’s blog has their own interesting experiences with the Argentine coin shortage. Truly a strange problem to see…

Fernandez Unveils Stimulus Plan for Argentine Economy [Bloomberg]
Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has unveiled a 13.2 billion-peso ($3.9 billion) plan to spur the country’s consumption and exports in a bid to counter the effects of the global financial crisis. Whether it works or not remains to be seen.


Buenos Aires News: Edition 2

More interesting news from Buenos Aires this week:

Argentine court intervenes in Aerolineas Argentinas [Reuters]
An Argentine court agreed to oversee the day-to-day running of the country’s main airline on Friday amid signs the government is moving to expropriate the carrier from its Spanish owners.

Airline Grab Gains Ground in Argentina [The Wall Street Journal]
An Argentine congressional committee recommended that the government nationalize flagship airline Aerolíneas Argentinas, in a move likely to heighten investor concerns about the country.

Barack Obama Calls Cristina Fernández [The Argentine Post]
President-elect Barack Obama called Argentina’s president, Cristina Fernandez on Tuesday, November 18th and had a 10 minute conversation with her.  She had previously announced her preference that he win the presidency and sent a congratulatory note to him when he won.

Where is the Argentine Peso Headed [The Argentine Post]
A good summary of the peso’s decline, why it’s not declining faster, and what we might expect in the future.

Argentines react to pension nationalization [Washington Post]
Argentine officials on Friday praised the nationalization of $23 billion in private pensions as good news for workers, while opposition leaders called it more of a looting than a reform.

Buenos Aires to Get Tour Buses [Hostel Colonia]
One familiar site in NYC and many other major cities of the world are the double-decker Hop-On, Hop-Off tour buses that you see taking tourists around the city. They can be a convenient way to quickly see a lot of a city when you don’t have much time to spend there. (I’ve been on them in Barcelona, Dublin, and a few other cities.)  With the huge explosion of tourism in Argentina, it was surprising that there was no tour buses here.  Well, as of January, that will no longer be the case as 8 new buses are coming to take tourists from La Boca to Palermo.