I recently had the opportunity to experience the premium product on two major North American (non-US) carriers. I thought it would be a good chance to evaluate and compare the two different products and see how they stack up! I was invited to Buenos Aires, Argentina, by a good friend of mine whose fiancÃ© is Brazilian. They planned a trip to Argentina and invited close friends. Given that going to South America would mean I had visited all the continents (well, apart from Antarctica), I had to agree. In planning this trip, I decided to use miles to make the trip more affordable.
Much to my surprise, there was no point in booking a flight one-way using miles and the return flight paying cash. Interestingly, it cost the same amount (or more) for a one-way ticket to Buenos Aires, compared to a round-trip ticket. ThisÂ just further reinforced my plan to use miles. I was able to use Alaska Airlines miles to fly AeromÃ©xico on the flight down, and United miles to fly Air Canada on the return. Funny how that can work, right?
My outbound route went Seattleâ€“Houstonâ€“Mexico Cityâ€“Buenos Aires. The first leg was on Alaska Airlines to Houston in First Class, next was Aerolitoral operating as AeromÃ©xico Connect to Mexico City in Business Class, and finally AeromÃ©xico on the long-haul flight to Buenos Aires, again in Business Class.
I arrived at Seatac and promptly went to the Alaska Airlines Board Room (my first experience). The staff there was quite friendly and it was a great place to do some plane spotting. After enjoying some coffee, I went down to the gate for my first flight. I became a little concerned when the boarding time came and went and we were still sitting in the terminal. I had a pretty tight connection in Houston (55 minutes), but had been assured I would make my flight just fine. About 20 minutes after we were supposed to board, nothing was happening. Finally they started the boarding process and I had a (brief) sense of relief. Once we were aboard, we continued to sit there. The captain came out and made an announcement that there was an issue with one of the fuel pumps.
We sat there for another 20 minutes; meanwhile, I was on the phone with Alaska trying to figure out if I should even stay on the plane. Finally, an agonizing 20 minutes later, we were on our way.
The flight to Houston was uneventful and had the great Alaska Airlines service that Iâ€™m used to, especially since I was flying in First Class. Once we landed in Houston, I had to SPRINT to my next gate. We landed with about 25 minutes for me to make my connecting flight. Thankfully, I made it, and was the very lastÂ person to get on the plane. But hey, I made it!
The flight from Houston to Mexico City was nice and easy. It was on a fairly new Embraer 190 and the cabin crew again was friendly. I enjoyed a croissant sandwich and a Tecate (hey, I might as well enjoy some Mexican beer while on a Mexican airline, right?). In business class (Clase Premier) it was a 1-2 layout, and I had aisle access while inÂ a window seat. It was pretty cool to see the Gulf of Mexico in the distance asÂ we flew down.
Upon arrival in Mexico City, I took advantage of the AeromÃ©xico lounge, Salon Premier. I must say, it was one of the swankier airport lounges Iâ€™ve been to. Cool green lighting and some fancy trees too. My only complaint was that the Wi-Fi was terrible – I would get kicked off every few minutes (if I could even connect). The staff was quite friendly and the overall service was good (of course, I had to enjoy another fine Mexican beer). I had a couple hours until my friends arrived (we flew separately on the first part, but together on the long-haul). So, givenÂ the Wi-Fi issues I kicked back and watched some futbalÂ (soccer) on TV.
When it came time to board the flight from Mexico City to Buenos Aires, the process started smoothly. As a US citizen, in order to enter Argentina, you must first pay a reciprocity fee. Essentially, itâ€™s an entrance fee that is valid for 10 years. As part of the boarding process, you had to prove that you had paid this fee (which was all good and fine). Flying in business class, I was hoping to board the aircraft and turn left for the premium cabin. Alas, that was not the case, as we entered through the forward left door. Once onboard the aircraft, it was a bit of a cluster.
Admittedly, my Spanish is a bit rusty (I took a couple years in high school), so thankfully I had a buddy with me that speaks it better. There was a family that wanted to travel together (two parents and four kids), so they asked me if I would change seats (in Spanish, of course). I wasnâ€™t quite sure what they were saying, so I solicited help from my buddy. I happily accommodated them and started to settle in to my new seat.
However, it wasn’t long until the the flight attendant came by and informed me that someone else wanted me to change seats. I had to get my buddy to translate again, and finally got it all sorted â€“ we were on our way!
The flight to Buenos Aires was on a Boeing 767-300ER. I always enjoy flying wide-body aircraft, but this one was a little different. This particular 767 was especiallyÂ dated, and must have been one of the oldest in their fleet. It was painted in the old AeromÃ©xico livery and had seen better days. The interior could have used a refreshing; my electronic seat controls worked intermittently, if at all. The flight crew was quite friendly and provided a nice meal onboard. All-in-all the flight was uneventful and I managed to get my seat to almost lay-flat, allowing me to catch some sleep. AeromÃ©xico has long-term plans to phase out their 767s and replace them withÂ 787s â€“ that canâ€™t come soon enough!
Despite a few hiccups, I made it to my destination. I certainly am glad that I used miles, as it helped make the trip moreÂ affordable. I probably would fly AeromÃ©xico again, but would aim for one for one of their new Dreamliners instead of an aging 767.
Buenos Aires has the nickname â€œParis of South Americaâ€ and this couldnâ€™t be more true. From the wide avenues to all of the interesting art and culture within the city, it really did almost feel like I was in Paris. Â We also had the opportunity to visit Colonia del Sacramento in Uruguay, which was great too (a quick ferry ride from Buenos Aires). We rented golf carts and drove around the coastal city, which was awesome!
Stay tuned for the return leg, where I flew Air Canada home. Spoiler alert: the flight was much more enjoyable!
|This story written by…Colin Cook, Correspondent.Â Colin is an avid AvGeek who works in finance and is based in the Seattle area. He has an immense passion for aviation and loves to travel as much as possible.@CRoscoe2121|
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