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SFO > MIA > EZE > MVD in AA, June 2009

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  • SFO > MIA > EZE > MVD in AA, June 2009

    Hello!

    I'm just a semi-frequent flyer who's been lurking here since the times of the AirDisaster.com's
    demise, but I thought I may contribute a bit by posting my experiences on my recent trip from
    California to Uruguay and back. A quick search of posts on this forum came back with zero
    reports on trips to that small South American country from the U.S.A., so... here are my
    experiences, on American Airlines (which is, as far as I know, the only U.S. airline to fly
    their own metal to Uruguay these days).

    = = = = PART 1: U.S.A. to URUGUAY

    Flight 1
    AA # 442, June 09, 2009, scheduled as: SFO (12:50 p.m.) MIA (6:07 p.m.) on a B767.

    (All listed times for this segment are in SFO time.)

    I returned a rental car at the airport's remote rental car "hub" at 10:45 a.m., rented a luggage
    cart for $4.00 (what a rip-off!) to haul my two suitcases, and took the tram that got me to
    Terminal 3 in about 5 minutes.

    The check-in line was long but was moving rather quickly. A staff person weighed all check-
    in luggage at the beginning of the line (allowing passengers to step aside and reshuffle their
    bags' contents if, for example, one of them was overweight) without slowing down the
    progress of the other customers who then got to move ahead past the "offending" customer,
    which I thought was great.

    When I got to the counter, the self-check-in machine could not read my passport. An agent at
    the counter had to check me in, and this delayed my processing by a couple of minutes.
    While she was helping me, the agent was on a cell phone talking with someone about
    some sort of scheduling conflict, and she sounded frustrated with the person on the other end
    of the phone but was professionally civilized when she multi-tasked interacting with me.

    After clearing security in about 10 minutes, I proceeded to Gate 65 and waited for Group 3 to
    be called for boarding (my seat was 30A).

    The plane pushed back at 12:48, and a few minutes later the video safety announcement
    began, in English. The take-off roll started at 12:58, while the Spanish version of the safety
    announcement was still playing (describing the operation of oxygen masks).

    At 1:25 they started showing a movie ("New in Town"), which was followed by two
    episodes of The Office, then an episode of 30 Rock, followed by other short programs.
    Video entertainment was ended at 5:30, but the audio programming continued until right
    before touch-down. I thought the entertainment really helped pass the time, and I wished the
    few screens that flipped down from the ceiling above the middle row had been larger for
    easier viewing from my window seat.

    At 1:40, Flight Attendants rolled beverage carts toward the front of the plane, and they didn't
    actually get to me to offer a drink until 1:58. I had a soda (it's still free!) Shortly after
    picking up from this service, they offered a second round of drinks. Then, at 3:56, FAs
    offered water, and at 4:50 they started yet another round of drink service.

    The FAs were friendly throughout the flight. Overall, I think they did a great job, especially
    given that the flight was very full.

    The flight was smooth until 4:35, when a very light chop started, and remained until pretty
    much the end of the flight. The pilots maneuvered around some impressive storms. I took
    this picture of a huge cloud that periodically lit up from the inside with lightening. { Pic 1 attached }

    We touched down at 5:50, and parked at gate D40 at 6:01. I adjusted my watch: it was 9:01
    p.m. in MIA time. A 10-minute walk got me to the departure gate for my following flight.

    +++++++++++++++++++++

    Flight 2
    AA # 943, June 09, 2009, scheduled as: MIA (11:20 p.m.) EZE (8:00 a.m. the next day) on
    a B777.

    (All listed times for this segment are in MIA time.)

    I passed the (approx.) 2-hour wait reading a book while sitting near the boarding area, which
    was packed, and at 10:50 p.m. I was already on my seat (37A). I immediately noticed the
    larger seat-width and leg-room compared to the previous flight, and was also happy to find
    that the space between the leg of the seat in front of me, and the cabin wall, was large enough
    for me to place my left foot in the space in-between, and there was no equipment box under
    the seat to limit the space for my right foot. In essence, by comparison with the 767, in this
    777 I felt as if I had been bumped up to Economy Plus.

    At 11:20 a pilot announced a 10-minute hold to wait for a connecting flight that was coming
    in from LAX. We pushed back from the gate at 11:40 and the take-off roll started at 11:52.

    Almost one hour into the flight the FAs served a dinner with a choice between two entrees
    (chicken or pasta). I picked the chicken option, and was given a dish containing a chicken
    breast, green beans, and mashed potatoes (all quite hot and tasty), in addition to a small green
    salad, a tiny dinner roll, butter, cheese, a small water bottle, and two small sweet cookies.
    The dinner trays were picked up at 1:05 a.m. with a coffee/tea service offered immediately
    afterwards.

    After dinner, I reclined my seat and once again was happily surprised to find that the recline
    was much greater than on the 767 (so much so that I actually managed to catch some sleep,
    which is a rare achievement for me during flight). Also, unlike on the 767, I enjoyed having
    the ability to adjust my own air vent, and control the videos, movies, and/or the flight-map on
    the screen on the seat-back in front of me. I kicked back playing Tetris for quite a while.

    A breakfast was served at 7:05, and picked up at 7:25. It consisted of a warm croissant,
    butter, strawberry jam, orange juice, yogurt, and a drink of your choice (the coffee I got
    was a nice picker-upper!). { Pic 2 attached }

    We touched down at EZE at 7:51 a.m., and arrived at the gate at 7:56. I adjusted my watch: it
    was 8:56 a.m., June 10, in EZE time.

    Overall, this flight was quite enjoyable, even for an 8 and trip in Economy Class. The FAs
    were attentive, the flight was smooth, and the meal service was okay and still free --a short
    while back I had read on the AA website that they were expanding their buy-on-board
    scheme for meals on flights to/from South America, and I'm glad that such scheme apparently
    didn't last very long.

    Before we could de-plane, we had to wear face masks (which were handed out as we walked
    through Business Class towards the exit door), and then complete a "health" form to assist
    with preventing the propagation of the Swine Flu. { Pics 3 & 4 attached }

    Upon exiting the jetway, we had to stand, one passenger at a time, in front of a camera-
    looking device that was used to scan our body temperature.

    Passengers in transit were directed through a security check-point where I was forced to
    "throw away" many double-A batteries I was planning on using during my stay in Uruguay
    (these batteries were not a problem for SFO's TSA screeners). Then I had to walk for quite a
    while to get to the gate for the connecting, continuing flight to MVD that would depart three
    hours later.

    While I was sitting by the boarding area, I could overhear GOL agents for a flight that had
    just boarded (flight 7457, to Rio de Janeiro), as they went back and forth, deciding whether or
    not they needed to change the seating arrangements of two passengers in order to comply
    with weight balance requirements. The GOL plane was a 737, and I was surprised that two
    passengers could make such a difference in terms of weight balance in such an airplane.

    Almost one hour before my last flight segment, I decided to investigate why there was so
    little activity (few passengers, no agents) at the boarding area. I found on a video screen that
    the boarding gate had changed, even though this change was not announced over speakers.
    Getting to the new gate required another long walk, some of it through areas dense with
    cigarette smoke. Prior to letting us into the boarding area, we were told that once we went in,
    we would not be allowed to go back to the area where the shops and food centers were, but
    we would have a restroom available at the boarding area.

    +++++++++++++++++++++++

    Flight 3
    AA # 943, June 10, 2009, scheduled as: EZE (12:00 p.m.) MVD (12:55 p.m.) on a B767.

    (All listed times for this segment are in EZE time, which is the same as MVD time.)

    When we were finally ready to board, at 12:38 p.m., we had to go through a hand-search of
    our carry-on. I found this a bit annoying, because we had been screened already to enter the
    gate areas when we arrived, and the flight was already running late. (My boarding card
    indicated that boarding would start at 11:15 a.m.)

    I made it quickly to my seat (34A) and was surprised to find that there seemed to be no more
    than 40 people in the entire Economy Class section. While we were still on the ground, an
    FA handed out a 200 ml. carton of orange juice and a 0.5 oz. bag of pretzel mini-sticks, and
    shortly thereafter another FA collected the trash. { Pic 5 attached }

    We pulled back from the gate at 1:04, and a couple of minutes later there was a strong
    breaking action. A pilot came on the speakers and explained that he had to break like that
    because the air traffic controller cleared him through a runway that, as it turned out, was
    being used by another, landing aircraft.

    The take-off roll finally commenced at 1:18. While in flight, we were given an immigration
    form to fill out and have ready to present to immigration agents upon arrival. We touched
    down at MVD at 1:49, and the plane was parked at 1:52. We had to walk down stairs to the
    tarmac, where we boarded a bus that took us to the terminal. When we walked in, the
    immigration agents were walking briskly towards their (unattended) stations. While we were
    in line to go through passport inspection, we were given another form to fill out by an agent
    who rushed through the line of waiting passengers, only to have another agent walk down the
    line and take these forms back saying that this form was no longer necessary, yelling this
    information to her fellow agent who was still handing out the forms further ahead.

    Our carry-on was x-rayed on our way to the customs inspection area. Before we could get to
    that area, though, we had to walk through a gift-shop that was densely inundated with the
    scent of various perfumes. It was just bothersome to me, but I'm sure someone with chemical
    sensitivities would have a severe problem with this little trek through the shop.

    At the customs area we were told that "the people on the plane" had forgotten to give us
    another form we had to turn in. (This was *not* the form we were briefly given at the
    immigration line). Although we were a relatively small number of passengers, the customs
    area became rather hilariously clogged up with people franticly trying to fill out this form
    (which was about agricultural items we might be bringing in). After a 20-hour trip, I was too
    tired to care, but a few of my fellow passengers were very verbal about their thoughts on the
    lack of organization that was quite apparent at MVD airport. J When I finally got to the
    front of the line, I handed in the form to a rushed agent who pointed me to a line that sent me
    directly out and into the airport's open area; my luggage was never checked by a customs
    agent, so I figured, right there, by bypassing such inspection, I gained back the time I spent
    filling out the last-minute agriculture form.



    I'll post PART 2: URUGUAY to U.S.A. soon.

    Thanks for reading, and happy flying,
    -TFS


  • #2
    MVD > EZE > DFW > SFO in AA, July 2009

    And here is the summary of my return flight from MVD to SFO:

    = = = = PART 2: URUGUAY to U.S.A. = = = =

    Flight 1
    AA # 900, July 03, 2009, scheduled as: MVD (5:25 p.m.) EZE (6:15 p.m.) on a B767.

    (All listed times for this segment are in MVD time.)

    I arrived at the airport only 1 and 1/2 hours before departure. Upon entering the departure
    terminal, I was accosted by a person who tried (insistently!) to sell me a "checked-luggage
    wrapping service" that supposedly protects the suitcases. I declined to agree with the several
    reasons she presented in favor of choosing this service. Although her last words were "have
    a nice flight," I must say that having to deal with her was a very poor way to greet departing
    passengers at MVD airport.

    Once I got to the American Airlines area, the check-in process was quick and I had my
    luggage checked in and boarding passes on hand in less than 10 minutes. Then, after
    spending as much time as possible with my relatives, I proceeded to the boarding gate, and
    while I was going through the immigration desk and getting my passport stamped, I heard a
    PA for me to check-in for immediate departure (I was embarrassed to be, apparently, the last,
    and LATE, passenger boarding the plane!). A 2-minute walk got me to the plane's door.

    When I arrived at MVD a few weeks earlier, passengers had to use stairs to deplane.
    However, this departing flight was boarded through a jetway. I was on my seat (34A) at
    4:59. Also, unlike my arriving flight, this flight appeared to be at least 95% full. I found that
    a small carton of apple juice and a pack of mini-pretzels (similar to my EZE - MVD trip)
    were waiting for me, laying on my seat.

    At 5:15 there was a PA for FAs to prepare for departure and cross-check. It also announced
    an estimated 31-minute flight at 18,000 feet. We pulled back at 5:18, and the take-off roll
    started at 5:34. As we taxied along, I noticed a lot of birds flying around, very close to the
    runway, and wondered what (if any) measures are taken at MVD to reduce the chances of
    these birds getting ingested by airplane engines. Considering how things are done at MVD, I
    would bet the answer to this question is: "not much".

    After 41 minutes of flight, we touched down at EZE at 6:15, and parked at the gate at 6:25.
    We were given a health form to fill out and had to walk through a body-temperature scanner
    (same as in my arrival on the MIA - EZE flight). This time, however, we were not given
    face-masks to wear prior to deplaning. Then I had to stand in line for 10 minutes to go
    through a metal detector and an x-ray scan of my carry-on to enter the in-transit area.

    Initially, the boarding gate for my connecting flight to DFW was listed on the monitors as #8,
    so I walked to that gate to wait for my connecting flight. At 7:20, the monitors no longer
    listed a boarding gate. At 8:26, the gate was once again listed as #8.

    +++++++++++++++++++++

    Flight 2
    AA # 996, July 03, 2009, scheduled as: EZE (9:35 p.m.) DFW (6:20 a.m. the next day) on a
    B777.

    (All listed times for this segment are in EZE time.)

    My boarding pass said that boarding would start at 8:50. At 8:56 a PA stated that, due to
    problems with downtown traffic, the crew had just now arrived at the airport, and as soon as
    they had boarded and gotten the aircraft ready, the boarding of passengers could begin. The
    monitors still listed the flight as "on time". I saw the crew arrive at the gate at 9:01.

    Boarding for First and Business class started at 9:11. I waited for Group 2 to be called, and
    was on my seat at 9:31. We pulled back from the gate at 9:50, and took off at 10:01.

    At 10:22, FAs rolled dinner carts toward the front of the plane, and they made their way to
    my row at 10:46, with a choice of beef or chicken, with rice (I picked beef). The meal was
    good, with a small salad, bun and butter, a packet with 4 crackers, cheese spread, and a truly
    tasty chocolate mouse for desert. Dinner trays were picked up at 11:11.
    { Pic 1 attached }

    Throughout the night, FAs walked by offering water, and I was very thankful for this,
    because I felt unusually thirsty throughout this flight.

    At 6:41 a.m., FAs rolled breakfast carts toward the front of the plane, and they made their
    way to my row [38] at 6:55. This breakfast was the same as on my MIA-EZE flight. They
    picked up the breakfast trays at 7:18, and this was immediately followed by a second drink
    service (more coffee for me, please!). FAs also distributed U.S. immigration forms and
    took the time to patiently help passengers with them (in particular, a large group seemed to
    have many, many questions about which forms to fill out and what to write down on them).

    We touched down at 8:14, and parked at the gate at 8:18. By 8:56 I had cleared immigration
    and had my bags re-checked for my connecting flight to SFO. I adjusted my watch: it was
    6:56 a.m. in DFW time.

    The Flight Attendants on this flight were superb, consistently smiling when interacting with
    passengers and taking the time to say "you're welcome" in response to every "thank you" I
    gave upon receiving a meal or drink.

    The only bummer on this flight was that my seat didn't stay on the recline position unless I
    was fully laying on it. Every time I leaned forward to reach for something on the small carry-
    on bag I had by my feet, I had to re-recline my seat (no doubt annoying the heck out of the
    passenger sitting behind me).

    +++++++++++++++++++++

    Flight 3
    AA # 605, July 04, 2009, scheduled as: DFW (9:05 a.m.) SFO (10:45 a.m.) on an MD-80.

    (All listed times for this segment are in DFW time.)

    My previous flight had arrived at terminal D. I had to go through the security check area,
    which was very quick, and a 7-minute ride on the Skylink train got me to terminal A, to board
    this flight at gate A36.

    While I prefer A seats, for this flight I chose an F seat because I had read on SeatGuru.com
    that on American, seats D, E, & F on their MD80's have greater pitch than their A and B
    seats. This was a good choice, as I found that my knees were as far away from the seat in
    front of me as had been the case on my previous flight on a 777.

    I was on my seat at 9:00, we pulled back from the gate at 9:08, and the take-off roll started at
    9:20.

    This flight offered free drinks (which I got at 10:00) and a buy-on-board meal service. I
    chuckled when they announced that the only alcoholic beverage available for purchase was
    vodka (at 10 in the morning? ha! ha!).

    To my dismay, this plane didn't have any video or audio entertainment capabilities, so I
    reclined my seat and passed the next ~3 hours trying to doze off.

    We touched down at 12:43 p.m., and parked at the gate at 12:46. I adjusted my watch: it was
    10:46 a.m. in SFO time. And, with that, my long trek was over.

    All in all, my experience with American Airlines was good, and the main lesson I learned
    was that it's important to check out the aircraft used: for future flights, whenever possible, I'll
    choose flights on 777s due to the greater comfort in terms of seat pitch and in-flight
    entertainment.

    Thanks for reading, and happy flying,
    -TFS

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