Argentina – Tango, Waterfalls, and Malbec

On March 22nd of this year, American Airlines put into effect a new mileage award chart that had some pretty significant changes. I was still sitting on quite a few of their miles and thinking about where and when I could go. So, on March 20th, I booked a trip to a part of the world that was on my list to go to while it was still a pretty good value. Tomorrow, I will start the trip by flying round trip to Buenos Aires, Argentina. On the overnight trip down, I will fly first class for 62,500 miles and return in business class for 50,000 miles. By comparison, those trips now cost 85,000 and 57,500 miles, respectively, and would now be 30,000 miles more than when I booked. Very savvy move on my part, no doubt.

This will be a fairly quick trip as I will only be there for a week but have plans to get in a couple of stops in addition to the capital city of which I’ve heard many positive reviews. I haven’t packed yet, but suspect I will be going fairly light as the weather will be consistent and there will not be any formal occasions to worry about. Argentina is now coming into the spring season and weather looks like it will be in the mid-60’s to mid-70’s most days with a good chance of avoiding rain.

Voy a actualizar pronto de América del Sur!

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Big Disappointment with American Airlines

In yesterday’s post, I mentioned I was able to secure an AA flight with their new business configuration with four lie-flat seats per row giving everyone aisle access. Well, big disappointment on boarding as we were in their old 767 configuration with six seats across meaning that the window seats have to get past the aisle passenger to get up.

The middle and far side seats on this old 737-300 config

The middle and far side seats on this old 737-300 config

These are not lie-flat seats, but angled seats in full recline and they don’t have individual entertainment screens which AA tries to compensate for by giving business class passengers a personal tablet with the entertainment offerings, but look how that looks in practice..

Two tray tables, the tablet, and the power cord have to move. More complicated once the meal is served.

Two tray tables, the tablet, and the power cord have to move. Even more complicated when meal is served.

If the window passenger wants out during the flight, it is a major operation on the part of the aisle passenger.

As of the day before the flight, the seating chart still showed the new configuration with me sitting in 3A. No one could explain why there was a change of equipment and there was no notice. Luckily, the guys who had 3B actually prefers the window so we traded so I could be on the aisle. I would much rather be bothered by the window passenger getting out than feeling bad for bothering the aisle passenger multiple times on the flight.

Am I crying about first world problems? Yes, maybe. But, these seats sell for around $3,000 round trip so expecting what was promised is not unreasonable, in my opinion.

I will point out that the cabin staff were excellent and all operations ran on-time. It was just a lousy piece of equipment relative to what I bought.

Hitting the Road for Eastern Europe

Back in February, I was sitting on a little over 170,000 American miles and trying to figure out what trip I could book before AA changed the mileage requirements on their award chart which, of course, made the miles less valuable, not more valuable. As I was considering this question, I got notice that one of the European meetings that I attend a few times a year would be held in Prague in May.

After doing some research, I figured out a way to use 50,000 AA miles to fly business class one-way to Europe for the meeting and then tie in some other travels on the trip. 50k for one-way business to Europe in a lie-flat seat with aisle access. This was a nice sweet spot on the AA chart that has now moved up to 57,500, which is still not bad. I couldn’t get directly into Prague but Vienna had availability and that is a city that I’ve wanted to visit for some time. Now, of course, I know Vienna is not actually Eastern Europe and neither is Italy which is where I will end up in a few weeks. But, the balance of my time will be spent in Eastern Europe and cities where I have never traveled with the exception of Prague.

For this trip, I decided to go ultra-light much like I did for Vietnam and Cambodia a few years ago. So, the Marmot Gunnison daypack is stuffed full and I am actually going to try a few new products this time around and see how they work. Probably the biggest challenge will be dressing well enough for the business meetings I will be attending. Hopefully, I have enough in the bag to make it work!

I’ll be moving quickly between cities over the next couple of weeks but I will try to keep relatively up to date with the blog and pics.