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Down Argentine Way: AC J Denver to Santiago/Buenos Aires

Down Argentine Way: AC J Denver to Santiago/Buenos Aires

Old Oct 29, 09, 12:11 pm
  #1  
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Join Date: Oct 1999
Location: Denver, Colorado, USA
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Down Argentine Way: AC J Denver to Santiago/Buenos Aires

I've been dragging my feet on this one, so I'm just going to man up and do it! We secured award tickets to Buenos Aires (first week in October 2009) on Air Canada at the 330-day window (and for only 80K miles each, before the rate went up - a real bargain). The whole trip had a mythic quality being booked so far out, but the day finally arrived and it was time to leave.

Our route was DEN-YYZ-SCL (2-hour stop) SCL-EZE, then EZE-SCL (2-day stop) SCL-YYZ-DEN. I really enjoyed the Executive First product in almost every respect. The food was a bit weak on the long-haul flights, but the seat and service were great.

Check-in was a bit underwhelming; we were told "no" to using the CO President's Club on the A concourse in Denver, but the very friendly attendant saw our J tickets and UA *Gold cards and said "come on in!" I really love the staff at this lounge (LH uses it, too).

I enjoyed some red wine and some tasty cheese and crackers with an apple for good measure.



The view from the CO club isn't great, but it's still a very nice spot to kill some time.



We headed down to the gate and were among the first to board. I really like the AC color scheme on the A-319; it was a beautiful fall day in Denver.



Flight/Route: AC1040/DEN-YYZ
Aircraft/Seat: A-319 (no tail number - sorry!)/3A
Departure Time/Duration: 3:45 p.m./3:03
Meal: Dinner

The load was light in Y and J. I think there were seven or eight seats occupied. The cabin looked fresh and tidy.



After takeoff, our two Qubcois flight attendants (both young and quite attractive) started service with warm towels, nuts (not warm) and drinks. I had a nice, red wine. No menus were provided. I like the new china and glassware; it's wonderfully modern. I watched a couple of episodes of "How I Met Your Mother" on the AVOD system, which worked great.



For some reason our UA numbers weren't listed on our boarding passes (and presumably the manifest); we were asked last for our meal choice. Chicken with cherry sauce, a vegetarian lasagna and a single order of beef were available. I chose the beef; my friend had the lasagna. First up was a salad, served with a nice, balsamic vinegar. I don't like to see the dessert served with the first course!



The beef had a vaguely Middle-Eastern flavor (cinnamon, perhaps?), but was nice and tender and went well with the red wine. The mashed potatoes were garlicky and delicious, as were the vegetables. No bread was forthcoming (catering error maybe?).



The lasagna got worse marks, being a bit bland and not very hot in temperature.



After dinner I enjoyed a Courvoisier with my cheesecake, which was OK but lacked an actual "cheescake texture," being too light and fluffy.



Service was good; drinks were topped up while I enjoyed the pretty sunset.



Before long we were descending into rainy Toronto. A nice start to our trip!
Kurt is offline  
Old Oct 29, 09, 1:50 pm
  #2  
 
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Great start to a trip report.. Pics are wonderful.... thanks...
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Old Oct 29, 09, 3:37 pm
  #3  
 
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Great so far, thanks for posting.

Cheers Larry.
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Old Oct 29, 09, 5:25 pm
  #4  
 
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nice one mate!
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Old Oct 29, 09, 9:19 pm
  #5  
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Part 2: Toronto to Santiago

After a very long trek down to immigration/security and back (is it always such a disorganized mess?), we hit the Maple Leaf Lounge. It was quite busy, with AC flights departing to London, Madrid, So Paulo, Santiago/Buenos Aires and Tel Aviv.



The ambiance was comfortable but not super-plush. The wi-fi worked well and there were plenty of seats.



After having a quick drink and some crunchy, salty snacks, I decided it was a good idea to have a shower, which was quickly arranged at the check-in counter. The shower room itself was quite nice, but again, not plush. Towels were provided, and soap and shampoo in wall-mounted pumps. Quite refreshing, I thought.



At the gate, we soon realized we'd be delayed, first by a gate change, then by a late-arriving aircraft (a "domestic arrival," I never found out from where). I spotted another 767-300 at the next gate headed to London, I think. The gate agents did a pretty good job of updating us.



About 35 minutes behind schedule we boarded (quite efficiently as the crew gently urged us to be quick so we could button up and go, and we had a full load). My first impression of the seat was good; blankets, a water bottle and a nice amenity kit. Menus and pre-departure water, juice and bubbly were offered. I chose some sparkling wine.



Flight/Route: AC92/YYZ-SCL
Aircraft/Seat: 767-300 (G-GSCA, Fin 642)/4A
Departure Time/Duration: 11:45 p.m./10:40
Meals: Dinner, Breakfast

After a rather quick taxi and takeoff, dinner orders were taken by the purser, and the first round of cocktails was served. I tried the Drappier, which was quite nice with some warm nuts. The crew was very friendly, but the cabin layout seemed to be at odds with efficient service (lots of up and down one aisle then the other).



The menus looked quite nice (English, French, Spanish, [the wine list, however, was only in English and French]).



WELCOME aboard

So that your stay with us is of the most enjoyable kind, we offer you an innovative menu.

We thank you for choosing Air Canada for your travel today.

Please, sit back, enjoy . . . AND SAVOR YOUR FLIGHT!

LET YOUR SENSES TAKE FLIGHT

DINNER

Gourmet ExpressTM
Enjoy this cold alternative shortly after takeoff.

Chilled grilled Maple Cranberry Chicken
With grilled Summer Vegetable Salad and Bruschetta
Cheese and fresh Fruit

Appetizers


Vodka smoked Atlantic Salmon and Cucumber

* Tomato, Pesto and Feta Tart with Mesclun Greens

I chose the tart, which was a nice start - the quality of the ingredients seemed high, and the bread was outstanding.



Main Courses

Grilled Veal

with Herb Butter, Potatoes au Gratin, Mushrooms and Vegetable Medley

* Herb-crusted Halibut
with Rhubarb Leek Butter, exotic Grains and Bok-choy

I chose the fish, which was tasty enough but was quite overcooked. The South African Sauvignon Blanc was very nice.



Four-Cheese Gnocchi
With Pesto Cream Sauce and assorted Mushrooms

Ace Bakery Authentic Breads

Cheese with Crackers
OKA L’Artisan honeycombed Cheese, Rondoux Triple Crme and Chevalier Brie with Basil and Tomato

Dessert

Ice Cream

Wonderful - chocolate, raspberry and a very creamy dulce de leche. It was splendid with some port.



* Fresh Fruit

I watched the quite funny "Whatever Works" during dinner, then it was off to dreamland for about seven hours - I really liked the flat bed.

Soon the mood lighting changed (again) and it was time for breakfast. One lavatory was out of commission so it was a bit inconvenient.



BEFORE LANDING

Juices
Fresh Fruit

Nice blackberries and strawberries - quite fresh.



Yogurt

Main Course

Scrambled Eggs and smoked Cheddar

with Fingerling Potatoes and assorted Vegetables

This was hearty, but again kind of overcooked to my taste. I liked the cheese Danish very much.



Warm Breakfast Pastries and Preserves

* Air Canada NutriCuisine is a refreshing food alternative designed exclusively for Executive First travelers. Based on the simple principles of combining regional ingredients, whole grain products and minimal sodium or fats, Air Canada NutriCuisine main dish gives you the choice of a light yet tasty alternative to the heartier selections.

WINE SELECTIONS

OUR WINE EXPERT
Ken Chase is an expert and lecturer who studied oenology and viticulture at the University of Melbourne. Ken is available to answer all your questions on wine. Contact him at [email protected].

HIDDEN TREASURES
Every now and then we stumble upon a rare find. These regularly featured “hidden treasures” are offered exclusively to our Executive First customers.

CHAMPAGNE

Champagne Drappier, Carte d’Or Brut, Reims, France


WHITE WINES

Danie De Wet, Sauvignon Blanc, De Wetshof Estate, Robertson, South Africa

Colio Estate Proprietors’ Reserve, North Shore, Lake Erie, VQA, Canada


RED WINES

Ironstone Cabernet Sauvignon, California, United States

Pago de Cirsus, Tempranillo/Merlot/Cabernet, Navarra, Spain


PORT

Dow’s Port, Portugal

BAR LIST

BEER

Heineken
Molson Canadian
Coors Light

SPIRITS

Smirnoff Vodka
Bombay Sapphire Gin
Jonnie Walker Black Label Scotch
Crown Royal Whisky
Jack Daniel’s Bourbon
Bacardi White Rum

LIQUEURS
Courvoisier V.S.O.P. Cognac
Grand Marnier
Baileys Irish Cream

1178-A1-NJHM9E(E)-NJHBES 10/09

Outside, the view of the Andes upon our descent was stunning.



Our route during the night was pretty much a straight shot south.



We landed in sunny Santiago about 20 minutes late. Overall it was a very nice flight, and I felt very refreshed from my sleep.
Kurt is offline  
Old Oct 29, 09, 11:24 pm
  #6  
 
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Looking forward to the SCL - EZE report

Such great photos and descriptions of the product. Congrats on getting 7 hours of sleep...... ^

Please tell us about the SCL - EZE leg.....

putongo
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Old Oct 30, 09, 1:31 am
  #7  
 
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Location: TSV, Australia
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Nice trip report so far. Thanks for posting.
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Old Oct 30, 09, 1:36 am
  #8  
 
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Approaches into SCL are breathtaking, for sure. Thanks for the TR, looking forward to the EZE-SCL segment, interested to see what service is like as I've considered taking this in the past.
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Old Oct 30, 09, 8:22 am
  #9  
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Part 3: Santiago to Buenos Aires

We bid goodbye/adieu/adios to the crew and headed through immigration/security, which was very quick. Back upstairs we did not have a huge amount of time as the stopover was curtailed to make up for our late arrival. The American Airlines Admirals Club is available in Santiago, but we didn't take the time to visit. I also left my passport (and a bunch of cash to pay for our B.A. apartment) in the men's room, running back to find a nice gentleman holding it and looking for its owner. D'oh! Thanks, sir, whoever you were! Our aircraft was quickly cleaned and prepped and was waiting outside.



Boarding was organized (separate line for J and elites), but once through the door we backed up against about 100 people standing in the jetway, a delay of about 10 minutes. A good lesson in how to be patient in South America (just chill and things will get done - why stress out?).

Once on board the J cabin filled to about 75% capacity. Y appeared to be nearly full.




Flight/Route: AC92/SCL-EZE
Aircraft/Seat: 767-300 (G-GSCA, Fin 642)/4A
Departure Time/Duration: 12:15p.m./2:00
Meals: Snack

We left nearly on time and arrived in Buenos Aires within five minutes of schedule. The crew on this leg was outstanding - really friendly and proactive. It's a five-day trip for them (Day 1 - YYZ-SCL; Day 2 - stop in SCL; Day 3 - SCL-EZE-SCL, stop in SCL; Day 4 - SCL-YYZ; Day 5 - arrive in YYZ). Small example: pre-departure drinks were served in glasses; right before departure the crew offered to switch the remaining wine/juice/water to a plastic cup to enjoy during taxi - what a nice touch. Our taxi and takeoff was speedy and we were headed south before turning left and heading over the mountains. Looks like those AA 763s just sit all day before heading to Miami, Lima/New York and Dallas Ft. Worth.



After takeoff I enjoyed some red wine (the very nice Pago de Cirsus from Spain) and checked out the menu. I was impressed that a separate menu was provided, not just an extra page in the YYZ-SCL version.

LIGHT MEAL

If you prefer to sleep and eat later, just let us know.

Fresh Fruit

Selection of warm Breads

Chilled Herb-marinated Beef Tenderloin

With Edam, Red Onion and Tomato salad and marinated Asparagus

I chose the beef, and it was great. Simple, but very high quality, especially the tender beef. My only complaint was the bread, which was OK but had the texture of a hot-dog bun. The crew was charming and polite.




Chilled Prawns and marinated Oysters

With Potato and Ciboulette Salad

One small thing: while the fruit was delicious and nicely-presented, I was craving something sweet, like a piece of chocolate.



1179-SCL1-JCLE 10/09

After my snack I went for a stroll, where I had a chat with a very funny, red-headed flight attendant (think Catherine Tate from TV) who had me smiling. The Y cabin looked quite nice.



Post-meal drinks were offered; I had a coffee with Baileys (is that a record for "number of drinks at one time?" - coffee, Baileys, water and red wine). Again, the crew offered plastic cups so we could enjoy our drinks a bit longer.



Soon we were approaching the flat landscape of Argentina, circling a bit before landing.



A great trip. Air Canada has a very nice J product. The return trip will be coming soon. Thanks for your nice comments.
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Old Oct 30, 09, 10:22 am
  #10  
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Great trip report, Kurt! The only downside to it was the picture of that horrid looking lasagna. Scary stuff! I really liked that picture of the AC 319 at DEN, though. Have a wonderful time in Argentina, one of the world's prettiest countries and certainly home to some of the world's finest food.
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Old Oct 30, 09, 12:35 pm
  #11  
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^ Excellent trip report! Thanks Kurt.
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Old Oct 30, 09, 12:41 pm
  #12  
 
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Really nice TR Kurt

Excellent pictures too. ^
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Old Oct 30, 09, 12:49 pm
  #13  
 
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Great report Kurt! I should def try out the AC J product soon. ^
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Old Oct 31, 09, 9:28 am
  #14  
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Part 4: Buenos Aires to Santiago

After six nights in Buenos Aires, it was time to head over to Santiago. Our award tickets allowed a stopover so we took advantage (no offense, but Toronto didn't appeal very much compared to Santiago). Buenos Aires was awesome; we rented an apartment in Palermo and lived like locals, staying out late, eating day and night and drinking more red wine than should be allowed by law! The laid-back ambiance is infectious; it's a very relaxing place to visit.

We took a taxi to Ministro Pistarini airport (light traffic on a Saturday afternoon), and arrived about 3 p.m. for our 5-ish departure. EZE is functional but not at all impressive or flashy. After a bit of duty-free shopping we headed to the UA Red Carpet Club, the contract lounge for AC in Buenos Aires. The receptionist was very friendly and welcomed us in.



The lounge seemed pretty fresh, but low-key (no outside view, always disappointing). Since UA's flight to IAD doesn't leave for several hours after the AC departure to SCL/YYZ, it wasn't too crowded. The wi-fi worked great. I enjoyed some Champagne (I'm almost sure it was "real" Champagne) and some tasty marinated olives.



Soon it was time to head to the gate; along the way I saw this beautiful Air France 777-300 in its new color scheme headed to CDG, of course. It was a gloomy, rainy afternoon, in contrast to the perfect, sunny weather we'd enjoyed all week in Buenos Aires.



Boarding was called (quite orderly) and we were on board again. We had an F/K combination in row 3; my friend said he preferred the A seats to sitting in the middle block. Menus, water/juice/sparkling wine were offered by the friendly crew (they must enjoy their "fun" day of SCL-EZE-SCL as the two intra-South America crews were the best we had). The load was the lightest we had on this trip, maybe 60% in J and Y.

Flight/Route: AC93/EZE-SCL
Aircraft/Seat: 767-300 (C-FCAB, Fin 681)/3K
Departure Time/Duration: 4:55 p.m./2:20
Meals: Snack

We taxied out; the captain explained that one runway was under renovation, so we waited for a few landings, then turned onto the runway and taxied to the end, then did a 180 and took off. Weird, but I appreciated the explanation. I got a sketchy shot of the "parking area" for northern birds during the daytime (I see a UA 767-300, two AA 777-200s, a DL 767-300 and a CO 767-200; correct me if I'm mistaken), plus a bunch of old Aerolinas Argentinas aircraft in the lower right corner.



Drinks and hot towels were distributed, along with snack orders. I chose a Clamato and vodka, which was a generous double.

LIGHT MEAL

If you prefer to sleep and eat later, just let us know.

Fresh Fruit

Selection of warm Breads

Chilled Ham
with marinated Mozzarella and mixed Vegetables

This was my choice; again, it was simple but nicely presented and of high quality (much nicer bread than the last leg).



Chilled smoked Trout
and chilled Ginger Shrimp

with Rabano Sauce and roast Vegetable compote

1180-EZE1-JCLW 10/09

My friend had the trout/shrimp and gave it a good report; alas, I have no photo. The fruit was again very nice; I had a coffee/Baileys and relaxed (I removed the tablecloth to show the tray table, finished in an IKEA-like faux maple).



Once again, the views of the Andes were stunning; I enjoyed the view while I listened to some audio-on-demand (the charming Eliane Elias' bossa nova).



Soon we were threading our way through some large thunderstorms to land in Santiago. This has to be one of the prettiest "outside the window" flights I can remember.



We landed a few minutes early; most of the passengers continued on to Toronto so the arrival formalities were quick and easy. Here's our aircraft in Santiago.



And one of the many Lan Chile aircraft you'll see in SCL. I wanted a shot of an A-318 but settled for this A-320.



Another winner, Air Canada!
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Old Nov 2, 09, 8:01 am
  #15  
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Part 5: Santiago to Toronto

After a couple of fun days in Santiago (we stayed at the Intercontinental and quite enjoyed the very friendly service) it was time to head home. It's a wonderful city; we'd like to come back and experience more of the country. I spoke more high-school Spanish than I have in years, and of course the red wine was flowing and the steaks were sizzling. We took a van service out to SCL, and arrived about 5:55 p.m. for our 8:25 p.m. departure. It was an absolutely beautiful evening in Santiago so I ran out on the parking ramp before we went inside to grab a shot.



Check-in was fairly quick, and after a bit of duty-free browsing (they are shameless there and make you walk right through the shop to get to the concourse), we headed downstairs to the Admiral's Club for a nosh and a drink. It's a bit dated, but comfortable enough, and the tarmac views are OK.



Upstairs at the gate it was unruly; a big group of young college athletes was crowding the gate and completely ignored the elite line; eventually the gate agents told them to back off and we were on board our Star Alliance color-scheme 767-300 (second one for me this year, the other being HNL-NRT on the UA 747-400 version).



One last shot of the beautiful sunset and it was time to say adios to South America.



Flight/Route: AC93/SCL-YYZ
Aircraft/Seat: 767-300 (C-FMWY, Fin 635)/5A
Departure Time/Duration: 8:25 p.m./11:15
Meals: Dinner, Breakfast

This was probably the worst crew of the bunch, especially the purser, but there were a couple of individual flight attendants who were gems, so it worked out OK. One channel of my audio wasn't working, our choice of appetizer wasn't available, service seemed kind of disorganized and slow; these items were merely annoying, but the crew just didn't "gel" like the better ones we had on this trip.

The usual pre-departure formalities, completed, we were soon airborne. I chose another Clamato and vodka, with some warm nuts.



DINNER

Appetizers

Smoked Tuna Filet
with Mango, Zucchini and Tomato Relish

This was the "leftover" choice, and it was quite delicious, as well as very nicely presented.



Shiitake Mushroom Carpaccio
with sauted Button Mushrooms

After I'd enjoyed the tuna, the very sweet flight attendant told me that there was one extra mushroom appetizer and would I like it. Well, hell yes! I am a huge fan of mushrooms so I enjoyed this a lot.



Main Courses

Braised Lamb Leg

With Red Wine Sauce, Fava Beans
and Potato Bell Pepper Caponata

None of the three choices were very appealing to me so I went with the lamb (thinking of my mother's version, which is the only one I really like). Not a great choice; it was a bit fatty, quite salty, and just plain looked ugly on the plate. The taste was pretty nice, though.



Black Pepper-crusted Salmon Filet
with roasted Red pepper Sauce, turned Potatoes
and grilled Vegetables

Vegetable Mille-Feuille

with Marinara Sauce

Selection of warm Breads

Cheese with Crackers

Gorgonzola and Brie

I was greedy and had cheese and the tart; the cheese came with some prunes, which sounds weird but actually very enjoyable; the requisite port went down smoothly.



Dessert

Lime and Coconut Tart

Very tasty and light - I would have eaten another but I was too full.



Fresh Fruit

BEFORE LANDING

Juices
Fresh Fruit
Yogurt

After a nice eight-hour sleep (darn, those seats are comfy, and I was unfortunately feeling the stirrings of a cold that dogged me for several days after I got home), it was time for breakfast.

Main Courses

Scrambled Egg, Nuremberger Sausage and Bacon

with Tomato Concasse and sauted Button Mushrooms

I chose the scrambled eggs, which were a bit overcooked, but the energy smoothie, fruit (identical to that served SCL-EZE) and croissants were great.



Vegetable Fritatta
with Herb Marinade and fried Potatoes

Warm Breakfast Pastries and Preserves

1181-SCL1-JHM9WS-JHBEW 10/09

We arrived in chilly Toronto just about on time. I guess we got a bit spoiled; even though this flight was a notch below the others it was still quite enjoyable.
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