Go Back  FlyerTalk Forums > Community > Trip Reports
Reload this Page >

South American Sojourn - Rio and BA via AS, AA and LA in F & J and JJ in Y

South American Sojourn - Rio and BA via AS, AA and LA in F & J and JJ in Y

Old Jan 24, 10, 8:33 pm
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Dec 2000
Location: Chicago, IL
Programs: AA EXP (LT Plat 2MM), Marriott Plat, IHG Plat, HHonors Diamond, Hyatt Plat, SPG Plat75, UA1K
Posts: 1,217
South American Sojourn - Rio and BA via AS, AA and LA in F & J and JJ in Y

In the beginning........

Back in late summer I started thinking about the upcoming winter. The thoughts of grey skies, constant drizzle and the need to get away for some sunshine means doing a bit of planning (because everybody else in Seattle is starting to make the same plans!). So, with the economy melting down (and having already stashed away some cash to pay for the trip) I began scouting out some trips that we probably couldn't afford in the good times but were now offered at unbelievable discounts now. The first look was toward a cruise - ultra-premium lines were selling at 50-65% discounts and included everything! I found dates that worked on a small luxury ship, found MileSaaver award seats and I though awesome - Caribbean here we come! That is, of course, until my partner finally said that he really didn't want to go on a cruise but if it made me happy he would do it. Well, that really didn't set the tone for our vacation so, with all deposits returned (an redepositing miles into my AAdvantage acount) - it was back to the drawing board.

So, we wanted to go somewhere warm, somewhere miles would work (preferably at or under 125K points per person in First or Business) and someplace that my SPG and IHG points could be used. We also had about 6 vacation days a person to work with so distance was a consideration (Bali was probably out of the question). Finally, we ruled out places we had been to already (Hawaii, Australia, Puerto Vallerta and Puerto Rico).

So, I started plugging in random dates/destinations and, much to my suprise, I was able to score (2) Mile SAAver First awards to Rio! And, to make it even more a suprise, the dates coincided with Carnaval! The icing on the cake - Intercontinental Rio had award redemption rooms available over the dates we needed - can you say SWEET!!!

So, once we locked down Rio, it was time to figure out where to go next. I was able to find space home the following week out of Buenos Aires and found award availability at the Park Tower. So, our adventure would have us flying as follows:

February 11th
SEA - DFW AS660 (F)
DFW - MIA AA484 (F)
MIA - GRU AA929 (F)

February 12th

GRU - GIG AA951 (F)

February 16th
GIG - EZE JJ8002 (Y)

February 20th
EZE - SCL LA442 (J)
SCL - DFW AA940 (J)

February 21st
DFW - SEA AA529 (F)

Total Mileage Redemption - 225,000 (112,500 per person) for air + 175,000IHG and 48,000 Starwood points.

Out of pocket - $154 in taxes and $582 for the GIG-EZE tickets.

With that, we started work with ZoomVacations on planning the Rio portion of our trip. Zoom specializes in travel for the GLBT market and they had a package already set up for Carnaval. Since theirs included hotel and was for 5 nights (an we really only wanted 4 nights in Rio), they were able to customize a trip for us that included a welcome dinner, two tours, a private beach party, transfers and (most importantly) tickets to the Sambadrome on Sunday evening!

Our visas were processed for Brazil (boy, do they look HUGE in our passports) and we are slowly checking off the list of "To Do's" in preparation for our trip!

Last edited by ORDPLATAA; Jan 27, 10 at 12:41 pm
ORDPLATAA is offline  
Old Jan 24, 10, 8:34 pm
  #2  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Dec 2000
Location: Chicago, IL
Programs: AA EXP (LT Plat 2MM), Marriott Plat, IHG Plat, HHonors Diamond, Hyatt Plat, SPG Plat75, UA1K
Posts: 1,217
01.27.10 - Let the changes begin!

So, a quick update (and a glimpse into my travel OCD :-)). After looking at our itinerary for the umpteenth time, a little panic started to creep in. We had an nearly 4 hour layover at LAX and a brief 52 minute connection at DFW. While spending time at the LAX FL would be great, i started to have doubts about of DFW connection: what if we were late leaving LA, what if we landed on time in DFW but had to taxi forever to get to our gate and we misconnected...what if, what if, what if started pounding in my brain. I thought, no problem, I would just switch to an earlier LAX-DFW flight but award seats were nowhere to be seen for 2 MileSAAvers in First. So, back to EF to see what I could find. Low and behold, the 9:35pm departure MIA-GRU sprung up with availability. Now it became a question of how do I get from Seattle to Miami in First - plus keeping the AS leg or else pay $150 per pax. I managed to find 2 seat on AS flying SEA-DFW leaving just 25 minutes earlier than our current SEA-LAX flight, then a 2 hour layover in Dallas before flying DFW-MIA. We then would have an easy 2 hour layover in Miami before our GRU flight and a chance to explore the MIA FL. The best part (for me) is that, if there is an issue DFW-MIA, there is another flight MIA-GRU that would could catch (if we had to). That gave me better piece of mind that we have a little bit of cushion in our schedule. So, our new flights are now updated in the first post.

The Journey begins.....
Alarm went off at 4:30am - never a pretty time of the day. It means that you have either stayed up way too long or have gotten up way to early! Put together the last bit of carryon luggage and was ready to go by 5:00am. That was, of course, until I checked my email and say a flight notification from AA.com. It appears as though our connecting flight out of GRU to GIG was going to be delayed by 9+ hours. The aircraft is coming in from JFK so I am sure it got caught up in the nastiness they are having to deal with in the Northeast. So, called the EXP line and have to say - not impressed. Whether it was just the early hour of the call our just a bad agent, I was told that the flight was still departing on time. I told him I had an email from AA as well as looking at the Flight Information on AA.com and both showed the delay. He put me on hold, called a supervisor, and came back saying that all was still good. Since our car was coming to get us at 5:30am, I figured I would just deal with it at the airport.
Alaska #660 seats 1DF
SEA-DFW
Scheduled 7:35a-1:27p
Actual: 7:33a-1:21p

Check-in at Alaska was a breeze - very friendly agent. She had no problem issuing our BP's and checking our bags all the way through to GIG. As we got our BP's and walked away from the counter is when we saw that, in fact, we were going to be delayed out of GRU - now with a 10:47pm departure time (now we are up to a 10+ hour delay). Security was a complete zoo - thank god we were in First or we would have been screwed trying to get to the gate. We made it through the premium passenger line and through the checkpoint in less than 15 minutes. Then it was off to the AS Boardroom for some coffee and an attempt at calling AA one more time to see if there was another option. Yet again, got an agent that didn't seem quite there. We decided to continue to roll the dice and just get with the AAngels at the AC in Dallas. With a 3 hour connection before or DFW-MIA flight, I figured that they would be better able to help. My mind was spinning - where should we try to connect: LIM, EZE or SCL? Should we attempt to catch something out of Dallas or should we go through Miami? Could they find space on LAN or GOL - and would they even let us do that on award tickets?
We put everything behind us and decided to just go with it. After some coffee in the Boardroom it was off to C20 to board our flight. It was going to be a packed flight - repeated announcements were made that carryon luggage rules would be enforced. We boarded a bit early (I like that Alaska does that) and made our way to 1DF. These bulkhead seats were fine - a little tight on legroom but not too terribly bad. Pre-flight OJ and water service was offered. After all were on board (and it seems that one lucky stanby pax got an exit window!) we were off. It was bit choppy on the climbout but eventually we saw some sunshine. Breakfast this morning would be a Feta Quiche with fresh fruit. I really couldn't taste the feta but there was asparagus. Not a bad breakfast but I do like AA's where there is also a cold option. This seemed to be a take it or leave it type situation. digE Players were handed out (first time getting to use one) and after that, it was just a quick jaunt to DFW.
We landed early in Dallas and hightailed it from Terminal E over to the AC in Terminal D. After a 2-3 person wait, I was "rescued" by one of the AAngels at the club - Joanie. She worked her tail off to find us an option. At first, it was take our flight to GRU and figure it out from there - except there we no flights available to continue on to GIG anytime on Friday or Saturday! Then she allowed me behind the counter to look at the screen with her. We looked at all kinds of options - and finally settled on the DFW-SCL flight on AA and then SCL-GIG on LA getting in at 6:45pm. It means we have to do the last leg in coach but we got Business on the way to SCL. The reticketing took about 30 minutes and then she sent a message to try to get our luggage to catch up with us. We have a few shirts and stuff with us so we can get by (plus I am sure that they have stores in Rio if we need to buy anything!).
After sitting in the lounge for a bit, we just watched the line get longer and longer. I spoke with a supervisor (to tell her what a great job Joanie did) and she said that they had originally planned on about 90 cancellations and she was now told that number (for AA) was going to approach 400! After that, and knowing we had hours to kill, I left Dan to work on my new netbook, I went off to explore Terminal D (my fave at DFW). I decided to kill a bit of time and settled in at XpressSpa and decided on a pedicure. Now, I am I not "fussy" by any stretch but decided that if I was gonna be spending some time at the beach so I needed to get rid of "Fred Flinstone" feet! After a great pedi + massage (and goofing around with two women from Dallas heading of to Park City for the weekend) it was back to the AC. After a fewcalls, it was off to the gate as our plane was there and we were showing an on-time departure.

American #945 Seats 4AB
DFW - SCL
Scheduled: 9:10p - 9:50a
Actual: 12:30am – 1:15pm
Well, it was going to be a very light load on our flight tonight. I counted around 50 people in the gate area – obviously lots of folks misconnecting as the flight earlier had been booked full. Boarding was delayed about 40 minutes – but the agents took it in stride as there were so few of us going. Once boarding began, it was quick. The crew looked liked it would be a fun one (and how could it not when the FA working our aisle was named “Bunny”). Anyhow, once we boarded we sat, and sat, and sat a bit more. The captain the advised us that, because of the amount of slush on the runway, we were overweight for take-off and 15,000 pounds of freight had to be taken off the aircraft. Then, to top it off, there would be about a 2 hour delay to get in line for de-icing. So, with that, he advised us to settle in and that they would kepp us updated. At that point, the crew gave the cabin the option of dining on the ground since we would be there a while and that way once we got airborne we could go right to sleep. It was readily agreed to by all. For this evening we had the “Late Night Supper” as follows:

**Wine List**
Pommery Brut Champagne
Montes Chardonnay (Chile)
Seven Sisters “Vivian” Sauvignon Blanc
Aresti Estate Selection Carmenere
Freemark Abbey Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Grah’s 20 Years Old Tawney Port

To Start
Warm mixed nuts or Marinatyed cheese antipasto
Appetizer
Smoked Salmon Rosettes accompanied by spring pea blinis, cream cheese and caper berries
Soup
Mushroom Leek (a creamy soup with shitake and cremini mushrooms and leeks garnished with sourdough croutons)
Bread Basket
Assorted gourmet breads offered with butter or Sapori d’Arte olive Oil
Main Course
Corriander Beef Filet accented by cranberry mojo
Margarita Salmon
Thyme Grilled Chicken
Your selected entree will be served with your choice of:
Salad (fresh seasonal greens with tomatoes, shaved carrots, and haricots verts offered with Sapori d’Arte olive oil and balsamic vinegar
Or
Vegetables (Ecuadorian potato cakes and grilled asparaugus)
Dessert
Ice Cream Sundae (Vanilla Ice Cream with choice of hot fudge, butterscotch or seasonal berry topping, whipped ceam and pecans
A selection of fine cheeses offered with seasonal grapes
Grand Marnier fruit salad presented with rspberry sorbet

The soup and the salmon appetizer came out on a tray and both were very good. The soup was piping hot (almost too hot) and the salmon was a pretty good size portion. The blinis were a little bland but were quite filling. We both decided on the beef with the vegetable sides. Again, a nice size portion. The beef was a tad, how shall I say, gray looking when brought to our seat but it was very tender and not over cooked. The cranberry mojo was interesting – it had a little tang to it that, suprisingly, went well with the beef. The sides were on the weak side – the potatoe cake was odd (to say the least) and the asparagus had been cooked to within an inch of their lives! But that was made up for by the thing every FTer lives for – and that’s a sundae! The ice cream had a perfect consistency (not to hard, not mushy) and help take away the pain of this long travel day . The liquor carts were not opened as we were still on the ground so our beverage options were the pre-departure sparkling wine and soft drinks.
While we were finishing up dinner, we started our taxi to the de-icing area. We waited about 30 minutes and then it was time to go! I don’t think that we had cleared 2,000 feet before I had my seat in the bed configuration. I manged to get about 6 hours of sleep in – not bad at all. I tend slide a bit due to the slant of the bed and the duvet is really, really warm. That, more than anything, probably kept me from sleeping longer.
I woke with about 3 hours remaining in the flight. The FA’s were willing to do breakfast whenever I wanted which was a nice touch. Again, with only 12/30 in J this evening, it was really easy to do a very personalized service. I can’t give high enough praise for the crew working tonights flight – they were friendly, chatty, eager to serve and just plain (or is it plane!) fun. They were all Dallas based and one told us how this trip is called “the Rocket”. The crew comes in that morning and takes the same flight out that evening. The really like it – in and out in like 36 hours. One said that even with her 39 years with AA she is junior on this trip and can’t always get it. It was interesting to here the preferences of Brazil versus Chile versus Argentina for their trips. As far as passengers on this trip, business seemed to have a very high number of retirees – then it hit me: the big South American cruise season is happening now and, in fact, most people where heading to SCL to get on a ship. We did hear a couple of folks were connecting like us on to Rio de Janeiro. With our late departure, our seemingly luxurious 4 hour connection had been whittled down to 55 minutes! Well, our thought was if we make it we make it and if we don’t we don’t. There really wasn’t a whole bunch we could do – but watching our ETA change and become later and later did not make for a fun end of the flight.
By the time we landed in Santiago, we had 20 minutes to get to our LAN flight. We bolted from our seats and hauled @ss through the airport. There were LAN agents along the way directing us. It didn’t help that we would have to reclear security but, we did our best Amazing Race immitation and we made it!

LAN # 774 Seats 17KL
Santiago – Rio de Janeiro
Scheduled: 1:35p-6:45p
Actual: - Forgot – but close to on time!
We made it aboard just as they were closing the gate. After getting onto the aircraft, we saw quite a few disappointed faces as they had all thought that there would be a little extra room on this flight for them. That was until they saw a steady stream of passengers all panting and a bit sweaty after making the run across the terminal. Our aircraft was a single class A320. The pitch on board was VERY tight. We wedged ourselves and settled in for the ride to Rio. It was a quick taxi and take-off and we were on our way. The captain made an announcement for the crew and all passengers to remain seated until we were over the Andes as there was some bumps expected. I have to say, didn’t really think that there were many – no worse than any other flight I have been on. Once the captain gave the all clear, the crew began their snack service on this flight. It was a single tray consisting of a half turkey wrap; a slice of ham; a slice of cheese; a small salad with a lemon dressing; a roll with butter; a packaged apple cobbler-ish type cake and a pice of chocolate. What was interesting was that it was served using real silverware and and a small wine glass. Not a bad presentation. Following the meal cart was the beverage cart with complimentary soft drinks, juices, beer, wine and a 750ML bottle of scotch! That one really cracked me up as it seemed that everyone wanted 2-3 fingers of scotch at 1:40pm. Not a whole bunch else to say about this one – the IFE system had the drop down screens coming out of the passenger service units every couple of rows. My seat had a broken headset jack so I borrowed Dan’s while he slept. Overall, the flight was fine but I will say that the grey leather seats made the plane look a bit dingy.
We arrived at about 6:45pm and headed straight to customs. We cleared relatively quickly then it was off to baggage claim wher – of course – our bags were not in sight. We filed a claim with LAN and just shrugged and moved on. She said that they would have to see what American came back with because they were not sure where they could be: Seattle, Dallas, Miami, Sao Paulo or Santiago. Thank god we packed a rollaboard with some things to get us through a few days! Of course, our luggage saga would continue for a bit longer.

Last edited by ORDPLATAA; Feb 19, 10 at 3:09 pm
ORDPLATAA is offline  
Old Jan 24, 10, 8:35 pm
  #3  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Dec 2000
Location: Chicago, IL
Programs: AA EXP (LT Plat 2MM), Marriott Plat, IHG Plat, HHonors Diamond, Hyatt Plat, SPG Plat75, UA1K
Posts: 1,217
Saved for Rio
ORDPLATAA is offline  
Old Jan 24, 10, 8:35 pm
  #4  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Dec 2000
Location: Chicago, IL
Programs: AA EXP (LT Plat 2MM), Marriott Plat, IHG Plat, HHonors Diamond, Hyatt Plat, SPG Plat75, UA1K
Posts: 1,217
Saved for Rio to Buenos Aires
ORDPLATAA is offline  
Old Jan 24, 10, 8:36 pm
  #5  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Dec 2000
Location: Chicago, IL
Programs: AA EXP (LT Plat 2MM), Marriott Plat, IHG Plat, HHonors Diamond, Hyatt Plat, SPG Plat75, UA1K
Posts: 1,217
Saved for Buenos Aires
ORDPLATAA is offline  
Old Jan 24, 10, 8:37 pm
  #6  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Dec 2000
Location: Chicago, IL
Programs: AA EXP (LT Plat 2MM), Marriott Plat, IHG Plat, HHonors Diamond, Hyatt Plat, SPG Plat75, UA1K
Posts: 1,217
Saved for Buenos Aires - Seattle
ORDPLATAA is offline  
Old Jan 25, 10, 3:47 am
  #7  
 
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 75
ORDPLATAA, can't wait for the TR... Don't forget pics!
freofan is offline  
Old Jan 27, 10, 4:56 am
  #8  
 
Join Date: Oct 2009
Location: Sao Paulo, Brazil
Programs: SAA Voyager Platinum, LifeMiles Diamond, HHonors Silver, SPG Gold, Tsogo Sun Director
Posts: 115
If you can take pictures I'd be rather delighted to read your TR, if not I'll have fun anyway!
cmte_valle is offline  
Old Jan 29, 10, 1:08 am
  #9  
 
Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: TSV, Australia
Posts: 2,363
I.m looking forward to reading your report, so make sure you do it
camsean is offline  
Old Jan 29, 10, 9:18 am
  #10  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Dec 2000
Location: Chicago, IL
Programs: AA EXP (LT Plat 2MM), Marriott Plat, IHG Plat, HHonors Diamond, Hyatt Plat, SPG Plat75, UA1K
Posts: 1,217
Don't worry, I will finish the report (w/pictures!).
ORDPLATAA is offline  
Old Feb 7, 10, 9:46 am
  #11  
 
Join Date: Oct 2004
Location: AMS>GRU/GIG
Programs: KL/AF Platinum
Posts: 1,414
Originally Posted by ORDPLATAA View Post
In the beginning........

we started work with ZoomVacations on planning the Rio portion of our trip. Zoom specializes in travel for the GLBT market and they had a package already set up for Carnaval. Since theirs included hotel and was for 5 nights (an we really only wanted 4 nights in Rio), they were able to customize a trip for us that included a welcome dinner, two tours, a private beach party, transfers and (most importantly) tickets to the Sambadrome on Sunday evening!
The correct is Sambodromo where the Carnaval parade takes place. Dont forget to party at Le Boy nigh club (although I would strongly recommend Zero Zero) and the beach to be is Ipanema (near Farme do Amoedo street).

Enjoy Rio!
hardiwv is offline  
Old Feb 23, 10, 10:20 am
  #12  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Dec 2000
Location: Chicago, IL
Programs: AA EXP (LT Plat 2MM), Marriott Plat, IHG Plat, HHonors Diamond, Hyatt Plat, SPG Plat75, UA1K
Posts: 1,217
Thanks hardiwv -

We had a blast - trip report coming in bits & pieces (still having trouble with the photos). Great trip - even with all the issues that we had it was still fantastic!
ORDPLATAA is offline  
Old Feb 28, 10, 5:43 am
  #13  
 
Join Date: Jan 2006
Location: TPE/HKG/BWI
Programs: UA 1K 0.8MM, CX Diam 1.0MM, MR Plat, Hertz PC, TR Diam
Posts: 2,622
Nice TR so far, thanks for sharing!
mjcewl1284 is offline  
Old Mar 10, 10, 3:33 pm
  #14  
 
Join Date: Jul 2009
Programs: DE,UN,StarwoodGold
Posts: 522
ORDPLATAA, Your so nice TR so far has succeeded in making many of us ravenously hungry for the continuation with pics -- please don't let us starve to death before it arrives!
time2go1st is offline  
Old Mar 11, 10, 12:29 pm
  #15  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Dec 2000
Location: Chicago, IL
Programs: AA EXP (LT Plat 2MM), Marriott Plat, IHG Plat, HHonors Diamond, Hyatt Plat, SPG Plat75, UA1K
Posts: 1,217
Hi All -

Thanks for the comments - really appreciate the feedback. Sorry about the delay in finishing this report. I have been totally crushed at work since my return - promise to get this loaded by the end of the week.

Cheers!

Bob
ORDPLATAA is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread