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Aeromexico and the Days of Auld Lang Syne

Aeromexico and the Days of Auld Lang Syne

Old Mar 16, 19, 11:17 am
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Aeromexico and the Days of Auld Lang Syne

And so it is that time, once again, to read about the splendors of flying the most Aero of Mexico airlines to Buenos Aires (EZE) from San Francisco (SFO), via the world’s most beautiful and technologically advanced airport (MEX). And now, how to make this trip report not sound like a broken record? (Mom, dad, what’s a record? How does it break? What does this mean?)

So much of the travel experience is about expectations, and if what you experience is what you expect, or better (or worse). Given how many times I’ve taken this trip, I kinda sorta know what to expect, and how to make the best of it. Furthermore, this time, Aeromexico is featuring Chef Elena Reygadas as the creator of the meal I expected to enjoy. She’s also featured in the inflight magazine. After years of disappointment from Chef Enrique Olivera’s menus on AM, finally, finally, a new chef. AM features two other chefs on its website, but those are route-specific chefs. Moreover, its website says “Eat Up! Good food means good mood!” Has anyone yet placed a bet on my mood after I disembarked the flights? Or while I was eating?

Picture it. Months ago. I knew I had to make an appointment to see my accountant in Buenos Aires so I could pay the tax on my “vast international real estate holdings” (yes, a 79m2 two bedroom apartment). Most other airlines were in the $3500++ range for comfortable seating in the SFO/EZE market, and even with that, you could end up with domestic F style discomfort for several hours of the trip. But AM saved the day with a $1600-ish round trip, which included MEX/EZE on the 789. Sold! And as much as I’m not thrilled with a late night departure, I do like the nighttime arrival so I can just unpack, take a shower, and get to bed, so the next day, I’ll be fresh, as a summer’s eve.

I arrived at SFO approximately 3.5 hours before the flight. The check-in counter had just opened, and I checked in and was off to my first of two lounges. AM joined pre-check about a year ago, making AM the obvious first choice of airlines when wanting to connect through MEX on the way to EZE from SFO. The Air France lounge is the most convenient (and often, the only open) Skyteam lounge for the late AM flight. Not much to report, except that it kept getting more crowded, and then I took the escalator to the China Airlines lounge, where I could make a phone call in a quiet space. As to why the check-in agent told me to be at the gate an hour before departure, I’m not quite sure. Nevertheless, I obeyed. After 20 minutes or so, I was able to embark on the 737-800, plop in 2B, and eventually, enjoy the choice of pre-departure water, or water. I started watching that movie with a drunkard music star who discovers an up and coming singer while we were still on the ground. AM has started censoring its movies, something I do not recall in the past. In fact, I never recall hearing the word “freakin” as frequently as I did while watching this film.

In the days of auld lang syne, one would have a choice of ham and cheese on a smashed croissant, or a pile of lox with a cold stale bagel on this route. And reliving these days, this flight did not disappoint. However, this pile of lox was quite a pile. There was at least 1/4 pound of lox presented, along with the bagel, some cream cheese w/chives, and some sort of salad. The bagel wasn’t quite as stale as on flights past. This could be a great snack if only the bagel was heated, which is about as likely to happen as a Big Mac being served with an A5 beef patty. Most of the lox, some of the bagel, 2 small pours of wine, some water, and a chocolate square, the death of a drunkard music star, the map with the plane location, and in under 4 hours, landing @ MEX. And the good news about arriving early is that we only had to wait a half hour from landing until gate arrival. It was still just barely early enough that the mad rush of arrivals hadn’t hit, because everyone must go through MEX immigration, even transit pax. In the 5 minutes I was in the arrivals hall (no wait to speak of), the hall started to fill. After a quick trip through the transit passenger security line, I was off to enjoy my Spa Vacation Morning, in the AICM.

I’m not sure what time the American Express lounge opens, but it was open at 5-thirty-something. When checking in, I asked when there might be a massage available, and what options there were for more than the complimentary 15 minutes. Alas, 40 minutes would be available at 6:15, and the cost was MX$400. Perfect. I reserved a shower for after the massage. After 2 cups of coffee, the hands on the clock approached 6:10, so I went upstairs to the spa services area. Shortly thereafter, the therapist invited me into the room, and I prepared myself in the face down position. While it wasn’t the “best massage ever,” it was a great way to pass 40 minutes and relax after a night of no sleep. (And when you see your Amex online charge for US$20.77, you know it was worth every single peso.) After the massage and shower (and the shower room finally has a hair dryer), I went for my complimentary (Platinum) lounge breakfast. Like the days of auld lang syne, this breakfast selection hasn’t changed in years. Where to sit? Nowhere. The attendants apologized, and suggested I sit at the bar, which I did, and it was a good thing I did right then, as 10 minutes later, the bar was full. It looks like my Spa Vacation Morning took an abrupt end. The kitchen couldn’t keep up with the orders, my hot food was lukewarm by the time he served it, the fruit / yogurt bowl typically served first came out long after my “warm” plate, and I decided that after noshing on some of this, it was time to leave. I had a choice of several other lounges, although 2 would be at least as crowded as this one. Upon leaving, a line had formed outside for entrance crowd control. Back to life, back to reality ... I took a nice walk down to the Aeromexico “Heineken” sponsored lounge, at the far far end of the terminal near the commuter flights. While this lounge doesn’t offer much in the food department (not that I was hungry), it is a nice bright space, never crowded when I’ve been there, and has ample bar service should that fancy you. I had some self-serve juice. The attendants came by from time to time to see if I wanted more, such as a coffee. Nope, I just had my juice. The only downside of this space is the limited loo facilities. After someone was in the Caballeros room for way too long, I thought it best to make a pre-departure pitstop somewhere else, and so, during the ample walk out to the gate, I went up to one of the regular Aeromexico lounges for said pitstop. Seeing the crowd just to get in the lounge (my BP was already stamped from the other lounge, and I could just show it as I walked in), my visit to the AM Heineken lounge proved to be the correct choice.

And finally, the time for my MEX/EZE flight arrived. The anticipation of Chef Reygadas’ new menu. The anticipation of ... anyway, as the seats were mostly occupied in the gate area, I lined up in the Zone 1 Sky priority area. The great thing about this line is that you don’t need to flash your DYKWIA card for everyone to know who you are. And best yet, the lovely gate agent walked down the Zone 1 line to check everyone’s BP to see if those standing in such a privileged line had the right to do so. Indeed, some did not and she promptly and politely evicted them to their proper lot in life. Before I knew it, I was the first in the line, and my humble self could barely contain the importance of it all.

Within minutes, I was self-plopping in Seat 3A. Minutes later, a choice of water or juice arrived. When I asked if there was any Champagne, instead of a “no” I received an “I’ll bring it” reply. Shortly thereafter, I heard “le pop du cork” from the galley, and all was temporarily right with the world. After all, how could one properly enjoy the Chef Reygadas meal without a proper glass of pre-departure bubbles. Within minutes more, the amenity kit arrived. It looked familiar. I’ve received many of the same. And like the days of auld lang syne, on the wrapping band, the kit says “Ganador del PAX Awards 2017. Mejor kit de viaje de America en Primera/Business Class.” 2017? Two thoughts came to mind. (1) How old is the toothpaste in this thing? (2) It is like those newspaper restaurant reviews in a restaurant window that have already yellowed and faded because it was the last good review. But not to worry, I still eagerly anticipated the menu’s arrival.

The crew then distributed the menu. It's a heartache, nothing but a heartache, hits you when it's too late, hits you when you're down. The menu said “This menu was designed by Dennis Purchet, Executive Chef of Hotel Rigiblick’s Bistro Restaurant in Zurich, who was awarded a Michelin star in 2017. What what what? This guy (1) doesn’t appear on the AM website as a possible option, (2) didn’t even (possibly) get a star last year, and (3) has apparently absconded with Chef Reygadas’ no doubt excellent menu. Nevertheless, the welcome page of the menu ends with “Awarded four times as the airline of America with “Outstanding Food Service by a Carrier.” These said four awards must have been from the days of auld lang syne, because I’ve been flying this premium carrier for a few years now, and Chef Boyardee’s cans would typically win a blind taste testing over the cuisine de Aeromexico. Yet I shouldn’t prejudge, and who am I to doubt the abilities of a Swiss chef with a dusty Michelin star before sampling his menu. Who am I? Yes, that guy who ended up being the first in the Zone 1 line. And so, here comes the judge.

To start, this flight historically serves a breakfast after takeoff, and then a dinner service prior to arrival. That has changed. Now, the first service is more like a light lunch, to wit, a choice of a BLT sandwich, or a turkey and cheese sandwich. I chose the BLT, which was about as elegant as a quickiemart prepackaged sandwich. The side salad was remarkable, in that in addition to some cherry tomatoes and shaved cheese, there were an abundance of artificial bacon bits, already soggy at this point. Sin duda, these bits must be some Swiss delicacy worthy of a Michelin star, but all they did for me was bring back cheap salad bar memories. The wine list was reminiscent of United Airlines, in that you have a list, and the chances of those wines appearing on the plane are just a suggestion. In fact, one of the white wines on the cart was listed in the inflight magazine as the white wine served in clase basura on international routes. I tried the Spanish red (also not on the list) which was fine enough. I did not open the package of Lala Gross Rice Pudding. If you fly AM frequently enough, somewhere sometime you’ll be served this crap, no matter who the Chef du jour might be.

The Wife. What a great movie. It was also the best part of the flight. Oh, did I spoil the surprise of how good the second (and main) meal was? I went to the galley snack bar and took a small pour of Glenlivet to assist with an attempted siesta.

Nearly 4 hours before arrival, “clang clang clang goes the trolley ...” What, the second meal service on a flight time of about 8:30 is starting nearly 4 hours before arrival? It could only be due to the fact that Michelin star dining takes time, and one must savor each course, not to mention that there will probably be an unadvertised amuse bouche and then a palate cleanser between courses.

Like the days of auld lang syne, the meal serviced commenced with a small cheese plate and the miracle crackers. These are small puffy crackers not conducive to the placement of cheese, and have appeared on each and every southbound MEX/EZE or SCL flight I’ve ever taken. A miracle, truly, if you can get the cheese to stay on the cracker. However, on this flight, the crew concurrently served another small plate. This was described as “Couscous, feta, pomegranate jelly, cucumber.” All I could think was “Chef, you placed four disparate things on the plate, and you didn’t even use the correct plate, and for these reasons, you’ve been Chopped.” The trolley with the main course then arrived, and I chose the Salmon with lentils. Already out by Row 3 (out of 9 or 10 rows). Oh well, how about the “Rollo de Pollo?” Chicken Roll filled with mushrooms with beet risotto. (Rollo de pollo sounds particularly attractive when said in an Argentine accent.) It also came with “an assortment of bread” which was focaccia, or focaccia, or focaccia.

So how was this meal? (1) The salad was the same exact salad as served with the earlier meal. Those little iceberg leaves did die in vain, as did the soy pig which sourced the bacon bits. (2) The pollo in the rollo had the texture of a polenta cake. Odd as could be. The accompanying brown gravy remained unconsumed, in its jelly-like state. The wine was ok.

While I’ve not been to Zurich for 20-plus years, and I’ve yet to eat in a Michelin starred restaurant in said City, now I know why.

I spoke too soon. The cheesecake was delicious. I am not kidding.

EZE arrival - I’ve waited over an hour in the immigration line at this hour, and seeing other heavy jets arriving, I darted like a bat out of hell to the hall, and had a short wait as I saw the unwashed masses queue up behind me. Luggage arrived after a few minutes’ wait, my driver was already there, and I was off to my home away from home, where I had the Twix that I took from the inflight basket for my pre-dreamland snack.

The crew was lovely, the price was right, the seat was comfortable, the movie was great, the cheesecake was delicious, and the flight was on time. The guest Michelin starred chef, the petrified amenity kit, the artificial bacon bits, the wine from Row 55, and the Rollo de Pollo were just gravy, yes, brown disgusting gravy!


You want a picture? I know that it is not my typical style, but here you go. Salad, Gravy, and an Orange Vegetable Bit.
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Old Mar 16, 19, 11:35 pm
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Great TR! Bummer that you didn’t include a picture of the Twix.
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Old Mar 17, 19, 5:15 am
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Well, I rarely had "great" maals at an airplane. This "hype" with starred chefs is something I could never understand….

Last edited by offerendum; Mar 17, 19 at 11:21 am
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Old Mar 17, 19, 5:40 am
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I would not know where to start with this - it just looks, well, odd.......
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Old Mar 17, 19, 9:37 am
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An enjoyable read as always.
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Old Mar 17, 19, 9:43 am
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Originally Posted by offerendum View Post
Well, I rarely had "great" mwals at an airplane. This "hype" with starred chefs is something I could never understand….
Without the hype, you could never have the pleasure of reading such a trip report. Of course, the world might be a better place without these reports.
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Old Mar 17, 19, 10:36 am
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Originally Posted by SFO777 View Post
An enjoyable read as always.
As much as you would have made the same experience seem like the worst trip in the history of the world, with the same set of facts, never forget that Aeromexico got me from MEX to EZE, in relative comfort, in 2+ hours less than it took you to travel nonstop between SNA and SFO. And you probably didn't get cheesecake ... nor gravy. Maybe a Twix?
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Old Mar 17, 19, 11:25 am
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Originally Posted by Eastbay1K View Post
Without the hype, you could never have the pleasure of reading such a trip report. Of course, the world might be a better place without these reports.
Hope you didn´t understand my comment as a critic of your report because it shoudn´t be. I really enjoyed it. What I meant was this "hyping" promotions of airlines when they present the chef who created the meals. It has - in my eyes - nothing in common with the cuisine of the chef and is as you mentioned more a anti-promotion.

Last edited by offerendum; Mar 18, 19 at 7:33 am
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Old Mar 17, 19, 2:09 pm
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Originally Posted by offerendum View Post
Hope you didn´t understand my comment as a critic of your report because it shoudn´t be.
I did not. You must understand that my sense of humor is almost as bad as my trip reports
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Old Apr 8, 19, 3:47 pm
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And so, the return journey wasn't worthy of a Trip Report, although you could easily argue that neither was the outbound. But in fairness to Aeromexico, a proud member of Skyteam, I am sharing views of much of the midnight gormay on the return flight, EZE/MEX.



Delicious dried chicken with a white sauce that was forming a lovely film when served, along with lettuce in a bowl, and a roll that looked like it could have been tasty, but it was not.



Despite the obvious deliciousness of the meal, I attempted to put the vast majority of it out of its misery at the earliest possible opportunity.



Since the cheesecake was so good on the outbound flight, I thought maybe, just maybe, the dessert would be palatable. After a tiny nibble, the only palatable thing to do with it was to stab it so it couldn't come back to life after removal by the FA.
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Old Apr 11, 19, 5:16 pm
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I've done this exact route, and I'm getting PTSD just reading your report.
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Old Apr 11, 19, 10:00 pm
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Originally Posted by 5DMarkIIguy View Post
I've done this exact route, and I'm getting PTSD just reading your report.
So, no doubt about the veracity of my reporting?
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Old Apr 17, 19, 11:44 pm
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What really breaks my heart is the lack of salad bowls in this trip report.
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Old Apr 18, 19, 12:14 am
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So really, how bad can Aerolineas Argentinas be in comparison?
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Old Apr 18, 19, 12:32 am
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The AR video looks like their service to MIA, is much better than AM's to MX.
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