The Surreal Killer

The Surreal Killer
Machu Picchu. Peru

Saturday, June 1, 2013


I thought I'd start a new series of posts about off the wall topics as they come up.  I'll be flying to Montevideo in July, so thought of a few memorable moments in Argentine airports for my first entry in this series.

I don’t know what the current situation is like since I haven’t flown any of the regional airlines in Argentina in a few years, but going back a bit things were, shall we say, different than California where I live.  Between 1999 and 2010, however, when I was flying between some of the major cities in Argentina, things could be very quirky.  Let me share a few notable examples.

The International airport in Buenos Aires is the major port of entry into Argentina, and the usual landing point for tourists and international travelers.  Ezeiza Airport is relatively new and thoroughly modern, and a good place to catch a connecting flight if your destination is not in Argentina.  If you want to fly somewhere in the country, there’s another airport for the domestic connecting flights in downtown Buenos Aires, 31 Km (about 20 miles) away, called El Aeroparque Jorge Newbery.   That can be a long and tedious taxi ride in the heavy traffic that is omnipresent in the Capital City.  The price of the taxi is theoretically fixed, but the game is also fixed and the obvious tourist will often be grossly overcharged by the enterprising cabbie.  El Aeroparque is an old airport near the Rio de la Plata that is too small and in a congested area of the city, a lot like Midway Airport, Chicago in contrast to O’Hare.  You’d think that at least some connections from Ezeiza would exist to get from Buenos Aires to the major metropolitan areas like Cordoba, a major hub for travel in Argentina, but they didn’t when I traveled there and as far as I know they still don’t.

Cordoba is also fun.  It is a crowded airport with connections to Tucuman, Salta, Mendoza, and all sorts of other destinations in the region.  Again, it’s been a while and maybe flight schedules mean more now than they did then, but we have to remember it is Argentina and the eccentricities tend to persist.  Flights scheduled to fly direct to Salta might be redirected to Tucuman if there are enough passengers waiting to go there and vice-versa.  Or the direct flight to Salta may decide to stop at Tucuman to pick up or deliver passengers in some sort of random travel lottery.  Flights are cancelled at random by some of the airlines and it is relatively easily to get stranded at the Cordoba airport for many hours even if you arrive in plenty of time for your scheduled connection that never arrives or goes somewhere else than it was supposed to.  Or just doesn't show up at all for the standard reason the local ticket agents always give, "no se" ("I don't know").

The regional airports aren’t good places to get stuck in.  There aren’t any pedestrian malls, and there are few if any amenities.  These are functional get-you-in and get-you-out facilities designed to get planes in and out, not places to for tourists and other rabble to hang out between long layovers.  Lobbies, customs, and immigration can get pretty crowded when large planes or a few small ones arrive or depart.  Ticket agents tend to be hassled a lot, especially when flights are delayed (often) or cancelled.   As a result many act like charm school dropouts.  Esthetics of architecture and design are not obvious priorities, although Salta Airport has been modernized quite a bit since my first visit there in 1999.   It’s still more functional than fun!

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