- Planning the Trip
- Buenos Aires
To begin our journey to Argentina, we had to get to San Fransisco, since that’s where I found the great deal. I had booked us tickets on United the night before, and it was easy enough to connect both of us through Denver, and selected seats together even though we were on separate reservations.
I used a free category 1-4 night that I had earned through Marriott’s Megabonus promotion (stay 2 times get a free night) to book us the Fairfield Inn San Francisco Airport/Millbrae. I was hoping the full service Marriott near the airport would be available, since I’ve stayed there before, but it is a category 5 and I would much rather use a free night when rates were $189 or above in either hotel. The hotel was a pretty standard Fairfield Inn, and they had a shuttle but we arrived too late and took a cab, which was pretty cheap.
The next morning we had a lovely breakfast with a friend (skipping the free hotel breakfast) and headed to the airport to begin our long journey to Argentina. The first flight to Chicago was pretty uneventful, and once in Chicago we paid a visit to the United Club. If you’ve been in one United Club domestically, you’ve been in them all. Honestly, I can’t even find a picture I’ve taken of one. But here’s a review if you’re interested.
One great thing about the club is they go ahead and pre-clear your immigration so you don’t have to do that at the gate. Next came our 10 hour flight to Sao Paulo. We had seats in the bulkhead, so a nice bit of legroom.
My only beef with bulkhead seats on long-haul flights is the screens in the seat, so you have to contend with that. Overall, a pretty uneventful flight.
Transit in Sao Paolo was strange, since they just sort of pulled us from the stream of people headed toward immigration back into the terminal. We then set out to find the lounges, and tried out the United Club first. It was nice, with a good spread of food and self-serve drinks. It was especially nice since it was almost empty, which was not the case as we prepared to fly home.
Then we tried out the TAM lounge. It was significantly smaller, which surprised me since this is a TAM hub, but there was still plenty of seating, and a decent food/beverage selection, though the United Club actually had the better options of the 2 Star Alliance Lounges.
The TAM Lounge did have 3 computers to use, and a piano! The wifi in the TAM lounge, however, required signing up to receive what looked like marketing emails, while the United Club had free wifi to use.
Overall, it was a good experience at the lounges, and we only had a short 2.5 hour flight to Buenos Aires. We got loaded on one of the people mover buses to a remote stand to board our A320. The plane was older, but still relatively nice, and about what you’d expect on a short flight in economy. They did this weird thing where they fumigated the plane with what apparently is an insecticide, just to make sure no critters followed us from Brazil to Argentina.
It was a pretty comfortable ride (notice they provided pillows and blankets for a 2.5 hour flight!), and we got through Argentine customs with no problems. Overall we had a good experience on the flights, even though we were in economy. It was certainly a lot of flying, but worth it for all the miles we earned!
— Ethan CarterRead More
- Planning the Trip
- Buenos Aires
When I began deciding to book this trip, I had absolutely no plan to go to Argentina. Or anywhere for that matter. I was simply browsing Flyertalk one day, and an opportunity came up for a cheap fare on a TAM ticket, booking through a service called OneTravel that I had never heard of. The flight left from San Francisco (nowhere near where I live in Arkansas), but it was $600 for a flight SFO-ORD-GRU-EZE and return.
Now this is a great fare, but the best part of it was that except the very last leg from Sao Paulo to Buenos Aires, it was all on United metal and therefore earned us over 17,000 elite qualifying miles on United! Many of you are familiar with mileage running by now, and this is right up there as a pretty good mileage run at 4.2 cents per mile. That, and my fiancée studied in Argentina and is always looking for reasons to go back. So I checked wither her on schedules, and booked later that day. The fare (as many like this do) only lasted a couple of days, so it was important that I acted quickly! This is a great reason to keep an eye on the Mileage Run Deals section at Flyertalk, so you don’t miss these things!
We then had to get to SFO. This wasn’t too hard, just some simple bookings on United at pretty good fares, since it was far enough in advance. All in all our total cost for flights was less than $1000 per person, which is great since fares from Dallas to Argentina are generally $1200 on the low end, and go up from there! (Though there was recently a good fare on Delta from Dallas to S. America for $900 in business class, but these are the sort of deals you can’t take advantage of every time. And who wants SkyPesos anyway?)
Some people thought we were crazy for flying so much extra to get from point A to B, but I would just explain that we were going after the miles. They would usually still think we were crazy. But I was able to create for us a great trip, to a destination that we both very much wanted to visit, for much cheaper than we would have been able to otherwise.
The following posts in this series will cover our flights, a little bit about the city itself, and flying a couple different S. American carriers. Hope you enjoy!
— Ethan CarterRead More
[Noob contributor, Ethan Carter, continues his two part series on his first mileage run. Enjoy!
Part 2: Mileage Running to Istanbul
Part 2: Mileage Running to Istanbul
I’ll skip the ORD-EWR portion of the mileage run, since it was a boring flight on an A320. Our flight to Istanbul was delayed a bit because of a mishandled equipment change (everybody had new seats and about half of them didn’t know) and a silly maintenance issue (cracked plastic in the lavatory that apparently reached the FAA limit for flight hours without being fixed). But we got underway, and helping handle the seat issues got me buddied up with the Flight Attendants (read: free alcohol).
The good thing about being buddies with the FAs is that I flew with the same crew out and back! When FAs fly a long-haul international flight, they stay about 24 hours in the destination city. Which is what I did on my mileage run! Some others mileage running flew back immediately, but I stayed 24 hours so I would be sane.
I got through immigration no trouble (they charge you $20 US for a 90-day visa), and exited the terminal. It looked like the stock exchange with so many people holding signs and looking for people!
Hurry, hurry! Get your rides here!
I had a van waiting for me from Efendi Travel, and they were great. They even picked me up early for the return trip. They had water in what basically amounts to a pudding cup, which was a pretty weird way to drink water, but it worked!
I stayed at the Istanbul Edition, based on United’s Hemispheres magazine recommendation in their “3 perfect days in Istanbul” and my (wavering) Marriott loyalty. I didn’t use points to stay here, but I did try to use a gift card I had bought from Marriott that netted me 6,000 bonus Southwest Rapid Rewards points! That promotion unfortunately just expired Nov 30. It has been a battle that I’m still fighting to use the gift card (and I had similar issues in Frankfurt), so I’d caution you if you plan to use a Marriott gift card overseas, you may want to contact the hotel first.
The hotel was fantastic, and the staff were incredibly helpful and friendly. I didn’t touch my bags until I was in my room. I was upgraded to a “deluxe” room, which was incredibly spacious. The hotel is very modern, and the 9-foot high rain shower is every bit as heavenly as the Hemispheres writer described it. You’re also greeted by complimentary figs and water in the room when you arrive.
”Sacred Fruit”, or figs “as mortal man have assigned it” (so says the card!)
I only had a short evening and morning in Istanbul, so I visited an area near my hotel and had Kumpir, which is a baked potato mashed with butter and cheese, with a lot of delicious things put in it.
Kumpir & Çay (Pronounced “Chai”, Turkish for tea)
I also walked along the Bosporus for the view of the city lights, until it started raining again and I went back to the hotel.
The next morning I arose early and took the ferry to Kadiköy on the Asian side. I’ve been to Istanbul once before, and the Asian side is much cheaper and less “touristy” than the European side. Of course, if you want to sightsee then the European side is where it’s at, but to just enjoy the food and culture the pier at Kadiköy is perfect. The ferry costs 3 Turkish Lira (about $1.50), and provides stunning views of the Bosporus, without the cost of a boat tour (where you would see the same things). Buy a Turkish tea for half a Turkish Lira, and there isn’t a better way to take public transportation that I’ve found.
I got to have some Turkish coffee, some fresh squeezed orange juice (their juice stands are incredible), and some breakfast from street vendors. My only disappointment was it was too early for some Balik Ekmek, which is a delicious piece of grilled fish on bread. So simple, yet delicious, but I didn’t get any on this trip because I had to take the 10am ferry back to make it to the airport on time.
The transfer to the airport went smoothly, and after 2 security checkpoints and 3 passport controls (they’re stingy when you’re coming to the US!) I made it to the Turkish Airlines lounge. I get in because of my Star Alliance Gold status, and I was excited because this lounge is highly regarded as one of the best in the Star Alliance. They had multiple stations of fresh food, comfortable seating, and pour-it-yourself beer, wine, and liquor. The selection was nothing to sneeze at, either!
Made it to the gate in time to chat with my favorite Flight Attendants and see how they spent their day in Istanbul. The flight back went smoothly, and immigration was surprisingly empty. After about an hour maintenance delay in Newark (at least I got the good seat in the exit row with a blank space in front), I was on my way back to Houston, arriving a mere 65 hours after leaving.
It was a whirlwind trip, but worth it for the time in Istanbul, and most of all the miles! I’m already seeing benefits from the Platinum status this trip helped me gain, including credit for my Global entry application ($100) and reworking award travel! Crazy or not, I’d do it again in a heartbeat!
— Noob MasterRead More