We finally arrived to Mendoza on Sunday (Labor Day Weekend) after traveling from Orlando since Friday. The last couple posts detailed the flight delays we had on American Airlines, however as Murphy’s Law would again have it, we had one more set of delays getting to Mendoza.
DOS and I slept well after overnighting at the Holiday Inn Santiago Chile Airport Hotel, as we had to stay there one night after misconnecting to our noon flight to Mendoza yesterday. (Once again thanks to the original 12 hour delayed flight from Dallas.) American Airlines did provide us lodging and a meal last night in Santiago (but not the first night of delays in Dallas) but they also screwed up our onward ticket to Mendoza, which caused quite a mess at checkin. More about that shortly, but we had the breakfast buffet in the morning (Sunday) at the Holiday Inn before heading across the walkway to the Santiago International terminal – so convenient!
Fortunately we allowed over two hours to checkin and go thru immigration, security etc for the short hour’s flight from Santiago Chile to Mendoza Argentina. The Santiago Airport is undergoing major renovations, and the arrivals area where we entered had only two working elevators which needed to get to the ticketing level. There was quite a line to access the elevators, but fortunately the airport had temporarily assigned an employee to each elevator to speed the lines up, and it was very orderly, taking only a few extra minutes.
The biggest issue we had however, was checking in for our flight to Mendoza. We had purchased a roundtrip flight on American Airlines from Orlando to Mendoza, which included two segments on LATAM Airlines (a One World Alliance partner) for the flights from Santiago Chile, to Mendoza Argentina and back. We’ve flown thru Santiago several times, so know the airport well, so we checked in at the upstairs Premium LATAM checkin area which offers expedited security and immigration checkin for Premium passengers. This exclusive perk for Premium International Business Class and/or passengers with One World status has a quiet and private area away from the main checkin areas one floor below, and there is normally no or very minimal wait to checkin.
Well, as Murphy’s Law was once again traveling with us, we barely made our noon flight to Mendoza, even after checking in at 9:45am. It took three onsite LATAM staff members including supervisor, plus an additional onsite sales rep to get our boarding pass issued to us – all for the one segment flight from Santiago to Mendoza!
The LATAM Airlines staff (former LAN Airlines) were very nice, and I don’t blame them at all. The problem started with our original flight delays on Friday, flying American Airlines from Orlando to DFW. I’m guessing the agent in the Admiral’s Club did not reissue our ticket properly after the late night delay, and although we had a reservation on LATAM, we technically did not have a paid ticket anymore as the reservation was not reissued by American with the new fare basis for the new alternate day’s flight. What a mess this was for all! DOS was calling both American and LATAM, while the three LATAM agents were trying to fix this mess. It took the staff (including sales and supervisor for LATAM, plus phone calls to American) nearly an hour and 15 minutes to get us our boarding passes for this 45 minute flight! The LATAM agent thanked us for checking in early as they have a cutoff time of 11am (one hour before the flight) to check-in luggage, which we just barely made; otherwise we would have missed that flight too.
Before leaving the ticket check-in area, I asked if everything was correct now on our reservation as we had a return flight in a few days, and I was assured everything on our LATAM ticket was ok now. (Flash forward to the end of the trip, and of course it wasn’t ok; DOS made another two hours of phone calls to American and LATAM the day before we went home to confirm our reservation and it literally took that long between LATAM and American to get our return trip straightened out. Fortunately he did that the day before we went home and American reissued the return ticket before we went to the airport again.)
Sorry for the lengthy last couple of posts, but we really did everything by the book so to speak with the airlines and are very well traveled. This was clearly a mistake by American Airlines, (yes it started with weather, but went down from there but improperly adjusting our ongoing reservations). We even had a paper copy of the Mendoza ticket given to us in Santiago by the local American rep, yet it wasn’t reissued properly by the agent in Dallas, which would not be evident to us as passengers (or even the Santiago American rep) – it showed our flights and we thought we were set. My advice in similar situations is call BOTH airlines directly to confirm; do not rely on the website showing your flight is confirmed. Make sure the E-TICKET is applied properly, especially if you have a flight delay and ALWAYS if you have a codeshare ticket with another airline. Even on a good day codeshares often seem to have issues as they have different confirmation numbers, reservation systems etc. Get confirmation numbers for each airline’s reservation, even though it may seem as it’s one thru ticket.
At least for now we were able to board our flight to Mendoza. The plane was a single class (all coach) Airbus 320, although we technically had ‘preferred seats’; basically meaning nothing other than we were in the first seven rows of the aircraft. The width and pitch of the seats were the same, and I can honestly say this was the worst pitch of any flight we’ve ever taken. Seat Guru said it had a 30 inch pitch, but I think it was more like 28 or 29 inches. It was so tight our knees were touching the seat in front of us!
Fortunately there was one open aisle seat, so DOS moved over and we could at least site straddle the seat row during the short flight. It was a quick flight, but I can not imagine going on a two hour flight like that, much less a long cross county or overnight international flight!
I had nice clear window (meaning no scratches or spots) in my row 2F seat, which afforded us beautiful views as we flew over the Andes Mountains. The flight over the Andes can be quite bumpy and the Flight Attendants and passengers are required by the Captain to be seated during the whole flight due to potential turbulence over the Andes. We’ve been on this flight several times and it can be quite bumpy (and scary being so close to the mountains!), but today’s flight was fairly smooth. The snow capped Andes mountains make for a most majestic and scenic flight.
Upon arrival in Mendoza, our four pieces of checked luggage were delivered fairly quickly, and after customs, we were met by Alejandro, who would be our tour guide for the next two days. Today Alejandro was just providing us transportation to our hotel, the Park Hyatt Mendoza. This is our fourth visit to Mendoza, and we always use Vendimia Wine Tours. The owner Leo normally tours with us but he had a sports-related injury on his leg recently and wasn’t up for the touring, so Alejandro showed us around. Leo and his wife and son did meet us one day during lunch in the vineyard, which I’ll post when we get to that vineyard in a couple days.
Once at the Park Hyatt, we were warmly welcomed back by the front desk staff, as this was our fourth visit to this property, and I have Globalist (top tier Hyatt status.) The hotel is gorgeous, and has a faint resemblance to the White House with its grand and lengthy exterior.
DOS and I had reserved a mid-level suite, however the very friendly front desk agent upgraded us to the Presidential Suite for our stay – quite a nice surprise and huge upgrade!
That’s Hyatt customer service; they didn’t charge us for last night we had missed due to the American Airlines flight delays, and then when we arrived upgraded us to their top suite! (We did call Hyatt yesterday to tell them we wouldn’t be there on Saturday due to the flight delays, and would only be there three nights then instead of four). It’s things like this that make Hyatt our favorite chain – we LOVE Hyatt. Here are a few photos of the Presidential Suite just after we checked into the room.
The Presidential Suite was huge and also had a butlers pantry with separate entrance, but we used it just for the fridge and microwave. The Suite was on the 7th (top) floor, and we nice city views as well as the Andes out the bedroom window in the far distance.
The only odd thing about the suite was the huge walk-in closet, which was equipped with lots of drawers, storage space, large sink area in the middle of the room, and a separate shower and separate toilet area, both with separate doors inside the walk in closet! There was also another full guest bath near the living area.
After getting settled, DOS and I headed over to the hotel’s wine bar and restaurant for lunch. As Mendoza is on Atlantic Time it was an hour earlier than Santiago (and home) so it was close to 3pm before we ate, and we were the only ones there.
The wine bar there has a huge selection of bottles and wines by the glass, and we had a light meal of the traditional Empanadas and a mini pizza, with a glass of Malbec.
After lunch we headed back to the room to shower and take a couple hour snooze, bringing with us the half-finished bottle of Malbec from lunch.
Mendoza is one of the few cities in the world that still has a formal siesta, and most of the shops close in the afternoon for this. We think siesta is a wonderful idea – more time to nap! I decided to take a bubble bath in the jacuzzi, something I only did once during our stay due to navigating the couple steps up to the jacuzzi, and then stepping down into it, coupled with my excess blubber and the fact the bath really bubbled up when turning the Jacuzzi on! I had to turn it off right away as the bubbles started overflowing from the tub! It was fun to at least say you took a bath in the Presidential Suite, while having a glass of our unfinished wine vino. I then had to shower to get all those bubbles off!
For dinner, we ate at Azafran, which is one of our favorite restaurants in Mendoza. Azafran is only a few short walks from the hotel, and the food and service are outstanding. The restaurant is compact, with a casual atmosphere, and at least one of the staff always remembers us from the previous year. I guess The Steve’s have this look about them, or maybe it’s the way DOS eats his steak further down in this post!
After being seated, we went with our waiter to the wine cellar to pick out a wine for dinner. Azafran’s has a large walk in cellar room, which surrounds also doubles as a private dining room for a small group of people. With help from the sommelier, we picked out a nice local Malbec blend, which we enjoyed with dinner.
We had a leisurely dinner starting with a nice shrimp appetizer and a sommelier-recommended glass of white wine.
DOS and I shared our favorite (and their signature dish) the huge bone in Tomahawk ribeye for two. One of the Azafran servers first brings the HUGE steak to the table for you to examine and take photos, and then slices it for two table-side. The tomahawk ribeye looks like it could have come from a brontosaurus!
DOS always likes a photo with him and the huge bone, but I think he actually likes chewing it off the one to like a lion or dinosaur!.
By dessert time we were quite full and getting a bit tired from the long two day trip getting to Mendoza, only to perk up a bit when we were presented with two beautifully decorated dessert dishes. We did manage to share and eat most of them – quite a delicious ending to a wonderful meal!
After mostly finishing our desserts, we got a bag to go for our unfinished wine, and also bought a bottle of olive oil at the restaurant to take home .
We then headed back to the hotel, stopping by the park across the street for a quick selfie with the light up Mendoza sign. The exterior of the hotel was brilliantly lit, while inside the lobby the lighting was subdued, with an elegant and quiet atmosphere.
In the morning (Monday) we will have our first of two full day wine tours, with Alejandro picking us up at our hotel at 9:45am. Until then, Welcome to Mendoza, and Buenas Noches!