Buying Tickets on Argentina’s Internal Flights – the Keyword is Patience

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Internal flights in Argentina are usually on Aerolineas.As an American, buying airline tickets for Argentina’s internal flights is more complicated than we are used to in the “customer comes first” culture of the United States. There are a few snags along the way that you should know about ahead of time, and I’m here to let you know about them.

Now, this post might sound like it belongs on Travel Rants, but I just want to get you in the right mindset before embarking on this process. First off, you should know that many of the multiple-airline search websites do not include flights originating outside the US, so skip them. Secondly, the websites that do include internationally-originating flights usually quote higher prices than the airlines’ websites themselves, so skip them too. The bottom line is, search the South American airline websites directly.

For example, I recently planned a trip for two from Buenos Aires to El Calafate. After much searching, I concluded that the cheapest option was to buy the tickets directly from Aerolines Argentinas. So I filled out the necessary email, name, passport number, and so on, and to my surprise I was not allowed to pay online. No one is – there simply isn’t an online payment option (also true for other South American airlines).

Instead I got an email saying that my flight would be held for 24 hours at the quoted price and that I should call during business hours to speak to a representative and complete the purchase (it was late on Sunday). Frustrated and tired, I wrote myself a note to handle it in the morning and went to bed. A little complicated but the end seemed near.

Monday morning I called Aerolineas Argentinas, followed the prompts to the English message (in a disturbing accent), and when I was about to connect to an operator, I was disconnected. Greeeeeaaat. So I tried again. And again. And again. I tried the English options. I tried the Spanish options. No luck, I kept being disconected at the same stage. I worried that my 24-hour window was not going to last until eventually I got connected and was able to make my payment (woohoo!), thankfully at the quoted price. When I explained the issues I’d had, the answer was basically “yeah… so what?” Oh well, I guess it was the American-ness in me that was upset at the inconvenience.

The crisis averted, we embarked on the trip to Calafate last weekend, though we had to deal with (an apparently common) two hour delay on the way there and on the way back. So what can you take away from this? Give yourself enough time to plan the trip and to embark on it, and above all, keep an open mind and be patient. With a little patience, even an American like me can figure out how to buy an internal flight tickets down here in laid-back Argentina.

9 Comments

Darren on April 9, 07

Wow, what a pain that must be for consumers. I wonder why they don’t offer online booking, as it would save them so much time.

César Gonzalez on April 10, 07

It is surprising, and I can’t say that I know why it is. My guess would be an outdated reservation system and a resistance to change. At least on the web side, they have some superb developers in Argentina, so I don’t think that’s the problem.

Tony on April 17, 07

Hi Peter

I bought Aerolíneas tickets for internal flights a couple of months ago. I’m based in Brazil and decided to bypass the Aerolineas nightmare altogether. Basically, I found the fares at their website, then rang my travel agent and asked if he could get me those same fares. He did. He dealt with Aerolíneas. He informs me every time Aerolíneas changes the times of the flights (twice so far). Oh dear.

I see quite a lot of travellers have a fixation with the Visit Argentina program run by Aerolíneas. At the time I purchased my tickets, the price for foreigners quoted by Aerolíneas at their website for a BA-Ushuaia flight was cheaper than the Visit Argentina price. Go figure!

Alejandra Gos on July 9, 07

I am an argentine and I can tell you that sometimes it’s better to buy tickets directly talking to someone. In Argentina the whole buying things online system is not developed but it’s not because of the companies, but because customers down there dont rely much on the internet. They rather talk to someone. They dont trust the internet. There might be reasons for it: a not so reliable internet secure booking system.
Remember we are a sub developed country, with nice things to see, but still a sub developed country.

Now, the prices, you might find in general, you will be paying the same amount you would pay here in the US. There is a fashion down there to put prices up in pesos (3 to 1 with the dollar) so that they can get more money. This is terrible for people that live in argentina, which sometimes cant even travel to see places because they are just priced for people that bring dollars – euros. Terrible… it’s bad.
As an argentine bringing people from the US to visit, I had to be careful sometimes because the same thing would have two prices, one for argentines and one for americans. But in the most tourist areas, this is not the case though.

About the patience required to fly, I woudl say it’s good to wait a couple hours, so they check the plane and everything before you fly :). Yes, Argentines are used to wait, and they dont realize they should be nicer with people like americans that have a more customer-oriented culture. The quality of the scenery, the food and the interesting places to see, are worth it though.

Good luck!

matt on March 9, 08

We traveled all throughout Argentina over a week period. We visited Buenos Aires, Salta, Mar del Plata and Iquazu. We only experienced one flight delay between Buenos Aires and Iguazu.

Rohan on July 8, 08

By paying local prices for the domestic flights were there any issues at the time of checking in. I have heard that since one has to show a passport as identity, and if this not Argentinian, then they know you have paid half price.

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Jimena on April 17, 09

With Aerolineas Argentinas, any accreditted travel agency could get the same fares (as long as they are available) for the same price and without the hassle.

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