For those of you who’ve been tuned in with us – you’ll remember that we were heading to Bolivia right after Brazil. So why are we in Ecuador ? The short answer is ‘AeroSur’. The long answer is a lot more interesting.
On the 11th of March, at 4PM we were supposed to take AeroSur’s flight from Sao Paulo (GRU) to Santa Cruz, Bolivia (VVI) and then connect from there to La Paz. However, destiny had something else in store for us.
We arrived at the airport and checked in our bags. The lady at the check-in counter told us that the flight is delayed and we should look at the board to see what time it’s going to take off. Sure, lets do that! We proceeded towards security and our beloved bottle of Mexican Tequila was taken away from us. (it had about 150ml of Tequila left..) We went through security and immigration and looked at the board and there was our first bit of bad news. 8.40PM – okay, not so bad. We can stay entertained for 6 hours in an airport. Wrong!
We decided that it was time for some grub. We walked all over both Terminal 1 and 2 but could not find a single restaurant serving hot food. So we settled for sandwiches and thus began our wait.
Tick tock tick tock..
The clock struck 7 and we decided it was time to check the board again. What’s this ? It now says that our flight is at 9PM. By this time we had found out that Sao Paulo’s airport guidelines state that in the event of a delay, the airline *must* provide food to passengers. So we went to our gate, gate 14A looking for some free food. When we got there we found a large number of sad, hungry, annoyed Bolivians (and some Brazilians) but no one from the airline. So we decided to hang out for a bit.
A guy showed up behind the counter at gate 14A. The angry hungry crowd surged towards him and in a panic he proclaimed “I don’t work for AeroSur, don’t shoot the messenger!”. Well, the messenger had brought further bad news: “The flight hasn’t taken off yet from Bolivia so it’ll take another 3 hours at-least”. Our hungry co-passengers milled around and demanded that we be taken care of, served food, etc. and the response was an astounding “But we’ve been serving food at Gate 18 since the early afternoon”. Apparently the airline has been giving out free food unannounced.
If you’ve lived in this world, you’ll know by now that hungry people can get very agitated. Angry is a mild word to describe the public sentiment at Gate 14A. People were banging their fists on the table, demanding to see someone from the airline. Eventually three rather attractive girls appeared. One of the passengers shouted that she knows the son of Mr. AeroSur and this is absolutely unacceptable. Another chimed in saying that this happens all the time and we’ll probably be at the airport until the next morning.
Amongst all the confusion we decided it’s best we go and get our free food near gate 18. We went to a small sandwich shop near gate 18 and sure enough upon showing our boarding cards we acquired a sandwich and a soft drink of our choice. I decided that it was time to eat. We sat near another gate where we met some lovely Australian people who were heading to Iguazu and then to Argentina and then on a cruise of the South Pacific (wow!). When I told this gentleman that I was from India he replied “Oh! My best surgeon is from India”. He also asked me if I could check up on the results of the latest golf championship. Oh, and the sandwich – well it was quite dry.
When we returned to gate 14A a bizarre tale was unfolding.
Apparently the aircraft had some technical problems. The Brazilian manager who was supposed to find us a hotel (the airport rules said that in the event of a delay of 4 hours or more, the airline is supposed to give you a hotel room or all your money back) – was actually in Bolivia. Furthermore, the manager was now at the Santa Cruz airport making sure the plane was in good shape. In fact, he is currently taking a test flight for 30 minutes on the plane to make sure it’s airworthy! Obviously, upon hearing this my face resembled the following image:
We realized that this plane isn’t going to get here any time soon and decided to take a seat further away and wait for more news.
After a while we noticed another commotion at Gate 14A and a guy with a Federal Police uniform standing there. Apparently the elders had called in the federal police to help and this guy was going to take us to the Director of the airport authority to make a formal complaint. This was because the airline wasn’t taking care of the passengers and blatantly disregarded the airport rules and regulations regarding delays.
But this was not before a severe warning was given out “Be very respectful, this guy can put you in prison, be very very respectful!”
No dice. The director was already off and no complaint was made.
So after this we decided to return to gate 14A for a quick look and found that the ladies there were surrounded by gentlemen of various proportions and they were saying things like “Oh you see, it’s very hard for us. The plane didn’t come here and now we have to deal with it. It’s such a hassle! Even we haven’t gone home. Not only that, but there were these Chinese people who were coming from Bolivia to catch a connecting flight from here to China! They’ve missed their flight. Imagine the poor poor chinese people. So sad for them!” Remember I mentioned that these ladies were attractive ? Well, imagine the male sympathy they were getting. This is what the scene was like:
The plane hadn’t taken off from Bolivia to come to Sao Paulo. We had already been at the airport for 8 hours. I guess the manager was still flying around Santa Cruz making sure the plane was safe for us.
You see, the problem was that we also had to catch a connecting flight to La Paz. That flight was long gone. Best case scenario we would end up at Santa Cruz airport at 3AM and have to wait another 5-6 hours for another flight to La Paz. Not only this, but we had made a hotel booking for the night and had already lost $58 on that.
We decided that we had had enough and we wanted to cancel our tickets. We asked the guy (the non aerosur representative who actually did in fact work for aerosur) to help us out. Naturally we had already gone through immigration so this meant we were to cancel our exit and enter Brazil again.
The guy made a call and this lady (who was there earlier as well) appeared:
Seriously! She was wearing red lace!
She said that the plane has already taken off from Santa Cruz and will be here in an hour (at 12AM). When we insisted they said it’d take 40 minutes to get our bags and then in another 20 minutes the flight would be here so we should definitely catch it! Upon insisting further, they walked away without a word. We were quite puzzled, but thought – okay lets see what happens.
Another girl appeared and when we told her that we wanted our tickets cancelled she again repeated that the plane should be here now in 40 minutes. By this time we didn’t believe a word any of these people said. So we insisted and she eventually cancelled our tickets, took us back through immigration, and gave us our bags.
We booked a hotel in Sao Paulo, went there, and went to sleep at around 1.30 AM.
The next day when I checked online the flight said “cancelled”. The plane never showed up. Our fellow passengers had to stay at the airport until 4PM the next day (26 hours, no less!) to catch the flight.
A day later, we tried booking another ticket (through a different airline, obviously!) to Bolivia but all the flights were full for a week. So, we decided to fly to Ecuador instead and here we are now!
The moral of the story: Do NOT fly Aerosur! Their staff will lie to you at every opportunity and it seems like the staff at every level of this company is encouraged to do this. The non-aerosur guy (who actually worked for aerosur – lie #1) told us earlier that he called the person in charge of taking care of passengers in the event of delays and the response was “Oh it’s Sunday! Don’t bother me, deal with it yourself!” (lie #2). The other ladies told us that said manager was testing our plane in Bolivia. (lie #3) Lets not even begin counting all the lies they told us about when the flight would get there…
Oh and about the $1000+ we spent on the ticket to La Paz ? We’re still trying to get that back from the folks at AeroSur.
Update: So AeroSur stopped answering our phone calls. They’ve officially gone out of business as the Bolivian government refused to bail them out. However, we managed to get our refund from eBookers. Initially they said that they couldn’t help us but after a few emails they came around and refunded our money. YAY!