Tourists in Argentina complained vociferously last year about the country’s tardy airlines, according to a new report by the Argentine Right To Tourism Association. The association, which goes by its Spanish acronym AADETUR, based the report on more than 5,000 complaints it received via email from frustrated local and foreign tourists.
The No. 1 complaint? “Delayed planes, lost connections and canceled flights.” The biggest nuisances, tourists said, are the departure and arrival times of Argentine flights. And if you look at the numbers from another study, it’s easy to see why so many people are complaining.
Last March only 15% of domestic flights arrived and departed on-time. That’s right, 15 percent. By September, that figure had gotten better, almost doubling to 27%. Meanwhile, around 15% of flights were canceled in September. And that was a major improvement from previous months in which roughly 25% of all domestic fights were canceled.
The study compared domestic flights with similar flights in the U.S. There, about 70% of flights arrived on-time while only 2% of were canceled. (The comparison was made using U.S. flight data from July, 2007)
International flights to and from Argentina performed much better, though certainly not perfectly, according to the study. Between July and September, only 53% of Aerolíneas Argentinas flights arrived on-time when traveling between Ezeiza and Miami. Around 56% of those flights departed on-schedule. Lan Argentina’s record was even worse, arriving on-schedule 52% of the time and departing on-the-hour just 49% of the time. American Airlines turned in the best performance, arriving punctually 81% of the time and departing on-schedule 80% of the time. The study did not provide data for other other carriers.
It did provide data for flights between Ezeiza and Madrid. These results were even worse. One carrier, Air Comet, arrived on-schedule just 24% of the time and departed on-the-hour only 28% of the time. Air Europa had the best performance, with 89% of its arrivals and 86% of its departures on-time.
Tourists also complained about hotels, saying many falsely advertised being three or four-star hotels when really they two or three-star abodes. Foreign tourists complained about having to pay “differential” rates for transportation. This complaint is related to the Argentine government’s decision to make foreigners pay more for tickets. The idea behind the differential rate is that it helps subsidize local ticket prices, keeping them affordable for Argentines, whose incomes generally are much lower than those of foreigners.
However, the differential rate has sometimes made local airfares more expensive than similarly-long routes in developed countries. This has discouraged many foreigners from flying domestically. Other complaints related to delayed departures and arrivals for all other forms of transportation, problems with taxis, crime, hygiene in hotels and restaurants, and stolen luggage. The 15th top complaint? “A lack of complaint offices” where travelers could file complaints. That’s true. I didn’t make it up.
AADETUR is preparing another study, to be released next week, that examines air travel in greater detail and aims to give a more comprehensive look at which airlines perform better in differing categories. In the meantime, the lesson to be learned from all of this is very simple: If you plan to fly, expect to be delayed, possibly for a long time.