I write this post on Saturday morning — not from Iguazu Falls as planned, but from New York – JFK, Terminal 2.
That’s right. I never made it to Iguazu Falls.
There were a ton of little things that went wrong with my trip, and they all caught up with me Friday afternoon in Sao Paulo.
Basically, I was both physically and mentally exhausted. Confronting me was a ten-hour layover in Sao Paulo before a late night flight to Iguazu Falls. Considering how exhausted and out of it I felt at 4pm, I couldn’t imagine dealing with negotiating with a Brazilian cab driver, crossing the Brazil / Argentina border, and locating a small hostel in Puerto Iguassu, Argentina twelve hours later.
But what exactly happened to get to that point?
A 36-hour Trip to Nowhere: An Iguazu Fail
- LAN Economy Class New York-JFK to Santiago on the B787
- LAN Economy Class Santiago to Sao Paulo on the B787
- Delta Business Elite Class Sao Paulo to New York-JFK
It was a comedy of errors, really:
- A last-minute schedule change resulted in a different itinerary
Thursday morning as I attempted to check-in for my flight with LAN, the website indicated that my confirmation number was not valid. As such, I called LAN to see what was wrong. The agent with LAN told me that my SCL-GRU segment of my itinerary was showing a significant delay, and I would misconnect in Sao Paulo. He offered me two options — overnight in Sao Paulo and get to Iguazu on Saturday afternoon. I declined this option, as it would only leave me a day in Iguazu. The second option was to take an earlier flight from JFK to Santiago and on to Sao Paulo on the LAN 787 Dreamliner, then have a ten-hour layover in Sao Paulo before continuing on to Iguazu on the same flight. In order to do this, I had to leave work three hours earlier and confirm standby space on an earlier flight from DCA-JFK. After speaking to American, I decided on this option.
- I chose a bulkhead seat for my long, JFK-SCL flight, but LAN changed my seat assignment prior to check-in
The LAN agent assured me that I had confirmed a bulkhead, window seat on the 787, seat 12L — that is a necessity for me traveling long-haul in economy — I just need the extra legroom, otherwise I’m miserable. When I got to JFK to check-in for my LAN flight to Santiago, they had me in a non-bulkhead, middle seat. The check-in agent assured me that there were no more bulkhead seats, and all they had were middles. I protested, and eventually he found a normal aisle seat. Okay, I guess I’d have to make this work.
- Extremely cramped economy seat led to little to no sleep on an 11-hour flight
Fast forward to the LAN flight — it was on a nice, brand new 787 Dreamliner, but at the end of the day, I got no sleep whatsoever in the cramped quarters of my seat. At 6’4”, I could not fit my knees inside the row, so I was basically miserable. I did get a couple of hours of sleep on my Santiago to Sao Paulo flight (I had a bulkhead, window — as requested), but that was too little, too late.
- Could not access lounge for long, ten-hour layover in Sao Paulo
When I arrived at Sao Paulo, I’d planned on showering and relaxing in the AAdmirals Club or LAN lounge during my ten-hour layover. Already exhausted, I quickly learned that this would not be possible, as Sao Paulo requires you to clear immigration and then proceed to a separate domestic terminal, which does not have access to the lounges. At that point, I was already in a fragile state, and this was the straw that broke the camel’s back — I snapped and just wanted to be home.
- Complete and utter exhaustion
I have a lot of other things going on in my life right now, and I seriously considered not even taking the trip. I finally decided to go, but given the level of exhaustion I was experiencing in Sao Paulo, I concluded that if I went through with the trip, by the time I got to Iguazu, I’d be completely exhausted, rendering Saturday pretty much a waste. This would leave me with only a day in Iguazu (Sunday), and I’d be even more exhausted when I got home. I’d miss a day of work and be generally worthless for a week — and I really can’t afford that.
Given that stark realization, I searched for ways home.
Fortunately, a friend (who is an airline employee) offered me a buddy pass to fly me home to DC via JFK a few hours later on a Delta flight. I happily accepted, and ultimately enjoyed a relaxing, ten-hour flight in Delta Business Elite class back to JFK.
While I’m upset that I did not make it to the falls, I feel that this was the best choice for me, as I simply have more important things going on in my life right now. At the end of the day, the Falls aren’t going anywhere, and I’m sure I can make it back there in the future. I ended up getting to spend the weekend with my girlfriend, relax, and watch some football — still not a bad weekend. And oh, yeah — I went to South America for the day too!
The trip didn’t go completely to waste, I guess — I still netted about 15,000 American miles from my fights to Sao Paulo. But really the only proof I have of me even taking this trip is a passport stamp from Brazil and a few great pictures of the Andes Mountains as we ascended out of Santiago. It was truly a 36-hour trip to nowhere.
Despite missing out on seeing a Iguazu falls, things were not panning out as planned, and I really just wasn’t feeling well. I guess it’s sometimes it’s just best to cut your losses.
Has anyone else just completely ditched a trip?