A Travellerspoint blog

Bristol - London Heathrow - Buenos Aires

...and we're off!

View High Altitude Landscapes Tour - Bolivia, Chile & Argentina 2023 on Grete Howard's travel map.

When we booked this trip, we were unaware of the fact that today is the Coronation of King Charles III. Quite how it will affect our travel plans – if at all – is uncertain. The strike by 1,400 security staff at Heathrow, however, may make much more of an impact on the smooth running of our day. Ironically, it is only Terminal 5 that is affected – which means British Airways, and us.


With all that, we leave extra early for the journey up to Heathrow, which is just as well, as according to the overhead gantry signs, there has been an accident, and the slip road to the M25 is closed. We come off the motorway at the previous exit, which – according to the Sat Nav – only adds an additional 7 minutes to the journey.


Heathrow Airport

While David sorts out for the Valet Parking company to pick our car up from the Short Term Car Park, I ring for a wheelchair to pick me up from there rather than walk into the terminal myself. Although my knee is much better than it was, that, and my arthritis means I struggle to walk long distances, and even more so, stand still for extended periods of time. Heathrow being such a huge airport means that the schlep to the gate can be as much as a mile at times, and if Terminal 5 is going to be as busy as the media suggests, with long, slow queues, I would really struggle.

The wheelchair and driver arrive, and he pushes me to an area dedicated to Special Assistance Check In. There is no queue whatsoever, and we arrive directly at the desk. Still feeling a little paranoid after the drawn-our palaver with booking the spare seat, I mention it to the agent as we check in. She confirms it is all OK and the middle seat has indeed been reserved for us. Phew. We’d already printed our boarding cards before leaving home, so it is just a case of dropping off the luggage, and we are on our way.


The wheelchair driver pushes me into a Special Assistance Holding Area, from which we carefully conduct a daring escape to the nearby Pilots Bar and Kitchen for lunch and a pre-flight drink. David chooses a chicken and chorizo pizza, while I select a decadent smoked salmon tartine.


We make it back to the Holding Area in plenty of time before we are reported missing.

At the allotted time, a small army of pushers (wheelchairs, not drugs) arrives to take passengers to the flight. I am allocated a small slip of a girl who really struggles to navigate some of the inclines with my heavy frame in the chair.

Flight BA 145

As soon as I sit down in seat 23K, I am eternally grateful that we persevered with booking that middle seat (see the story here), as my legroom is partially blocked by a metal box.


As soon as we are airborne, the lady in front of me reclines her seat – which she is perfectly entitled to, of course, but it does further restrict my legroom. She struggles to be able to raise it again when the food arrives – it takes three of us: the air stewardess and the passenger pulling on the seat and pressing the button, with me pushing from behind. Finally, it goes back to an upright position. The person in the row in front of David doesn’t even bother to try.


The dinner consists of two choices: beef or vegetarian. I choose vegetarian, which is a delicious mushroom stroganoff with rice. It seems that I chose well, as David says that his beef dish is dull and tasteless. I give him my apple crumble to compensate. We both make the mistake of thinking the small reddish dish is some sort of cake or fruit mixture, but it turns out to be a beetroot salad. Oops.

From then on I sleep on and off – I can’t say I am all that comfortable, but I guess it is better than being squeezed in as I would have been without the spare seat. At least I can keep shifting position. I take painkillers for my aching back, and feel a little better.


Shortly before landing, we are served a “traditional British Breakfast” of sorts.


I have to give kudos to British Airways for using much more eco-friendly wooden (bamboo?) cutlery than the usual plastic you get on other airlines.


Without warning, David’s phone goes crazy, emitting a piercing high pitch tone, and it looks like it is trying to reset itself to factory settings. Oh dear, I hope he doesn’t lose all the information he has on there, that would be a bit of a disaster.

As we near the South American coast, the sun starts to rise, casting a gentle light on the wing of the plane.


I am intrigued and rather taken with the automated window blind – at the touch of this button (situated below the window), the glass takes on a darker shade. For a gadget lover like myself, this is a new toy!


The rest of the flight is uninteresting, and I am disappointed to see the number of passengers who do not raise their seat-backs for landing, and that the crew checking the cabin as the captain starts his descent, do not – or choose not to – notice.

Buenos Aires Ezeiza Airport

There is a very nice man waiting for me at the gate with a wheelchair to take me to the taxi rank, where we catch a cab to a hotel near Aeroparque, the other, smaller airport in the city, where we have a connecting flight later this evening, to Santa Cruz de la Sierra in Bolivia.

Hotel Intersur Recoleta

At the hotel, there is a bit of a queue to check in, with just one person behind the desk. The room, when we get to it, is very nice, but it does seem to be a bit of a rip-off at £130 for a day room for just a few hours. Our flight from London arrived here at 08:20, and our next departure is not until 00:30, leaving us with a 16-hour layover, hence why we chose to book a day room.


Our first task when we get settled in, is to check in for this evening’s flight with Aerolinas Argentinas. Before leaving the UK, we selected seats 21 C and D on this flight, but when we go to check in, we find we have been moved to 3 C and D as a result of requesting Special Assistance (they keep the first row after business class for people who are disabled, old, pregnant or just need a little extra help).

The £130 for the room does include breakfast (I would bloody well hope so), so we make sure we get our money’s worth before trying to catch up on some sleep.

Our plan was to sleep for a while, then get a decent dinner before making our way to the airport. What we forgot to take into consideration, is that Argentinians eat dinner very late, and the restaurant doesn’t even open until 19:00. When we arrived at the hotel, we asked them to arrange a transfer to the airport, and they suggested 19:30, leaving us plenty of time, as there is an important football match on here in Buenos Aires tonight, and the stadium is located between the hotel and the airport.

With the restaurant closed, we head to the hotel café, where we are told that it is not just that the restaurant doesn’t open until later, the kitchen is in fact closed until 19:00. They can, however, make us a cheese and ham sandwich. I guess that will have to do.


And very nice it is too.

After having to vacate the room at 18:00 (making the £130 cost of the day room even less appealing), we spend the next 1½ hours hanging around in the lobby of the hotel, where we can hear the aforementioned football fans quite clearly.


There is a mezzanine floor above the lobby, with the most amazing chandelier spanning two floors.



The taxi arrives, and the driver is listening to the match on the radio. It is all going well for his team, Boca Juniors, until 3 seconds into extra time when Plate River scores, giving them a 1-0 lead. I have never heard a grown man wail to such an extent, alternating between banging the steering wheel and throwing his arms in the air with loud and pained exclamations of “nooooooo” and “¿por que”. The man is inconsolable! It would be funny if it wasn’t for the fact that he obviously takes football extremely seriously. I guess this is not the time to say “It’s only a game”?

The taxi pulls up outside the Departures, and I ask the parking attendant where I can find a wheelchair. She kindly phones ahead and soon a young man turns up with my carriage. He pushes me to the Special Assistance check-in, although technically there is no need to ‘jump the queue’ in that way, as there is not a single person in line for any of the counters.

From there we continue to the usual holding area, where I am given a choice: would I prefer to wait in the small, dull, holding area, or, if I prefer, they can push me to the bar, and pick me up from there at 21:30 for boarding. You can see from the photos below which option I go for!


Two glasses of Malbec later, I walk the short distance back to the Holding Area, where, as promised, I am picked up at the allocated time and wheeled throw immigration and security (very smooth and hassle-free) to the gate to wait for boarding.



David looks a trifle fed up at this stage

When boarding commences, the wheelchair driver takes me off in the completely opposite direction to the gate. I try to protest, but he appears not to speak any English, and my Spanish is nowhere near good enough. We take the lift down to the ground floor, and exit the building, making our way across the tarmac towards the waiting plane.

Despite stating that I am able to walk stairs and only need assistance to and from the gate, I am being taken up to the plane in the catering lift. What fun!


The only problem is, we arrive at the rear of the plane, and our seats are at the front. The steward phones through to the crew at the front entrance, who stops any more passengers boarding, so that we can make our way down the aisle to our seats in row 4. This row is reserved for disabled passengers and those who require special assistance (pregnant ladies, the elderly and infirm). I wish all airlines would do this – take note British Airways! There is plenty of legroom here, as it is the first row after business class.


As the air stewardess is making the announcements for take-off, a kid nearby is playing a noisy game on his phone, someone else is talking loudly on their mobile, and a third phone rings. So much for switching off your devices!

It’s a relatively short flight (three hours and five minutes), and we receive a surprisingly fresh crustless cheese and ham sandwich during that time, as well as a drink and a cereal bar.

We encounter some serious turbulence, making for an ‘interesting’ and bumpy ride.

Look out for our arrival in Bolivia in the next installment.

Thank you Undiscovered Destinations for making this dream come true.


Posted by Grete Howard 20:47 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged taxi flight airport sunrise breakfast phone argentina security buenos_aires accident south_america luggage heathrow mobile boca_juniors mobile_phone wheelchair strike malbec british_airways coronation turbulence undiscovered_destinations legroom check_in cell_phone special_assistance comfort_seat king_charles_iii king_charles_coronation terminal_5 boaring_card window_blindezeiza ezeiza_airport aeroparque aerolinas_argentinas intersur_recoleta football_match seat_pitch

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A flight as long as this is never fun, but worth putting up with :) And NEVER say 'It’s only a game' to a football fan!!

by ToonSarah

He he he, David said the same thing, Sarah. ;)

by Grete Howard

Malbec ... you can give me that any time!

by Ils1976

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