Flying with TAM Airlines

In America, flying is a nightmare. Long lines at intrusive security checkpoints, hours of delays and uncomfortable cramped seating are hallmarks of the airline industry in the States. To top it all off, I can’t bring food into the airport or on the plane, but the food served to me is terrible. This is why I like to fly on South American airlines, specifically TAM and Pluna.

The customer service with TAM is incredible, I have never experienced anything like it. The employees are very professional, which is evident through their uniforms, and always happy to help you. I have only flown on international flights with TAM and the planes have been some of the newest, cleanest, and most comfortable I have ever been in. Once on the plane, TAM employees make sure that everyone is settled and ready to go before you take off, and then they pass out candies to everyone.

Once in the air Sand and I received a small package for the overnight flight which included socks, a toothbrush, comb, toothpaste and earplugs. As soon as the plane has reached the desired altitude, after a very smooth take off, the staff comes to life again. Offering everyone warm cloths to wash with, drinks that include free red wine and whiskey, and then a delicious meal. The meals that we received while flying with TAM were much better than any that I have received on international flights with an American airline.

After dinner everyone is offered another drink before the cabin lights are switched off and the heat is turned up to allow everyone to comfortably sleep or at least watch a movie with the included headphones.

Breakfast is just as satisfactory, although I never did want to be awake that early in the morning. The TAM Airlines staff then collects everything, hands out immigrations cards and smiles and thanks you for flying with them as you exit the plane. While walking off the plane everyone passes more TAM Airlines employees; these employees are calling out different final destinations so that they can direct you to the correct gate. It seems like TAM knows exactly how to best take care of their guests.

Note for Americans: When flying with any American airline, we always get all of the tickets we need to get to our final destination at the beginning, before going through security. This is not always necessarily so at least on TAM Airlines; Sand and I had to be assured a few times that we could actually pick up our tickets for our connecting flight from Sao Paulo, Brazil to Miami, Florida in the Sao Paulo International Airport. (Although the woman reassuring us was laughing a little bit at our apparent disbelief that we could do this.)

Although the service with TAM Airlines, and Pluna which I believe is affiliated with TAM, was incredible the service alone is not why TAM has my allegiance. The Miami employees that helped Sand and I get to Uruguay are why I will always fly with TAM.

After Sand and I flew from Raleigh, NC to Miami, FL we went to check in for our morning flight with TAM to Sao Paulo and then Montevideo. As we tried to check in, we were told that we wouldn’t be allowed to board the flight because we were Americans without Brazilian visas and therefore could not be in the Sao Paulo airport for our 8 hour layover.

Sand and I were shocked, we had thought that we could be in the airport without a Visa and since they are expensive and difficult to obtain had not gotten one. The man that we talked with us advised us to either try to get a visa now, talk to the company that we had booked our flights through, or try to fly stand by on the later flight that was so booked even employees could not get seats. Distraught, Sand and I contacted the booking company and were each told that it was our own faults that we needed a visa to be in the airport. We were told there was nothing we could do but talk to the airline again.

Sand and I went back to TAM to ask if there was anything that they could do and initially got the same answer as before: we could hope to fly standby. But after speaking with two other employees about this problem, they changed our tickets to the later, completely booked, flight. Sand and I think that these two women had to bump two people off of this later flight so that we could get onto it and not need the Brazilian visa.

TAM Airlines does have incredible service, but what these two women did for us was definitely not in the job description. TAM will always have our allegiance because without them we would have never gotten to Uruguay at all.

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