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The Best and Worst airlines flying to Uruguay

Jimmy Baikovicius

Let’s get to brass tacks.

THUMBS UP Chile’s LAN and Brazil’s TAM

THUMBS DOWN American Airlines and Aerolineas Argentinas.

Airlines to avoid

Based on my non-scientific analysis*, the two airlines that are responsible for most cancelled flights and lost luggage are Aerolineas Argentinas and American Airlines.

So if you’re planning to fly into Uruguay, what are your options?

Coming from the USA and Canada

The Guru'Guay Guide to Montevideo in paperback
“The great advice in your guide saved me $500USD on my airline ticket!” — Joel, USA

American Airlines is the only airline to offer direct flights from the US to Uruguay however they appear to reserve their crappiest planes for these long-haul trips – and it is not unusual for them to cancel the flight down.

Instead consider using good Latin American airlines like LAN Chile, Avianca and COPA.

Fellow travellers have told me that they have more leg room than the US airlines and have individual movie screens. This is an important detail when flights are long!

Avianca and Copa are usually the cheapest. October 1014, Avianca offered Montevideo to Miami return for a remarkable 480 USD.

A flight with connections may only take a couple of hours longer than a direct flight (11.5 hours vs 9.5 hours for the direct flight).

While transfers in some airports can be a bit of a nightmare, especially when you don’t speak the language, changing planes in Santiago (LAN), Panama City (COPA) and Lima (with Avianca) is a relative breeze.

The only problem with just about any of the flights is that like AA, there is only one flight per day. If you have a delayed connection, you will miss it and have to take the next one in 24 hours. – Pam Ricker regularly flies USA-Uruguay

Coming from Europe

There are few direct flights from Europe to Uruguay and you will usually have to go through Buenos Aires or São Paulo. Iberia flies direct from Madrid.

To fly via Argentina or Brazil? My preference is through Brazil, especially now that the São Paulo airport has been modernised. Flying via Argentina from Europe means you are actually adding time to your trip as you effectively fly past Uruguay on the way to Argentina, and have to fly “back” again. But it’s not really a huge difference.

I love TAM/LAN – Planes are modern with individual TV screens. Look out for deals with LAN. This week LAN is offering flights London-Montevideo for 1071 USD.

You will fly on a TAM codeshare but I recommend booking through LAN as their zippy website is really useable to be able to identify the cheapest prices quickly and easily.

Flights from London come through Madrid and Brazil and can take around 16-17 hours at their fastest.

Iberia – I am delighted to inform that since late 2016 Iberia has renewed their aircraft on the Latin American route, using swish new airplanes. Their direct Madrid-Montevideo route takes between eleven and twelve hours. Many thanks to Guru’Guay readers on Facebook for the updates.

Air Europa – often significantly cheaper than the rest. Here in Montevideo I called them on a local line and got to speak to a very helpful human being immediately! And there is no extra charge for booking over the phone. Based in Spain, a flight to Montevideo starting in Valencia was actually as cheap as coming from Madrid.

Air France – I haven’t used them but a travel agent told me they have way better customer service than the other airlines. Think about using them if you are likely to have to alter your ticket.

Coming from Argentina

Aerolineas Argentina are a nightmare. The driver I use to pick up guests at the airport has come close to telling me that he won’t pick up people flying in on Aerolineas any more as he is so tired of them being late and/or cancelling flights. If you can avoid them, do!

Coming from Buenos Aires, if you don’t have much time, I would still take the fast ferry over flying. See my article which explains why I prefer the ferry to the plane coming from Buenos Aires.

Important note: Buenos Aires has two airports – Ezeiza outside of the capital and Aeroparque which is in the capital itself. If you are intent on flying from BA to Montevideo, unless you are already at Ezeiza, then save yourself time and money by getting your flight from Aeroparque.

From the Iguazu Falls

Unfortunately there are no direct flights from Uruguay currently.

Flights with connections from Montevideo to Iguazu go via Buenos Aires (Aerolineas Argentinas) and São Paulo (TAM). With reasonable connections it’s likely to take you about 6 hours to fly from Iguazu to Montevideo.

If you are on holiday and looking to relax, I’d recommend staying overnight in Buenos Aires to break the trip and then flying on to Iguazu next day. The flight takes just under two hours. Then you can choose other options like LAN which flies three times a day from Aeroparque in the city centre [thanks, Mark Mercer, for the tip].

Remember if you are from the USA, Canada or Australia and entering Argentina even for a day trip to the falls, there is a 160 USD reciprocity fee that needs to be paid in advance (the good news is that the permit is good for 10 years).

Most packages that can be arranged from Uruguay tend to go by bus. I will be writing another article about this with the help of a friendly travel agent called Carolina. Look out for this.

Coming from Brazil

There is a reasonable choice coming from Brazil. Direct flights are available from São Paulo, Porto Alegre and occasionally from Rio de Janeiro.

Choose from TAM, Uruguay-owned Buquebus and Brazilian company, GOL.

From other Latin American countries

There are direct flights from ChilePanama, Peru, Paraguay and Bolivia.

Fly from Panama with COPA, Lima with Avianca, Asunción with BQB (and shortly with Alas Uruguay) and Santa Cruz (Bolivia) with Amaszonas. The excellent LAN flies from Chile of course.

Beware, with the exception of the Bolivian flight and LAN, all the others land in the early hours of the morning.

Arrival and departure times from Montevideo

The Carrasco international airport keeps arrivals and departures well updated on their website.

DISCLAIMER

*My conclusions are not scientific. They are based on

  • observation of the arrival times and luggage status (!) of the folks who fly into Montevideo from all over the world each month and stay at my guesthouse
  • the relative state of ire of my airport transfer guy who spends his week ferrying those passengers from Montevideo airport
  • exchanges with a bunch of peers in a friendly and informative Facebook group Free Uruguay Expats
  • personal travel back and forth from Europe, the US and South Africa to Montevideo over the last sixteen years.

Many thanks to Carolina Barrios at JSB Tourism for her help with information about Iguazu and to Pity for suggesting I contact her, and to the folks at Free Uruguay Expats

Photo Jimmy Baikovicius via Flickr

[Article last updated December 12 2016]

26 Comments

  1. Amy

    March 9, 2017

    Delta also offers good service from Atlanta in the US via São Paolo or Buenos Aires, with decent planes. I found Air Europa to be extremely uncomfortable to Madrid with the tiniest seats and terrible leg room for such a long haul flight (as a 5’8″ woman my knees tounched the seat in front of me and I could not extend or cross my legs).

    Reply
  2. Daniel Remy

    February 11, 2017

    What is the best airline from Los Angeles, California to Montevideo. I would like to do it with Multiple Destinations like LAX to Panama City and then on to MV 2 days later (after resting. I am 77).
    Thanks, Dan

    Reply
    • Al

      August 17, 2017

      LAN, definitely. One stop in Santiago. Flying the 787.

      Reply
  3. Robin D K

    February 2, 2017

    I flew from Kennedy Airport in NY on Aerolineas Argentinas to Buenos Aires and then the short flight (same air line) to Montevideo. All flights were on time, and all service was excellent. Our first flight arrived a bit earlier in BA than estimated which gave us a little extra time to get to our next flight.
    All flights home were also on time, and no problems.
    I had heard nightmare stories about Aerolineas Argentinas going on strike, canceling flights last minute, etc… but this was definitely not our experience.

    Reply
  4. Jp

    January 27, 2017

    Dear Guru, you can remove the text “(and shortly with Alas Uruguay)”. As every Uruguayan (this includes you 😉 ) knows, (sadly) this won’t happen now 🙁

    Reply
  5. David

    November 13, 2016

    Just flew into Montevideo today from Scotland via Madrid and Iberia. We have flown Iberia before and only booked these flights because of convenient times and price. I now want to say that this Iberia flight was actually very good. The Airbus plane was quite new and, for economy, it was fairly comfortable with individual in flight entertainment sets. Cabin crew were friendly and efficient, food was ok and the flight left at the correct time and arrived early. I think I have changed my opinion of Iberia.

    Reply
    • The Guru of Guru'Guay

      November 14, 2016

      Excellent to hear, David! Thanks for sharing. It’s particularly good news to me because Iberia have started flying from Madrid to Cardiff 🙂

      Reply
  6. Mark Mercer

    July 18, 2016

    Fully agree on Copa, Avianca, LAN, TAM. The last two now merged, as far as branding at least, as Latam Airlines.

    Also agree with #NeverAmerican for this route. Keep in mind that unless you are going to/from the States, unless you live within driving distance of Miami, you’re going to have to connect somewhere anyhow, to get to that nasty nonstop MIA-MVD.

    Instead, why not start your trip from an airport near your US point, on a good Latin American airline instead of American Airlines! Avianca flies from Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington, New York, and more.

    Copa from all of them plus Boston, Chicago, Las Vegas, New Orleans. New York is NYC-JFK for real Copa, Copa from NYC-Newark is nasty United with their lousy service until Panama, and United’s worse baggage charges the entire trip by US law, if you start on a United-operated flight. Beware Copa from Houston for the same “really United” reason.

    Both the LAN and TAM parts of Latam Airlines fly from NYC-JFK, Orlando, and I think Washington. LAN as LATAM goes to Los Angeles. Some other US cities too.

    Better service, better inflight entertainment and power on many planes, better (and free) food and free booze. Simpler connections. A “taste of Latin America” as soon as you’re onboard. Often better prices. And partners in the major global airline alliances so you can still “earn or burn” your miles/points, and earn towards “elite” status or get some elite perks from your “home airline” FF/Loyalty scheme.

    Copa and Avianca are in Star Alliance, so your Unite Mileage Plus, Lufthansa Group Miles and More, Air Canada Aeroplano, or any of the 20-some other programs can be used. LAN and TAM (Latam) are in oneworld, the alliance founded by American Airlines and British Airways, with its dozen or so members.

    So you can earn BA Avios points or American Airlines AAdvantage miles when flying LAN/TAM. United or Lufthansa or other partner miles flying Avianca or Copa. You don’t have to change to their own FF programs, and probably shouldn’t unless you’re planning to start crediting all partners instead to your new South American airline.

    I did that for Star Alliance – I now credit my United flights to the new Copa ConnectMiles program, and will do that for any Avianca, Air Canada, Lufthansa or other partner. But if you still mostly fly United you can keep United’s program while earning in it from Avianca and sudo apt-get install imagemagick php5-imagick .

    So try one of Guru’guay’s (and my) preferred airlines next time!

    Reply
  7. Robert Thalhammer

    April 16, 2016

    Interesting summary of expieriences. We fly every year from Munich to Montevideo. IBERIA is the cheapest and we never had any reason to complain. Our worst trip was with TAM biginning with the booking via internet, then we didn´t get our plane from Sao Paolo to MVD(due to a delay in Germany)We had to spend the night at the (ugly) Airport and to make the nightmare complete our luggage was lost. I like American Airline because we can book it with about 8 hours “delay” in Miami so we can add a short day-trip to our journey 😉 Once we had a delay in Miami and had to spend the night there. AAA offered us a voucher for a Hotel and a dinner without any problems.

    Reply
  8. Enza

    April 15, 2016

    Excellent article Guru. This year we came in to Uruguay (from Canada) with Copa and were most pleased. The outbound from Toronto to Panama City was 5.5 hours and the connecting flight was just under 7. We found that to be comfortable. The planes were clean and roomy. The service was top notch too. Oh and I forgot to mention that we were allowed 2 full sized suitcases each! A great perk for us who are moving things into our house bit by bit

    Reply
    • Welshwitch in Uruguay

      April 15, 2016

      TWO “free” suitcases!! Definitely a perk of using Latin American airlines!! Thanks for sharing your experience, Enza.

      Reply
  9. EJW

    April 7, 2016

    I flew on Lufthansa from Copenhagen to Buenos Aires, then took Air France to Montevideo. Worked out nicely until I had to return and couldn’t make the connection to Buenos Aires because of a bird strike that damaged the Air France plane. I couldn’t make it to BA in time to catch the Lufthansa flight so I had to leave a few days later and took the Francisco ferry from Montevideo and a cab in BA to the airport. Worked out fine. The ferry and a taxi cost me $50 and $28.

    I booked a round-trip (Copenhagen-Buenos Aires) on Lufthansa for $1000, plus the Air France flight for $135.

    Reply
  10. EJW

    April 2, 2016

    I flew Lufthansa from Frankfurt to Buenos Aires round trip. It took 13.5 hrs. Individual screens on the seats. No problems. I flew into Montevideo from Buenos Aires with Air France. One my return I got to the airport only to find out that my flight to Buenos Aires had been canceled due to a bird strike that had damaged the plane. I couldn’t make my connecting flight in Buenos Aires so I had to rebook it. I took the Buquebus ferry Francisco to Buenos Aires for about $50 US and got a black and yellow taxi to the airport for 400 Argentinian pesos (meter fare plus two road tolls)–about $28 US. Overall I thought the ferry option was the best.

    Reply
  11. Clovis

    August 19, 2015

    I flew here from Frankfurt over Madrid with Air Europa. On the first, short-haul flight, there was no free food, prices were high and they ran out of sandwiches half way. However, the second leg from Madrid to MVD was extremely pleasant. Excellent service, decent food and a good AVOD choice. If you don’t mind paying for food on short flights, I recommend this airline.

    Reply
  12. memo

    June 17, 2015

    I’ve flown Air France between Paris and MV a couple of times. The service and the planes have been very nice. I’d pick them anytime coming from northern Europe, despite the stopover in Ezeiza where you have to get off the plane and walk to the other end of the terminal to have your hand luggage x-rayed.

    I’d rather avoid passing through Brazil as it seems to me, based on experiences with TAP and Swiss, that airlines scrape the bottom of the plane barrel for those hauls, and the planes are configured to squeeze an inordinate amount of people on board.

    Reply
    • Welshwitch in Uruguay

      June 17, 2015

      Hi Memo, thanks for your feedback. Very useful!

      I haven’t found that flying through Brazil increases the chances of packing passengers like cattle – it feels like that happens all over, especially flying down to South America. I’ll confess that a big reason I like travelling on a Brazilian airline is that you still get two free suitcases. In fact Brazilians appear to take care of their long-haul-travelling citizens much more than other nations – I’ve noticed Brazilian passport holders flying on other airlines automatically had a two-bag allowance as an exemption. #MoreReasonsToLoveBrazil 🙂 — best wishes and hope to hear from you again! Karen

      Reply
      • Luis de Sousa Sequeira

        July 26, 2015

        I am not a brazilian but have been leaving here for almost 2 years. you are totally right most of flights here allow you to take 2 luggages. I am a frequent flyer with TAM and they allow me to take up to 3 bags now. I am planning to travel to Montevideu sometimes this year from Porto Alegre. But first I have to fly out from Brasília.

        Reply
  13. Doug

    March 20, 2015

    No individual tv screens on Copa coach last November – and the five CRT screens in the cabin was each garishly off-color in a different way. The planes they use on the noncompetitive Uruguay route are definitely not the cream of the crop. You change in Panama for the US and get onto a much better equipped plane.

    Reply
  14. Lynn Welburn

    March 17, 2015

    I found Copa Airlines was a great choice coming from Canada. From
    Toronto there is only a very short stopover in Panama but since the airport is small there, it’s no problem to get from arrivals to catch your flight to Montevideo. I was also travelling with my cat Pepe in the cabin with me so I wanted the most direct flight. The crew was very helpful and interested in meeting Pepe. They didn’t even worry that he spent most of the flight on my lap (in his carrier or course). I had no problems with luggage or anything else and would definitely recommend them.

    Reply
  15. Viviana del Rio

    March 17, 2015

    In my opinion, Aerolineas Argentinas is a risky choice and will remain so unless while being under the current management (provided it is a public, state owned airline). Personally I had cancellations for no reason and got nothing in return from customer care desk. Far from recommending, I suggest avoiding…

    Reply
  16. Julia

    March 17, 2015

    I love LAN they bumped us from a morning flight to Santiago and put us up in their VIP in Montevideo and gave us 2 $200 vouchers. They treated us like royalty for the day.

    Reply

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