Here's how I spent last weekend Standing in line at TSA an inquisitive fellow (perhaps a wannabe Behavior Detection Officer) was asking me where I was headed. I told him Iguassu Falls. He asked where that was. I told him I was going for the weekend. “Gotta dosomething this weekend.” Coupled with top tier elite status on American and some extra systemwide upgrades, along with a bonus promotion meant to incentive additional flying by passengers from the oneworld Mega DO in January, I could fly business class and earn. I started looking around for confirmable upgrade seats. There were plenty of South America via Miami. One of the places on my ‘list’ that I’ve always wanted to see has been Iguassu Falls, and since I could get confirmable upgrades to and from South America, why not? I’m not especially keen on American’s old angled business class seats, I’m really looking forward to the rollout of their new business hard product, but for a South America flight departing in Miami I’m really just in the air a bit over 7 hours, eminently doable. There are several routes to fly and an airport both on the Argentina side and on the Brazil side. As an American, I need a visa for Brazil and they charge a higher fee because the U.S. government is extortionate to foreigners, it’s their way of striking back at the American people, but since we individually have little say in the matter it doesn’t change U.S. policy, it just deters tourism. And yet I’m sympathetic. If I were to enter via Buenos Aires or Rio I wouldn’t need a visa to fly to the Argentina side of the Falls, but I would have to pay a similar reciprocity fee. The only way to visit the Falls without that $140+ tax as an American would be to arrive on the Argentina side but not via the two major Argentinian gateways. I dismissed that entirely since I didn’t want a land transfer or a longer flight than necessary in intra-South American economy. Besides, I wanted the option of visiting the Brazilian side of the Falls in any case. I booked flights with confirmable upgrades via Sao Paolo. Of course that meant I had to get a Visa. And Brazil doesn’t make that process easy. Naturally you need a couple of passport photos, those are easy enough to come by. And you’ll mail in your passport. The fee, though, is payable only by US Postal Money Order. And they will only mail back your passport in a US Postal Service pre-paid Express Mail envelope. I went to get the postal money order but hadn’t realized that they required an Express Mail envelope, so it was back to the post office. I genuinely don’t recall the last time I was in a post office, we don’t keep Express Mail envelopes at the office, they tell me no one has asked for one of those for as long as can be remembered. (Folks who are self-employed have another hurdle, the requirement to submit a bank statement showing sufficient funds for the intended stay.) It also wasn’t obvious where to mail the package to, the website referenced a physical location based on a street corner rather than a street address. So that took some extra research. I sent the passports off and hoped for the best. In theory you’re able to track progress online, and after a few days the package showed up as having been received. No further progress was checked off until the passports were actually completed with Visas. The whole process took about two weeks. A couple of months passed and I hadn’t thought much about the trip beyond booking a hotel. I did a bit of research on lounges in Sao Paulo, but otherwise figured I would just show up and figure out how I wanted to approach the park. Last Wednesday towards the end of the work day it was time to head out to National airport, the usual $20 cab ride.. much faster than changing trains on the metro and cheaper than parking. I couldn’t check in online for the trip and couldn’t check in at the kiosk, so I walked over to the premium line. It was several people deep, the woman in front of me was traveling to school for 2.5 years and had about 8 pieces of oversized luggage which the AAgent didn’t charge extra for. After about 10 minutes I was up to the podium, the inbound aircraft for my flight to Miami was delayed, it was coming out of Miami and doing a straight turnaround but weather in South Florida was bad. The flight was already showing an hour’s delay but looked to increase a bit from there, my 2 hour connection was no longer looking as comfortable. I was confident I’d still make it but the system had flagged me for rebooking, to the agent moved me to the late Miami – Sao Paulo flight. I’d increase my layover in Miami by two hours but I’d still make my flight to Iguassu Falls with plenty of cushion. Two seats were issued in the middle section of business class for the 777, and I was told nothing else was available. On the plus side, the tickets were re-issued in J class rather than C which is what’s used for business class upgrades. I got it into my head that I might be able to upgrade the J ticket to first class, an on the way through security rang the Executive Platinum desk which told me that seats in A (first class upgrade) were available. Once through security I went straight into the elevator and up a level to the Admiral’s Club where I asked about an upgrade. The agent took one look at the reservation and said that I couldn’t be upgraded further since I was already upgraded to business. Rats! It was that obvious? I had hoped the J re-booking would obscure that but no such luck. I had further hopes that I would earn bonus miles for a business booking on the segment, but didn’t have any luck with that either. The agent did, however, offer to see if she could get row 8 seats unblocked, the row only exists on the right side of the aircraft, so two seats in the row instead of 6. It’s near the lavatory but it’s the most private, and it’s a window and aisle rather than 3 seats in the middle, there would be no stranger to sit next to. She had to make a phone call, and brought me new boarding passes in the lounge. A short while later it was time to board, we were further delayed than it appeared on arrival to the airport, we wound up closing the aircraft doors a bit after 6pm rather than the planned 4:40pm departure time. My connection in Miami would have been down to 40 minutes, still doable but I had no reason notto accept the re-booking so there would be no rush on arrival. It was a standard domestic first class flight, short-haul dinner was served, I had the chicken. The 737 had both Gogo wireless internet and seat power. And the flight attendant providing most of the service up front continually acknowledged each passenger by name without looking at his manifest. That’s really all I could possibly ask for out of a 2.5 hour domestic hop!