TAM, the Brazilian flag carrier, like to refer to themselves as being 'the magic red carpet'. Once on board, I watch 'Unknown' and after drinking a ridiculously large glass of Balentine's - hey presto! - I am out for the count and sleep through most of the 12-hour flight, waking up shortly before we begin our descent into Sao Paolo.
Despite blagging my way through 'the diplomatic channel' at Sao Paolo immigration & customs, saving myself an hour of queueing, it is already 7.20am before I make it to check in for my already departed 7am flight to Buenos Aires.
Initially, Aerolineas Argentinas are all up for the idea of me buying a new flight and, additionally, paying the Sao Paolo airport departure tax. It looks like it is going to set me back 3-400 dollars but I am not about to accept that without trying to persuade them otherwise. To cut a long story short, TAM agree to give me a declaration form for the late arrival of their flight, and AA kindly agree to rebook me on the 10.15 without any extra charges or taxes. If it wasn't for the kind efforts of the staff of TAM and AA my London travel agency would have left me with a hefty charge for new flights.
By the time all this is sorted I am only left with an hour to wait before my AA flight departs and leave the controlled chaos of the old school airport behind for some great aerial views of Sao Paolo as we pass directly overhead.
It is 5 hours to Heathrow, two of them spent crawling through rush-hour traffic in London, much of which looks as grey and unappealing to me as always. At Heathrow I discover that the agency I booked my flights through are either cowboys or fools. The departure time of my TAM airlines flight to Sao Paolo has been put forward by 40 minutes, meaning that my connection time in Brazil is just 50 minutes before my Buenos Aires-bound flight departs. Worse still though, TAM tell me that no agreement exists between TAM and Aerolineas Argentinas for connecting flights. In other words, when I get to Sao Paolo I need to go through customs and immigration, get a visa, pick up my bag from arrivals and check in again! Clearly, there is no chance I will do all that in 50 minutes. TAM tell me that my agency were legally bound to tell me my flight had changed but failed to even send me an email. They should also have explained that my connecting flight isn't connecting at all. To give myself a chance I don't check in my bag and instead carry all my luggage on with me.