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
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 Chile, Panama, 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
*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.
Photo Jimmy Baikovicius via Flickr
[Article last updated December 12 2016]