I know that this won’t make sense to 99% of you out there, but as a hopelessly obsessed airplane/airline nerd, there’s something exciting about flying on a new airline for the first time. This would be my first trip with LAN, and I had heard nothing but great things about their longhaul J product.
There wasn’t much traffic on the way out to the airport from the city, and I got there with tons of time to spare. I walked up and down the check-in area trying to find the LAN Business counters with no luck. Finally, I asked an airport employee, who informed me, that LAN has a separate premium check-in area, which is all the way on the left side of the terminal (if you were to be facing the terminal from the street). You walk past the main desks, then through a narrow corridor, and then finally you come to the dedicated LAN premium check-in.
I had called LAN a few weeks before to select my seat. I remember being surprised, because at the time of my call, I had snagged the last window seat in the cabin. I hadn’t expected it to be so crowded that far in advance.
I went up to the counter, confirmed my seat, got my boarding pass and passed along my taped together and very ghetto looking luggage for processing onwards to New York.
With this done, I walked out of the check-in room, and went next door, where LAN has a separate, private security immigration check-point for premium passengers. This is always a nice touch, as no one like waiting on security/immigration lines.
SCL isn’t the busiest of airports in general, and I was going through the premium lines, and it was around three hours before my flight…in short, I was airside with a lot of time to kill.
I poked around duty free for a while and picked up some souvenirs for my family, then ambled over to the LAN lounge. Everything about LAN was first rate, besides the lounges. The dedicated check-in, expedited security & immigration and most importantly the on-board service, both the hard and soft product, were as good as any business class out there. Those are the important things, but the purpose of reviews is to nitpick, and so nitpick I shall.
The lounge at SCL simply isn’t up to par. SCL is LAN’s main hub, this should be the flagship lounge in their entire system, and it simply falls flat. There’s wifi, and fairly ample seating, but the food & beverage options are bordering on nonexistent. The bar should be set higher than simply out performing a domestic lounge when this is your top of the line lounge at your major intercontinental gateway.
That being said, I happily availed myself of the free Cristal beers and free wifi until it was time to board.
I nearly made a HUGE error, when heading to the gate. The gate had been switched for my flight, from what my ticket said. I was lazy, and didn’t check the big board when I started heading to the gate. When I arrived at the gate my ticket told me was the correct one, there was a huge line and the screen was flashing “Boarding.” The screen also said “New York,” so I figured I was in the right place.
Just before I got to the front of the line I looked at the screen more closely and saw it said “New York via Lima.” This was the one stop flight going SCL-LIM-JFK…not my flight at all.
I would like to think that the gate agent would have recognized my error and sent me along, but there’s always a chance I would have boarded and the error might not have been exposed until after my initial flight had already departed.
Since I had not yet approached the bench, I ducked out of line, found a Departures board and located my new gate.
I walked all the way to the end of the terminal, where the gate was, got some snaps of our Boeing 767-300ER and settled in to wait for the boarding call.
At check-in, the desk agent had told me the flight was going to be completely full in business. LAN’s 763’s are laid out 2-2-2 in the J cabin, so at this point, I had abandoned all hope of being able to sit by myself for the 10 or so hour flight to NYC.
I boarded, took my seat, and shortly thereafter a short, balding Chilean man took the aisle seat. We got our amenity kits, menus and PDB drink orders were taken.
Once the trickle of people into the cabin slowed, and it seemed all J pax had already boarded, I surveyed the cabin and noticed that we were not in fact full. There were a few groups of two empty seats together. My seatmate must have seen me casing the cabin or been doing the same thing. When a stewardess came by, we both inquired if some of the 2-packs were open, and if one of us could move, so that we could both have two seats to ourselves. The stew checked the manifest, and told us that this would be fine.
The open 2-packs were all in the middle 2 of the 2-2-2. Both seats in the middle section offer direct aisle access, but I am partial to window seats. As such, I was hoping the guy on the aisle would take the initiative and bail to the middle seats, leaving me the window and the empty aisle.
Fortunately, he did. I’m sure he’s a nice guy and all, but if I can avoid being in close proximity to a stranger for 10 hours hours in a confined space, it’s always a relief to me, and this just ensured that this flight would be very pleasant.
With our new seating plan confirmed, we pushed back, got airborne, and I was on my way back to the USA.
Since LA532 was/is a late night departure, the service began very shortly after we got to our cruising altitude.
During the meal service, I watched Get The Gringo, which if you hopefully haven’t heard of it, is Mel Gibson movie in which he is some sort of criminal who ends up in a Mexican prison. It’s truly terrible, terrible stuff.
While the movie was laughably bad, the meal service was excellent. The brisket was delicious, and the dessert was also a winner. I would rate it as one of the finest business class meals I’ve had on any carrier.
As I’ve mentioned numerous times, no matter how bad a movie is, I need to see the end. So, as the meal service wound down, I kept slogging through Get The Gringo, begging for it to end, so I could put my seat back and go to sleep.
Mercifully, the credits finally began to roll, and it was time for bed. LAN has a very comfortable seat, both for sitting/lounging in, and for sleeping. I’m sure my exhaustion played a role, but I was out minutes after I had put the seat flat and laid down, and I didn’t stir until we were on final approach into JFK.
It’s always bittersweet to come home from a long trip. I miss my family and friends and it’s good to come home and see them, but there’s something deflating about getting off the road. I know some people don’t care for travel, or can only tolerate it in measured doses, but I would stay on the road indefinitely if I could. I like constantly having a new adventure to look forward to, and the normal day to day routine of being home just doesn’t provide that level of excitement.
Even though it was ending, it had been a great trip. Paris-Doha-Tbilisi-Istanbul-Cairo-Barcelona-Sao Paulo-Buenos Aires-Santiago-New York. Four new counties (Qatar, Georgia, Egypt, Chile) and three new airlines (Qatar, EgyptAir, LAN) as well as countless new experiences and tons of new friends.
I knew it wouldn’t be long until I was on the road again.