Go Back  FlyerTalk Forums > Community > Trip Reports
Reload this Page >

From One Extreme to Another: My Journey From Adak, Alaska to Ushuaia, Argentina

From One Extreme to Another: My Journey From Adak, Alaska to Ushuaia, Argentina

Old Apr 12, 07, 3:12 pm
  #1  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Apr 2001
Location: East Ester, Alaska
Programs: Alaska Million Miler, United Million Miler, Wyndham Rewards Diamond, Choice Hotels Diamond
Posts: 11,538
From One Extreme to Another: My Journey From Adak, Alaska to Ushuaia, Argentina

I’ve always liked traveling out to remote corners of the world and this spring’s trip certainly accomplishes that, taking me from Adak Island on the far side of Alaska’s Aleutian Islands to Ushuaia, Argentina, located on the southern side of the Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego at the very bottom of South America. Although Adak is not at the westernmost tip of the Aleutians, a bit of cartographic research reveals that its location at longitude 176.40W means that Adak’s Mitchell Field Airport is the westernmost airport in the world served by commercial air transport. That is until the summertime when seasonal charters operate to Little Diomede Island, just a stone’s throw from the International Date Line, across which lies Russia’s Big Diomede Island. My destination of Ushuaia, Argentina is the southernmost city in the world and so is the bearer of most all of the “southernmost” superlatives one can imagine. Technically speaking however, the southernmost “town” in the world is Chile’s Puerto Williams, but it is more a supply stop for the Chilean navy than a town actually worth visiting.

Were one to fly as directly as possible between Adak and Ushuaia, the minimum number of takeoffs and landings required would be six. Given the current schedules as seen below, one could depart Adak on say, Sunday at 2:16pm and, after stops in King Salmon, Anchorage, Chicago, Miami, Buenos Aires and El Calafate, arrive in Ushuaia on Tuesday at 1:48pm. Adak is six hours earlier than Ushuaia, so the local time back in Adak would be 7:48am. As such, the total travel time would be a about 41˝ hours. For those of you who like a challenge, see if you can come up with a faster, more direct routing than this:


Adak to Anchorage (Includes an enroute stop in King Salmon)
Alaska Airlines #139 2:16pm – 6:45pm
Anchorage to Chicago
Alaska Airlines #130 9:54pm – 6:56am
Seattle to Miami
American Airlines #1048 8:05am – 12:05pm
Miami to Buenos Aires
Aerolineas Argentinas #1303 8:00pm – 5:50am
Buenos Aires – Ushuaia (Flights between BA and Ushuaia stop in Calafate or Rio Gallegos)
Aerolineas Austral #2892 8:50am – 1:48pm


Any of you familiar with my trip reports know that when it comes to getting from one point to another on this big beautiful planet of ours, I generally prefer a bit more roundabout approach. Past examples of this have taken me from Alaska to New Zealand via London, Singapore and Australia or from Vancouver to Las Vegas via St. Johns, Newfoundland. One of my favorite journeys was traveling from Hobart, Tasmania to Durban, South Africa via London, Los Angeles, Alaska, San Francisco, New York, Vancouver, Edmonton, Hong Kong and Johannesburg. All that in just twelve days.

Many friends and colleagues think I’m crazy to put so much time and effort into getting there when I could be spending that time enjoying being there. I prefer to think of my approach not as crazy but rather as adventurous. From the day I first ever settled into an airplane seat (a United Caravelle at age four), or took a long road trip (we drove from Colorado to California when I was four) or rode a train, (I rode the California Zephyr from Denver to Glenwood Springs, Colorado when I was ten) I’ve been fascinated with the mechanisms and performance of travel. Robert Lewis Stevenson sums it up best with this now famous quote:

For my part, I travel not to go anywhere
But to go.
The great affair is to move.

Robert Lewis Stevenson


For guys like Stevenson and myself, half the fun (and occasionally most of the fun) is in getting there. When I get to Ushuaia, I’ll generally do all the same things that most every other visitor does, and likely have a very good time doing so. I will not however be writing about any of that. The focus of this trip report will be on what I’ve experienced whilst getting from Adak to Ushuaia, particularly with regard to planes, trains and busses ridden upon over the course of the journey. If along the way I should visit a museum or two, take a hike, ride a donkey somewhere or go on a raft trip, it will also get mention. Above all however, the great affair is to move. Over the next seventeen days I’ll be traveling approximately fifteen thousand two hundred and forty miles aboard a variety of Boeing jetliners, Brazilian built busses and rural railroads. There’ll be plenty to write about so make yourselves comfortable, fasten your seatbelts and let’s get this trip report on the road.

Note 1 For those who could care less about the journey and more about what to do in Ushuaia or points in between, a simple query on your favorite search engine will deliver hours of reading pleasure via a plethora of nicely written travelogues and blogs.

Note 2 Photos can be found HERE. I hope to add more photos and edit them with comments in the coming days. Thanks for your patience.

Note 3 Finally, I’d hoped to get this out as one entire trip report, but I’ve been so busy enjoying the trip that I regret I haven’t been able put as much attention to this effort as I’d like. As such, the first published part of this report will deal with travel between Adak and Arica, Chile. I hope to have the remainder up within the week.
Seat 2A is offline  
Old Apr 12, 07, 3:13 pm
  #2  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Apr 2001
Location: East Ester, Alaska
Programs: Alaska Million Miler, United Million Miler, Wyndham Rewards Diamond, Choice Hotels Diamond
Posts: 11,538
March 25, 2007
Adak Island to Anchorage via AKN
Anchorage to Fairbanks
Alaska Airlines Economy Class
737-200 N742AS Flight Time: :2:27 / :42 / :41


Although this Trip Report starts in Adak, my travels actually began earlier in the day when I boarded N742AS, one of two remaining 737-200s that Alaska Airlines still flies. Alaska won’t be flying them much longer, however. Thursday, March 29th will mark the final revenue flight for Alaska’s 737-200s. After that, it’s off to storage in the California desert until some third world carrier returns them to service or they get scrapped out for parts. The “Baby Boeings” or “Mudhens” as Alaska crews affectionately call them have provided reliable freight and combi service to rural Alaska destinations for nearly thirty years. My first flight on an Alaska 737-200 came in 1984. Since then I’ve logged thirty-two flights aboard Alaska’s models, only once in a pure passenger configuration. I’ll be sorry to see this little workhorse go, but happy to know that at least three or four of Alaska’s fleet are young enough to escape the scrapper’s torch for at least another few years.

As I exited the Boardroom and headed down toward gate C-8, I thought I heard someone call my name. Nah, it’s probably just the voices in my head, I thought, and then paused briefly to double check the flight departure time on an airport monitor. I heard my name called again – this time distinctly. I turned around and lo and behold, there was FlyerTalk’s very own eastwest, come along for the ride to Adak and back. I’d emailed him about my passing through Anchorage and possibly getting together but as I hadn’t heard back from him before I left for Anchorage yesterday, I figured he couldn’t make it. Well, I hadn’t seen eastwest in about four years and at first didn’t recognize him since he’d grown his hair out a good quarter inch, but it was good to meet up again, especially under these circumstances. I’m generally a solo traveler, but it’s always fun to meet up with friends enroute, especially on a plane when it’s unexpected.

Anyway, let’s flash forward to Adak where, following a brief stop in King Salmon, we landed on a fairly decent day by Aleutian standards. The Aleutians are known for some of the consistently worst weather in the world. Many a plane has crashed on their rugged peaks and many a ship has foundered off their rocky shores. Joining us on today’s flight into Adak was a salvage crew come to tow a recently damaged ship out to sea and sink it. The ship had struck an undersea rock just off the coast of Adak and was deemed a wreck.



On the ramp at King Salmon



Windblown remnants of a sign at Adak Airport


With about an hour and forty-minutes in Adak to look forward to, eastwest and I decided to go out and explore the “town” of Adak. Adak has an interesting history. Following the Japanese bombing of Dutch Harbor in 1942 and the subsequent invasion of Attu and Kiska in the western Aleutian islands, Adak was built up as a military base. At its peak, 90,000 troops were housed here to turn back any Japanese invasion of Alaska.

After the war, Adak became a strategic military communications and surveillance post. In 1995, the Base Realignment and Closure Act resulted in the closure of Adak as a military facility. At that time, the population of Adak was over 6,000 military and support personnel and their families. By the time the 2000 census was completed, Adak’s population showed a total of 316 residents. I’ve recently read however that now the permanent population of the island has dropped to about seventy people.

I thought it pretty interesting that Adak is on the books as Alaska’s newest incorporated community. Incorporated, you say? That’s right. The title of the military property and facilities officially changed hands from the US Navy to the Aleutian Development Corporation in 2004.

These days, Adak relies primarily upon fishing for its livelihood, though occasional groups of well to do birders will also stop in. I say well to do because Adak is one of the most expensive places in the world to fly to. Thank goodness for Alaska Airlines’ great instate mileage awards or I’d be paying over $500.00 each way to get here – this despite the fact that the government subsidizes Alaska’s twice a week service from Anchorage.

As we walked into what looked like a 1980s suburban housing area from outside Fargo, North Dakota, I was reminded of a scene from the Andromeda Strain when these scientists walk into a town that looks perfectly normal but it’s not. All the people are dead. Or gone. Walking through suburban Adak delivered the same eerie feeling, particularly since you could still see furniture and lamps visible in the windows. Children’s swings and slides sat abandoned in the yards and the cold wind whistling amongst the houses was the only sound to be heard.




Suburban Adak



Suburban Adak


Eventually, we came across The Store, aptly named since it is the only store on the island. It was stocked with a surprising variety of sundry items and foods, though it was a bit light on the fruit and vegetable selection. Laundry and shower services were also available along with Internet access for only $15.00 per half hour!




Now that is expensive internet!


The temperature was a brisk 36° but the weather was otherwise fairly decent with a mixture of clouds and sun. Interestingly, it was sunny when we’d walked into The Store, but when we exited five minutes later, it was into a totally gray world of wind and snow with visibility diminished to about fifty yards. It was a miniature blizzard! Ten minutes later it was sunny again.

Further wanderings about town took us to the impressive looking buildings that housed Adak’s High School, gym and library. We went inside and discovered that Adak’s Housing Authority was also located here. Adak has neither hotels nor B&B’s, but it is nonetheless possible to rent via the Housing Authority some of the suburban townhouses for just $175.00 per night single occupancy. Two or more people can rent them for $225.00 per night. They come fully furnished and include such luxuries as cable TV and dishwashers. One can also rent four wheeled ATVs for just $125.00 per day or an old Navy car for just $90.00 per day. As one might imagine, there are not many roads on the island and the local Native Corporation, which owns much of the land, frowns upon ATV use across its lands. Also, there’s the issue of unexploded ordnance left over from the Navy days. All this notwithstanding, I’d love to come to Adak for a month with a box of books and assorted projects to keep me busy. There’s an attractive desolation about this place that I really like.




Adak High School, Library and Community Center


A quick glance at our watches told us that we’d better start heading back to the airport. If we were to miss the flight back to Anchorage, the next one out wouldn’t be until Thursday, four days hence. Eastwest’s status as an Alaska Airlines employee cut him no slack with Adak’s Housing Authority, either. There were no discounted airline industry rates on those townhouses.




Adak Airport as seen from "downtown" Adak


Adak’s airport terminal is functional and comfortable, but otherwise bereft of any services other than a Coke machine along one wall. In one corner of the terminal is a nice collection of couches that I dubbed “The Boardroom”, and there we sat until boarding was announced at about 2:45pm.




Relaxing in the Adak Airport "Boardroom"

With only two commercial flights a week, it’s hardly worth providing Adak with two full time TSA employees, especially considering the cost of housing. So what happens is that the two TSA agents from King Salmon join us for the flight out to Adak and back. While in Adak, they inspect the cargo that arrived on the incoming flight, then inspect passengers and cargo heading out of Adak. An Alaska Airlines mechanic also joins us for the roundtrip from Anchorage just in case anything of a mechanical nature should go wrong.





N742AS Awaits on the ramp at Adak


Eastwest and I were amongst the last to board and as we entered the airplane, we were assaulted with the distinct aroma of dead fish. There were perhaps thirty people flying out of Adak this afternoon and I would guess that ninety percent of them had just come off the boat. Like any locker room however, it wasn’t long before we got used to the smell and by the time we became airborne it wasn’t an issue.




Taxiing out to the runway at Adak



Lining up for takeoff



Climbing away from Adak


Flight time to King Salmon was announced at one hour and fifty-three minutes, substantially faster than the 2:27 it took us to fly out to Adak. Gotta love those tailwinds! The climb out of Adak was quite pretty and I spent the first ten minutes of the flight snapping picture after picture of the rugged snow covered islands passing beneath us.



Enroute up the Aleutian Island Chain to King Salmon



Water, Ice & Currents make great art off King Salmon


The 910 mile flight from Adak to King Salmon may be the only flight in Alaska’s system where a complimentary meal is still offered to all passengers. Our Flight Attendant Patty treated eastwest and I like royalty, plying us with ice cold Alaskan Ambers followed by hot turkey and cheese sandwiches accompanied by delicious Alaskan made potato chips. Eastwest was also pleased by the many bags of Spinzels bestowed upon him by Patty and myself. I’ve never been a big fan of pretzels and forgot to bring my usual ration of almonds. Thankfully, there were plenty of chips and sandwiches to go around, so many in fact that we were all offered seconds.




Lining up for final into Anchorage International


We arrived back in Anchorage on a pretty spring evening. I had about an hour layover for my connecting flight to Fairbanks and offered to “buy” eastwest a beer in Alaska’s Boardroom. Unfortunately, he had to decline since, as an Alaska Airline employee, he’s not allowed in the Boardroom, even as a guest. I suggested one off those plastic Groucho Marx nose and glasses get-ups but he’d have none of it. We parted ways in the concourse, hopefully to rendezvous again someday sooner than the four years that separated our last meeting.

I had one free day in Fairbanks before continuing on with my journey. I spent that afternoon at the Ice Park looking at the entries from this year’s World Ice Carving Championships. Check out the photos!




Russian Dancers



Frozen Mantis



Mountain Sheep



Mountain Goats

Last edited by Seat 2A; Nov 8, 14 at 6:46 pm
Seat 2A is offline  
Old Apr 12, 07, 3:16 pm
  #3  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Apr 2001
Location: East Ester, Alaska
Programs: Alaska Million Miler, United Million Miler, Wyndham Rewards Diamond, Choice Hotels Diamond
Posts: 11,538
March 27, 2007
Fairbanks to Seattle via ANC
Alaska Airlines First Class * Dinner
737-900 N306AS Seat 2A
347p – 1007p Flight Time: :42 / 2:57


Now that I’m officially underway on this journey from the Far West to the Deep South, it seemed appropriate that this morning I should have breakfast in the Northernmost Denny’s in the World. Now don’t get me wrong – it’s not like I’m a Denny’s groupie or anything, but I know I’ve eaten at the southernmost Denny’s in the world, located in Christchurch, New Zealand, and quite possibly I’ve eaten at the Westernmost Denny’s as well if the Hawaiian operations in Kihei, Lahaina or Honolulu count. Denny’s may not be a great place to bring a date, but they make a decent breakfast and the coffee is quite acceptable as diner coffee goes. I suppose someday I might as well go for all four extremes and find the easternmost Denny’s wherever that is, but that’s another trip report. For the restaurant forum.

My neighbor dropped me off at Fairbanks International (Remind me to buy him a six-pack of Molson for that courtesy…) and I headed up to the empty ticket counter to check-in. For my transportation to South America and back, I’m cashing in 75,000 Alaska Mileage Plan miles towards a LAN Chile Business Class award. This award entitles me to First Class accommodations aboard Alaska Airlines to the gateway city, so I headed straight to the First Class / MVP counter. The three agents gathered there were having a lively conversation but as I approached one of them quickly broke away to assist me. A baggage tag was issued all the way to Iquique, Chile – four flights worth over three separate days. This seemed like a good way to end up with lost baggage, so I asked that my pack be checked only as far as Seattle. I would re-check it tomorrow for points south.

Once inflight aboard the southbound 737-900, I reclined with an ice cold Alaska Amber and enjoyed a nice view of the Alaska Range as we climbed through 25,000 feet and sped down to Anchorage in near record time – just 38 minutes. Thankfully, the seats across from me were empty and I was able to rush over to the window at 2F just in time to get a spectacular shot of Mt. McKinley as we flew by. Our speedy flight down resulted in an early arrival in Anchorage. Faced with an hour and ten minutes until the scheduled departure time to Seattle, I headed upstairs to the Boardroom where another cold beer along with cheese, crackers, vegetables and dip awaited.

Anchorage International is the third busiest cargo airport in the world and it’s common to see new and old 747s painted in the colors of airlines like Cargo 360, Kalitta, Evergreen, NCA, Korean, Polar, Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines. In addition there are the large herds of Fed Ex and UPS jumbos resting quietly at the far end of the airport. Today’s highlights for me were MD-11s from EVA, World and China Eastern.

The load down to Seattle was very light this evening, so boarding was accomplished fairly quickly. Weight and balance issues meant ten people had to switch from the front of the main cabin to seats behind the exit rows. This also meant that two seats in the First Class cabin had to remain empty, no doubt disappointing a couple of potential upgrades.

It was a spectacular evening for flying out of Anchorage – clear and sunny – the kind of evening that comes along only once in a very great while during the winter and spring months. From my logbook, I know that this is the 227th time I’ve flown between Anchorage and Seattle. From all those flights, I’ve only experienced maybe fifteen days like this. I’ll never tire of the view. I snapped off picture after picture as we climbed out over the rugged Chugach Mountains and continued down the Coastal Range and past the St. Elias Mountains. Once we’d leveled out, I made a brief visit to the lav and upon returning to my seat was surprised to see that nobody on the scenic side of the plane was looking out their windows. Everyone appeared to be either reading or sleeping. Honestly, I’ve flown enough that this shouldn’t surprise me, but it still does given the beautiful panorama just outside our windows. Such beauty shouldn’t be taken for granted.

In the not so distant past, First Class passengers on Alaska’s evening flights to Seattle would have looked forward to a beverage service with nuts followed by a three course dinner that would have included an individual salad course, a choice of hot entrees and a tasty plated dessert. Alas, the fiscal realities of trying to operate profitably in today’s U.S. airline environment have resulted in severe cutbacks to inflight services, particularly catering. This is especially noticeable aboard an airline like Alaska that accrues very little extra income from its First Class cabin. Unlike most of the other major carriers who dole out a few mileage based electronic upgrades to all but their highest level elites, Alaska allows unlimited complimentary upgrades to all of its elites throughout their eligibility. Even on the most discounted fares, MVP Golds can upgrade three days out and mere MVPs can upgrade the day before. Non elites, who must pay for their upgrades, often find none are available because they’ve all been designated – for free – to the elite passengers. The result is that Alaska’s elite Mileage Plan members enjoy a great deal, but very little full fare or upgrade related revenue is generated in the First Class cabin. The quality of the catering in Alaska’s First Class cabin absolutely reflects this. Unfortunately, so does the seat pitch.

Tonight’s dinner was a warm ham and cheese sandwich with a decent side salad. Dessert was a little piece of chocolate, about the size of a fifty-cent piece. Drinks were offered prior to the meal, but neither nuts nor pretzels were offered to accompany the drinks.

The flight time of 2:57 meant that after dinner I had about an hour and a half to lay down the foundation for this trip report and start reporting on my departure from Adak two days ago.


March 28, 2007
Seattle to Los Angeles
Alaska Airlines First Class * Breakfast
737-900 N305AS Seat 2D
805a – 1047a Flight Time: 1:53


Today marks the first time I’ll get to enjoy a seat in an International caliber premium class cabin since traveling in First Class aboard British Airways between Melbourne and Los Angeles last February 2006. To be sure, Business Class on LAN Chile’s 767 is a fair step down from First Class on BA’s 747, but it’s heads and tails above anything I’ve experienced aboard the over one hundred and forty domestic U.S. flights I’ve flown in the interim.

Be it for business or pleasure, many FlyerTalk members get to enjoy premium class travel on a more regular basis than I ever will. For most, it represents nothing more than transportation in a style to which they’ve now become accustomed - hardly exciting enough to bother writing a trip report about, much less reading about someone else’s experiences. I understand. Indeed, I am just a little bit envious of anyone who has flown so many premium class flights that they are now jaded towards the entire experience. Personally speaking however, I hope I never lose my excitement about flying, particularly when it means sitting in a large, comfortable seat while enjoying a nice glass of wine, a good meal and the beautiful view aloft. As such, this trip report, like all of my others, is written for those of you who, be it the view and/or the service, still truly enjoy the wonder of flight, even if its in coach but particularly when its in the forward cabin.

Today’s flight down to Los Angeles marks my fiftieth flight on a 737-900. Although I’ve logged over 850 flights on all models of the 737, all but two of my flights aboard the –900 model have come aboard Alaska Airlines. Boeing’s largest 737 is indeed a rare bird in North America with only two airlines – Alaska and Continental – operating it. Worldwide, less than a dozen other airlines fly it.

Don’t you just love it when you board your flight and find someone sitting in your seat? Today’s intruder was a middle-aged woman who claimed she always gets assigned a window seat and so never bothered to check her boarding pass. Cynic that I am, I suspected this wasn’t the first time she’d used that line but I told her I’d be fine in the aisle seat.

Catering cutbacks not withstanding, those of us in First Class this morning were served an excellent breakfast. It consisted of scrambled eggs with diced ham and asparagus atop an English Muffin. The eggs were moist and the overall presentation was much nicer than many other breakfasts I’ve been served on Alaska. Well done, Alaska Airlines!

Flight time to Los Angeles was a speedy 1:53. Along the way we were treated to a beautiful view of Mt. Shasta, which I managed to photograph without disturbing my seatmate who slept through most of the flight. We landed on a bright sunny California morning and taxied briskly to gate 30. I collected my backpack from baggage claim and then hiked next door to the Tom Bradley International Terminal.


March 28, 2007
Los Angeles to Lima
LAN Chile Business Class * Dinner
767-300 CC-CML Seat 1A
205p – 1230a Flight Time: 7:47


More than a few FlyerTalkers have expressed their dismay at having to fly into or out of LAX’s Tom Bradley International Terminal. Personally, I’ve never found the facility to be all that bad. Have I seen better terminals? Of course. On the whole however, my flights into and out of the TBIT have goon smoothly.

LAN Chile’s check-in counters were easily located and check-in was accomplished quickly and easily. However, the wait to have security clear my backpack was unnecessarily long. I say unnecessarily because all passengers, regardless of class, were being instructed to take their baggage over to the baggage screening area. Cathay Pacific, whose counters were located next to LAN’s, had a Hong Kong bound 747 leaving at about the same time as the LAN flight, so the line for baggage inspection was quite long – about a twenty minute wait. Just as I was thinking that they really should have an expedited service for premium class passengers, a uniformed airport employee called out for any First or Business class passengers on Cathay Pacific to get out of line and follow him. Since he wasn’t wearing a CX uniform, I thought I’d ask if his offer might also apply to those of us flying on LAN Chile.

“Are you traveling in First or Business Class?” he asked.
“Yes indeed”, I replied.
“Please come with me” he said and I joined four other passengers as we were led to another area where our bags were promptly inspected and we were sent on our way. It would have been nice however if LAN’s counter staff had made this service known to us at time of check-in.

During the check-in process I was issued an invitation to the First Class lounge, located landside just above the main departures level. Prior to the flight, I’d been curious if LAN Chile operated their own lounge at LAX or shared someone else’s. I still don’t know the answer to that question because apparently all of the TBIT lounges are being renovated. Based upon my own experiences and those of other FTers whose trip reports I’ve read, this action is long overdue. Most of the old TBIT lounges were small and stuffy, so I would hope that any renovations also include an increase in lounge size.

Until the new lounges are opened, a single lounge is available. Airport signs identify it as a First Class lounge, but the receptionist told me it that serves both First and Business Class passengers. Interestingly, there is a sign indicating a Business Class lounge at gate 118, but aside from the gate area itself, there is no other evidence of a lounge as I know it. Since gate 118 is served only by busses that take you out to remotely parked aircraft, perhaps the Business Class lounge is located remotely as well. I rather doubt this, but from what I’ve read of the TBIT, you never know…

As to the single lounge serving all TBIT airlines, it is about the size of Northwest’s WorldClub in Terminal 2 and, as one might imagine, it is a bit crowded. Were only one or two airlines sharing it, it would be fine. With numerous airlines using it however, seating is indeed limited. On a positive note, the large windows and potted plants improved the otherwise crowded atmosphere considerably. Following a brief search, I was able to locate a single seat amidst a row of five along a far wall. I placed my gear there and headed off to the buffet to check out the offerings.

By true First Class standards the buffet was a bit lacking, but I thought it was more than acceptable by Business Class standards. A variety of sushi was available, and included all the traditional trimmings. The nearby fridge was stocked with pre-packaged sandwiches such as Pastrami Ruebens, Smoked Salmon and Monterrey Chicken. Instant Cup of Noodles, Noodle Bowls and cold cereals were also available, along with the usual snack items such as cheese, crackers and peanuts. A self-service bar offered a variety of decent liqueurs and spirits, and the fridge was filled with nicely chilled mini-bottles of Corona and Heineken along with cans of Kirin, Budweiser, Bud Light and all the usual non-alcoholic beverages.

I didn’t see any Internet or workstations around, but the lounge is set up for free wi-fi and the reception staff quickly offered to provide me the access code when I checked in. I should add that while this lounge may be undersized, it is very well staffed. The reception desk had three receptionists and there was always someone in the lounge clearing away used plates and glasses or restocking the buffet.

Because the lounge is located landside, I decided I’d better head out a bit earlier than I would from an airside lounge. The reception staff assured me that I could leave as late as 1:15pm and easily make my flight, but given the vicissitudes of airport security, particularly in an international terminal, I thought it prudent to leave a bit earlier, i.e. 12:45pm.

Surprisingly, my journey through security went very smoothly, taking no more than five minutes to get through. Although my flight was already boarding, I took the extra time to call a couple of friends and brag on my lot in life before heading down to gate 112 and boarding the jam packed bus. As the agent collected my boarding pass, she informed me that there would be an aircraft switch in Lima and that we would be transferring to an A340. This was excellent news for not only had I never flown aboard LAN’s A340 but if my original seat assignment of 1A were to be honored in Lima, and I was told it would be, I’d be seated in the A340’s First Class cabin.

Our aircraft was parked out at the vary last remote gate, so during the bus ride out to the gate we were treated to close up views of other remotely parked aircraft that included 747-400s from Qantas, Cathay Pacific and Malaysian along with an Air Tahiti Nui A340-300.

The last time I departed from a remote gate at LAX was thirteen years ago, coincidentally while flying LAN Chile to Santiago via Mexico City and Lima. That aircraft, a 767-200 production built for LAN Chile, now flies back and forth between London and Newark wearing the livery of the new all-Business Class airline SilverJet. Since leaving the services of LAN Chile in 1996, it has served Trans Brasil, Air Madagascar and the Cameroon Government. It then spent almost two years parked in the desert in Victorville, California before FlyJet, the parent company of SilverJet, returned it to service across the Atlantic.

Our remote gate at LAX was housed in a small building with a jetway attached to the airplane. There was no gate lounge type seating inside. Instead, we proceeded directly off the bus into the building where we walked up a long ramp to get to the jetway. The line inside the jetway was long and I was thankful that it wasn’t a hot day.

As for the aircraft operating this flight, it was a nine year old 767-300 that had first seen service with the Russian carrier Trans Aero before moving on to serve LAPA, Southern Winds and Air Atlanta Icelandic. LAN Chile took delivery of it in 2004. From the outside, it looked quite smart in LAN’s attractive blue, white and silver livery. Indeed, it looked clean and shiny enough to have come off the production line just last week. Despite its multiple owners, this plane was in the prime of its life.

Over the past year, LAN has been refurbishing its 767-300 fleet by removing the old First and Business Class cabins and replacing them with a single Business Class cabin branded as Premium Business Class. The improvements include:


 Sleeper seats that offer 180-degree full-flat recline
 A backshell that surrounds each seat, providing improved privacy and quietness
 Seat pitch has been increased to 74 inches
 Dividing panels between seats allow for maximum privacy
 Four pre-programmed seating positions
 15.4 inch high resolution video monitors mounted in each seatback
 AVOD IFE offering 30 movies, 20 short programs, 14 video games, 10 audio channels and 100 music CDs
 Noise canceling headsets
 Arm rests that lower when changing the seat position to a bed, resulting in a five-inch greater width for sleeping


I had read about these improvements at LAN’s website as well as at FlyerTalk’s South American Airlines forum, and I was very much looking forward to trying out the new service. However, I tempered my excitement with reports that as of January 1st, less than half of LAN’s 767 fleet had been refurbished.

Upon boarding, I was greeted at the door by a pair of pretty, dark haired Flight Attendants who inspected my boarding pass and directed me to my seat by pointing to the Business Class cabin. Unfortunately, boarding was through door 1L, so the normally quieter, less hectic pre-flight solitude of the forward cabin was shattered as throngs of Economy Class passengers trudged through on their journey to the nether regions of the aircraft.

On a more positive note, I am happy to report that today’s aircraft, CC-CML, had been very nicely refurbished to the new Premium Business Class standard. The overall effect was very positive. The new cabin is comprised of five rows of 2-2-2 configured seats upholstered in subdued blue and grey patterned fabric. The video monitors are indeed huge and the faux cherry wood wall panels lend a nice, if somewhat sharp accent to the cabin.

A prepackaged blanket and pillow were at each bulkhead seat, though for the non-bulkhead rows these were stored in a floor level storage space located in each seatback. As I was stowing my gear away, a Flight Attendant stopped by to relieve me of my jacket. A couple of minutes later, another one stopped by with a tray bearing glasses of Champagne, water and orange juice. Following long established tradition I selected a glass of Champagne, the perfect preflight libation for premium class travel regardless of transport.

Amenity kits were presented next. Each kit was packaged in an attractive grey nylon case that measured about 8” X 5” X 2.5”. The case opened into three sections. Here are the ingredients:


SECTION ONE
2oz tube of L’Occitane Ultra Rich Cream
2oz tube of L’Occitane Dry Skin Hand Cream
2gm dispenser of L’Occitane Anti-Drying Lip Balm
Folding Mirror

SECTION TWO
Cotton eye mask
Cotton socks
Nylon carrying bag

SECTION THREE
Toothbrush with tiny toothpaste
Packet of soft tissues
Packet of earplugs
Comb
Shoe horn


By Business Class standards, this is a pretty nice kit. However, aside from the toothpaste, eye mask and socks, I rarely if ever use any of the other items included. Even for this trip I’ve got my own toothpaste, toothbrush and eye mask with me, so - as with all the other kits I’ve compiled from my many flights with British Airways and Cathay Pacific, this one will make a nice stocking stuffer for next Christmas.

In the seat pocket in front of me was LAN’s distinctive cork covered wine list. The dinner menu had been inserted inside. Most airlines do this the other way around, placing the smaller wine list inside or presenting it along with the larger menu. However, quality wines have been synonymous with Chile for some years now and so LAN takes great pride in the quality of its inflight cellar. I can’t imagine a more appropriate housing for a wine list than LAN’s cork covered booklet. All of the wines within were very nicely presented with a photo of each bottle and a detailed description of each wine. Let’s have a look:


WINE LIST

Champagne

Henriot Brut Souverain

White Wines
Sauvignon Blanc 2006, Vina Litoral Ventolera ~ Valle de Leyda
Montes Alpha, Chardonnay 2005, Vina Montes ~ Valle de Casablanca


Red Wines
Don Ensamblaje 2003, Vina Santa Helena ~ Valle de Colchagua
B Crux, Ensamblaje 2003, Bodega O. Fournier ~ Mendoza, Argentina
Antu Ninquen, Cabernet Sauvignon 2004, Vina Montgras ~ Valle de Colchagua


Port
Graham’s Late Bottled Vintage 1997


The Captain made a short announcement – first in Spanish, then in excellent English welcoming us all aboard and informing us that flight time down to Lima was estimated to be about seven hours and fifty minutes. No significant turbulence was expected, so we should be in for a fine afternoon of flying. Announcements like this are music to my ears and while I would like to have celebrated it with another glass of Champagne, no refills were forthcoming.

Shortly thereafter, a Flight Attendant stopped by to take my meal order. Interestingly, despite my appearance and surname not looking or sounding anywhere near Spanish, neither she nor any other member of the crew ever addressed me in anything but Spanish. Perhaps the fact that I responded in passable Spanish to the initial greeting and pre-departure beverage offer resulted in the crew feeling no need to address me in English but I found it surprising that initially at least, English was not spoken. Indeed, aside from the captain, none of the cabin crew sounded at all comfortable speaking English and what of it they did speak was very rough.

Between either physical appearance and/or the crew’s familiarity with the smaller passenger manifests in the forward cabin, it shouldn’t be all that difficult to determine who speaks English and who doesn’t. When flying to or from an English speaking country, I think it would certainly behoove an airline that strives to be one of the world’s best to have at least one or two members of the cabin crew proficient in the language of that country.

Now about those entrée choices, I was so taken with the wine menu that I hadn’t yet taken the time to look over the luncheon menu. I explained as much to the Flight Attendant who waited patiently with pen and paper while I perused the afternoon’s meal options:


LUNCHEON

To Start

Champagne “Henriot Brut Souverain”

APPETIZERS

A Great Flavor

Smoked Salmon Tartar, served with marinated tomatoes, steamed asparagus and its salad

Comforting and Fresh
Cream of Asparagus soup

Seasonal Salad
Fresh salad, prepared with a variety of selected seasonal vegetables

Bread Basket
Make your own selection from our bread basket – white bread, whole wheat bread, home made puff pastry crackers and grissini


AS THE MAIN ENTRÉE, WE OFFER

Grilled Filet of Beef

Grilled filet of beef medallion, served with red wine sauce, sautéed vegetables and steamed parslied potatoes
Our Master Sommelier suggests Don Ensamblaje 2003, Vina Santa Helena – Valle de Colchagua

From The Sea
Creamy rice with Parmesan cheese, vegetables and selected shrimp
Our Master Sommelier suggests Montes Alpha, Chardonnay 2005
Vina Montes – Valle de Casablanca


Our Pasta
Home made selected vegetable ravioli, served in a creamy chive and mushroom sauce
Our Master Sommelier suggests B Crux, Ensamblaje 2003
Bodega O. Fournier – Mendoza, Argentina



* * * * * * * * *

Cheeses
Assorted cheeses served with dried fruit

Dessert
Home made crème caramel topped with caramel sauce
Selection of fresh seasonal fruit


Afterwards
Freshly brewed gourmet or instant coffee, decaffeinated coffee, tea or herbal teas
Liqueurs




Mmmm… every one of those appetizer selections looked delicious and as I read over each description, I envisioned myself enjoying each and every one of them. Just as I was about to inform the Flight Attendant of my desire to do just that, she informed me that we were only allowed a choice of one appetizer. Something in her tone of voice indicated that she’d probably dealt with gluttonous passengers requesting more than one appetizer before. I got the distinct impression that she took some pleasure in informing me that I was allowed just the single choice.

I felt like Oliver Twist asking Faggin for another bowl of soup when I asked “If there are any extras after you’ve taken the orders, may I order one of those as well?”

“No.”

Her answer and brusque demeanor brokered neither argument nor appeal, so I ordered the salmon appetizer, followed by the grilled filet of beef. Even dessert required a choice, which was surprising since most premium class services offer fruit anyway after the meal. Of course I chose the unhealthy dessert option.

One more busload of passengers boarded, and by 2:00pm the jetway had been retracted and we felt the first mild jolt as the tractor began to push us back and away from the gate. The thirty seat Business Class cabin was only about half full. In fact, with only two exceptions, everyone seated along each window had the seat next to them empty. Unfortunately, I was one of the exceptions. Back in row two, a center pair of two seats sat empty and I eyed them conspicuously, hoping that my seatmate might also take note and consider them himself. After all, he was closer to them and didn’t have a window anyway.

As we turned and positioned ourselves for takeoff, I couldn’t help but notice the large 24R on the runway. Now some trip reporters consistently mention runway numbers, something that I’ve rarely bothered to do if only because I’ve rarely if ever bothered to noticed the number anyway. Even so, I can’t help but wonder if there might be a contingent of readers out there who get some thrill from knowing details of this nature.

“Hey honey – check this out. The guy writing this trip report took off from LAX on runway 24! What do you mean, so what? That’s the exact same runway we took off from when we flew to Hawaii last month. That is so cool!”

Well if there are enough such readers, all you need do is let me know in the reply section following this report and if the response is sufficiently overwhelming, I’ll be happy to include runway numbers on a more regular basis in my reports.

One thing worthy of note about taking off from LAX on runway 24R is that you immediately climb out over the Pacific ocean, so those fortuitous enough to have selected a window seat are treated to a beautiful vista of the southern California coastline regardless of which side of the airplane they’re seated on.

A 25” television screen mounted in the center bulkhead was turned on to the AirShow map and between the screen and the views out my window I watched with interest as we turned south and proceeded down to coast towards San Diego and Ensenada. I’m quite familiar with that land down there and so it was interesting to watch it glide by and know exactly where we were as we continued to climb towards our ultimate cruising altitude of 35,000 ft.

About forty minutes into the flight, hot towels were presented. My towel was warm but otherwise completely devoid of moisture. I mentioned it to the Flight Attendant who took it, offered no apologies, and returned five minutes later with table linen for the luncheon service. Surprisingly, no initial beverage service was offered.

The menu indicated that the meal would begin with a glass of Champagne. That never happened. Instead, after the table linens were placed, we were presented with trays bearing our appetizer selection, a cheese plate and the dessert. LAN’s new service includes stylish new porcelain plates and bowls which I thought looked quite classy, a nice improvement over old angular dishes of years past. As to the salmon appetizer, it was a real winner! Moist, flavorful and beautifully presented, it likely would have been nicely received in most any terrestrial restaurant. Our beverage selections – the ones that we’d requested with the meal - were then presented with the appetizer tray.

The filet was, like most airline meats, a bit well done but not overly so. The red wine sauce compensated nicely for any moisture related shortcomings and over all, I was pleased with the entrée.

By the way, my wine selection was the Don Ensamblaje 2003. Wow! I could practically live on that delicious elixir! It was rich and full bodied, most definitely a wine that I will try to purchase a case of when I get home. Hopefully I’ll have better luck finding it than I did with locating the Warre’s 1986 Old Tawny Port that BA used to proffer to its International First Class clientele. A big additional thank you goes out to all you FTers who emailed me that you’d taken time to look for that port on my behalf. What a crew you are!

Unfortunately, the breadbasket never made an appearance, so our bread selection consisted of a slice of dry white bread and a package of Melba Toast. Thankfully, I was offered a second package of Melba toast to accompany the cheese.

The caramel dessert was essentially a flan with caramel flavored syrup. It was light but flavorful, so I have no complaints. I accompanied the cheese and dessert with a glass of the port, which was okay but hardly memorable. Then again, it wasn’t a regional port. Considering the quality of LAN’s wine cellar, perhaps they might consider providing a locally produced port.

By the time I’d finished the last of my port, we were just off the coast of La Paz, Mexico. The Flight Attendants distributed water bottles throughout the cabin and I decided to check out the flat seat function and take a nap.

I’m very impressed with LAN’s new Business Class seat. There are twelve different positional controls – four of them preset – but the bottom line is that you can maneuver the seat into just about any position you desire. I just hope that all the controls that allow one to do this still work in harmony with one another five years from now.

Oddly enough, I’ve found I sleep better with the back of my seat at a slightly higher angle than the rest of me. I don’t mean a flat seat completely angled like Singapore or Cathay’s new Business Class seats but rather more like a chaise lounge with the bottom half flat and the upper part slightly raised. In any event, I had no difficulty adjusting my seat to the desired position and I subsequently napped soundly for a couple of hours. When I awoke, we were about 500 miles southeast of Acapulco, cruising along at a sprightly 522 mph. I tried to sleep a bit longer but it just wasn’t gonna happen. At this point I’m sure my inability to sleep had nothing to do with the seat but was instead due to the fact that it was only about 6:00pm California time. In normal day to day life, I wake up in the morning and go to bed at night. I never nap.

So – since further sleep was out of the question, I decided to check out the movie guide. LAN has installed an AVOD system onboard its newly configured 767s. The TV screen looks a lot bigger than the advertised 15.4”. It’s a huge improvement over the little 6” screens that LAN used to offer and certainly better than anything I’ve experienced on any US carriers, many of whom seem to think that DigiPlayers are the best thing since sliced bread. Maybe for domestic flights, but AVOD is where it’s at for International standard First or Business Class.

The new entertainment system offers thirty different movies along with twenty-five different television shows, cartoons and documentaries. All movies and television shows are available in Spanish and English, and some movies are also available in either German, French, Portuguese or Japanese. The movie selection included recently released movies such as Casino Royale, The Queen, The Departed and Flags of Our Fathers along with some not so new films such as Mrs. Doubtfire, Big, Runaway Jury, Sideways, I am Sam and Master & Commander. I decided to watch Casino Royale. My neighbor had loaned this movie to me last week, but I’d never got around to watching it. How fortuitous that I should now have the opportunity to do so just a couple of days later.

Casino Royale runs over two hours in length, so by the time it was over, we were only about an hour from landing in Lima. It was time for the Midnight Snack:


MIDNIGHT SNACK

To Start

Orange juice, coffee or tea

Gourmet Sandwich
Roast beef and cheddar cheese sandwich served on white bread

Our Sweets
Home made carrot and walnut cake
Fresh seasonal fruit



There are no choices here – you get what’s offered and that’s that. The “Gourmet Sandwich” was no larger than a dinner roll and was in fact served on what appeared to be a multi-grain roll. The roast beef and cheese filling was quite tasty though, and the carrot and walnut cake was good as well.

We made a nice smooth landing in Lima and were parked at the gate about twenty minutes ahead of schedule. Through passengers to Santiago were reminded of the aircraft switch, which thankfully would be departing from the gate next door. Unfortunately, exiting the aircraft and repositioning next door meant walking down the length of the terminal, heading down couple flights of stairs, then climbing up another two flights of stairs where we went through a security checkpoint before once again being released into the departure area of the terminal.

By now it was about 12:30am and the onward flight to Santiago was not scheduled to depart until 1:45am. Lima’s airport looks like a decent enough place to while away an hour or two, though. It’s bright and well lit with a nice variety of shops and a good looking restaurant and bar. It also offers a lounge called the VIP Club Lounge. Neither the cabin crew nor LAN’s ground staff ever indicated to the Business Class passengers that a lounge would be available in Lima and so far as I knew, none was. Thankfully however, my Priority Pass membership was accepted at this lounge, so I checked in and then spent the next forty-five minutes with a cold beer and a good wi-fi connection. I should also note that LAN’s Business Class passengers are indeed welcome in this lounge. It sure would be nice if LAN’s staff would inform them of that fact, especially since there are no signs outside the lounge clearly indicating its use for LAN passengers.


March 29, 2007
Lima to Santiago
LAN Chile Business Class * Breakfast
A340-300 CC-CEX Seat 1A
145a – 605a Flight Time: 2:53


At about 1:15am, I signed off the Internet, finished my beer and headed out to gate. Out the windows, I could make out the two engines on each wing of the aircraft parked at 19. Awright! My first flight on a LAN Chile A340! No US airlines fly the A340 and Air Canada is the only North American operator of the type. As such, my experience with the A340 is limited to five flights aboard Cathay Pacific and South African.

Boarding was underway, so I headed up to the jetway entrance to find out if my assigned thru-seat to Santiago, 1A, would still be honored or if, since 1A is a First Class seat on the A340, I’d been reassigned a new seat in the Business Class cabin. The gate agent gave my boarding pass no special attention, so I strolled on down the jetway, turned left and proceeded through the Business Class cabin to my seat in five seat First Class cabin.

Now I hate to rain on a potential tale of First Class luxury to follow here, but I must say that the First Class cabin of LAN Chile’s A340 is without a doubt the bleakest premium class cabin I have ever sat in. The entire cabin is whitewall, from the window panels to the ceiling to the bulkhead paneling. There were neither pictures nor carpeted bulkheads to offset all the white. The cabin exuded no warmth or pleasant ambience at all. To the contrary, the overall effect was downright sterile. The seat, however, was very comfortable.

The second downer is that it was 1:45am. Interestingly, the current time in Peru is GMT –6, the same as what we Americans call Central Daylight Time in places like Chicago and Dallas. Having commenced today’s journey in Seattle, which is GMT –8, my body clock said it was 11:45pm. I was well and truly tired, very much looking forward to reclining that big First Class seat into an almost 180° position and catching as much sleep as possible prior to our landing in Santiago which was just three short hours away.

The result here is that I slept through the entire flight and so cannot comment on any aspect of either the flight or the service. The same crew that worked the flight from LA rejoined us for the trip into Santiago. If they were as tired as I was, I can’t imagine that there would be any improvements over the lackluster service they provided between LA and Lima. Either way, I fell asleep shortly after takeoff and didn’t awake until all seat backs had to be returned to their full upright positions. Breakfast smells lingered in the cabin, but unfortunately there wasn’t time for even a cup of coffee. I can, however, provide you with a transcript of the menu:


BREAKFAST

To Start

Orange juice, coffee or tea

Our Cold Dishes
Fresh seasonal fruit
Yogurt
Cereal


WARM ENTREES

Fluffy Omelette

Served with Canadian loin

Two Specially Selected Sandwiches
Kassler loin and melted “Mantecoso” cheese served on white bread
Cooked ham and Gouda cheese served on whole wheat bread


From The Bakery
Choose your selection from our variety of bread served with butter and preserves


The only remotely “fluffy” omelette I’ve ever seen on an airplane was aboard an Alaska Airlines flight between Seattle and Miami back in the days when Alaska still provided a worthy trans-con breakfast entrée in First Class. That remains the best omelette I’ve ever had on any airplane, First Class or Coach, international or domestic. It would have been interesting to see what LAN Chile would have served, because their inflight fare is generally quite good.

We descended through clouds and haze into Santiago, landing quite smoothly at Arturo Merino Benitez International Airport. I don’t recall ever hearing the thrust reversers, but then perhaps the A340, like the 747-400, slows with carbon fiber brakes. In any event, we parked between a pair of LAN 767-300s and I trudged off the plane and headed towards customs and immigration. It was 6:05am local time and I was practically asleep on my feet.

As to LAN Chile’s new Premium Business Class, I have mixed feelings. With the removal of the First Class cabins from its 767 fleet, LAN markets its new Business Premium service as blending the best of its old First and Business Class services. This is certainly true with regard to the new seats and the inflight entertainment system, and it may be true with the meal service as well depending upon whether the cabin crew is able or willing to provide the service as described per the menu. The new seats certainly meet and indeed exceed the standard set by most of the world’s finest airlines. The amount of personal space around each seat is generous and the overall cabin ambience is pleasant. The new AVOD inflight entertainment system, while not to the standard of Singapore’s or Cathay’s, is still a very good system. The meal was also quite good, though it would have been nicer had it been presented per the menu description. On a strictly personal note, I’d like to have more options with those appetizers, too. The lounge situation is unfair to judge at this point since everyone at the TBIT has to use the current temporary lounge. As to the failure to notify us of the lounge in Lima, I’m willing to give LAN the benefit of the doubt for now and call it a simple oversight.

As to the crew, I would say that for the most part they were pleasant but otherwise uninspired. I’d even go so far as to say they were either poorly trained to provide a modern day Business Class service or didn’t care to do so. From language skills to presentation of the inflight service, this crew was consistently average to below average. Unfortunately, this same slack standard was evident the last time I flew in LAN’s Business Class two years ago. Based upon what I experienced this flight, definite improvement is needed if LAN wants to be considered amongst the world’s better airlines.

Here is how I would rate this flight:

Check in: B
Lounge: B
Preflight: B
Comfort: A
Service: D
Meal: A-
Seat 2A is offline  
Old Apr 12, 07, 3:20 pm
  #4  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Apr 2001
Location: East Ester, Alaska
Programs: Alaska Million Miler, United Million Miler, Wyndham Rewards Diamond, Choice Hotels Diamond
Posts: 11,538
SANTIAGO

My ultimate destination for the inbound portion of this award ticket is Iquique. At the time of booking, it seemed unfortunate that no award seats were available for the 8:00am departure from Santiago. The first flight available was the 5:00pm one-stopper and no amount of checking back with Alaska’s Partner desk ever changed that. Now however, my eleven hour layover allowed me an excellent opportunity to book a cheap room for the day and catch up on some much needed sleep.

I took a van from the airport into the city, asking to be dropped off amidst all the inexpensive hotels and hospedajes on Calle Londres, over by the Catholic University. My first stop was the Hotel Londres, an old city mansion that had been renovated to serve as a hotel. I stayed here on a couple of occasions back in the nineties and found it quite acceptable. It still has a nice marble staircase, beautiful wooden floors and a couple of ornate sitting rooms that now serve as a lounge/common area complete with overstuffed chairs, tables and shelves of books in both Spanish and English. Back in 1994, I could book a basic single room with bathroom down the hall for $7.00 USD. Today, the price for that same room has risen to $13.00. Unfortunately, I was informed that none of those rooms – nor any others – would be available until after 11:00am today. I needed to sleep now, so I thanked the receptionist for his time and headed across the street to an unnamed hostal that advertised inexpensive rooms via a sign on the front desk. I walked in and booked a room for $15.00 USD plus an extra 50 cents so that the proprietor could call and reserve me a van back to the airport at 3:00pm.

It’s worth noting here that a very inexpensive bus can take you from the airport to select stops in Santiago for just $1200.00 CLP or about $2.25 USD. I opted for the van service that will drop you off at most any address for $4000.00 or about $7.50 USD. Normally I would take the bus and walk the three or four blocks to Calle Londres but the van was faster and I wanted to get as much sleep as possible.

I awoke at 2:00pm having accomplished just that. A hot shower awaited, followed by coffee and toast in the dining room. As with most accommodations in Chile and Argentina, a basic continental breakfast is included in the price of the room. I thought it very nice of the proprietor to provide me with such despite the late time of day. My van arrived precisely at 3:00pm and I arrived back at the airport with plenty of time after check-in to enjoy coffee, cookies and an Internet connection in the tiny Salon VIP Pacific Club lounge.


March 29, 2007
Santiago to Iquique via ANF
LAN Chile Economy Class * Snack
737-200 CC-CVG Seat 4A
500p – 830p Flight Time: 1:46 / :39


Boeing’s 737-200 entered service in 1967 and over the next thirty years was commonly seen throughout U.S. and Canada, though many foreign airlines purchased it as well. Its production run ended in the early 1980s as Boeing began to introduce larger and/or more fuel efficient versions of the 737. However, throughout the Southern Hemisphere many 737-200s still soldier on to this day. I was thinking how similar this is to many US citizens who spend their prime years living in the northern part of the country, then move to the warmer southern locales for their final years.

During the seventies and eighties, I used to fly aboard 737-200s all the time with airlines like Western, Piedmont, Wien Air Alaska and Frontier. Not including today’s upcoming flights, I’ve logged two hundred seventy four 737-200 flights aboard twenty-eight airlines for a total of 141470 miles and 361 hours. on 732s. In the past six months, I’ve flown seven flights aboard 737-200s from Alaska and Aviacsa. Today I’ll add a couple more flights from LAN Chile and Sky Airline.

Awaiting me at Gate 21 was CC-CVG, a 737-291 originally built for Denver based Frontier Airlines back in 1982. A quick check of this aircraft’s history showed that it was originally registered with Frontier as N7357F. A quick check of my flight log showed that I’ve logged two flights on this same aircraft during its Frontier days. How nice to get reacquainted down here in Chile! What have you been up to all these years? Since leaving Frontier via the People Express/Continental buy out in 1986, this 737 wore Continental’s livery for two more years before an aircraft broker picked it up and resold it to LAN Chile in 1988. It has since been branded LAN Chile, LAN Peru, LAN Express and now finally wears a simple LAN Airlines livery.
This aircraft is only twenty-five years old and should have many years of quality service ahead of it.

This evening’s flight had an intermediate stop at Antofagasta before continuing on up to Iquique. By the time the door had been closed, ever last seat was taken and there may have even been some standbys left behind in the gate lounge. As we taxied out to the runway, I counted an even dozen different 737-200s wearing the colors of LAN Chile, Aerolineas del Sur and Sky Airline.

Following a long 30-second takeoff roll, we climbed away from murky Santiago and into bright evening sunshine as we pierced the cloud layer and sped towards a cruising altitude somewhere above 30,000 ft. About fifteen minutes north of Santiago, the clouds dissipated revealing the brilliant Pacific Ocean on one side and the high peaks of the Andes Mountains on the other. I was sat in window seat 4A and snapped off a couple of nice views of the shimmering Pacific before reclining my seat and finishing the last few pages of my latest cheap paperback.

Flight time to Antofagasta’s Cerro Moreno Airport was set for one hour and fifty minutes, more than enough time for a beverage and snack service. Once upon a time this flight would have rated a full hot dinner service but rising fuel prices coupled with stiff competition from pesky low fare entrants Aerolineas del Sur and Sky Airline resulted in our being served a half turkey, cheese and mayonnaise sandwich accompanied by a delicious custard cake dessert. Come to think of it, I don’t believe I’ve ever had a bad or even plain dessert during my eighteen flights with LAN Chile. Indeed, they take their desserts and pastries seriously down in this part of the world.

I’d hoped for a bit of relief to our full airplane out of Antofagasta, but once again every seat was filled. Thankfully it was but a short 39-minute flight up to Iquique. As we taxied up to the attractive looking terminal at Cavancha Chucumata Airport, we passed by DC-10 freighters belonging to Centurion, Gemini and Cielos del Sur. Baggage was delivered within fifteen minutes of our arrival and I then headed upstairs to check in for my Sky Airline flight to Arica.


Iquique to Arica
Sky Airline Economy Class
737-200 CC-CTI Seat 1F
1015p – 1050p Flight Time: :28


I could have booked an award seat on LAN Chile all the way up to Arica but since Chilean low cost carrier Sky Airline was offering a $31.00 USD fare between Iquique and Arica, I jumped at the chance to fly my one hundred and twenty-first airline. Also, by flying LAN into Iquique, I added yet another airport to my list of airports flown into or out of, which now totals 304.

Ticketing on Sky is electronic, so check-in was simple and fast. I asked for and received a bulkhead window seat, then headed down to the other end of the terminal – about 100 yards – to visit the local Pacific Club. I was surprised that Iquique’s little airport would even rate having a Pacific Club, but I was even more surprised when I entered the lounge. Whoa! This lounge was tiny! I’ve been in bigger hotel rooms. Even so, the little lounge was organized well with a small coffee/wine bar along half of one wall, two Internet capable computer terminals next to that, a single small couch and a handful of chairs. I settled into one and spent the next hour working on this report before security reopened for the flight to Arica.

That’s right, I said reopened. At Iquique’s airport at least, the security checkpoint opens one half hour before flight time. In between openings, the two security guys hang out in a little office and occupy their time with conversation or cards. I know because I interrupted one of their games when I unknowing approached the checkpoint a bit early. Damned tourist!

Our 737 was a bit late arriving, and once it had parked at the gate I set my stopwatch to see just how fast our turnaround time would be. Given the small number of passengers waiting to board the flight, I expected we’d probably be on our way fairly quickly. Sure enough, everyone was boarded and the doors were shut seventeen minutes after the plane had arrived at the gate. Two minutes later we were pushed back and on our way to Arica.

Now this aircraft certainly had an interesting history. Built in 1981 and delivered to Quebecair, it also flew for CP Air, Canadian Airlines and Air Canada along with short term leases to Britannia Airways, Pan Am and Arkia (Israel) before finally being purchased by Sky Airline in 2005.

Flight time to Arica was a short twenty-eight minutes, during which the two Flight Attendants made their way down the aisle with baskets of small hard candies. Since the airport is located twelve miles north of the city, those of us on the right hand side of the plane enjoyed a pretty view of downtown Arica and its sizeable waterfront before kissing the asphalt and pulling up to the terminal. Although there were two jetways in place, we were met by a mobile stairway and walked into the terminal. I actually preferred this as it was a nice moonlit night with pleasant temperatures. Parked next to us was the LAN 737 that I’d flown up to Iquique.

After collecting my pack, I caught a ride into town with a shared taxi or collectivo as they’re called in Latin America. I was dropped off at Sunny Days Hostel, my home for the next four nights. Despite the late hour, my hosts Ross and Beatriz greeted me at the door and showed me to my room, a bright and spacious ensuite single with a big double bed and a nice large window to let the night breeze flow through. Sleep came easily and I awoke the next morning as refreshed as if I’d been living there for a month.

Alright then, that's all for now. I'll expect to have more of the land portion including train trips and deluxe bus travel posted in the next couple of days. I hope you've enjoyed the read so far.
Seat 2A is offline  
Old Apr 12, 07, 3:56 pm
  #5  
 
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Brighton England
Programs: AA Plat, various hotels
Posts: 1,220
Trip reports from you and Kiwi Flyer running at the same time, we are truly spoilt at the moment.
As usual fantastic detail, my evening has just flown by.
Looking forward to more.
Gatwick Alan is offline  
Old Apr 12, 07, 4:50 pm
  #6  
 
Join Date: Aug 2001
Location: Portland, OR
Programs: NW Plat (now they call it DL Diamond) 1MM, soon to be DL Plat, Hilton Diamond, SPG Gold, Dusit Gold
Posts: 2,706
Certainly a very timely trip report for me. Marsha and I are booked PDX-LAX-SCL (via Lima)-EZE early in May on the same 75k mile AS award you used. Marsha especially has been looking forward to the great expected service on LAN. I certainly hope she is not disappointed since your report does not place it high in comparison with business class on other carriers. Hopefully your crew was an aberration not a consistency.

Looking forward to more of the report.

BTW, I got to ride the back of an A340 on Sri Lankan between KUL-SIN. Quite a nice aircraft even in economy.
opushomes is online now  
Old Apr 12, 07, 11:26 pm
  #7  
das
 
Join Date: Feb 2000
Location: Chicago
Programs: UA 1K, AA Gold
Posts: 3,640
Originally Posted by Seat 2A View Post

As to the crew, I would say that for the most part they were pleasant but otherwise uninspired. I’d even go so far as to say they were either poorly trained to provide a modern day Business Class service or didn’t care to do so. From language skills to presentation of the inflight service, this crew was consistently average to below average. Unfortunately, this same slack standard was evident the last time I flew in LAN’s Business Class two years ago. Based upon what I experienced this flight, definite improvement is needed if LAN wants to be considered amongst the world’s better airlines.
This lines right up with my experience flying LAN Business Class from Auckland to Sydney. I think anyone looking for good service is better served flying another carrier.

Thanks for a great report; look forward to reading more!
das is offline  
Old Apr 13, 07, 12:53 am
  #8  
 
Join Date: Oct 2004
Location: PDX
Programs: AS MVPG 75K, IHG Spire Elite, Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite, Hertz President's Circle, HH Silver
Posts: 806
Great to read one of your reports again.

I for one like hearing the runway numbers, although I may be in the minority. It is amazing taking off on one of the 24s/25s at LAX on a transpac flight, because your last sight of land is about a minute and a half into the flight!

Does Penair offer any service into Adak? I thought they maybe flew there from Dutch or Cold Bay.
lawchild is offline  
Old Apr 13, 07, 1:08 am
  #9  
 
Join Date: Jun 2004
Location: YOW
Programs: AC *Gold
Posts: 169
Great trip report! I enjoy reading them alot^
yow777 is offline  
Old Apr 13, 07, 10:03 am
  #10  
Moderator, CoronaVirus and Hilton Honors
 
Join Date: Nov 2003
Location: on a short leash
Programs: some
Posts: 71,352
Excellent timing for some great inflight reading. I'm looking forward to it.
Kiwi Flyer is offline  
Old Apr 13, 07, 10:45 am
  #11  
 
Join Date: Aug 2000
Programs: I am an AS employee, but my comments do not represent the company in any official capacity.
Posts: 4,338
Originally Posted by lawchild View Post
Does Penair offer any service into Adak? I thought they maybe flew there from Dutch or Cold Bay.
Nope, the 2x weekly service from ANC via AKN is the only scheduled connection to the outside world. As I am sure Seat 2A will attest to, it seemed like the whole town came out to meet the plane when we arrived!
eastwest is offline  
Old Apr 13, 07, 11:20 am
  #12  
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 8,884
I had great fun reading this. Thanks.
SchmutzigMSP is offline  
Old Apr 13, 07, 12:21 pm
  #13  
 
Join Date: Jun 2003
Location: Denver CO
Programs: HHonors Gold, National Emerald Club, no airline affinity status
Posts: 3,137
It goes without saying, an excellent report (as always). I do have one question. How do you know the lineage of the aircraft that you are flying? Is there a database that you input the tail number into and out pops the information? Looking forward to the rest of the report.
HawaiiTrvlr is offline  
Old Apr 13, 07, 4:15 pm
  #14  
Moderator, CoronaVirus and Hilton Honors
 
Join Date: Nov 2003
Location: on a short leash
Programs: some
Posts: 71,352
Originally Posted by Seat 2A View Post
Although Adak is not at the westernmost tip of the Aleutians, a bit of cartographic research reveals that its location at longitude 176.40W means that Adak’s Mitchell Field Airport is the westernmost airport in the world served by commercial air transport. That is until the summertime when seasonal charters operate to Little Diomede Island, just a stone’s throw from the International Date Line, across which lies Russia’s Big Diomede Island.
Originally Posted by Seat 2A View Post
Interestingly, there is a sign indicating a Business Class lounge at gate 118, but aside from the gate area itself, there is no other evidence of a lounge as I know it. Since gate 118 is served only by busses that take you out to remotely parked aircraft, perhaps the Business Class lounge is located remotely as well. I rather doubt this, but from what I’ve read of the TBIT, you never know…
Perhaps you may have missed it, but my trip report last September covered the first day that the interim business lounge was in use at LAX TBIT. It is indeed accessed by bus from the terminal, being a converted hangar. That lounge is fairly dire - I can't wait for the new alliance lounges in the terminal.

Originally Posted by Seat 2A View Post
it may be true with the meal service as well depending upon whether the cabin crew is able or willing to provide the service as described per the menu.

<snip>

The meal was also quite good, though it would have been nicer had it been presented per the menu description. On a strictly personal note, I’d like to have more options with those appetizers, too. The lounge situation is unfair to judge at this point since everyone at the TBIT has to use the current temporary lounge. As to the failure to notify us of the lounge in Lima, I’m willing to give LAN the benefit of the doubt for now and call it a simple oversight.

As to the crew, I would say that for the most part they were pleasant but otherwise uninspired. I’d even go so far as to say they were either poorly trained to provide a modern day Business Class service or didn’t care to do so. From language skills to presentation of the inflight service, this crew was consistently average to below average. Unfortunately, this same slack standard was evident the last time I flew in LAN’s Business Class two years ago. Based upon what I experienced this flight, definite improvement is needed if LAN wants to be considered amongst the world’s better airlines.
Actually your experience is fairly close to mine. In that trip last September I had a few LAN flights in business class and service varied from good to non-existant. Some food & drink items were not loaded or simply not offered per the menu. As for transit lounge at LIM, as we didn't have a change of aircraft we were given the choice of stay onboard or deplane. As best I can remember there was no mention of any lounge or other amenities for eligible passengers who chose to deplane.


Originally Posted by Seat 2A View Post
I jumped at the chance to fly my one hundred and twenty-first airline. Also, by flying LAN into Iquique, I added yet another airport to my list of airports flown into or out of, which now totals 304.
Nothing like variety ^

Last edited by Kiwi Flyer; Apr 13, 07 at 4:22 pm
Kiwi Flyer is offline  
Old Apr 14, 07, 6:56 am
  #15  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Apr 2001
Location: East Ester, Alaska
Programs: Alaska Million Miler, United Million Miler, Wyndham Rewards Diamond, Choice Hotels Diamond
Posts: 11,538
Originally Posted by HawaiiTrvlr View Post
How do you know the lineage of the aircraft that you are flying? Is there a database that you input the tail number into and out pops the information? Looking forward to the rest of the report.
There are a number of different online databases available for this purpose. My personal favorite is airfleets.net. Here's a link to the search function:

http://www.airfleets.net/recherche/?file=recherche

Try it out!
Seat 2A is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread