Review of LATAM flight Iquique Santiago in Economy

Airline LATAM
Flight LA163
Class Economy
Seat 5A
Aircraft Airbus A321
Flight time 2:20
Take-off 18 Jan 17, 10:00
Arrival at 18 Jan 17, 12:20
L2   #22 out of 106 Airlines A minimum of 20 Flight-Reports is required in order to appear in the rankings. 35 reviews
nechus
By 446
Published on 14th February 2017

Welcome, everyone!


One day thousands of years ago, a group of Aymaras (an indigenous people from the Andean highlands) were travelling along the coast of the Atacama desert in the north of Chile. After weeks under the scorching sun, one of them suddenly cried…

EE keh, EE keh!!

…which, translated, would mean something like "Hey, guys! My feet are killing me. Look at that spot by the sea. I think we all could use some rest after such a long journey. Why don't we stop here, eat something, and get some sleep. We can continue our trip when we’re feeling stronger."

You don't believe me? Wikipedia never lies, does it? ^^

After a week in this resting place (which happens to be a more faithful translation for EE keh, EE keh, or its Spanish spelling Iquique) it’s time to fly back to Santiago.

This is leg 4 of 7 of this trip:
photo mapa  viaje 03
If you like, you can also read the reports for legs 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, and 7.

But before we board the flight to SCL, lets pay a visit to some interesting corners in Atacama, the driest desert in the world.


Pre-flight bonus: Pica and Humberstone


The road highlighted in red on this map goes from Pica, an oasis in the middle of the Atacama desert, to Iquique, with a stop at Humberstone, a ghost town with a glorious past.
photo mapa


Pica
This oasis is famous nationwide for its small lemons, which look much like a yellow ping pong ball, used mainly as an ingredient for some alcoholic beverages.
photo img_1089
>
photo img_1048
>
photo img_1051

Mangoes are also abundant here.
photo img_1052

Pica is surprising. I was expecting a dull desert town, but on the contrary, I found a very picturesque place.
photo img_1097
>
photo img_1067
>
photo img_1069
>
photo img_1071
>
photo img_1076
>
photo img_1077
>
photo img_1095

This street leads to the local "resort": a spring called La Cocha (cocha = pond in the Quechua language)
photo img_1036

There is a little park with these cute, stylish, covered benches, probably resembling the architecture of the 19th and early 20th centuries, when the Atacama desert was the center of an intense mining activity that attracted many European investors (mainly from Britain)
photo img_1038photo img_1040

The spring forms this sort of swimming pool. The water is at around 40°C.
photo dsc08410

When I look closely at the leaves of those large trees I have the feeling that I have seen those leaves somewhere before. I can't believe my eyes when I find out that they are ficus trees! I was used to seeing them only as little trees in pots in offices and living rooms!
photo dsc08411

I am amazed at the infrastructure around la Cocha. Little towns in Chile do not usually take such good care of their natural attractions.
photo dsc08412

This corner of la Cocha is reserved for some ducks that shy away from my camera. I can't believe I am in the middle of the driest desert in the world!
photo img_1022

Outside, these giant fruits remind us of the importance of local produce in this town's economy. The little placard on the wall: Please, don't climb onto the figures.
photo img_1028

A guesthouse.
photo img_1083

Everyday life in Pica summarized in one dog.
photo img_1084

Another surprise. In the 1950s some dinosaur footprints were discovered near Pica. Reason enough to build a park in the outskirts of the town.
photo img_1102photo img_1103

We drive past some mango plantations on our way out of town.
photo img_1115

Some kilometers from the town we drive through a sandstorm. But it doesn't last long.
photo img_1120

Very soon the weather is calm again. We are approaching an incredible place. A vast extension of the desert is covered by trees!
photo img_1134b

These trees are called tamarugos. They can thrive here thanks to underground water that flows from the Andean highlands. I've heard that the Atacama desert looked very different before the beginning of the mining activities in the 1900s. Dozens of towns popped up all over the desert. The constant need for firewood devastated the forests.
photo img_1130b

Most of the tamarugos we see today were planted by a man called Luis Junoy, the owner of a mining company, who thought that the woods should be restored. These trees are now protected in a reservation. This area is called Pampa del Tamarugal (Tamarugo Forest Flatland). You can find it on the map above.
photo img_1131b

Not much more to see until we arrive at…


Humberstone

This ghosttown used to be an oficina salitrera, that is, a town built to host those who worked in the saltpeter industry.

Saltpeter, or nitrate of soda, is a nitrogen-rich stuff used as a fertilizer. It's abundant in what used to be the south of Peru and Bolivia, and the north of Chile. Saltpeter brought enormous riches to these three countries in the 19th century. No wonder Chile was eager to get its hands on as much of it as possible. This is how a tax imposed by Bolivia on saltpeter was enough to start what is known as the War of the Pacific. Chile won, and took over vast swathes of land in the south of Bolivia and Peru, stretching its territory some 1000 kilometers to the north.

However, the subsequent economic boom suddenly came to an end when a smartypants German invented artificial saltpeter during World War I. The saltpeter works declined during the first half of the 20th century. Most of them were looted, but some, like Humberstone, were kept as open-air museums.

The best houses belonged to the administrators and other fat cats.
photo img_1158
>
photo dsc08426
>
photo dsc08429
>
photo dsc08430
>
photo img_1163

If you were a married miner, you were assigned a small house.
photo img_1178

But if you were single, you had to live in a calamina. (Calamina = corrugated iron) Two miners lived in the same calamina and slept in the same bed, but they never met because they worked in shifts.
photo img_1169

Some views of the streets:
photo img_1160
>
photo dsc08461
>
photo dsc08438
>
photo dsc08443
>
photo img_1179
>
photo img_1180

A doctor’s examination room.
photo img_1162

The hospital. Would you spend a night here on your own?
photo img_1171
>
photo dsc08486
>
photo dsc08487

The clock tower on the left. This arcade is part of the pulpería building. Pulpería was the local shop. Miners were paid with tokens - not money - that were valid only in the town’s pulpería.
photo dsc08449

A fountain.
photo dsc08444

The theater.
photo dsc08450
>
photo dsc08455
>
photo dsc08457
>
photo dsc08460

The hotel.
photo dsc08466

Inside the hotel.
photo dsc08471

The kitchen.
photo dsc08472

The town’s swimming pool.
photo dsc08479

The school.
photo dsc08483photo dsc08484

Ads.
photo dsc08489

I’m almost relieved when we leave Humberstone. So much rust and ruin were taking a toll on my mood.
photo img_1018

We head west towards Iquique…
photo img_1020

…and drive down the long, long…
photo img_1186

…long road along the cliff flanking the city.
photo img_1190

Aaahhh… civilization at last.
photo img_1197


Adiós, Iquique: To the airport


IQQ airport is some 40km south of the city.
photo img_1348

From the road I can see some military facilities…
photo img_1355

…and the control tower.
photo img_1357

If you keep going south, you get to Antofagasta, the most expensive city in Chile. I will probably visit it in 2018, and the report will include a bonus about a trip to ALMA observatory. I can’t wait!
photo img_1359

At the airport entrance, this government’s ad announces that the apron is being maintained.
photo img_1360

Of all the Chilean airports that I have visited, IQQ has the biggest number of strange artifacts on display.
photo img_1362

This represents a saltpeter miner, like those who worked in Humberstone.
photo img_1362 2

Approaching the terminal.
photo img_1363
>
photo img_1365
>
photo img_1366
>
photo img_1367

Here we are.
photo img_1368

The parking lot opposite the terminal.
photo img_1369

Estacionamientos. Quite a long word for parking lot. There’s also an emergency meeting point.
photo img_1381

The terminal has two exits. North…
photo dsc08539

…and south.
photo dsc08537

As I enter the terminal through the north access…
photo img_1388

…this is the view to the right.
photo dsc08535

Parked next to the terminal is CC-CVI, an old 737-200. Quite attractive for me. My first flight EVER was on a 737-200, and I’d love to repeat the experience.
photo img_1389

And this is the view to the left.
photo dsc08536

Lucky me. It’s early. I won’t have to wait long to check in. ^^
photo dsc08521

This is what the terminal looks like from the check-in area.
photo dsc08522photo dsc08523

My thermal paper boarding pass and my hand luggage ticket.
photo dsc08520

Still plenty of time before boarding time. At the north end of the terminal, by the check-in counters, are these self check-in machines.
photo dsc08544

Very modern.
photo dsc08545

Let’s go for a tour around the premises. This is the south end of the terminal.
photo dsc08541

There are murals by Aymar Yuthawi - an artist with Aymara ancestry - a disciple of the Ecuadoran artist Guayasamín.
photo img_1372
What do my deep brown dreamy eyes see on the left? A wing? Two turbines?

Oh, Dios! It’s CC-AJS, Aerovías DAP’s BAe Avro RJ85 !!!
photo img_1373

A very unusual view in my country’s binary Airbus/Boeing commercial aircraft scope. DAP is using it for a seasonal route between Iquique and Jujuy, in Argentina.
photo img_1374

Opposite the south end of the terminal are those sculptures.
photo dsc08540

They’re…people!
photo img_1377

Hm… I wonder what they mean. They might represent one’s futile pursue for an ever elusive objective as a passenger in the larger journey called life…
photo img_1378

…or they might not! ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
photo img_1379

Just then, I catch my first sight of my plane: CC-BEO is about to land.
photo img_1386photo img_1387

Let’s go back to the terminal.
photo img_1375

At the south access there are more artifacts from the saltpeter mining era.
photo img_1384photo img_1385

The south access…
photo img_1382

…and that never-ending pet-phobia. >:(
photo img_1383

At the south end of the terminal there’s this cafeteria…
photo dsc08529

…restrooms…
photo dsc08528

…and the mandatory BrittShop.
photo dsc08527photo dsc08525

More people have gathered in the last half-hour.
photo dsc08530

I wonder if some of them are flying to Asunción, Paraguay, on that Amaszonas flight. Amaszonas - a Bolivian airline - is the only foreign airline flying to IQQ at the moment, and it’s been growing a lot. It will soon open domestic routes within Chile, too. Fantastic!
photo dsc08532

1500 CLP (2.5 USD) per hour?! I find it expensive!
photo dsc08531

Ground plan of the terminal.
photo dsc08524

And we reach the check-in area again.
photo dsc08534
I think I've seen all there is to be seen here. Let’s go airside before the crowds gather at security check.

Airside


This is the view right after security check, to the right…
photo dsc08546

…and to the left. BrittShop again!
photo dsc08547

Coque?? Hm, nope. Llamas have banana-shaped ears like these, but Coque is an alpaca, and alpacas have short ears.
photo dsc08554

The boarding room is large and spotter-friendly.
photo dsc08548

There’s a lounge…
photo dsc08549

…and an elevator for the disabled.
photo dsc08551

CC-AJS is ready to leave.
photo img_1395

CC-BEO has already landed.
photo img_1393photo img_1396

Passengers from Santiago are disembarking…
photo dsc08555

…and my flight is already announced.
photo dsc08557

As usual, when we are called for boarding we make different groups according to priorities and row numbers. This is something I appreciate about air travel in Chile. It's always an orderly process.
photo dsc08558

And now is when I have a major revelation… I am standing right next to a huge charging station!
photo dsc08559

Stations like this were here all the time, but I never noticed them before! As I confirmed later, they are available at SCL, too, and they were when I sent a suggestion to SCL administration asking for charger outlets. How can I be so blind?!
photo dsc08560

Well, it’s time to board.
photo dsc08561

CC-AJS is still sitting there, but it will leave before us.
photo dsc08562

Glass-walled jetbridges are a great thing!
photo dsc08563

As we embark, we are greeted by the male purser, who later introduced himself as Diego. Can you believe I saw him working alone at the front of the plane all the time? Well, if I didn’t see the charging stations, no wonder I didn’t see other FAs. God.
photo dsc08565

This FA is proof that I need new glasses.
photo dsc08567

I’m always thankful for these new Recaro seats. Great legroom. At least for me.
photo dsc08568

Seatback pocket.
photo dsc08569

Let’s Go magazine.
photo dsc08570

I haven’t tried LATAM’s IFE system. I don’t care much, either.
photo dsc08571

Safety instructions both sides.
photo dsc08573photo dsc08574

Overhead panel.
photo dsc08576

USB charger under the seat.
photo dsc08578

CC-BEP has parked next to us.
photo dsc08580
>
photo img_1402
>
photo img_1404

We are soon ready to leave. Not sure about the time of departure but, according to flightradar24.com, we landed seven minutes ahead of schedule.
photo flightradar

The flight


Pushback.
photo img_1407
>
photo img_1409
>
photo img_1410

When a Herpa model is not enough…
photo img_1415photo img_1415 2

We taxi towards the north along the runway.
photo img_1417photo img_1418

U-turn.
photo img_1421photo img_1422

I can watch this lonely jet fighter for a while…
photo img_1425photo img_1423

…and off we go.
photo img_1426
>
photo img_1427
>
photo img_1428
>
photo img_1429
>
photo img_1431
>
photo img_1432
>
photo img_1433

The road to Antofagasta runs through vast extensions of…
photo img_1434

…nothing!
photo img_1435

And it winds along the bottom of this little canyon towards the desert.
photo img_1437photo img_1439

Later I learn that this is a salina - or salt mine - called Bahía Blanca.
photo img_1444photo img_1443

We fly along the coast for some time.
photo img_1445

Caleta (cove) Río Seco, 80km south of Iquique.
photo img_1448

Once in a while I can see these pools of God knows what mining-related materials. Beautiful colors, but what are they? I’m afraid to ask.
photo img_1467

I have been privileged with an empty middle seat today. The lady sitting in 5C gives me a start when she lets out a sharp cry. As you can see here, she keeps her legs crossed. But this has placed her left knee right in the way of the table tray’s metal pivot, and when the lady in 4C reclines her seat, the metal bar hits her kneecap, obviously. The lady in 4C apologizes, but my neighbor is in a bad mood and replies angrily “You should be more careful when you recline your seat.”
photo dsc08590

Too bad for Ms. Congeniality, I must go to the restrooms. Unfortunately, a man sitting in row 1 (who has sore eyes, looks ill, and insistently wanted to sit somewhere else until Diego told him to stay there) has the same idea at the same time, and he’s taking his time. So I decide to go to one of the restrooms at the back before the snack service starts.
photo dsc08583
>
photo dsc08584
>
photo dsc08585
>
photo dsc08587

I leave the restroom right on time for the snack service.
photo dsc08588

Diego is working full steam in the galley.
photo dsc08582

Meanwhile, I try to guess where we are. I hate to think I missed something interesting while in the restroom. We’re flying over the farthest southern reaches of the Atacama desert. The Andes invade the valley where it sits, all the way to the coast. I only see hills and mountains now.
photo img_1489

No idea what volcano this one could be. Ojos del Salado, perhaps?
photo img_1475photo img_1477

Diego comes with the snacks. He hands us the card with the options we can choose from.
photo menu

As usual, I'll have the salty pastry, the nuts, and a coffee.
photo dsc08593
>
photo dsc08594
>
photo dsc08595
>
photo dsc08596
>
photo dsc08597

Meanwhile, we fly over Copiapó. I apologize for the reflection on the window. I promise I’ll wear something black next time.
photo img_1507

From this point, all the way down to Santiago, a series of narrow valleys run east to west, from the Andes to the ocean. Copiapó is in one of those valleys.
photo img_1510

20km south of Copiapó there’s a big hole: Candelaria copper mine.
photo img_1517photo img_1514

I can’t name these valleys. There are so many!
photo img_1529
>
photo img_1531
>
photo img_1542

The river Turbio flows along this valley and reaches the sea at the city of La Serena, under the name of River Elqui.
photo img_1556

We’re about 30 minutes from Sntiago.
photo img_1559

Those lagoons are in Argentina, right on the border with Chile. Their water flows into the Argentine province of San Juan. I wasn’t able to find their names, and the river flowing from them is called simply Río de las Lagunas, or River of the Lagoons! ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
photo img_1567

Cerro Mercedario, 6720mt high, also in Argentina.
photo img_1570photo img_1571

At the foot of Mercedario Hill, on the Chilean side, is the valley of river Choapa.
photo img_1579

The white spot on the left is the Los Pelambres copper mine.
photo img_1581

After Cerro Mercedario…
photo img_1585

…I catch sight of the king of the Andes.
photo img_1586

Mount Aconcagua, 6962 meters high, also in Argentina.
photo img_1588

Looks imposing. Of course, the smog at its foot lets me know that we are approaching Santiago, but there’s something more this time.
photo img_1610

The captain comes over the PA to tell us that a “nice” temperature of 34°C is waiting for us in Santiago. We all moan in unison.
photo img_1628

And he says that this is aggravated by smoke from the biggest wildfires in the history of Chile.
photo img_1630

He’s right. There’s thick smoke covering the valley of Santiago.
photo img_1631

The towns of San Felipe (foreground) and Los Andes (upper right) are being punished with temperatures close to 40°C.
photo img_1637

We are sinking into the cloud of hot smoke. I’m bracing myself for one of those headaches. How I hate Santiago!
photo img_1645

In some minutes…
photo img_1661

…we are…
photo img_1664

…landing…
photo img_1670

…in this land of misery. Boo hoo hoo… :’’’(
photo img_1672

Somebody, please, kill me.
photo img_1673

Oh! What do I see there? A distinguished visitor!
photo img_1677

British Airways resumed its flights to these latitudes last January, after about two decades.
photo img_1682

Two brothers (or sisters, whatever)
photo img_1683

This photograph is representative of the current situation of the commercial air transport industry in Chile. LATAM and Sky Airline about to jump against each other like two mad dogs.
photo img_1691

We finally park next to CC-BFW. I don’t want to get off. Can I stay, Diego? I could help you in the galley!
photo img_1694

A last photo of my seat and…
photo dsc08598

…ohhh, my goshhhhhhh… I feel I’m melting. It’s an oven out here! I don’t think I’ll be able to make it to the other end of the jetbridge. It’s like the soles of my shoes are sticking to the floor.
photo dsc08599

Aaahhh… what a relief! The boarding room is cool. I can breathe again.
photo dsc08601

Let’s see. Baggage claim? Not that way.
photo dsc08603

I’m carrying a backpack. At baggage claim I place it between my feet. Then some cute sniffer dogs come and start sniffing every single piece of baggage under the command of two serious looking PDI (Policía de Investigaciones) agents. One of the dogs sniffs my backpack for such a long time that it makes me nervous, and… snap! I remember I’m carrying some coca leaves in it! OMFG! Will that matter? Are coca leaves the same as cocaine for these dogs?
photo dsc08604

Luckily, the dog gives up and goes sniffing other bags. PHEW! I pick up my bag and keep it very high, just in case!
photo dsc08606

This must be a routine inspection for passengers coming from the north, which is closer to cocaine producing countries.
photo dsc08608

Why can’t I have a job where people pet me?
photo dsc08615

For a change, I take a TurBus downtown instead of a Centropuerto bus.
photo dsc08616

The ticket price is the same for both (1700 CLP = 2.7 USD)…
photo dsc08618

…but TurBus buses are double deckers, and I get better views of the works for the new terminal.
photo dsc08619
>
photo dsc08620
>
photo dsc08621
>
photo dsc08622

Great! I’m going downtown, I’ll dispatch a package full of mangoes for my mother at the bus station, and I’ll come back right away to the airport in order to board the flight that will take me to the second stage of my trip around the north of Chile: La Serena, another first for flight-report.com.
photo dsc08624

Nos vemos! ^^
See more

Verdict

LATAM

9.5/10
Cabin9.0
Cabin crew10.0
Entertainment9.0
meal/catering10.0

Iquique - IQQ

9.5/10
Efficiency10.0
Access9.0
Services9.0
Cleanliness10.0

Santiago - SCL

8.5/10
Efficiency9.0
Access9.0
Services7.0
Cleanliness9.0

Conclusion

IQQ - impressive airport for a minor city.
LATAM - improved cabins make trips much more comfortable than in its LAN times.

Related

8 Comments

  • Comment 385753 by
    marathon 7262 Comments

    Interesting bonus. Then and now, fertilizers and explosives are closely related chemicals. Saltpeter was a strategic material from a military point of view: this was what gunpowder and early explosives were made of.

    The sculptures outside the terminal may mean that security wants to really see through the passengers :)

    What is the legal status of coca leaves in Chile ? There is detailed information about the status in each South American country, but (strangely) not Chile, in the Wikipedia article in French on coca.

    Thanks for sharing this long report !

      0
    • Comment 386000 by
      nechus AUTHOR 279 Comments

      Hi, Marathon!

      > What is the legal status of coca leaves in Chile ?
      I made some Internet research and found out that the cultivation of coca is closely controlled by the authorities. Unfortunately, all the information is in Spanish.
      Law 20.000, article 2, classifies coca leaves as a narcotic or psychotropic substance, without the negative effects of substances listed in article 1.
      See here: http://www.leychile.cl/Navegar?idNorma=269323&buscar=decreto+867

      However, given that coca leaves are part of traditional celebrations of native peoples like the Aymara, the courts have ususally dismissed charges against people who carried or used coca leaves.
      See here: http://www.dpp.cl/sala_prensa/noticias_detalle/6017/defensoria-de-arica-logro-absolucion-de-aymara-acusado-por-trafico-de-hoja-de-coca

      In fact, I found this 2008 "minuta" (draft of agreements) by the Chilean Defensoría Penal stating that "the use of coca leave is not punishable as long as it is intended for accredited ritual or medicinal purposes, without the intention of producing psychotropic substances".
      See here: http://www.dpp.cl/resources/upload/20ea14eb512dc72836eeb81a1bf2dc6e.pdf

      Nevertheless, I found lots of discussion around the topic in different forums, which shows that the issue is not clear. Besides, many say that the UN decriminalized the use of coca leaves some time ago. So, I guess this is one of those laws that are not fully enforced because they are not practical or because of the complexity of the issue. In fact, you can get coca leaves in any natural remedies shop, even in little bags, just like tea. The coca leaves I had in my backpack were a gift from my cousin for my mother, who suffers of different ailments, and she bought them in a street market in Iquique.

      I will let you know if I find more information. ^^

        0
      • Comment 386027 by
        marathon 7262 Comments

        Thank you very much for this research (my Spanish is good enough to read these very interesting references); you have vastly expanded my knowledge on this topic that I was only faintly aware of.

          0
  • Comment 385865 by
    SMilano 1312 Comments

    Thanks for sharing this nice report :)
    So many beautiful aerial views !
    Nice product from LATAM on this flight

    See you ! ;)

      0
    • Comment 386001 by
      nechus AUTHOR 279 Comments

      Hi there!

      > So many beautiful aerial views !
      Yes, we have to thank my sister for selling me her old camera! ^^
      My next report will feature photos of some of the same valleys, but closer to the sea. Some of the pics are really nice.

      Thanks for your comment!

        0
  • Comment 385942 by
    loukas 92 Comments

    Your photos once again left me speechless! What a view of Aconcagua! Chile is such an interesting destination, hope to go there one day. Many thanks for sharing!

      0
    • Comment 386002 by
      nechus AUTHOR 279 Comments

      Hey, Loukas!

      > Chile is such an interesting destination, hope to go there one day.
      You will always be welcome. Let me know when you come.

      In my next report there will be a photo of someone from Poland. I have a question for you about him, but that will be later.

      Take care! ^^

        0
  • Comment 386073 by
    loukas 92 Comments

    Thank you! :) Ok, looking forward to your next report. Have a nic weekend!

      0

Login to post a comment.