Hundreds of thousands flee from the scorching heat and the suffocating smog of Santiago to the cooler south of the country, or to the beaches of the north.
Only a deranged mind, a WACKO, would plan a trip to that city this time of year!!
Welcome to my flight to Santiago :'''(
Unfortunately, there are no direct flights between cities located south and north of Santiago (SCL) so I'll have to make a stop there on my way to Iquique (IQQ), a beach city some 2200km north of my hometown, Valdivia (ZAL). This stop at hell-hot SCL is a little sacrifice I will have to make, but it's worth the pain.
This is leg 1 of 7 of this trip:
If you like, you can also read the reports for legs 2, 3, 4, 5, 5, 6, and 7.
…before we continue with the flight, I have some very important news:
I used to complain about LATAM's dissapointing in-flight service. This is what I was given on my last flight within Chile, when I was expecting a muffin:
I commented that this kind of service could prove more harmful than benefitial for an airline, and that it should be changed.
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN >>>>>>>>>>DRRRRRRRRRUMROLLLLLLLLLLL<<<<<<<<<<
BEHOLD LATAM'S "NUEVO SERVICIO A BORDO" !!!!!!
Learn some Spanish with me: nuevo = new servicio = service a bordo = on board
The image above is part of an email I received from LATAM last November 10.
Here's the complete message:
In the blue box they tell about new fare types allowing to "pay only for what you need". In the green box they inform about a new kilometer-exchange policy. And in the pink box… they announce their new BOB service!!! Looks like LATAM is slowly adopting an LCC model!
That's great news!! According to LATAM's press release, all this will start this year in domestic flights within Chile, Argentina, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Brazil, and fares are expected to become around 20% cheaper.
LATAM will be facing a complicated scenario in 2017, with a brand new Chilean LCC—Paravai—starting operations this year, British Airways flying non-stop between Santiago and London, Alitalia and other european airlines making a comeback at SCL, and Sky Airline—the second largest Chilean airline—introducing an even more aggressive low-cost model.
Back to my flight report…
"We understand how frustrating this can be"
Excited at the prospect of visiting a new city, I purchase my ticket months in advance.
I can select a window seat immediately.
So I'm all set for flight LA247 on January 10 at 3:15 pm, right?
Yes, until LATAM drops this bombshell via email one month before the flight. In three languages, in case I want to ignore my fate.
My hands start shaking and I am sweating cold. No, LATAM. "Frustrated" does not start to describe how I feel.
LATAM offers to reschedule both legs of my flight and sends me a link to their propuesta de itinerario (itinerary proposal).
Here's their suggestion, showing the cancelled and the proposed flights:
According to this, my new outbound flight will leave 45 minutes later, and my flight back home, 75 minutes later.
No big deal. I accept.
I can check in 48 hours before ETD.
In step 4 of the process I am offered a seat with more legroom in rows 1 or 13 for 4000 CLP (6 USD), or closer to the exit in rows 2 and 3 for 3000 CLP (4.5 USD).
No thanks. I'm fine. ^^ The seat next to me has not yet been taken. Great!
I can download my boarding pass to my cellphone or as a printable PDF file.
The smoking airport
Pichoy—which, according to some sources, means "smoking" in the local native language—is a place some 30km north of Valdivia. It is where Valdivia's airport is located.
Pichoy airport (ZAL) is one of the most easily accesible airports I have ever seen. It's barely 150mt from the only road running north from Valdivia, which makes it difficult to find some locomotion that won't take you there!
So I'm not taking a transfer today. I will just wait at this ramshackle bus stop near the Calle Calle bridge and see what happens.
Hm… a JAC to Villarrica is coming. I wonder if…
Yes! They take me to the airport. How much do they charge me? You won't believe it: 500 CLP (0.7 USD)
It's just a "symbolic" amount. The assistant will probably keep it. We arrive at the airport access in about ten minutes. It was faster than I expected. So much so, that I had to get up quickly and ask the driver to stop.
The bus stop is right across the access to the airport, and the terminal is barely 100mts from the road. See that car?
I take this photo from the place where the car was.
Offices in yellow, the main hall at the bottom.
Wonderful! The counters are empty. I check my bag in no time.
I'm told that my boarding pass will have to be printed even though I downloaded it to my cellphone because of some problems with QR code readers.
She also tells me that we will be boarding on foot through gate 3. No jetbridge today. Well, that's great news for a flight reporter!
First thing first. I need a restroom… badly. The restrooms are here on the left, next to these shops.
To the second floor. I can make it…! I can make it…!
Here we are.
Phew! That was close!
Feeling in control of myself again, I am in the mood for a tour around the premises. The cafeteria on the second floor…
…and some views on the main hall.
Some local products that you can purchase at the shops on the first (ground) floor. I don't like beer, but the local one has quite a good reputation in Chile. Its production is one of the businesses started by German immigrants in the area in the 1800s. Flavored versions like this one have become very popular.
Chocolates are another local delicacy, even though not a single cocoa tree has ever grown in Chile.
So much for this nonsense. Let's go airside and make ourselves comfortable.
I'm the first one! I see the seats have been arranged in a smarter way.
They used to be lined up along the wall and the window, leaving a big space in the middle, but now they are all over the room. The window is more accessible now, so I can take pictures more easily. Fantastic!
Gate 3. Our gate today…
…and the jetbridge that we won't be using today.
Hola, don Arturo! SCL was named after this guy.
Something that is becoming a chronic shortcoming in Chilean airports: the lack of charging ports for electronic devices. But I'm in for a surprise, as you will see in a future report. ^^
I take a seat and prepare myself to enjoy the view of the apron while everything gets ready for the arrival of flight LA241. According to flightradar24.com, it will be landing in 24 minutes. Hey! I didn't know that the shortest way between Santiago and Sydney passed over my head!
So, this will be 24 minutes of flight-reporting joy, right?
A group made up of two posh, thin, blond women and three very noisy children come through security check. The children start running around the boarding room screaming at the top of their lungs, and—this rotten luck of mine—they choose MY group of seats to run around them once and again. At first I pretend I don't care. They're just kids playing, right? But soon it becomes too much and I feel an urgent need to stretch my leg casually and see if one of them lands on his mouth, especially this one in the photograph, that we'll call Chucky.
Posh, thin, blond mommy and auntie do nothing at all for the first ten minutes. When they finally realize that those monsters are annoying the rest of us, mommy tries to hold Chucky by the hand, but he goes instantly into dinosaur mode, crying, screaming, and roaring uncontrollably, so she releases him again. Then she takes him in her arms, and now this THING won't stop screaming, kicking and punching her with his tiny fists, making the most terrifying noises. I don't think he needs discipline. He needs exorcism!
She just fans Chucky's red face with a magazine when she sees that he is running out of oxygen. We all comment how different things were when we were children, and how our mothers would have put an end to a tantrum like this efectively.
The dinosaur mode continues for the rest of the waiting time, when Chucky wants to open the gate himself, when he wants to run out to the apron, when he wants to board the plane, and when he wats to get off. My - god. I am thankful that I was in row 4, and they were far, far behind.
Thank goodness those 24 minutes of agony come to an end when CC-BFD arrives.
It features LAN's livery…
…with a little Colombian flag above the Chilean star and red stripe. Isn't that a serious identity problem?
Well, let's call it business.
It comes to a halt in a remote position. Well, remote is an exaggeration here. ^^
We all jump to our feet and queue up in a single line, as we are required, while the ground staff get down to work.
Gate 3 opens. Everybody hurries outside as if the plane were going to leave without them. I take it as a stroll.
Somebody asked me about this green fire truck in a previous report. I found some interesting information here.
A very kind male FA is welcoming the passengers at the rear door.
Good boy. Show what you can do, OK?
Is it really necessary to change this beautiful livery for that of an ambulance???
I completely forget to take a photo of the cabin and my seat on boarding. Must be a consequence of the stress I am just overcoming. I'll solve that later.
Legroom is OK for me, but not for my much taller neighbour. I'm 170cm tall, but I feel like a dwarf next to him!
Besides, it looks like a little Picasso used this one as his canvas.
The seatback contents. This aircraft has the old seats, not the new Recaro ones.
LATAM's inflight magazine features a beautiful cover this month.
According to this ad, this hunky grandpa has not been photoshopped at all. Well… surgery, silicone and a lot of make up can make miracles! You don't have that skin at that age, no matter how often you go to the gym.
Our bags have been loaded.
Looks like they've finished their job for the moment.
Safety instructions, both sides.
Old-fashioned overhead panel.
Some minutes later the safety instructions are played on the overhead screens.
According to flightradar24.com, we are some minutes late.
The captain acknowledges this and says that he will try to make up for the delay.
Pushback at last. Maybe we were waiting for this Sky Airline to arrive?
In such a little airport, taxiing is always short.
Summer holidays… here we go!!
I'm almost sorry I'm changing the green scenery around Valdivia for the dry north of the country.
The little town of San José de la Mariquina.
We head to the north.
These trips to/from Valdivia have made me familiar with those two: Villarrica and Lanín volcanoes.
Minutes after takeoff the snack service starts. Here comes the surprise. No BOB yet, but the free snack has improved greatly!
The FA hands us a sort of menu displaying four snack options: a salty pastry, a sweet pastry, a cereal bar, and a bag of mixed nuts and raisins. She says we can choose two out of those four options.
My selection: the salty pastry and the bag of nuts.
The cheese scone tastes great!
The bag of nuts proudly displays the words producto chileno. Oh, I feel so proud that we can produce a bag of nuts. A tear of patriotic joy is running down my cheek. Please, let me know when we can produce a competent government, too.
We continue our placid flight over the fields of the Central Valley with its dozens of towns where life revolves around agriculture, like San Carlos, north of river Ñuble. (It's Ñuble, not Nuble. Ñ = French GN)
Intermitently, I watch Canadians playing pranks on their kinsmen.
I'm happy to see that Aculeo lagoon has not run dry yet, in spite of the drought. I have to apologize. In previous reports I confused this lagoon and a nearby reservoir, Carén lagoon. I'll have to fix that.
We reach the valley of Santiago…
…and the southern suburbs of this monstruous, hypertrophied city.
We're flying quite close to the center.
That's O'Higgins park, named after Bernardo O'Higgins, the bastard son of Ambrose O'Higgins, an Irish man who served the Spanish empire in Chile. Bernardo fought for Chile's independence and everybody loves him now, even though he became a dictator.
River Mapocho flows through the city from east to west, going round San Cristóbal hill.
The most well-off part of the city is beyond San Cristóbal hill. In this photo you see the business district, also called Sanhattan, tongue in cheek.
Bottom right, Santiago's pride and joy: Costanera Center, its tallest tower. You can climb to the observation deck on its top. Take some paracetamol with you for a possible headache caused by the height.
U-turn. We are approaching the runway now.
Down, down, down…
The domestic flights area of the terminal. We will surely park next to that Sky Airline aircraft.
Yep, here we go.
Now we'll turn right…
…eh? What's wrong? Why are we going to the left?!
Ah, we'll park in a remote position across from the terminal.
Well, that's OK with me. I have a nice view of the cranes working at the new terminals, and I love a bus ride around the apron. I'll take it as a bonus.
Everybody in the airplane seems to love Santiago. They vie to get off first. They must be running away from Chucky, who didn't stop roaring (yes, ROARING) the whole flight.
I'm not in a hurry. I take the time to get this pic of the worn armrest…
…and my seat.
Finally, a snapshot of the empty cabin. This very friendly FA has no inconvenience in posing for the photograph. He's very nice, isn't he? R U reading this, Sky Airline???
I completely forget about the shuttle bus and keep taking photographs as I climb down the stairs. Then I realize that all the passengers are already on the bus… waiting for me!! I jump into the bus and the closing doors almost pinch my buttocks. I take this photo from inside the bus.
I'm not their favorite person at the moment.
Even though we are just across from the terminal, the bus ride is long and intrincate. We go west…
…and then east…
…and west again, until we are dropped at baggage claim.
Remember this is the first leg of my trip to Iquique. The flight from Santiago to that city is scheduled for the next day at 6 in the morning. I have family in Santiago, but there's no point in crossing the whole city in order to sleep four or five hours, so I decide to stay at the airport overnight. I think I can sleep on those comfortable airport seats.
I should have thought twice.
Anyways, I kill the time walking around the terminal. I find a stand with information about the building work.
An informative flyer, both sides:
There's also a looping video on which high executives of the Nuevo Pudahuel concessionary tell about the new airport… with a strong French accent.
Even though SCL's official name is Aeropuerto Comodoro Arturo Merino Benítez, people used to call it Aeropuerto Pudahuel for short, since that's the name of the area where it's located.
I go outside and take some photos of the construction site.
The night will soon fall over Santiago. I'd better go inside and find a place where I can sleep until 4 a.m. If only I had known how terribly long this sleepless night would be!
Valdivia - ZAL
Santiago - SCL
Great domestic flight with LATAM. Snack service redesigned, renovated and improved in spite of the annoucement that it will be replaced by a BOB within this year.
Lovely cabin crew.
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