Welcome, dear reader, to a quick, one-off flight-report for a very short flight from JFK back to Toronto.
Yes, I know I’m still in the middle of telling a YYZ-NRT return story, but I’ve decided to kind of “drop this into the middle” of it, and tell this story in close to real time.
For a long time, this little tag-on flight by TAM Brasil (now part of Latam) has been a poorly-kept secret amongst those who fly between New York and Toronto. Because it’s so short, and because it’s just an add-on to the main attraction, a GRU-JFK flight operated by the same bird, Latam sells this flight ridiculously cheap — often about $100 US one-way.
It’s always been on my list of things to do, since I doubt I will otherwise do much flying with Latam. But I procrastinated and put it off. And then I read that because it’s not terribly successful (if you’re selling business class for $100, chances are JFK-YYZ loads are very low for Latam), the airline is deep-sixing this add-on effective in October. So when I had a short trip to NYC pop up, I decided to finally go for it with Latam on the way home, and see what the experience is all about.
I’d flown in Monday morning on Delta. This flight-report isn’t about that flight (obviously), but I was fairly impressed with the experience, earning my first (very short) upgrade as a newly-minted Delta Platinum, and experiencing good and friendly service, including getting four cups of coffee in me on the short one-hour flight — one as a PDB, and three more in the air as the flight attendant working F was extremely proactive on offering refills.
But that’s neither here nor there. We’re here to talk about the Latam experience, aren’t we?
With that in mind, I showed up just after 8:00 am at JFK’s Terminal 8, which I believe is new territory for me. I think I’ve only flown to JFK in the past on AC and DL. A bit of a cool late-September morning, but still quite pleasant.
Inside, I was surprised to find this AA super-hub pretty quiet at this hour of the morning.
I located the Latam check-in area with the help of a friendly AA check-in traffic director, who pointed me in the right direction.
I only had to wait a few seconds for the fairly quiet Premium Business check-in to be complete, and received a very friendly greeting. Check in was quick, even with a couple of special requests (No, Latam does not participate in PreChek, but yes, I can use my Alaska FF number for this flight). I was also given an invitation to use the Admiral’s Club near Gate 42. Checking in just three hours ahead of the flight, I was sequence number 62. Ouch. Especially considering I’d have to imagine a majority of JJ’s travelers on this flight are (or at least should be) through from GRU.
This is the first time in a number of years I’ve had to do U.S.-style security without the aid of PreChek, but I am pleased to report I survived the experience somehow. Even with a few folks ahead of me heading into the priority security checkpoint, I was through and airside in no more than five minutes. All in all, I was surprisinged by the efficiency here at JFK, compared to similar early-morning departures I’ve experienced at other NYC airports, particularly Newark. The terminal is nice and bright and attractive, and basically the exact opposite of everything my LGA experiences with AA and AC have been over the years.
Heading towards the higher-number gates requires passing under part of the apron, and on my way towards the escalators down, I got my first look at my ride up to Toronto this morning. Unfortunately, not repainted in the new Latam colours. Oh well.
The subterranean pasageway over to the gates was quick and efficient enough.
And fortunately, popped me up again right next to the entry to the Admiral’s Club.
I headed up to the club, and was quickly checked in, given a card with a code for the WiFi (currently HAVANA2016 — somebody’s proud about their new routes!), and a couple of chits for premium drinks.
Being used to U.S. lounges being pretty much uniformly packed all the time, I was surprised to find the Admiral’s Club much like the rest of my JFK experience thus far this morning — shockingly quiet.
Overall, the lounge is a fairly attractive one, made more attractive by how quiet it is at the moment. There’s a staffed bar, a decent number of comfortable seats, and some reading materials for those who want them.
I set myself up at a “workstation” style location with a raised seat facing towards the tarmac, which allows me to keep an eye on my plane, albeit past an AA321, and through a fairly dense window shade.
I hadn’t yet had breakfast, so was curious to see what the food situation was. I was not overwhelmed by by the breakfast offering.
Still, a decent bowl of oatmeal with all the fixin’s, and a strawberry yogurt would be enough to fide me over.
The WiFi in the lounge was easy to connect to, and was fast enough. Time for a gratuitous homescreen shot? Youbetcha.
After breakfast, I couldn’t resist using a chit. After all, why would they give them to me if they didn’t want me to use them? The only sparkling wine on offer is a decent prosecco, which was good enough for me.
And with about 40 minutes left until the boarding time (as listed on my boarding pass… I doubt we’ll board an hour early), I decided that they wouldn’t give me two chits unless they wanted me to use them. So a wee bit of Glenlivet seems like a good idea about now.
That’s probably enough to drink before this short flight home, so I settled in, worked a bit on this flight-report, and did some general surfing to kill the time. Surfing through Flight-report to gather some intel, I’m surprised to see this will be the first English-lanuage report on a JJ 767, much less on this particular route. The pressure is on to do a good job!
About 10 minutes to 10, as I was deciding whether to head down to the gate for the 10:10 boarding time, or wait it out a little while, an announcement was made in the lounge, declaring that JJ8102 to Toronto was ready for boarding. Oh heck, though I. They aren’t really going to start loading EARLY, are they? For this short hop?
But because I’m a sucker, I packed up my gear and made the short walk over to Gate 37 for my flight. On my way out, I caught a glimpse of this pair of Latam Dreamliners. It’s too bad this route didn’t survive long enough to (maybe?) get served by one of these birds.
Down at Gate 37, he answer to my question was, of course, an emphatic, “Nope.” This is not a gate that is starting to board.
But it did provide me an opportunity to get a good look at my ride back up to Toronto today.
And next door, at this AA 757 awaiting its next mission.
To my surprise, boarding was called right on the 10:10 boarding time, and I was the second person down the jetway and on board my first (and likely last) Latam flight. (Almost certainly, if you count it as a TAM Brasil flight.)
Flight: JJ8102 From: New York Kennedy (JFK) To: Toronto Pearson (YYZ) Date: 9/18/2016 Aircraft: Boeing 767-300ER Registration: PT-MSX Seat: 1A ATD (STD): 11:33 (11:10) ATA (STA): 12:34 (12:55)
I was seated in the first row port side window seat. The cabin isn’t great aesthetically, and is definitely showing its wear. But for a one-hour flight up to Toronto, this is pretty much a great hard product.
The cabin is 2x2x2 for 6 rows for a total of 36 J seats — a very generous allotment. There’s not a great deal of privacy or storage at the seats, though, and of course, so cram six-across onto a 767 means the seats themselves are not terribly wide.
It’s a flat-bed seat, so legroom is, needless to say, excellent.
The IFE screen in this bulkhead row is located in the wall in front, and seems quite large enough for the job. I appreciated that it was activated and usable on the ground, and not stuck in some loop of house ads for the airline.
Seat controls, and a wired IFE remote are located in the wall between seats.
Power and USB ports are in the back wall between seats.
Like the plane itself, the seats are still flying the old colours.
I didn’t use the IFE system to actually watch something, but the selection looked decent, and the interface was fast to respond and fairly intuitive.
I liked the packaging of “Box Sets” of episodes under the TV menu — some good binge-watching for those on flights of longer than an hour.
Airshow is, in this case, Groundshow.
A look out the window during boarding. Not exactly exciting stuff.
Pre-departure beverages were offered — water or orange juice. Water was happily accepted. I dig the funky red tumbler.
A quick pre-departure trip to the lav. Nothing very exciting, but surprised the soap bottle and other amenities (including plastic cups and moist towelettes) weren’t somehow secured.
Heatsets were offered and accepted. As mentioned, I didn’t partake of the IFE, but I did sample them, and found them reasonably comfortable for the few minutes I wore them, and the boarding music piped over them sounded decent, so I presume sound quality was acceptable.
Next, Canadian arrival forms were offered.
Having started so early, and being so sparsely occupied, boarding was a trickle-aboard affair. The final load in J was 11 passengers (including one infant.) At a glance before takeoff, the load in Y looked similarly light, maybe one-third full. Yeah, I can see why Latam is pulling the plug.
With boarding completed by a few minutes prior to scheduled departure, they rolled the boarding video, with a cutesie cartoon approach that reminded me of EVA.
Pushback next to our AA 752 neighbour.
And farewell from our tug and the ground crew working our flight.
After a relatively short taxi, we lined up behind this super-longhaul bird.
Caught a KE 388 on arrival as the DL 752 ahead of us started to line up. Lots of Whalebus action at this hour at JFK. Along with the twins from ICN (KE and OZ) arriving within minutes of each others, there was an EK whale arriving, an SQ whale at a gate, and an EY at a remote stand.
Soon enough, we took our place at the end of the runway, and had a very short takeoff roll. Great views of JFK unfurled outside my window, including many of the aforementioned A380s among a variety of other traffic.
With cloud cover being so low, we very quickly broke through the bottom layers.
As soon as the seatbelt sign was extinguished, I made it my mission to get the most out of this short flight in a flat bed.
Yep. Sure does go flat.
Lots of room when full reclined.
And here’s a look at the bed laid mostly flat.
The flight attendants were on their feet with no time to waste. Service began with a warm towel.
This was followed almost immediately by a tablecloth, and the light snack service. The simple lunch of a little smoked meat sandwich (which was very good) and a turkey and tomato sandwich (which was less good) was not a world-class feast by any stretch of the imagination, but did the job, and was similar to what one would expect on such a short flight in business class. AC, by comparison, offers a small hot meal (a standalone omelet in the morning, and a small hot snack like a chicken pot pie) on such short flights in J. The champagne on offer was Roederer, which I found quite pleasant.
As lunch was served, a pillow and blanket combo was also offered. So clearly, I’d have to try bed mode again after lunch. Oh, the sacrifices I make for you people!
By the time this abbreviated meal service was over, we were pretty much halfway there.
But of course, there was still enough time for another round of champagne. We are not, after all, uncivilized.
With the trip rapidly moving toward its end, I decided now would be a good time to break out the blanket and pillow and see how that improves the bed situation. Bottom line: It did improve it. The pillow was on the small size compared to some longhaul business class pillows, and the blanket was on the light side (which can be preferable depending on cabin temperature preferences both for you and for the FAs controlling it), but they made the bed a lot nicer. While the seat is narrower than some, I found it fairly comfortable both on my back and my side, although I did find it a little tight in rolling over from one position to the other.
Here’s a look at the bed all made up.
The armrest and partition assembly is higher on this seat than on some similar paired flat beds I’ve flown (think TK J, CA 330 J, or UA J), so I don’t think privacy would be too bad for sleeping purposes. Of course, I didn’t have a seat mate, so it’s hard to tell.
Alas, by the time I had explored my seat a little bit and sampled it in bed mode, our descent into Toronto was already beginning. Here, we break through the clouds over the Niagara peninsula.
And soon we were crossing over Lake Ontario and getting set up to land west-to-east at Pearson.
Yep, this flight is almost over.
On final over Mississauga.
Hello, Nevada Bob’s!
We cross paths with a couple of AC widebodies on our taxi in.
And finally arrive at our gate, near the end of the pier used for transborder flights at Pearson’s T3.
We were quickly allowed to deplane, and I paused for a second to get one last look at this soon-to-be-repainted (I’m sure) bird.
Keeping with JFK, Pearson’s T3 was shockingly empty this morning. The only person sharing the long corridor back to customs at this point was this gentleman, who was also on my flight and passed me while I grabbed that picture of our ride.
Customs and arrival was equally deserted. No line for those using the “normal” service, and nobody at all at the Nexus machines. So needless to say, I was through in no time.
The feeling of abandonment continued in the luggage hall, which was deserted with the exception of about five very bored-looking porters.
Finally, I got landside, and while it was quiet there, I at least had some confirmation there hadn’t been a zombie apocalypse in my absence, which was nice. I quickly made my way out of T3 and over to the Link train, which would take me over to the off-site parking lot where my ride home awaited me.
And that, dear reader, is where this particular story ends.
Thanks for reading, I’ll catch you next when I get the report for my Japan trip done!
American Airlines Admirals Club (Concourse C)
New York - JFK
Toronto - YYZ
A great way to experience this short flight, and a shame this flight is coming to an end, although the reasoning why is obvious.
Based on this limited experience, I'm not sure I'd expect a fantastic longhaul J hard product, as the seats are a little bit narrow, and much more importantly, lack all-aisle access. But the service was good, especially for such a short run, and the bed seems like it would be pretty decent, if not groundbreaking, for a longer sleep.
I'm glad I got the experience in, since I doubt I'll be flying Latam again any time particularly soon.
I'd highly recommend this flight as a way to get from New York to Toronto, but you'll have to hurry -- Latam is pulling the plug on this one come October 1.
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