I can't believe what I'm saying, but leaving La Serena is the healthiest thing I can do at the moment. One more bite of candied papaya and my blood will turn into papaya syrup!
My holidays have come to an end, and it’s time to fly back to Santiago, and then take my flight back home the day after.
This is leg 6 of 7 of this trip around the north of Chile.
If you like, you can also read the reports for legs 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 7.
La Serena’s La Florida airport (LSC) wins the award to most easily accessible airport - at least within Chile. It’s barely 5km from the city center. You can walk there if necessary!
On this map, the faro (lighthouse) that I visited the day before is on the upper left, and the airport is on the center right
Besides, the terminal is on a main road.
Some options to get to the airport are transfer, taxi, and micros (city buses). The last option is very convenient. It’s cheap (400 CLP = 0.7 USD) and won’t take you on an unnecessary tour of the city the way transfers do. Besides, you can take them at any bus stop, and you’ll be at the airport in less than 20 minutes. Best of all, it’s very picturesque, especially if the driver is an old man that has decorated his bus in a traditionally patriotic-religious-superstitious kitschy style!
I get off across from the terminal. There’s no bus stop. Just roadside dirt.
The control tower…
…and the offices of the DGCA (Dirección General de Aeronáutica Civil) are next to the terminal.
All I have to do is cross the street and I’m there. Carefully because cars go fast here!
Aeropuerto La Florida is a pretty building designed to match the style of the rest of the city.
Inside, no staff to be seen around the counters yet. I made it to the airport quite early this time.
View of the main hall to the west: shops, restrooms, security check, and elevator (on the left, next to the stairs)
ATMs and vending machines on the right.
In the shops, small wooden replicas of the faro…
…and all the products La Serena prides itself on. Remember papayas, manjar and alpha-whores? ^^ Everything six times more expensive than in La Recova!
On the east end, car rental and transfer stands…
…arrivals (baggage claim is right beyond this door)…
…and some basic services. I wonder if they have some cellphone chargers around here. What’s between that parking ticket payment machine and the phone? Let’s get a closer look.
Well, they don’t have cellphone chargers, and in the meanest attitude I have ever seen in an airport, they clearly announce that electricity outlets are TO BE USED EXCLUSIVELY BY AUTHORIZED PERSONNEL. How shameful, LSC!
They do have free wi-fi connection, though. Good!
LATAM’s self checking machines.
A lot of air traffic for such a small city. My hometown is about the same size as La Serena, but only gets two or three flights a day, and always to/from Santiago. :(
The counters are open now. According to the monitors, you can check in for flights 105 and 109. Although flight 105 comes first, the staff prints my boarding pass for flight 109. However, she advises me to not check my baggage yet, because it might be sent on the wrong flight. So she tells me to come back later.
My boarding pass.
So I’m forced to pull my baggage behind me for another hour around the terminal. Is this the punishment for papaya gluttony?
Plenty of time to go outside. I can see the houses and apartments across the street.
To the right, on the corner of the terminal building, the transfer vans wait. Beyond them is the parking lot.
Parking rates. 5 USD an hour. That was until two weeks before writing this report, though. Our government, which spends money like water, recently passed a law that raised the parking rates up to 75%. There was such an uproar that they are already planning to modify the law.
View from the parking lot.
Back inside. Let’s visit the second floor.
Two flights depart before mine. More people are gathering…
…and going through security check.
The cafeteria on the second floor has a fantastic view on the apron and the runway. I take a seat by the window and, shortly after, Sky Airline flight 105 (to be) lands.
That red roof… I’ve seen it before.
Yes! The following image was my first sight of La Serena airport, ever. It’s from a video showing an old Sky Airline B737 during a failed landing attempt. It was landing… on its right wing! This almost ended up in disaster. You can see the tip of the wing scratching the earth. It was a close shave!
Well, a lot of water has passed under the bridge since July 18, 2012, the day of that incident. Sky is (supposed to be) a much safer airline now. More info about the incident, its reasons and consequences, in this report I wrote.
I’m not going to discriminate the smaller ones just for being smaller!
I stay there for a while watching the action on the apron. I estimate my flight will soon arrive, so let’s go airside.
Right after security check I come across this queue.
Ah! It’s the passengers for flight 105.
I push my way through the crowd (nicely) and this VIP lounge is on my right. You’re steps away from a comfortable place, it reads.
Vending machines and restrooms are the only services I can see around the boarding room.
LSC is also the spotter-friendliest airport I have ever seen. LATAM flight 304 has also arrived. The two only large Chilean competitors side by side. More to enter the field this year, hopefully. I’ll be reporting on a new airline - Latin American Wings - and its first domestic route next April.
Wait! Why are both engines working?! I have read that planes use only one engine during taxi in order to save fuel!
Now LATAM’s passengers begin to board.
And there comes my plane!
Meanwhile, LATAM taxies to the runway…
…using both engines,too! I wonder why.
That explains why I haven’t heard the “barking sound” for a long time. If both turbines are at work, there’s no need to use the PTU. But wasn’t that a way to save fuel? I’m baffled.
While Sky’s passengers from Santiago disembark, LATAM races along the runway.
And there they go.
Still some minutes to board my flight. In the meantime, I can check how clean the airport is. The carpet looks clean enough, considering the room was full some minutes ago.
Spacious room. No cellphone chargers whatsoever.
Here we go. It’s our turn. Embarcando (boarding)
Most passengers don’t look very eager to board!
As usual, we line up strictly according to priorities and seat row numbers.
Out to the tarmac.
Last view of the control tower…
…and of the boarding room on the first floor, and the cafeteria on the second floor.
It’s a beautiful, breezy day. It’s almost painful to leave La Serena for the hideous weather of Santiago, as you will see later.
Hello, lady carrying a baby. Keep that monster away from me, please. I don’t get on well with little children.
And I have been blessed with an empty middle seat again! ^^
Seatback pocket contents.
Tray table… mold in the cupholder.
I must admit that Sky magazine has improved lots in the last months. They depart a little form the traditional format of inflight magazines, which usually focus on promoting their destinations.
Inside, some pics of Patagonia. Aahhh… memories.
I’ll try the beef wrap today… if the FAs can make it to row 24 on time!
What’s happening there? They’re fixing a pothole. But, so many people? How many Chileans do you need to fix a pothole? Four?
Wait! This is escalating! I think I can hear their conversation: - Have you seen Juan? - Yes, he was in the pothole when we started pouring the asph… Oops. Do you think this will affect the quality of the patch? - Er… let me call the engineer.
- Let’s get down to work, guys. The engineer says we have to make the patch extra thick.
The shortest taxiing I have ever seen.
According to flightradar24.com we are departing ahead of schedule!
Every single airport I know has some kind of weird contraption near the runway. LSC is no exception.
Reaching the threshold.
…and off we go!
We take off towards the center of La Serena.
Francisco de Aguirre avenue, and the faro!
We turn to the south over the 5 Norte, the local name for the Pan-American Highway.
La Portada Stadium.
The airport can be seen from here. The valley of river Elqui extends beyond, towards the east.
Downtown La Serena between Francisco de Aguirre and the river Elqui. Two streets north of Francisco de Aguirre are the Japanese Garden and the tent of a visiting circus. Puerta del Mar shopping center with its large parking lot can also be seen (lower left). When I was there I thought I was in Argentina. Nobody spoke with a Chilean accent there! Most Chilean beach cities get flooded by tourists from Argentina this time of year.
We continue to the south.
That was a nice tour of La Serena from the air
In the south of the city, a fierce fight to cultivate this dry land.
The small town of El Peñón.
In the distance, Cerro Tololo space observatory. I apologize for the quality of the photographs. It’s 50km away.
You can see it more clearly in my previous report.
Shortly after, we’re flying over Recoleta dam and the valley of river Hurtado…
…and La Paloma dam…
…and the countless other valleys that wind among the mountains here.
The snow has melted down there, leaving these lagoons behind.
Near the town of Combarbalá the mountains are not reddish or greyish anymore. Suddenly, the mountains…
…are painted in vivid colors!
It’s a jaw-dropping sight for me. I know there are places like this in other parts of the world…
…but I never thought there was something like this right here “in the neighborhood”!
Back in the cabin… Hurray! The BOB has started! I’m starving and want to try that new recipe wrap!
Too bad I’m sitting in row 24 and this is a roughly 40-minute flight! :( Will they make it to my row before we land?
They do! 4000 CLP (6 USD) for this wrap and a coffee. It’s not that bad, is it?
Verdict: The wrap is FANTASTIC! The beef is soft and tasty, and the onion is sweet, the way I like it! Two thumbs up, Sky!
There’s a lot of tourism ads all over the cabin. This one is about Puerto Natales, in Patagonia. LATAM and Sky fly there. This is where you have to go if you are planning to visit the Paine Towers.
Those Life vest under your seat and Fasten your seat belt stickers were placed over the original ones. Looks like someone was curious to know what language they were in.
They must have been in English. CC-AJG started its life in Skybus in 2007.
I finish my delicious wrap in a hurry. We’ll be arriving in Santiago in some minutes. Ew! Look at all that smoke!
The wildfires are really bad. It looks like half the country is burning! A beautiful 747 played an important role in extiguishing the fires. More info in my next report.
How can people even breathe here?!
Arriving at SCL.
I have the impression that someone forgot to lower the flaps after landing.
Hey, old friend! I saw you at IQQ two days ago, when you were departing to Jujuy, Argentina! When will you take me for a ride? Next summer, perhaps?
We pull into our gate. I brace for a whole 20 hours in Santiago. Jebus, save me! :(
The flaps! Will they stay like that?
We will have to wait a little before we can get off. The captain begs all the passengers sitting on the right side to lower their shades in order to prevent the cabin from overheating.
The old style, bulky armrest.
The overhead panel.
So, we can not use our devices yet?
The whole cabin feels older than it really is. The plane is supposed to be only 9 years old!
Ummmmfffffff…… hot, hot, hot… it burns… it burns!
Hope to see you soon!
Thanks for waiting, you people!
Where are they going? Oops. It doesn’t say. La Serena, I presume.
That’s where we have to go.
Did you know that Victoria’s Secret models and me have something in common? Yes. We are hungry all the time! ^^
Let’s see. Where do I have to go now? Cinta 8.
Clear enough, isn’t it? So, I obey and wait at carousel 8.
In the meantime, I read some tips about the airport’s official transportation.
All of a sudden, a voice over the loudspeakers announces that passengers coming from La Serena must collect their baggage from carousel nine! We all turn back and flock to number 9. Hm, it’s gonna be chaotic. Carousel 9 is already crowded with passengers from other flights. The man giving the announcement is behind a small counter. We ask him about the reason for this change. He says that number 8 is under maintenance.
But a minute later, the same man reverts the instructions and sends us back to carousel 8! God. I’m pretty sure he wishes his counter was bigger. Some passengers want to kill him.
After this passenger ping-pong I grudgingly pull my bag towards the exit. Centropuerto or TurBus? If you have read my previous report, you know which one I’m taking and why. ^^
To take the bus to the center of the city you must walk to gate 4. If you don’t smoke, I suggest you walk along the inside of the building. Smokers gather outside the terminal and it’s really nasty.
There we go. The line is long today.
An Argentinean lady asks me how to get downtown, and I suddenly become a tourist guide when other people notice that I’m helping this lady and they approach me with the same question. So, here’s the explanation if you are visiting Chile any time soon: The first stop for both TurBus and Centropuerto buses is Pajaritos metro station. They stop there for some minutes. Then they keep going along the Alameda (Bernardo O’Higgins Avenue), but Centropuerto will stop at Los Héroes metro station, while TurBus will continue a bit further to their own bus station, still on the Alameda. My suggestion: get off at Pajaritos. You will have more chances to grab a seat, will avoid traffic jams, and will be able to reach any corner of the city very quickly. If you have to get to your accommodation by yourself, just ask what metro station you have to get off at.
You can’t avoid this traffic jam in particular, because it’s before Pajaritos.
Gosh. I don't like Santiago, and Santiago doesn’t like me. I hope Pajaritos won't be crowded.
Why did I ask? -_-
Thanks for reading! ^^
La Serena - LSC
Santiago - SCL
Sky is doing a good job. Great BOB. Good inflight magazine. However, Sky is still an alternative to "big daddy" LATAM, and not the other way round.
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