Can you imagine a flight-reporter leaving an airport on foot only to be, moments later, tresspassing on private property and wandering around a roadside dump as he desperately looks for a way back to civilization along a never-ending dirt road lined with nothing but bushes as far as the eye can see, fearing to become dinner for stray dogs or the victim of some hidden thief, and then ending up stranded for hours by a highway as the night falls and it begins to rain… and all of this on his birthday?? CAN YOU???
Well, if you can't, keep reading. :'''(
A good start
But let's focus on positive things first.
What better birthday present for a flight-reporter than adding a new airline to his list and to flight-report.com's database?
A lot has been happening in my country in the commercial aviation market in the last years. With the crumbling monopoly of our former flag carrier LAN-turned-LATAM, and new local airlines ushering in the low-cost model, the national air travel industry has been turned on its head.
…and when, weeks later, they announced they would sell tickets at 1000 CLP!!! (1,5 USD) I was drooling like Homer Simpson.
From JetSmart's Facebook account. (luca = slang for 1000 CLP)
You had to subscribe in order to be notified when the tickets would be available for sale.
So the present flight is the result of that promotion.
Getting my ticket
JetSmart won't be flying to my hometown until January 2018. I have to fly to Temuco, some 200km north of my home.
The total amount includes the airport fee.
I'm quite sure this will cause some angry episodes at the airport. JetSmart has set a negligible difference of 10cm in height between what they call a bolso de mano (hand bag), which is free of charge, and equipaje de mano (hand baggage), which is not. They give examples of items in the bolso de mano category: a hand bag, a briefcase, or a backpack. So, what I understand here is that you will pay if your bag is stiff and/or it has wheels. Period.
On the bright side, you pay only 5000 CLP (8 USD) for your checked baggage. LATAM charge twice as much.
You can be assigned a random seat for free, or you can choose one for as little as 2000 CLP (3 USD). Silly me, I didn’t take a screenshot of the seat map. :(
Finally, just like any modern airline worth the name, JetSmart gives you the chance to keep your boarding pass on your cellphone or pay to have it printed it at the counter.
The roof of the new west pier is taking shape. According to the concession's holder, those wavy structures are supposed to resemble the waves of the sea…
…and the tops of the Andes.
On the other side of the road, I can see the first structures…
…of what will be the international departures hall.
That corner outside the access to national departures is a good place for spotting.
The airport, however, takes no responsibility in case of an accident. They warn: This place has not been designed as an observation deck. The risk of accident is your own responsibility. Watch your children.
Even though this is the domestic side, there’s some international movement, too, like this Venezuelan Conviasa Embraer.
It might be the time of day, but I am amazed at the number of Conviasa aircraft I can see around here.
CC-ANS is one of Aerovías DAP's BAe. You can fly to Antarctica with them!
Where else can you spot planes inside and outside?
At that moment an Alitalia takes off…
…followed by a local Sky Airline…
…and a large KLM.
I’d better go in and enjoy the show from the boarding room, much closer to the runway.
Crowded main hall! Thank goodness I'm not checking any bags this time.
Small new airlines are usually confined to this corner.
My intention is to watch the activity from the far end of the boarding room…
…over there, you see?
Lucky me! Nobody is sitting here! I have such a superb view on the runway that I hardly notice how the hours fly by! I only make a pause at lunchtime to get a hamburger from McDonald's, barely five meters away.
I chose my favorite 70 photos (or so) for the next section.
Spotting at SCL
Coincidentally, the first plane in sight is JetSmart's very first aircraft.
LAW is the only Chilean airline sticking to a sort of legacy tradition, with free checked baggage and free food. Unfortunately, people don’t seem to appreciate this, and LAW’s market share has remained minimal.
And there comes CC-AWB! One of JetSmart’s three brand new A320.
Along with Akori (the falcon) and Violeta (the loica)…
They make up the whole JetSmart fleet at the moment.
It's weird. There was no competition to choose a name for CC-AWB, which has a martín pescador (kingfisher) on its tail. So I contact JetSmart on their Facebook account.
They reply immediately: It's name is Martín. I should have imagined!
At the time of this flight, JetSmart has a humble three-aircraft fleet. However, some time later they announce that Indigo Partners have signed a deal for over 400 planes with Airbus. Seventy of those planes will go to JetSmart, turning it into the second largest Chilean airline! From Airbus’s website:
An aspirin? XD
PR-GUJ is coming a bit late from Sao Paulo.
Just in case you have wondered, gol is Spanish and Portuguese for goal.
That gives you an idea of how soccer-crazy Brazilians are!
Did you know that some airlines haven’t been able to come up with a decent livery?
There comes Avianca, for example.
What could be uglier?
Well, two Aviancas. What makes airlines believe that simply adding oddly oriented ribbons to their liveries will make their aircraft look cool?
But please, show some respect. Did you know that Avianca, Colombia’s flag carrier, is the second oldest airline in the world? Only KLM is (only a couple of months) older, but the latter ceased operations for several years during World War II, so Avianca is the oldest continuously running airline.
To finish with, LATAM boasts this hybrid LAN/OneWorld livery.
Will alliances save legacy airlines like LATAM?
According to El Mercurio, the most important Chilean newspaper, LATAM lost 5.5% of the market share to LCCs this year alone. Since 2010 it has lost 11.4%. Meanwhile, Sky Airline reached 27%, and JetSmart - in less than six months in operation - already has 6.7%.
You can't imagine how much I enjoyed this long spotting session. Unfortunately, it's time to head to gate 31. That's on the first (ground) floor, and it means that we'll board by bus! What else could I ask for?!
View from the bottom of the steps. I don’t have to wait. The passengers are already lining up over there, at the far end.
There’s only one line. I suppose it wouldn’t make sense to board by sections.
The line is so long that it goes all the way from the gate to the other side of the room and continues around the back of this desk. Now you know that AirportConnect Open is the solution of choice for SCL operations.
It’s great when the bus is waiting for you at the gate. Right, AEP?
Everything goes smoothly, but I think that that little citizen whose cheeks you would like to pinch would agree with me that a little more information should have been given at the gate. You’ll see why.
How exciting! Will Martín be our bird for today?
Nope. Will it be Akori (which has returned from La Serena by now)?
Neither. We continue our ride around this One Airline aircraft, which serves the mining industry…
…and around the DAP BAe we saw earlier…
And here is where you see the lack of information:
Everybody crowds together at the front door!
Yes, using the rear door is a matter of common sense…
…but passengers are not supposed to know that.
Nobody is telling us at the foot of the stairs, either.
So only a handful…
…head for the rear door.
Chilean birds are not particularly colorful. At least not like some tropical ones. (Our “national bird” is a vulture, for God’s sake!) So a loica’s red breast is something unusual. You can see the ones I photographed some time ago in the tourism bonus for this report.
Great! Nobody hurries me and I can take some photos of the fuselage.
This is the brand new cabin of this brand new A320.
The seat pitch is all right for me.
I love the sleek design of the seat back. Nothing invades your space. The table tray is embedded in the seat.
I’d say the table is a bit on the small side, but then again, what are you supposed to place on it on a ULCC flight?
The magazine pocket is designed to not bother your knees.
Even this hanger is out of the way.
The space between the window and the seat seems to be better than Sky Airline's, the other airline that I usually fly. The top of the window seat in Sky is angled in order to fit the shape of the wall.
The safety instructions come in the form of a three-fold.
“Amaraje.” First time I see this word. I only knew amarizaje, which has the same meaning. You live, you learn! :D
This modernized version of the overhead panel is in step with the times. The No smoking signal has been reduced to a sticker, and replaced with No electronic devices.
I'm missing a USB charger here. I think it's something essential in a modern aircraft cabin.
According to Flightradar24.com…
…we depart with an acceptable 18-minute delay.
Some details of this trip.
There goes the tow. We are left on our own.
The rest of JetSmart’s fleet waits at the gates…
…of the domestic departures area. The loica is reflected on my spotting corner.
Taxiing away from the terminal building…
…and the control tower…
…towards the hangars. I can’t get enough of that livery! XDD
I described this one in a previous report. It’s a copy of the plane that flew to Easter island for the first time.
These are… who cares.
LAW’s hangars always have some surprise.
This time it’s this 767 wet leased from Dynamic Airways for the summer season and for the increased activity since it opened a route to Miami… via Caracas, Venezuela!
See it here taking off from JFK.
If you have read this report, you already know that Latin American Wings has been controversial because of their ethnic traffic between Haiti and Chile, which seems to be a cornerstone of their business model. Have they succeeded in their new route to Caracas? According to bloomberg.com, they have!
Old CC-CZU has been kept here for a while, with its wheels, engines and cockpit windows covered. No idea what the problem can be. I don’t think it’s being repainted here, is it?
I found a 2009 report of an incident involving CC-CZU. A bird was seemingly sucked by one of the engines, which twisted some of the turbine blades during take off from SCL to LAX. This produced level 5 vibrations, but nothing more serious.
Conspiracy theory: I’m convinced that the Chilean army is testing some kind of secret camera spoiling device here. I have never been able to take a decent photo of those military planes! They’re always blurred!
The ILS, I presume?
After we take off…
…I have to recognize…
…that Santiago can be…
…an interesting city to see on days like this…
…when the smog is at its lowest levels.
Ruta 68 is the way to Valparaíso and Viña del Mar.
Ruta 68 meets the west end of Santiago’s main street, the Alameda.
All those neighborhoods at the foothills are new. The first time I was there, there was nothing but cultivated fields.
Lower left, El Bosque airbase, and the rectangular patch of green a little beyond is the Agronomy Faculty of the University of Chile.
It’s only about…
…80km to the next city…
…Rancagua, the capital city of the O’Higgins region. Chile is divided into regions, the regions into provinces, and the provinces into comunas.
I already told about Requínoa, where I spent much of my childhood.
Then comes Rosario.
And Rengo, where I spent my high school years. <sigh> Can you imagine a plump teenager with zero social skills, wearing braces and big glasses, hating Physical Education, listening to his Madonna and Michael Jackson cassettes on his Walkman all day? That was me!
And in spite of everything, you keep such nice memories of your teenage years, don’t you? So many new, strong emotions. And Rengo is such a nice little town. I would gladly move back there. Who knows. Maybe one day.
And finally, before we leave the Panamerican Highway and fly closer to the mountains, Pelequén. Hello, family! You see the road that goes out of the town and around the hill towards the upper left corner of the photo? I went for a walk along that road and across the hill and left pictures in this report.
The FAs come and offer a copy of the BOB menu to each passenger. They take it away after the BOB has ended. A smart move, I think, that prevent greedy airline item collectors (like me!) from stealing their menus!!
If you ask me…
…it's a bit expensive. Compare JetSmart's sandwiches and their prices…
…to these in Sky Airline's menu.
And compare the prices of some products like the alfajor chileno in JetSmart's menu…
…to those Sky Airline's menu. Besides, Dilmah tea is much better quality than Lipton.
So JetSmart is falling a little behind Sky Airline…
…in the BOB department.
Another smart move was having two trolleys for the BOB. They start at the first and last rows…
…in the middle! It is much faster than Sky Airline and LATAM.
But I'll skip the sandwich for now and concentrate in the landscape. No idea where we are at the moment, but that looks like a landslide, doesn't it?
…still look gorgeous…
…with the last traces of snow…
…from last winter.
Ah! We're flying above Colbún dam.
Maule lagoon, on the border with Argentina, is where Maule river is born, of course. :D
South of it, Fea lagoon. What an unfair name! Feo (feminine fea) = ugly!!
I don't seem it's necessarily ugly, is it?
Ancoa dam. Damned dam! First time I hear about it and it took me ages to find it on Google Maps!!
This area in central Chile is not well prepared for tourism, but the last scarce remainings of native forest make it worth seeing if you like camping and backpacking. Some nice views of Ancoa dam here:
A bit to the south is…
…Bullileo dam. Just like Ancoa, ideal for adventurers.
Found some drone views of the area.
Fo the rest of the trip I enjoy the always-changing shapes and shadows of the mountains…
Until we reach Laja lagoon.
Antuco volcano, partially covered by clouds, stands on the south-west margin of the lagoon.
The lagoon and the volcano are part of Laja National park.
And here's a very well done video with amazing views of the lagoon.
West of the national park is Manco lagoon. This one was also difficult to find on the map! Looks like a beautiful hidden corner, ideal for trekking, judging from what I found on YouTube.
We leave the lagoon, the volcano, and the valley of river Laja behind…
…Angostura hydroelectric power plant, where the small river Huequecura meets the larger river Bio Bio.
Before we bank a little to the west…
…Conguillío lagoon announces…
….that we will soon start descending…
…over the fields north of Temuco.
River Cautín winds through the fields…
…close to the Panamerican Highway, aka Ruta 5 Sur…
…past some tiny villages like Pillanlelbu…
An at the north access to the city…
…the town of Cajón.
We follow the river and the highway…
…over the east neighborhoods of the city.
We glide quietly and smoothly…
…over the fields between the city and the airport.
River Vilcún is right north of the terminal…
Welcome back to ZCO.
A short taxi…
…to the jetbridge…
…and everybody hurries to get off.
I wait till the last minute to take a shot of the seats…
…and the cabin. It's a ULCC cabin, but doesn't it look neat and tidy? And look at the FA's expression. FAs were very polite and smiled all the time.
Mmm!!! It’s a beautiful day outside. Perfect for playing detective.
I had so much fun…
…planespotting at SCL and flying on this new airline…
…that I’m completely sure…
…that nothing could ruin such a nice day. NOTHING! Let’s see the time table. More flights are coming later, so the transfer service will be available until late.
That’s important in case my exploration along the gravel road goes wrong and I have to come back.
But nothing could go wrong… I think.
The worst explorer ever
As I explained in my previous report, I intend to prove that it's possible to go from Temuco airport to the highway on foot using a nearby gravel road, instead of paying the expensive transfer to the city. Let's go! Click here for background music.
Let’s go out of the terminal building…
…across the parking lot towards the airport exit.
The access to the gravel road is over there.
Why does this queltehue have red eyes?
I guess he’s thinking “You again? We could use some peace around here!”
Here we are. The wooden gate is open. And the metal gate is…
But wait! There a little open space here, made specially for these cases! Woo hoo!
I’m in!! Strange people. Who on earth places a huge metal, electric gate on a PUBLIC road?
Let’s begin our adventure along the gravel road. Free access to the highway, here I go!
Whoa! This is a nice road. Lined with large trees…
…some farm buildings…
…many farming tools… Gosh! Who on earth leaves machinery and other expensive tools unattended by a PUBLIC road?!
Let’s keep walking. I don’t see a soul around here. I can only hear what sounds like a very big dog barking in the distance.
This is getting interesting. No more houses. Only fields.
Yes! I think I can see the end of the road in the distance!
The gravel road stretches…
…across beautiful fields.
It’s so peaceful here.
No fences? Again, who on earth leaves their crops unattended by a… er… PUBLIC…? road?
I get to the end of the road, and this is when it dawns on me. This is NOT a PUBLIC road!!! Oh, my! I have been trespassing on private property for the last half hour!! They could have… SHOT ME!! Or at least, arrested me!! And now this gate is closed!!
Luckily, I can go around it, but when I come to the other side…
…there’s no way a bus will stop here, or anywhere near! There’s no place for that here! The only options I have are going back to the airport (which I will not do unless I want to end up in jail) or… Keep walking to the next town, Freire. But that’s some 5km to the south! I’m gonna faint. I have no choice. I must keep walking.
I walk… and walk… and walk.
Suddenly the pavement comes to an end and I end up in an illegal dump with old tires and car pieces. God, what have I done to deserve this!!
Now there’s only a dirt road that stretches ahead of me for what seems like endless kilometers! I come across a tramp living by the road in a hut made of cardboard and pieces of wood. I say hello, but he doesn’t reply, and his dogs growl and bark at me. I think my time has come!
I keep walking trying to act “normal”. If someone asks me what I’m doing here, I will say “Oh, I’m just coming from the airport and wanted to stretch my legs a little.” That’s sooo normal :’’’(
Then I see this man with his bike there. Is he hiding something? Does he have a knife or a gun. GULP!
But no. He is messaging someone, and he kindly shows me the way to the town.
That way, across the railway. Pavement again!
Little by little, I see the first signs of civilization. I’m so relieved. The shadows are getting longer and longer as the sun sets.
But it doesn’t mean I’m close to the town. I have to keep walking.
Just outside the town this house draws my attention. There's a wrecked train in its backyard!
It must have been left there when the street was built on the railway. Welcome to Freire.
I keep walking up to this park.
Look! They have their own leaning tower!
I find a kind lady and a boy here who advise me to go to the office of the only large bus company in town, JAC. I do that. Here’s a view of the main street of the town.
There go the lady and the boy.
When I arrive at what would be the commercial center of Freire…
…JAC office is closed! Today is a holiday. How am I supposed to get back home, now? :’’’(
The only solution is to walk to the highway (at last)…
…wait here and pray that a big bus will stop. But that’s very improbable, and the small ones only go to nearby towns. Will I spend the night here?! And now it's beginning to rain!!
Then I remember, from my university days in Temuco, that a big bus to Valdivia leaves from Temuco at 7:30 pm and stops at small towns. Is it possible that this bus still runs?
It does!! I'm beside myself!! But the oddysey does not finish here. I don't have a ticket, so I don't have a seat. I have to stand for two and a half hours. My feet are killing me. My whole body is falling into pieces.
My sister has been messaging me and, in the hustle, I have not replied. I tell her about my "adventure" now and she replies "But I wanted to go and fetch you in the car! That's why I was messaging you!"
Santiago - SCL
Temuco - ZCO
JetSmart The first Chilean ULCC is quickly taking flight, as it has reached 6% of the share market in less than six months, bringing air ticket prices to new lows in Chile and LATAM to their knees. BOB a bit on the expensive side. Nice cabin and crew.
ZCO I promise I will pay for the transfer in silence from now on. :'''(
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