This is the sad story of how my much anticipated second flight on a vintage Boeing 737-300 with the controversial airline Latin American Wings with great views of the Chilean Lakes District and a generous inflight snack, turned into a rather routinary Valdivia > Santiago flight on an all-too-common Airbus 320 with a sleek, modern (boring) cabin, and what's worse, without a free snack! Boo - hoo.
Let's call this introduction…
A midsummer day's nightmare
For economic and logistic reasons, I always plan my holidays several months in advance, so I get my ticket with Latin American Wings in July 2017!
However, as my rotten luck will have it, only days before the flight I find myself staring at my laptop screen in shock: Latin American Wings will cancel all domestic flights starting 10 January!
The airline publishes a letter on their Facebook account stating that all passengers affected by the cancelations will be rebooked on flights of other airlines, but something tells me that this just won't happen, so I buy a new ticket. Thank goodness there are still some relatively cheap JetSmart tickets two weeks before the day of the flight, despite this being the summer holidays season.
My JetSmart mobile boarding pass:
As expected, the date of my original flight comes and goes, and Latin American Wings does not contact me, does not reply calls or Facebook messages, and of course, does not place me on a new flight.
And that marks the end of yet another short-lived Chilean airline. But this one will be hard to forget. You can read more about LAW's rather turbulent story in the report for my only flight with them.
A second of silence for them.
BTW, this is flight 3 of 9 of this trip. You might want to read the reports for flights 1, 2, 4, and 5. The rest are coming soon. :)
Boarding the seagull
Giving my luck a last chance, I simply stand at the bus stop that morning and wait for the first means of transportation that will drop me outside the airport. And guess what! A transfer van shows up at once!
It's full, but I take the best seat, next to the driver.
It's a beautiful, bright day in Valdivia…
…but I cringe at the thought of the rather warm experience awaiting for me at SCL…
…where the temperature soars to around 35°C this time of year.
Lots of people travelling today, it seems.
This is a lot of movement…
…for our local standards.
I hate farewells.
I bet most of these people are flying back home to Santiago. That's one of the disadvantages of living in the south of Chile. For some strange reason, family and friends from the north think you'll be happy to have them at home every summer. >:(
A new screen! For the moment, I only see landscapes on it.
In the boarding room…
…we are supposed to board by zones, but nobody knows the system. Everybody is asking each other about it. A little more information would be welcome.
We don't have to wait long before CC-AWE arrives from SCL.
Each JetSmart aircraft features a different Chilean bird on its tail.
This is torture for my obssessive personality. A bit more to the right, captain!
This is what Chileans do when they can't fix a problem with aircraft: pray!
Thank you , Lord!
One thing I love about ZAL…
…is that you have a privileged view of the staff…
…going about their work.
JetSmart seems to have hired the services of Acciona…
…a Spanish company involved in different kinds of business…
I have seen them servicing JetSmart in different Chilean airports, and their equipment always looks brand new.
We queue while passengers from SCL disembark…
…and a Sky Airline aircraft arrives, also from SCL. Santiago is the only destination of flights departing from Valdivia.
Boarding has become so slow these days. Stuck in the jetbridge I have time to take photos of our plane…
…Sky Airline's passengers heading to baggage claim…
…and the competitor's aircraft in not-so-remote position.
Finally, here we go.
The seats are OK for a domestic flight…
…legroom is acceptable…
…but they don't recline…
…and you don't get any kind of entertainment whatsoever. Not even music. Let alone a USB charger.
Tray tables are small and cute. Enough for a peanut bag.
The only content of the seat pocket is the safety instructions card.
The seat pocket is very inobstrusive.
Standard Airbus overhead panel.
Some details of this flight.
Planes usually land at ZAL from north to south, and take off from south to north.
That makes sense because Santiago is in the north.
This prevents you from seeing Valdivia, which is farther south.
But today we are taxiing…
…to the north end of the runway!
A first for me!
Taking off southwards…
…allows me to see…
…and the road linking the airport and Valdivia.
There it is! The white building on the right is Dreams Hotel and Casino. My house… is hidden by the hills. :'''(
…and I get a superb view of Chos-Wenko volcano. (Spanish spelling: Choshuenco) The left peak is not another crater, but part of the rim produced by an explosion that blew the whole upper half of the volcano! The new crater, growing in the middle of the lower half, is the peak that you see on the right. Three days later I'll be flying right above the volcano, and the views will be…. mind blowing!!
The countryside is painted with the brownish colors of the summer.
Only traces of snow on the distant peaks, but the air is so clean (few wildfires this year) that most volcanoes are clearly visible…
The area around lake Villarrica is full of tourists this time of year.
Temuco <Sigh> brings back memories of my adventure…
…in the roadside dump.
Another volcano, Llaima, 75km north-east of Temuco.
In the language of the aboriginal Mapuche people: molu = warrior; che = people; and ñanku = hawk. So, molu + che + ñanku = warrior hawk. "Mulchén" for short.
The crew hands the BOB menu.
I accept it only for reporting purposes this time.
The menu also contains the price list in case you want to change your seat during the flight.
I have tried this fajita before, and it's heavenly. (I love quinoa, BTW)
I doubt this sandwich can beat freshly baked bread only because it is imported from France!
A very peaceful cabin today. No crying babies!
Before long we're flying above Laja river. In the distance, partially hidden by the mountains, is Laja lagoon. We're half our way to Santiago.
I find this section of the Andes especially attractive. Right north of river Ñuble there's an area…
…of very rugged, pointy peaks, where the mountains advance towards the west, forming a lot of small, narrow little valleys covered with forest. The tiny village of San Fabián lies there by the river, too. I MUST visit this place some day.
San Carlos. We are only 380km from Santiago.
Nearby Digua dam evidences the growing problem of water shortage in central Chile…
…which is not so serious in Colbún dam…
I am surprised to see that the whole area around Descabezado (Beheaded) volcano is covered by ashes!
I didn't notice that before because the whole place is usually covered with snow. According to the Chilean Geology Service, it last erupted in 1932, but it doesn't mean that it couldn't have "burped" a little ash once in a while. In fact, I will soon post a photo of such an event, caught during my last flight in this series.
Talca is one of the ugliest places I have been to. There's a saying here: "Talca, París y Londres," (Talca, Paris and London). People say this when they hear the name "Talca."
I suppose this means that Talca was a beautiful, important town some time many years ago (in colonial times, perhaps). But it definitely isn't so today!
Convento Viejo reservoir ensures that water is available for some poorly irrigated areas on the coast.
We know that we are arriving in Santiago because of these "island hills"…
…that is, hills in the middle of flat land. They ocurr because, some kilometers south of Santiago…
…the Andes and the Coastal Range get close together, narrowing the valley in the middle.
Rancagua, on river Cachapoal, is the last important city before we arrive in Santiago. Upper left corner, the impressive, gigantic Maipo volcano…
…waits in silence. Who knows what it's up to. :O
Disaster. Aculeo lagoon practically dry. Next time I see it, in May…
…it will be nothing but a big mud crust. :(
Down there, Maipú Catholic church, where Francis addressed young people some months ago. When asked by TV reporters about the reasons for the low attendance, a bishop said "They were under the trees".
A bit more to the north… what do my eyes see?!?!
Yeeees! What great memories of the Jamiroquai concert last December at the Movistar Arena! Report here!
The Arena is in the middle of O'Higgins Park, next to the Hippodrome.
Downtown is amazingly clear today. Where did the smog go??
I can get some good shots of the city.
River Mapocho flows to the Pacific Ocean.
Providencia, Las Condes and Vitacura are well-off areas closer to the mountains.
That's Los Leones golf club…
…and the so called "Sanhattan", the local business district.
North of the city, we bank to the left in a U-turn…
…with a view of Mount Aconcagua…
…and start descending into SCL…
…over the fields of Lampa…
…west of the city.
Don't you agree that taking a photo of the deployed spoilers is a feat of balance, strength, and self control? It's like taking a photo inside a cocktail shaker!
Upper right corner, doggone LAW.
Remember we are in summer holidays. From this point, we should taxi to the domestic area of the terminal.
However, we turn right past this private jet…
…turn right again towards the buildings opposite the terminal…
…and right again, so that I can see the terminal from my seat now.
The captain announces that there are no gates available, no busses, no nothing, and that it's not the airline's fault. We will have to wait until further notice.
After some ten minutes we start taxiing again…
…past the domestic side of the terminal…
…and come to a stop…
…in a remote position. However, the story is not yet over. The captain comes over the PA again, and tell us that we'll have to wait a bit more until a bus is available, and that we should keep the window shades down in order to keep the cabin as cool as possible. It's a hell out there.
Ten minutes later we disembark. Gosh. It's warm out here, indeed.
On the bright side…
…we get a bonus tour…
…around some interesting specimens, like this 737-300 of the dying Latin American Wings….
…preparing for one of its last flights to troubled Haiti or Venezuela.
Aerovías DAP's CC-AJS…
The fourth Chilean airline in size after LATAM, Sky Airline, and JetSmart…
…flying to destinations in Patagonia and Antarctica. Its subsidiary, Mineral Airways, serves the mining industry in the north of the country.
Am I right when I say that those things at the rear are speed brakes. I always see them deployed when the plane is on the apron. I wonder why.
A historical photo of the four competitors together.
…at baggage claim.
For some reason the restrooms in this area are usually empty, so it's a good idea to stop there…
…because I'm not willing to spend the whole day sweating in Santiago.
Whaaat?? The queue for the bus to Santiago is infinite!!
Advised by a taxi driver, I invite other passengers to share a taxi.
These will be the west piers…
…of the new terminal.
I'm in Santiago because I have to board the flight back to Patagonia the day after tomorrow, but my visit to Santiago will last less than an hour.
Of course, I'll spend a great weekend in Viña!
Summer in Viña
Viña is also crowded this time of year…
…but it's so different from the suffocating streets of Santiago.
Muelle (dock) Vergara was built in the 1880s. It was turned into a promenade in 1983. The crane partially seen on the right was built in Leeds, England, in 1914, and bought second-hand for this dock in 1937.
The beaches around the dock are very popular…
…but the water is cold.
Remember that we're not in the tropics, and the Humboldt current brings water from the Antarctic.
Anyway, you can be sure that 80% of those people come from Argentina. There's been lots of Argentine tourists this year because the exchange rate is very convenient for them.
Viña is called Ciudad Jardín (Garden City)…
…and its streets are quiet and pleasant even in summer…
…because everybody is on the beach!
So, it'll be a relaxing weekend…
… before I board the next flight on Monday.
Take care! :)
Valdivia - ZAL
Santiago - SCL
ZAL Mostly stagnant infrastructure and services. Quickly becoming too small.
JetSmart On the bright side, this new ULCC has played a role bringing airfares down in the country. On the dark side, they offer a very low price and then charge for "commissions". Don't be surprised if you find a cheaper final fare with LATAM or Sky Airline.
SCL Struggling to deal with the summer traffic! The new terminal is needed urgently!
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