Auntie Olivia - my father's sister - has been in bed for four years now.
She's completely healthy, the doctor says. She just convinced herself that she can't walk.
I can't visit her very often, so I'm using this long weekend to fulfill my duties of "favorite nephew".
The job is easy: I just have to sit next to her bed for hours while listening to the same stories she has already told me a hundred times.
Let's see what JetSmart can do for me.
The seat experiment
This flight will give me the opportunity to carry out a little "experiment" - Is there any chance to get a widow seat on an LCC without paying for it? Will I be able to "fool" the system?
I start by buying my ticket from JetSmart, a ULCC where you have to pay to get your preferred seat.
The lowest fare is still available for the outbound flight (ida) a month before this long weekend. The price for the return flight (vuelta) has just started to rise.
It's just a weekend. No extra baggage needed.
And here's the key step - A chill runs down my spine as I click on "No quiero elegir asientos" (I don't want to choose seats)
I'll carry my boarding card on my cellphone.
And that's how I become one of JetSmart's least profitable customers. I have paid the bare fee. No extras at all.
When the time for check-in comes I choose Asignación aleatoria sin costo (Random assignment free of charge), and I'm assigned seat 26D. Hmf. What if I try again? Same thing. What if I wait a little? Same thing! So, it doesn't seem to be quite "random" but rather "revengeful"!
ZAL is evolving (sort of)
This Friday afternoon I'm planning to take whatever bus shows up at the usual bus stop, and get off in the road outside the airport. It's the cheapest and less complicated way to get to ZAL. Rural buses run every 20 or 30 minutes between Valdivia and little towns near the airport.
But - to my big surprise - my sister is in a good mood today and she offers to take me without me asking her.
How could I say no?!
So we cross the river Calle Calle…
…and drive along the road north of Valdivia. The summer is coming to an end…
…and the shadows are long as early as 4 p.m. The bus would have dropped me over there, on the right.
There are barely 100 meters…
….from the road up to the terminal.
You see? I'm not the only one…
…who uses the public transportation to get to ZAL.
When she sees a cop (that I didn't see) my sister decides…
…to drive past the entrance and drop me a little further ahead.
A corner of the main hall just by the entrance looked like this in late 2018. There used to be a cafeteria here…
…but now the enlarged men's restrooms occupy that space.
I have to film discreetly and take screenshots later. In fact, I'm using this strategy a lot in this report.
Outside the restrooms…
…LATAM passengers are arriving from Santiago.
On my way to the boarding room…
…I can't notice any new changes around the main hall.
Even the chewing gum dispenser stands in the same place.
That would be the queue for security check.
What's the problem, ma'am?! You've just seen the prices of flight-report.com goodies??? XD
Haha. Just kidding. The prices are very reasonable!
Only a couple of minutes later I am in the boarding room…
…which is crowded because the LATAM flight back to Santiago is about to board.
Here's another change. There used to be a meeting room over there at the bottom. It's part of the waiting room now and there are new restrooms available.
A string of Permiso, Permiso, Permiso (Excuse me) and a lot of floundering, faltering, and meandering is the only way…
…to make it through the crowd to the other side of the room. A sign in Portuguese informs that Chile is free from measles and German measles. (German measles! You should read Agatha Christie's The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side!)
LATAM's aircraft is waiting.
I must admit that ZAL has never had…
…the cleanest windows.
In the meantime, that lady turns on her laptop…
…and minutes later…
…she is checking our boarding passes.
I am not really surprised…
…to see CC-AWA landing there.
Even though JetSmart ordered some 70 planes from Airbus…
..their fleet is still small, and CC-AWA seems to have been…
…assigned to this particular route…
…until further notice.
Boarding starts promptly. Even though I am in zone 3 - the longest queue - we are told that we can just board if we already have been checked by the other lady. And what's more, they make two lines for zone 3, so I am among the first to board.
A stroll around the apron with all those engines purring is a magical experience.
Have I ever told you about the ancient Chilean boarding rituals?
Ever since the times of the Inca Empire we have appeased the god of aviation - Latamcoatl - by performing the Boarding Dance, aka the Hokey Pokey.
It's very simple:
♪♫♬ Put your left foot in ♪♫♬
♪♫♬ Take your left foot out ♪♫♬
♪♫♬ And do the Hokey Pokey all around! ♪♫♬
You can master it in minutes!
Not a single cloud in the sky. You see?
That means that Latamcoatl…
…is happy now. We can fly safely.
A flight-reporter in the making??
JetSmart's livery is allusive to the Chilean flag colors…
…which in turn are allusive to the colors of the French flag.
Their first planes featured images of local birds, like the halcón peregrino austral (Falco peregrinus cassini)…
…but their newer planes also feature other animals…
…like a puma (mountain lion)
According to that table, the temperature can reach +50°C or -40°C… inside the cabin??? :O
There are two things I fail to understand about the signs on that door. First, the word "lavabo". We don't use it in Chile. And second, how on earth do they fit a wheelchair in that "lavabo"?!
Light years away from the last experience onboard CC-AWA last January, this time the cabin smells nice and fresh…
…and it looks clean.
Something that I really like about JetSmart is their background music. Unlike LATAM, which always play the same tune in Portuguese, JetSmart has a playlist of nice melodies. What would be this kind of music called? Lounge music? I'm not sure. You can listen to these two samples I recorded with my cellphone. (Audio only)
I can't complain about the seat pitch. I once flew on a LATAM plane where my knees poked the back of the seat. It was claustrophobic. That was in the old LATAM cabins, though, with the thick seats. It was a bad case of legacy seats and low-cost pitch. It improved in time.
Some gifted designer came up with these armrests that can be raised. God bless him! However, I have read that most aisle seats have a small lever or button on the underside of the armrest, near the hinge, that allows to raise the armrest.
Tray table, clean.
Seat pockect contents.
I reccomend those "native potato" crisps. Lots of different kinds of potatoes, in different colors and flavors, are produced in the south of Chile. Thses crisps are supposed to be made whith those.
The salads and sandwiches look great.
This one in particular is one of my favorites.
JetSmart has added some accessories to its BOB menu.
How cute! If it was branded or had plane designs I'd buy one!
Buying a Chilean phone chip will be useless for a foreigner. You need your Chilean ID number to activate it. Otherwise, you have to go to the service provider's office. The main ones here are Entel (expensive and horrible customer service), Movistar, and Claro. Claro will drown you in spam. So I recommend Movistar.
It's interesting that Sky Airline has made it possible to change your seat during the flight for about a year now…
…and JetSmart has followed suit.
The prices for changing your seat during the flight.
One of the most accurate route maps I have seen. Each city seems to be in the correct place.
I always carry my own earplugs when I travel. I can't sleep with noise.
This flight as flightradar24.com saw it.
At 4:56 the doors are closed, but we are not pushed back immediately. The captain tells us that they are looking for the baggage of a passenger "who won't be flying with us today", and this will take five or ten minutes. He has an accent, and he doesn't say "esto llevará" (this will take) but "esto shevará", which means that he's Argentinean.
At 5:00 we are pushed back while the safety speech is in progress. But then something happens and we return to our parking position.
At 5:12 we are pushed back again, but we are held on the apron until 5:21, when the flaps are tested and we start taxiing.
Once we get to the head of the runway we wait for a couple of minutes again…
…until we finally…
…take off at 5:29.
It's great that I can still take some photos from here…
…at least before the landscape gets out of my sight.
Some minutes later the BOB service starts. I can not part from…
…my beloved carrot muffin, but this time I'm adding something different.
Blueberry-maqui juice. Maqui (say MAH kee) is a local berry that - as is often said of less-known berries - is loaded with anti-oxidants and other almost-miraculous properties. The thing is, if you drink this, you should say good-bye to a considerable percentage of your wrinkles. My ass.
I'm not sure if this is a new policy or just the initiative of a smart FA, but whenever the amount to pay ends in 500, she offers a Super 8 for those 500 CLP. Super 8 is an extremely popular treat here, so very few people will say no. Obviously, I said yes.
So my change is not 6500, but just 6000. BTW, one of the things I like the most about Chile is the money. I mean, the banknotes! The green one (a thousand pesos) is called a "luca". The pink one is called, of course, "cinco lucas". That lady is Gabriela Mistral, a poet. She was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1945.
I don't know if maqui juice has other unwanted effects, but I suddenly feel an urge to visit the restroom. Or is it the Coke I had with my lunch? Anyway, a little girl goes ahead of me. Her father stays outside but she doesn't want to be alone, so a little game of peek-a-boo starts. I'm suffering in silence.
Well. Let's embrace adversity and make the best out of the circumstances. This is the first time I can photograph a galley in such detail…
…though I'm not really paying attention at the moment.
Meanwhile, the BOB continues… or are they collecting the trash? I'm losing the sense of time and reality at the moment. Will that girl ever finish, for God's sake???
Luckily I didn't need it, but even though I'm not a psychic I can read many stories of suffering and desperation in that torn roll.
There's nothing creepier than arriving at SCL when the night has fallen.
Avoid being the last one to disembark, or you'll be left alone in the long, silent corridors of the second floor.
Thanks for reading!
Valdivia - ZAL
Santiago - SCL
Todayś flight was a challenge, and an experiment. I confirmed that you won't get a good seat unless you pay for it. JetSmart's cabins are OK... for short flights. The BOB is slowly improving, with great sandwiches and newly added accessories.
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