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Hey everyone and welcome to my two-part report on LATAM's domestic service in Brazil.
I made this flights in July and since then, some things on the catering have changed. The "Mercado LATAM" buy-on-board service in Brazil was suddenly stopped until they find a better system.
Anyway, the itnerary was really simple. I had an appointment in São Paulo, the biggest city in the country, so it wasn't much of an issue to find flights!
Since TAM became officially LATAM, on early 2016, many changes on the airline product happened. In a general way, the airline that from the start had a "premium" domestic service needed to adequate itself to the reality of the market, in order to assure its survival. So LATAM started adopting a low-cost profile, increasing the number of seats and chargin for additional services, including food.
That's why I always wanted to try LATAM. The last time I had flown with them, still on TAM times – February 2016 –, I had a pretty interesting flight experience, with a free sandwich, soft drinks and coffee service, at a very interesting ticket price. From then on, obviously, everything changed.
At the end of July, I finally had the change, in a roundtrip between my hometown Porto Alegre and São Paulo/Congonhas Airport.
I had already tried the LATAM app to test the online check-in service. The experience was very positive; the app worked perfectly and is really intuitive.
I arrived early at the airport, since this was the first LATAM flight of the day and I would dispatch luggage. There was a separate line for my flight, so the wait was short and the dispatching was short as well.
This was my first flight on Porto Alegre's expanded terminal and I got really impressed with the dimensions of the new building. It now requires a much longer walk from the check-in area to the gate.
Flights of the day
I got to the gate with some antecedence.
I had selected seat 7A, in the last row of the LATAM+ seats, which have some more space to the legs. Theoretically, LATAM+ passengers have priority upon boarding, being allocated on group 3. I was on group 4, but didn't know why; I believe it was some issue on the system.
At 5:12AM, eight minutes before the provided time, boarding was started, respecting the priorities by law. It was the first flight of the week to the economic hub of the country, so as far as I saw, some 40 passengers were priority by status.
I was one of the lasts to board, because after the boarding of the first groups – the priority ones –, they agglutinated everyone on a single line.
Later I discovered why – boarding would be on a remote position.
The funnniest part of this: the plane was parked in a boarding bridge position. I suppose the bridge was not operating due to the expansion works on the old side of the terminal, which was closed for some updates after the expansion was opened.
I would fly on PR-MBZ, which was delivered to JetBlue on September 2002 as N546JB. On September 2008 it was transferred to TAM. Following the vast majority of LATAM Brasil's fleet, it was then yet to recieve the livery of the new airline, as well as the revamped cabin.
Since boarding was by bus, once everyone was in the aircraft boarding was ended. At 5:58AM doors were closed and pushback was started exactly on our STD, at 6:00AM.
At 6:11 the aircraft lined on POA's runway 11 and took-off, still before dawn.
At 6:16 the seat belt sign was turned off and the FAs started the onboard service.
Generaly speaking, LATAM's new proposal was that the passengers could choose what they would consume through a payment – that is, buy-on-board. The service was named "Mercado LATAM" (LATAM Market). There was a good number of options. I was particularly interested by the sandwiches, but I was told they didn't have it available in that particular flight, so they suggested I took the toast. To drink, I asked for a Coca-Cola.
It's important to mention the only courtesy item offered was water. The FAs were in a very good mood, treating everyone very well. A very positive and important point.
As I mentioned before, the "Mercado LATAM" was interrupted some months ago. Until they find a new solution, they distribute soft drinks, coffee and a small snack. However, it was already pointed that this "new solution" should be a mixed service with both paid and free options, just as GOL currently does.
The toast was really tasty. However, the inside of the bread was not as heated as the inside.
"Mercado LATAM" menu cover
Soon the sun started appearing on the horizon. Fortunately I was on the opposite side of the aircraft, so I could let the window wide open. The aircraft was flying at 37,000 feet.
The only entertainment option available was LATAM's magazine "Vamos", on which I was not very interested.
Theoretically the LATAM Play streaming service would be available as well, but I had not downloaded the app, which meant I should open it on my internet browser. I did as instructed, but the app did not work. On the flight back from São Paulo I would discover why…
LATAM Play needed connecting to the aircraft wi-fi network to be accessed.
Also, there was a power outlet under my seat.
As of the aircraft, it was sufficiently clean. I'm not the biggest fan of these seats, but as far as I know the airline will change them gradually, and honestly, I hope so.
The seat pitch was good, since I was in a LATAM+ seat. Between choosing a regular seat before check-in (BRL30/USD7.35) and a "+" seat (BRL35/USD8.57) the price difference is negligible, so I believe it's worth it.
LATAM's A320 safety card.
In a few minutes, the descent to Congonhas was started. Weather in São Paulo was overcast.
Landing at CGH happened at 7:25AM, five minutes before STA. It doesn't matter how many times I arrive in Congonhas, this approach will be always stunning for me.
Boarding also took place in a remote position. A bus took the passengers to the arrivals/connections area and my luggage arrived very quickly.
Thanks for reading this report and stay tuned for the next one, where I will complete evaluating LATAM Brasil's domestic experience! :-)
Cabin: yeah it was clean, but I am not a big fan of those seats, even though I had the additional pitch.
Cabin crew: they were in a very good mood.
Entertainment: "Vamos" could even be well-edited -- I didn't pay much attention to it --, but I couldn't access the LATAM Play service. In the next report I'll tell why.
Meal/catering: the toast was tasty indeed, but I missed the sandwiches. How can you not have the main option of the menu in a highly corporate-public flight?