The airline with the best average rating is LAN Airlines with 7.7/10.
The average flight time is 5 hours and 30 minutes.More information
Welcome to the second leg of this trip to picturesque San Pedro de Atacama, in the north of Chile.
To get there we first need to land at CJC, in Calama, which is the very heart of the Chilean copper mining industry, and the most critically polluted city in this country.
Luckily, we won't have to stay at CJC very long, and a transfer van will take us away before our skin falls to pieces and our blood gets poisoned.
I have been planing this trip since as early as…
…when I purchased my tickets in the hope that the pandemic would be a thing of the past by the following winter (July)
Qué maravilla! Prices are low and there are plenty of flights every day. Being the heart of the Chilean copper mining industry, Calama is very well connected to Santiago and other cities. Sky's price is 14,990 CLP (19 USD) + airport fee
For this trip I'll need warm and light clothes, and I'll still need some room for souvenirs in my bag. I wonder if a single personal item and a small 10kg piece of cabbing luggage will do. Hm. I'll put myself to the test and try the Zero fare.
I add the cabin baggage for 10,900 CLP (14 USD)
It looks like I have the whole plane for myself! ^^
You know you're getting old when you have to enter your year of birth and you have to scroll down and down and down…
And that would be all. Buen viaje!! ^^
Unlike the experience with LATAM, Sky didn't have to change the flight schedule many times. Just this change on July 9…
…and once more the day after my arrival in San Pedro.
This trip goes like this:
LATAM • Valdivia > Santiago • Premium Eco
Sky Airline • Santiago > Calama • Economy (You are here)
Sky Airline • Calama > Santiago • Economy
LATAM • Santiago > Valdivia • Premium Eco
Some additional information about this flight.
I spent the night at SCL after arriving there the previous evening. There was no point in finding accommodation in Santiago if I had to be at 4 at the gate.
My intention was to sleep a couple of hours in my favorite corner of the domestic boarding room, on this comfy couch…
…but the guy in the baseball cap on the left made it impossible! He was supposed to be a teenager traveling with his dad, but it was more like a police officer in charge of a young, noisy, foul-mouthed delinquent! It was 1 a.m. and this young man wouldn't stop yelling and swearing while playing a video game online with a cousin. Even when asking for something to eat he just yelled and swore. Fed up, I took my stuff and moved away to the third floor, where I tried to sleep on those blue seats.
At about 3.30 I headed for gate 21.
What the…?? You would think that the cleaning staff at SCL can turn a simple vacuum cleaner into a weapon of mass destruction! :O
Boarding starts on time. I can't help shaking my head when I hear one of Sky Airline's ground staff (over there, in the purple jacket and black mask) trying to solve a problem with some passengers. She is not kind at all, giving orders instead of asking politely, and blaming the passengers for some check-in inaccuracy. Moments later she has to recognize that it was the airline's fault. But the worst thing came when she wanted to ask something from one of the other ladies whose name she didn't know. She tried to call her attention by yelling "Amiguita! Amiguitaaaa!!" at her colleague. "Amiguito" is a formula used mainly by prison inmates and young delinquents or drug addicts in the poorest neighborhoods.
I'm very happy to see that Sky Airline do not discriminate people based on their socioeconomic background, but they still have a long way to go in training their staff.
These gates are not directly connected with a jetbridge. We have to walk down to a lower floor, with a great view of our plane.
Sleek interior. Sky never gave up its mouse-gray color for the seats, even after the change to their livery. Not a bad choice, anyway. I think that grey matches all other colors.
Enter text here…
My seat. Looks like it was tidied up during the night. I don't care. I take my disinfectant towels and start cleaning the seat, the wall and the window anyway.
Sky got rid of the safety information cards and plastered them onto the back of the seats. Much like Ryanair, right? But it looks better than Ryanair, I think.
And look at this! A USB charger! Sky, you surprise me! :D
I make myself as comfortable as possible on my ironing board waiting for pushback, but I suddenly see the cabin crew scrambling to get something right about the passenger list.
It looks like someone boarded without being checked at the gate. They eventually decide to re-check everyone's boarding cards until they find out that a miner seating behind me was the guy they were looking for. His miner friends make lots of jokes about it.
I'm very lucky today.
Legroom is acceptable.
The only thing that calls my attention is a continuous creaking and cracking sound coming from all over the cabin, but particularly from the seats behind me. Every time someone moves or switches their weight in their seat, you hear a lot of creaks and cracks. And I can't believe it when I happen to see the armrest of my seat! It's cracked! I look to the other side…
…and the other armrest is cracked, too!
And so is the next one in the middle seat! And so is the one by the aisle! All the armrests are cracked! The worst thing is that the creaking and cracking seems to come from beneath our seats, too. My mind starts wandering: "What if my seat breaks loose from the cabin floor?", "Will the cracks keep growing until the plane splits in two?"… And that's how - after an almost sleepless night - I quickly fall asleep…
…and wake up about 30 minutes before landing.
Those mines are scattered all over the desert. The largest - in the world, actually - is Chuquicamata.
Wow! Look at that! That shiny thing down there is our first photovoltaic plant, Cerro Dominador. I saw its official opening in the news a couple weeks ago, but I wasn't expecting to see it today.
River Loa took millions of years to carve the rock and create an oasis of life down there. Now it's the most polluted river in Chile.
Energy production for the mining industry is big business here, but I have read that a large percentage of Calama's population doesn't have electricity at home!! Unbelievable.
River El Salvador.
That should be Avenida Circunvalación…
…and here we are.
Welcome to Calama's El Loa Airport,
I was surprised to find out that the current terminal building…
…is quite new.
Until as recently as 2014, CJC was even more humble than Valdivia's ZAL. See a photo here.
I wonder if the architects that designed CJC are the same ones that designed the new SCL buildings.
They seem to be obsessed with wavy roofs!
We have to remain seated while disembarking takes place in groups of three rows.
You won't get bored. You have plenty of reading materials on the walls.
The FA had to ask this guy to go back to his seat. He apologized because he had just woken up!
My turn comes. Crack - creak - creak - crack… A last shot of my seat with my BOB breakfast, which came too late due to turbulence.
Nice ride, CC-AZE!
No baggage to claim…
…so I head straight…
…landside in search for a transfer.
Hm. They don't seem to value the importance of transport to and from the airport at CJC. Where are the transfer offices?? I ask a guy holding a card with a passenger's name and he mumbles something I don't understand. Later - after some walking around the hall - I learn that…
…Transvip - in whose waiting room I'm sitting now - is the only transfer service at CJC. Even at ZAL we have two competing transfer services! The thing is, they charge 12,000 CLP (16 USD) for the ride to San Pedro de Atacama, which is not bad at all considering that it's a 100km ride.
If you pay for the round trip, you get a 10% discount.
So far, so good. But the next morning Sky Airline lets me know that "the plans have changed, but we are still with you." They changed the departure time for my flight back, so I have to phone Transvip. Luckily, their phone number is in the tickets.
We'll see more of CJC on the way back.
As for now, I board the van and hit the road to…
As I mentioned in my previous report, you seldom fly to CJC with the perspective of visiting Calama.
But if you're feeling adventurous, here's a comprehensive list of what you can find in Chile's most polluted city:
- Critical levels of environmental contamination by heavy metals
As you see, this is not a place for a decent pilpintu.
Our van races along a road surrounding the southern suburbs, so it never enters the city. We turn south east across this wind farm…
…and the vast desert for some 100km…
…across the black hills of the Cordón Barros Arana…
…and the Llano de la Paciencia (Plains of Patience)…
I sit by the driver whenever I can. This time…
…the driver turns out to be a Colombian immigrant…
…who tried his luck in several countries…
…but eventually stayed in Chile.
He tells me lots of things about Colombia…
…and how guerrillas abound because it's the only way people have found to bring a little order in the midst of so much corruption.
He's a very good talker. Before I can notice…
…we are crossing the Cordillera de la Sal…
…which is an indicator…
…that we're reaching…
…San Pedro de Atacama.
This town has existed for centuries…
…but it has become an important tourist destination…
…because it's the place from where tours leave to a range of natural attractions like geysers and salt lakes.
So they have decided to make it look like the town it was in colonial times.
Even the Cruz Verde chain of drugstores has a "colonial" look here…
…and banks like BancoEstado.
I took these photos on Friday, July 16. It was a holiday in Chile and all shops should have been closed in San Pedro because it was in a weekend and holiday lockdown, but as you see…
…the lockdown was not really effective here because we were in the midst of our winter holidays and locals depend on tourism. In fact, it was early morning when I went for a stroll around the town. A couple of hours later, the streets were crowded, even though 99% of tourists were Chilean, since the borders were closed.
Even though the facades may look old and run down, things are quite different inside. You can find chic boutiques, expensive gourmet restaurants and even five-star hotels around the town. An example would be the Nayara Alto Atacama.
Actually, there are all kinds of experiences for everyone. For me - always traveling on a budget - an Airbnb room with a private bathroom is enough. That, and simple pleasures of life…
…like this superb strawberry/rica-rica and algarrobo cone of ice-cream. I love trying new flavors wherever I go. And hey! Look at that! A relaxing massage anyone??
Thanks for reading! Don't miss the Tatio geysers in the next report! ^^
After flying the previous leg of this trip with LATAM I'm having a difficult time deciding which one I prefer. LATAM offers their new Premium Eco cabin, with a locked middle seat and more legroom, and a snack of coffee and crisps. Sky doesn't have a Premium Eco cabin, but you can get a much better snack for a lower price. You can also have an empty middle seat if you're lucky. Seats are not as comfortable as in LATAM, though. Argh... Decisions, decisions!!!