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The last thing I want is to write a cheesy report.
But this report is cheesy.
Cheesy and smelly.
So smelly that I was afraid of being kicked out of the plane mid-flight!
One week after returning from my winter holidays, here I am on my way to Pichoy airport (ZAL) again. This time I have to pay a visit to my family in order to sign down some important stuff. Additionally - much to my chagrin and to the disgrace of my fellow passengers - uncle Andrés asked me to get him some Valdivian cheese. The dairy industry is important in the south of Chile.
The problem is that, even though I wrapped the cheese once and again in plastic, it won't hide the smell! It's like I'm carrying all my dirty socks in my bag!! Well, I hope masks will help.
My sister drives me to the airport after dropping her husband at his workplace. We happen to cross Cau Cau bridge, an engineering work that has brought public shame to the whole country after their builders realized that some important part of it was misplaced, rendering the bridge unusable for years. Even now…
…and how Chile "has been left a laughing stock" worldwide. This is from Australia:
Well, the fact of living with a religious mother trained me very well to live with shame, so I couldn't care less. This is a typical Valdivian morning, cloudy and cold…
…something I missed after two weeks in the desert.
These are the last days of July…
…and hualles (Nothofagus obliqua) are still dormant. Digüeñes won't grow on their branches until October (I love them with scrambled eggs)
However, fragrant aromos (Acacia mimosa) are in full bloom.
Pichoy is administered by the DGAC (Dirección General de Aeronáutica Civil), the agency of the Chilean Air Force in charge of overseeing civil aviation down here. As you may know, airport amenities are not among the top concerns for air forces anywhere, so progress in this aspect is slow. So I'm very impressed when I find something that was not here a week ago.
A shelter for passengers waiting to go through the mandatory sanitary checkpoint before being admitted into the hall! One step closer to dethroning Changi, little ZAL!
How's that, CJC? ZAL protects their passengers from the rain. You could do something about the sun, couldn't you?
A view of the whole terminal building. I think it's important, for this could be one of the last chances I have to see it the way it is now. I've heard some exciting news.
Let's go inside. First thing to keep in mind: Passengers only.
Second thing to keep in mind: You won't be allowed in without your mask. They say por favor (please) and then obligatorio (mandatory). Isn't it contradictory? It reminds me of my mother yelling at me Close your mouth and eat! What did she want me to do? Osmosis?
And if you count 120 people in the hall, stay outside. Isn't that a small number for an airport? I men, considering that an A320 - the kind of aircraft that normally lands at ZAL - can carry up to 220 passengers.
They also tell you where to get your sanitary certificates online in case you forgot to do it at home. It's very easy. You fill in a form online and you get your pasaporte sanitario, pase de movilidad, etc, on your mail.
I want to go inside but it's quite early. Still two hours for my flight. But nobody is controlling outside and somebody with a bag has just come in. So I just follow.
Helloooo??? Anybody here???
Or here????? Oh my. Only the English language side of flight-report.com is quieter than this!!
Only a coffee-loving soul breaks the sepulchral silence.
Let's follow his example.
You see? Cheese is a popular souvenir from Valdivia. You can see some spiced cheese here - with basil, oregano, smoked cheese, and even with merkén (smoked hot chilli pepper)
Now let's find a distant corner where I can have my breakfast without harming other passengers' sense of smell. A seat at the bottom of the hall, by baggage claim, will do. This warning says nothing about using this seat…
…as a breakfast table.
I'm pretending that the smelly bag is not mine when I notice - for the first time ever - that ZAL has an elevator! I wonder if it's working, and where it might take you. I press the buttons but nothing happens. Then I hear a voice behind me.
It's this lady, who tells me that the elevator is out of order and that, anyway, there's nothing upstairs except the cafeteria, which has closed down. I ask if it will ever open again. She tells me that she doesn't know, and here's when she drops the big news: "Maybe once THE AIRPORT HAS BEEN ENLARGED."
I'm like Whaaat?? That's great news!! On the trip back, a transfer driver tells me that the new Pichoy terminal will look like PMC or ZCO. That would be terrific!
Boarding time draws near, so I pay a visit to the restroom.
All that space was taken from what used to be a cafeteria, doubling the original size of the restroom.
When I go back to the hall, somebody is checking the passengers' sanitary permits. When he has checked mine, he reminds me that I must wear my mask at all times, and that I must not eat in the hall. Oops! Too late.
10:04. First call. Another popular souvenir from Valdivia is chocolate, Entrelagos being the main chocolatería. This is something I don't understand: how countries or cities appropriate chocolate for themselves, when chocolate comes from the tropics!!
I keep my bag as far as possible from any sensitive nose. Mine is not one of those, but I can still smell the cheese!!
As we near the sala de embarque I'm amazed to see a black doctor on the screen, giving advice on how to stay safe in the pandemic. Don't misunderstand me. It's just that until 20 years ago we didn't have black doctors in Chile. Actually, we practically didn't have any black people in Chile! Only with the recent phenomenon of mass migration from Haiti, Colombia and Venezuela, lots of black people have come to the country…
…and of course I'm very happy that this is happening. Chile used to be a very homogeneous society. We all looked and behaved much the same, and the slightest difference made you the object of - if not bullying - at least some astonished looks. I didn't have it easy being a gay teenager in Chile in the 80s, either! My favorite part of immigration: its influence on our cuisine!
The lady at the screening point didn't bat an eyelash at the sight of my bag in the x-ray machine. I think she slightly batted a nose wing, but didn't say anything. The thing is, once airside, I go straight to the farthest corner and leave my cheesy bag where it can't harm anybody. Poor castaway.
Air conditioning and safety levels leave much to be desired around here! Duct tape instead of electrical tape? Are you serious, ZAL?! And even my air conditioning system is larger than this!
It hits me only when I take this photo: The airside restroom. It's not there anymore! I mean, It is there, but the access is blocked by the screening point now. So, where are the restrooms now? Oh, I see! The little room where you see the yellow flowers used to be the end of the boarding room. Behind it, there used to be a meeting room out of the reach of passengers.
The meeting room is a restroom now!
And a very spacious one!
This is amazing. It feels like half of the building is restrooms now! XD Well done, ZAL! My experience in the minuscule old restroom was unforgettable… in a negative way. Ew!
A view of the enlarged boarding room.
Checking the runway before the plane arrives.
Only the wind blows outside…
…but then there he comes!! Coming in from the south because its cloudy and they must have used the ILS.
Let me introduce you to…
…an A320 NEO…
…barely 1.5 years old at the time of this flight. A mere baby!
Unlike LATAM, Sky doesn't offer a Premium Eco class…
…so we're boarding the traditional rear-rows-first way.
A view of the enlarged waiting room. The new restrooms are at the bottom.
That tattletale thing.
We board as soon as the incoming passengers deplane. I have my serious doubts that the cabin can be disinfected in such a short time.
Masks must be worn at all times. Even while piloting a plane.
The seats are the ironing table type and can't be reclined…
…but I contact Sky to tell them about the broken armrests of my flight to Calama, and they reply "Hola Fernando (my middle name), we are sorry you had a bad experience aboard, however we can tell you that we are renewing our seats and we expect that by the end of the year all of them will be reclinable so that you enjoy a much more comfortable flight."
I put my bag in the overhead bin as fast and deep as possible, and pray they close the bin soon. This is my seat after I have disinfected it thoroughly with sanitizing towels. I'm not taking risks.
I learned from the best!
Being an unexpected flight, I decided to fly bare-bones, so I was assigned a random seat. I'm very surprised when I notice the huge legroom…
…which is much better even than in LATAM's Premium Eco. I'm surprised. How can that be?
Ah! Haha. I'm sitting in the emergency exit row! Not bad to be a random seat!!
That explains the extra instructions.
I'm happy to see I still have a tray table, though I'm not planning to use it today.
We prepare for pushback.
Some additional information about this flight.
I'm glad to see people are flying again.
In fact, after a visit to the restroom…
…I see that we are almost 100% full.
The BOB comes and goes, but I'm not buying anything today. Anyway, let me tell you that Sky's BOB is the best in Chile. Their hot sandwiches are glorious!
Luckily, the crowd is obedient and we all stay seated until our turn comes. We deplane in groups of three rows.
And my smelly bag?? You don't want to imagine the smell that filled the cabin when the FA opened that bin. It's an experience I don't want to repeat.
I hate it when we dock at the gates far from the boarding room. You have to walk a lot and there are no people movers. X(
Finally, as I learned in my previous flight, I head directly to gate 6, on the third floor, and call an Uber. Easy peasy!
I strongly advice that you don't miss the report on the trip back. You will se what happens when you forget that July has 31 days, not 30. :'''(
A surprisingly comfortable flight with Sky Airline, particularly because I was assigned an emergency exit row seat for free!! Non-reclinable seat, but enviable legroom!
Good news about ZAL: Good all Pichoy, where most of my adventures start, is going to be completely remade.
Good news about Sky Airline: They announce that all their seats will be reclinable by the end of the year!