Review of LAN-Chile (pre-2004) flight Arica La Paz in Economy

Flight LA892
Class Economy
Seat 3A
Aircraft Boeing 737-200
Flight time 00:35
Take-off 08 Jan 94, 11:00
Arrival at 09 Jan 94, 10:35
LA 1 reviews
Published on 1st January 2022

My apologies.

I know readers expect informative, up-to-date descriptions of modern flights, but this one is rather a nostalgic account of my first commercial flight ever, and is based on barely TWO photos I took almost by chance.

LanChile used to be LATAM's "grandfather", so to say. A lot of water has gone under the bridge since 1994, but few things have improved, as you'll see below.

my father's last hope

It all started in the early 1990s, when I made the acquaintance of this nice Bolivian girl who was studying fashion design in Santiago. I was attending university there, too. We both were members of the same religious group - I'm not even a believer now - so we met in our weekly meetings. I approached her in a friendly way, and we ended up getting along very well. I even invited her to my parents' place, who lived on the coast, as I've mentioned in previous reports.

I was 22 years old then, and my father - a bank clerk - had grown quite distant from me. I had never had a girlfriend and that was unacceptable - and very suspicious - to him. He expected a different kind of son, not a queer one.

The thing is, when he met my Bolivian friend he immediately said yes when she invited me to visit her country! He paid for my ticket and everything. I'm sure he thought someone was finally taking me down the correct, "straight" path! XD The problem is… the girl had the same impression, as I learned many years later. Oopsie.

Well, as a matter of fact, I was about to fall in love.

With planes. lol


As reported here, 737-200s were the life and blood of LanChile's fleet for decades. They were so cherished that LanChile staff called them chanchitos (piggies) because of their short, plump shape. There were about 30 chanchitos in LanChile's fleet.

I wonder WHY ON EARTH they had to change that superb livery!!

photo 1997

Not my photo. Here's the source.

so close, yet so distant

Ever since the War of the Pacific in the late 1800s the relationship between Chile and Bolivia has been strained. Chile took all the Bolivian territories on the coast, turning Bolivia into a landlocked country.

I guess that affected communications between both countries, too. I can't believe that it was only as late as 2016 that LATAM made the first non-stop flight between Santiago and La Paz, as reported here.

photo 2021-12-06-123411_1366x768_scrot

Just as that report reads, the route from Santiago to the Bolivian capital city used to have two stops - Iquique and Arica. The latter was a technical stopover, where the piggies had to be fed (refueled). This technical stopover at ARI was dropped in 2003.

rusty ari

It was precisely this pre-2003 two-stop flight from Santiago to La Paz the one I boarded in January 1994.

My first (embarrassing) experience while boarding in Santiago was prophetic of what would become my personal hallmark as a budget-conscious traveler - the sight of the FA offering me the newspaper at the top of the boarding stairs made me start.

"B… but do I have to pay for it?"

"No, sir. It's included in your ticket," she answered with a shocked face.

"Ah. Phew."

Yeah. That little Uncle Scrooge was already growing inside. XD

After I took my seat by the window, a Bolivian lady sat by my side and we started a friendly conversation. As someone taking his first steps into the world of grammar and phonetics, I was fascinated. She spoke just like my friend!! She didn't say Roberto, but Zobezto (z as in zoom). And she had a sound for Y and a different one for LL. We make no difference in Chile. And she used the present perfect profusely to talk about the past (Yo he visto = I have seen), instead of the simple past, which is more common in my country (Yo vi = I saw)

She told me that she was working in Chile and was now traveling to see her family.

I think I was very lucky to have a chatty companion. Otherwise, I would have got bored to death. I was careful to pick a window seat, but it never occurred to me that I would see nothing but sky and water on the left side. We were flying north along the coast! Silly me.

By the time we made it to Arica, I had become good friends with the nice lady and we asked someone to take this picture of us with the chanchito loading fuel in the background.

photo 00128-arica-en-transito-hacia-bolivia_1200b

According to their website, Chacalluta airport was built in 1955 and was completely renewed in 1970. From what I see here, you could say that that was the last time they invested some pesos in it, at least for the next 24 years. Look at that rusty exit sign…

photo lpb06

…and the shade. Is it a woven reed mat?! Gosh!

photo lpb05

Everything was rusty and almost falling to pieces.

photo lpb07

Well, in the shade of Iquique - a larger city - Arica suffers from a chronic lack of investment. But things have improved in the last decades. You can visit my previous reports about ARI here and here and learn more about the new airport and the city.

going up. seriously up.

It's time for the last hop that will take us from sea level to a height of more than four kilometers in a matter of 30 minutes! 4,062 meters, to be exact. In fact, if I remember well, we climbed in a spiral before heading east towards the mountains.

Some friendly passenger took this shot of us.

photo 0009b

I don't remember any meal service during the whole flight, which might mean there was actually no service. Otherwise I would have kept some pot or wrap or anything as a souvenir.

What I do remember is the FA getting quite pissed off when I asked her for a pen to fill in my immigration form. She found none.

A partial view of the overhead panel. You can see the characteristic large, bulky buttons. They remind me of mahjong tiles.

photo lpb01

Had I flown on an A320 before that, I would have found the size of those windows fascinating. As for the seats, they were still thick and soft. (Ahh, the good times!) But it looks like corporate image wasn't a big deal in those years, was it? Notice those covers with a No smoking sign on them instead of the LanChile logo.

photo lpb02

The very alto el alto (LPB)

In those years, the airport serving La Paz was officially called John F Kennedy, but nobody used that name. Since it's located in a flat area called El Alto (The Height) about 20km from La Paz, it was usually called that way.

And yes. La Paz is alto (high) in the Andes, but its airport is even higher! This is the building I saw as I disembarked (minutes before my eyes started popping out of my head, literally)

photo aeropuerto-el-alto-bolivia-1979-reyqui

Not my photo. Here's the source.

My suitcase was chosen for inspection at customs. (Did I look like a trafficker or something?) The official was a very nice guy. He didn't take anything out of the bag, but he searched deep in it with his hand. He joked that he was looking for a bottle of wine. They say that Chilean wine is good, but I don't like wine at all.

a space suit, pleaseeee

The moon is about 380,000km from Earth. If you go there without a spacesuit your blood will boil in your veins and you will burst like a balloon due to the lack of pressure. Four kilometers above sea level the effect is… almost the same. Your blood vessels swell inside your head and there's no more room for your brain in there. If you keep moving as you usually do before your body gets used to the low atmospheric pressure, you will pay it dearly with a most horrendous headache, vomiting, or worse. Add to this the lack of oxygen and you'll end up feeling like Arnold Schwarzenegger in Total Recall. Like this:

photo total_recall

Well, I didn't know this and paid the price. How to avoid it? If you don't have some medicine or coca leaves at hand, move as if you were 200 years old. Veeery slowly. Breath in deeply, so that your lungs can take in all the oxygen they can.

I also advice you NOT to photograph police officers. I did it and he ordered me to take the roll out of my camera! Luckily there was a photo lab just meters away and I asked them to remove the photo in question. Later that day, some friends told me that this was an unusual behavior, and that he probably wanted a bribe.

epilogue - what happened to…?

When he saw me coming back home without a Bolivian wife he realized he had wasted his money. Shortly afterwards my parents divorced after my mother discovered he had fathered a baby to another woman. Good for him. The baby was a male and he gave him his name. Life gave him a second chance to have a "normal" boy, I suppose. I  have a good relationship with my brother.

When she saw that she was unable to light the faintest fire in me, she threw herself into the nearest Andean volcano. Hahaha. No. Actually, she seemed to have a thing about Chilean men. She married one some years later and they had two children. But her husband is always battling with depression and her life has not been the happiest. They live in Santiago but I haven't seen her in ages.

These five weeks in Bolivia were a life-changing experience. Thirty years later I still am the weirdo in my family because I'm the only one who craves for salteñas and has purple api for breakfast (which I buy whenever I travel to the north). Even today I remember the imposing Illimani looming above La Paz…

photo c46646e910dc2ff53524


…the perfect weather of Cochabamba's never-ending spring…

photo ciudad_de_cochabamba


…and the cool relief of a sudden tropical shower in Chapare.

photo 00149

Thanks for reading! :D

See more


LAN-Chile (pre-2004)

Cabin crew8.0

Arica - ARI


La Paz - LPB



I never imagined that the words "I miss a LATAM flight" would ever come out of my mouth. Or of my keyboard, in this case. It looks like thirty years ago things were much the same with LanChile as they are with LATAM today: Basic cabin and no onboard service (or, if there was one, it was far from memorable)



If you liked this review or if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to post a comment below !
  • Comment 590658 by
    ChrisB GOLD 1209 Comments

    Muchissimas gracias and thank you for the very interesting report both because of the precious archive and to get to know you a bit better :)

    Yeah. That little Uncle Scrooge was already growing inside. XD

    And the shhh sound for LL and Y common in Chile and Argentina... for me it was the opposite funny discovery having learnt spanish from spain!! Que boludo fui!!
    It is very nice that you share with us your very first report, i will try to do the same!

    • Comment 590665 by
      Pilpintu SILVER AUTHOR 780 Comments

      Hello Chris!

      the shhh sound for LL and Y common in Chile and Argentina

      Actually, it's common in Argentina, and we mock them in Chile. hahahah And boludo would be weón in Chile, though this is not a word you might want to use in front of your grandmother ;D

      having learnt spanish from spain

      haha! Don't feel bad. When I was in Spain I felt like I was visiting from Mars. Nobody understood a word I said! lol I found myself in some hilarious situations, like the time when my auntie Pilar asked me if I'd like something to drink and I replied "ya". Ya means "OK" or "Now" in Chile, depending on the context. But it only means "Now" in Spain, so - in my aunt's ears - my innocent Ya sounded less like "Yes, please" and more like "Do it NOW, you slow b*tch!". Everyone in the room froze and looked at each other in shock. XD

      Thanks a lot for stopping by. Have a great 2022, Chris!!

  • Comment 590666 by
    ThomasDutch SILVER 553 Comments

    Given that you'd love to report as much as the busride to the airport compared to the flight, I wonder what it would have been like for you in those times haha :). It is somehow nostalgic to read these old reports and they're always entertaining to read. Thanks for sharing and have a great 2022!

    • Comment 590678 by
      Pilpintu SILVER AUTHOR 780 Comments

      I wonder what it would have been like for you in those times

      hahah Curiously, I don't have many recollections of how I got to SCL or what I did there. What I do remember is that the flight back from LPB was much more fun. After five weeks in Bolivia, I missed my flight back to Santiago. I was terrified, wondering how I was going to get back home. But the guys at LanChile booked me on a Lloyd Aéreo Boliviano flight - the defunct Bolivian flag carrier. I had to stay an extra week in La Paz, though, but it was worth the experience. The aircraft was a wide body, the service was exceptional, we made a stopover at Santa Cruz (VVI), and there was even a raffle onboard!! And one more thing that I remember clearly is the noise when I arrived in Santiago. After five weeks among people who are usually quiet, the noisy people in Santiago, the roaring bus engines, the traffic and the crowds were very unpleasant. I wanted to go back!

      Thanks for stopping by, Thomas. Have a great 2022, too!

  • Comment 590910 by
    Chibcha SILVER 460 Comments

    I loved this FR and your storytelling. I was recently wondering how LAN Chile's service used to be during the 1990s and I'm currently interested in old pictures of SCL before the 1994 terminal.

    I had the chance to fly LAN Chile before it became just "LAN", it was a very good airline, I loved how classy its 767s looked and it's top notch service, I may have some material for a retro FR on a trip to Chile I had 20 years ago!

    Thanks for sharing, saludos!

    • Comment 590947 by
      Pilpintu SILVER AUTHOR 780 Comments

      I loved this FR and your storytelling

      Jaja Gracias. Mis alumnos también dicen que soy un cuentero. Lol
      I'm currently interested in old pictures of SCL before the 1994 terminal.

      Hm. Si las piensas buscar tú mismo, tal vez tengas más éxito si usas el antiguo nombre de SCL. Todos lo llamaban Aeropuerto Pudahuel para diferenciarlo de otro que se llamaba Aeropuerto Cerrillos, que fue el aeropuerto que SCL vino a reemplazar. Pudahuel se destinó a uso civil, y Cerrillos a uso militar. Yo alcancé a conocer Cerrillos cuando era niño en los 80 pero ya no existe. Lo convirtieron en un proyecto inmobiliario.
      Hay un blog que solía llamarse Desde SCL, dedicado a noticias de la aviación chilena, y que ahora cambió su nombre a Aero Naves. Es probable que ellos te puedan ayudar porque seguramente tienen fotos de todas las épocas. ( )
      I may have some material for a retro FR on a trip to Chile I had 20 years ago!

      Excelente! Vamos a estar atentos!!
      Gracias por pasar por aquí, Chibcha! Mis mejores deseos para 2022!

  • Comment 591106 by
    KévinDC TEAM GOLD 5655 Comments

    You're always so good at telling stories and this one is obviously so personal and beautiful! Really appreciate you sharing. Obviously I can relate...for the love of planes and the rest haha

    Well, as a matter of fact, I was about to fall in love. With planes. lol

    A beautiful love story indeed!

    "B… but do I have to pay for it?" "No, sir. It's included in your ticket," she answered with a shocked face.

    HAHAHAHA...All those years ago you foresaw the coming of ULCCs and "Un-bundling of fares" ...Genius!

    She didn't say Roberto, but Zobezto (z as in zoom). And she had a sound for Y and a different one for LL.

    Wow, that is an interesting accent! You know I love this stuff--I find it so interesting! I guess I've never heard a Bolivian accent, come to think of it... but I already thought it was strange that Puerto Ricans pronounced R as L...never imagined there was a dialect where is was a Z! (Unless this was a speech impediment particular to this person?). How did she pronounce the Y and LL differently? Like a Y as a English/French Y and LL as "sh" or "dj"? I'm intrigued

    Add to this the lack of oxygen and you'll end up feeling like Arnold Schwarzenegger in Total Recall. Like this:

    Hah, yep, that exactly what altitude sickness feels like. I mostly remember my time in Cuzco with a constant throbbing headache

    Thanks for such a unique report, what a fun way to start the year!

    Feliz Año Nuevo! (Gotta have that ñ in there! 🤣)

    • Comment 591147 by
      Pilpintu SILVER AUTHOR 780 Comments

      How did she pronounce the Y and LL differently?

      If you are familiar with the IPA symbols, I can tell you that the standard sound for Y and LL in Chile is /j/ as in “you”. Some people say /ʤ/ as in jacket, but that is considered over-pronunciation and is avoided.
      In Bolivia they use /j/ for Y, but they have a weird sound for LL. It sounds much like “li” in liutenant. So, when they say lluvia (rain) I hear liuvia.
      And yes, Puerto Ricans don’t have words. They just make noises. :D
      All the best for you and your family in 2022, Kevin!

      • Comment 591170 by
        KévinDC TEAM GOLD 5655 Comments

        In Bolivia they use /j/ for Y, but they have a weird sound for LL. It sounds much like “li” in liutenant. So, when they say lluvia (rain) I hear liuvia.

        That is fascinating! Thanks for that explanation.

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