I'm on a diet (which I start every Monday! haha) and - based on previous experiences - the best option to stay fit and slim is LATAM… and its notorious servicio de alimentación (half a glass of water and a sanitizing towel)
But I'm in for a BIG surprise!!
Purchasing my ticket
LATAM's website is not designed to make things easier for an inexperienced traveler. If no flight is available for the day or route you enter in the search boxes, you get stuck with this message below and they simply tell you to keep trying with different dates or routes until you grow a beard. The other two main Chilean airlines - JetSmart and Sky Airline - will display all the available dates and routes for their flights from the beginning. You won't have to keep guessing.
Luckily, I don't have to guess when it comes to flying LATAM to Puerto Montt. Being one of the most important airports in my country, they have daily flights there.
I'm buying a seat this time. Almost 7000 CLP! (8.5 USD) Where did those days go, when you could get a standard seat for 2000 CLP?! (2.5 USD)
Here are the prices for extra baggage.
I'll need transport from Puerto Montt to Valdivia, so I visit recorrido.cl, one of the platforms where you can buy tickets from many bus companies. As you see, the service is available in English, too.
Salón cama is usually a more comfortable service because the seats are larger and wider.
Unfortunately, as mentioned in my previous report, JAC buses are pigsties on wheels, and this one was no exception. Moreover, my seat was broken and wouldn't even stay in the upright position! I complained bitterly.
where no flight-reporter had gone before
100km south of Santiago, the landscape along the Panamerican highway - aka 5 Sur - still looks beautiful in spite of the 13-year-long drought that is turning this area into a desert. The Cordillera de la Costa - depicted here - meets the Andes at this point called Angostura (the Narrowing)…
…forming a bottleneck between the Central Valley…
…and the Valley of Santiago.
And talking of Santiago and bottlenecks, traffic jams is what you most probably will find here these days. "Congestión hasta salida a General Velásquez." Gosh. Precisely the road we have to take.
But that's precisely why I came here early. This end of Terminal 1 used to be dedicated to international flights. It looks quite abandoned now that Terminal 2 has been opened.
I walk all the way to the other end, where domestic departures used to be, and find a long line building up for security check, even though your vaccine certificate is not required anymore. And those smoochies… Ew. It looks like love! Stay away from me! I'm the Grinch of love.
Yes. I know I have issues.
I also find that my favorite shop - Música y Películas - didn't reopen after the pandemic. Boo - hoo.
Suddenly, a lady approaches those of us about to join the line and tells us to follow her. Goodness! She looks much like Sylvia Tilly, from Star Trek Discovery!! Is she taking us where no flight-reporter has gone before?? We obediently follow her across the hall…
…down the stairs to the second floor, where nothing interesting used to happen before, but now there's a "secondary access to domestic departures," as stated in that sign…
…along the corridors of the second floor…
…(please, someone stop that woman!! She walks incredibly fast!!)…
…and into this area, where some more scanners have been set up.
We are airside in less than two minutes. Fantastic! The only downside is that we are released into the long corridor that collects the arrivals from half the gates of Terminal 1, and it looks like all flights decided to arrive at the same time because I find myself navigating in a sea of people past a series of gates…
…and it's impossible to move faster or more slowly than the crowd.
I emerge by the stairs leading to baggage claim. Ahora me ubico!*
Still with plenty of time, this could be a good moment to have a proper breakfast and relax a little. I think I'll pay a visit to…
…McDonald's (there's always a new week to start my diet again)…
…and eat my hamburger at one of the tables in the very comfortable…
…open lounge. In case you want more privacy and other amenities, there's a VIP lounge over there, on the left, behind the words Salón de Lujo.
But this is enough for me. I'll spend the next hour working on my ZOS > SCL report on my "rescued" Ideapad 300S that I carry with me on my trips. For the computer geeks among you, I got it for a song from a guy who was about to trash it because it was extremely slow. As if the poor thing was to blame for having to run such an aberration as Windows 8 (and above) on 2GB RAM and a Celeron N3050 processor.
But Lubuntu flies on it! Yes. LXQt still has some way to go, but I'm eager to try the new version to be released this April!
Suddenly, the announcement comes and I carry my plump self to gate 28. Our flying test lab is already sitting at the gate.
It's 11-year-old CC-BAD. Is it really bad?? Now I can't get Michael's Jackson's song out of my head! Who's bad… toom, toom, toom, toom toom…
I stand there at the gate, on my own, distracted by the people with special needs that will board first…
…and a doggie…
…without noticing that all the other passengers are already waiting to the right of the gate. Duh! I take my place at the bottom.
This is the first time that the number under GROUP in my boarding pass makes any sense. We are boarding by strict group number. A member of the staff slides the number off that holder…
…and asks the corresponding group to proceed to the gate.
Of course, I'm in the last group - 7 - which the staff made sure to humiliate during the whole hour I was working on my laptop: We remind passengers in group seven that your ticket is a BASIC fee, and you are entitled to carry only one personal item in the cabin. Any other element will be taken to the cargo hold and you will have to pay the corresponding baggage fee, and we will laugh at you in your faces because it's BASIC, you hear? BA - SIC.
Full of shame, I drag my feet along the jetbrige and the aisle to my PAID FOR seat. The moment of truth has come. Will this seat beat the new seats in Sky Airline's recently adopted Airbus Single-Aisle Airspace cabin? (Thanks, Kevin, for the tip on the name)
You can feel the ironing board under your buttocks here. Sky Airline 1 - 0 LATAM
But not everything is lost for LATAM. They are still ahead in the IFE department.
The cabin behind me. I think that guy is photobombing my selfie under his mask.
The USB port under the seat.
That rail over the baggage bins indicates that the curtain can be rolled back up to row 6, leaving 5 rows for Premium Economy. But there are only three W rows today. I wonder if it has something to do with how attractive the product is. When I flew W on LATAM, it consisted in a blocked middle seat, a coffee, a bag of chips and a cereal bar.
I received at least two invitations from LATAM on my mail to bid for an upgrade to W, but the minimum bid was 20 USD. I could buy much more than a coffee, chips and a bar of cereal for that money on Sky or JetSmart, so I decline.
Besides, I'm already flying W with an empty middle seat today! And legroom is OK.
Some additional information about this flight before we take off.
As I said in the introduction, I'm in for a big surprise. But surprises start even as we are loading fuel. To begin with, this is the first time I hear a FA broadcasting an advertisement over the PA system. Indeed, she announced that we were loading fuel, and ended up advertising a well-known car dealer!
Then the captain introduced himself and made the usual announcements in Spanish, English… and French! Another first. And his name was Lautaro, which is a typically Chilean name because it was the name of a local Indian leader.
Pushback at 12:41
A lady bids us farewell today.
Get ready to walk a long way if you are connecting between domestic and national flights at SCL now.
We taxi past…
…this beautiful pink flamingo…
…towards the end of the domestic terminal…
…and past LATAM's avion solidario, a program to make LATAM's resources available in case of emergency, including the transport of covid vaccines.
A lot of movement around here today. We have to wait long minutes until this bird takes off…
…and then this mosquito…
…and then it's our turn. We're being followed by the flamingo, and…
…look at that! Isn't that a creative livery? A penguin, since it's a DAP aircraft that flies to Patagonia and Antarctica.
And finally this mademoiselle.
The isolationist gringos are always hiding behind hangars…
…and these Norw… Whaaat??? What are these doing here?? Norwegian used to fly in Argentina until some time ago. Not in Chile. According to Wikipedia "On 4 December 2019, parent company Norwegian Air Shuttle sold the airline to JetSmart, which took over operation of the airline and its license with immediate effect, with JetSmart planning to merge Norwegian Air Argentina's operations with those of JetSmart Argentina. As of November 2020, the airline is inoperative and its aircraft have been placed in long-term storage since March 2020. The aircraft were not part of the acquisition, they were returned to Norwegian in Europe." But, as you see here, they're not in Europe. At least not all of them.
I had the pleasure of visiting the new international terminal (Terminal 2) during this trip.
We take off southward, naturally (but then again, all flights do the same at SCL, even if they are headed north)
Cough, cough. I'm sure I saw mountains over there.
The only traces of snow can be seen around Rancagua.
Due to the drought, what used to be called eternal snows are history.
Where I spent this weekend. It's always fun to see your house (in this case, my uncle's house) from the air!
Minutes later, the iron curtain falls… or rolls, and the onboard service starts for Premium Economy. On this side of the curtain I'm decided to decline my half glass of water today. One less plastic cup will be my grain of sand to protect the environment.
Though it might be a little late. There used to be a glacier down there. It's gone.
Colbún Machicura still holds water for agriculture.
Not so Ancoa.
As if all this environmental tragedy weren't enough, the announcement comes: El servicio de alimentación comenzará en unos instantes…
I'm closing my eyes and sinking my head in the headrest to avoid witnessing this display of meanness, when a strange sensation tickles my right ear. Is that the sound of wheels along the aisle? Reluctantly, I turn my head to see what it is.
A male FA pulling a galley cart.
I see bottles in it.
Is that Coke?
Is that orange juice?
He must be taking it to Premium Economy…
His back is against the curtain.
He's not going past the curtain. He…
He's talking to a passenger in row 4!
OMG!! HE IS SERVING A COFFEE TO A PASSENGER IN ROW 4!!!
Only now I realize that I am standing on the tip of my toes, grasping the back of the seat in front of me with my eyes popping out of my head. I'd better sit. I don't want to scare the other passengers.
I feel I'm talking to an angel when he offers me something to drink.
"Whatever you like" I mouth, unable to think clearly due to the emotion.
Seeing his puzzled face, I gather myself together. "Un café, por favor."
And then we engage in an exchange that could put Lil Nas X's Call Me By Your Name to shame:
"Azúcar o endulzante?"
"Aquí tiene su snack."
And here for you, exclusively on flight-report.com, the official return of LATAM's onboard service!! (place standing ovation here)
Complete with nut bag…
…and glorious Juan Valdez coffee.
And what's even better, a paper cup and a wooden stirrer. Two thumbs up, LATAM! Not that it makes up for the 0.3 tons of CO2 that I'm producing with this flight, but it's something.
Down there, the peaks of Nevados de Chillán…
…and Antuco volcano, on the southern margin of lake Laja.
Water is a bit more abundant around here. In fact…
…I was expecting to enjoy the view of the string of lakes of the Lake District, but it's completely cloudy out there! Disappointed, I fall asleep…
…and wake up as we descend among the clouds above Puerto Montt. We'll land from the south (in order to use the ILS system, I suppose?) so we make a U-turn above the Golfo de Reloncaví. Some fields are visible only when we're about to land.
Bumpy landing. I smile at the lady sitting in 8C. Mid-flight she asked me if landing was always bumpy at PMC.
"Why," I asked her. "Do you suffer from back pain?"
"No. I just hate flying," she said.
I don't have the time for a detailed inspection of the terminal, but something that can't go unnoticed…
…are the new USB ports and electricity outlets under the seats!
Going down the escalators to baggage claim, you're offered to live in close contact with nature.
Remember that you get your transfer tickets inside baggage claim at PMC. Andrés Tour used to be the only transfer service here. I see more competitors now.
Before I leave…
…you'll be glad to know there's a VIP lounge at PMC, too.
…its difficult not to find transportation to the city.
3000 CLP (3.5 USD) Cheaper than ZAL! Well, the distance is much shorter, too.
I'm not sure if transfer vans drop you at home in Puerto Montt. Every time I have used the service here, they take me straight to the bus terminal and everyone gets off there. Anyway, there's only three of us aboard today.
A pleasant last surprise - Instead of taking the usual road downtown…
…we drive along the terminal building…
…then around the airport…
…and across beautiful fields.
I couldn't leave this for Santiago.
My original plan was having lunch in Puerto Montt before taking the bus to Valdivia, but time is scarce. However, nothing could prevent me from getting my hands on some milcaos, which are sold as street food here. Yummy, oily, tasty, fried milcaos. After all, there will always be a new Monday to start my diet!!
Thanks for reading! I'm sending my warmest greetings from…
* Ahora me ubico: Now I get it. / Now I know where I am.
Santiago - SCL
Puerto Montt - PMC
A big surprise! LATAM have resumed their onboard service, marking the end of the glass of water and a sanitizing towel! Even though Sky Airline's Airbus Single-Aisle Airspace cabin is a cut above LATAM's, their seats are comfortable, and LATAM is still ahead of other Chilean main airlines when it comes to IFE. A positive experience!
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OOooh buuurn Hahahaha
Although that sounds like a decent price to me, that is quite a price hike! Also interesting to note that the rows behind Premium Economy are being sold for 9990 CLP...that's quite a bit for no extra legroom or extra perks
Great, now it's stuck in my head too, LOLOLOL
Oh damn, that's a shame to hear. The new seats look decently padded visually. Too bad! Glad they have USB at least.
Norwegian Argentina (RIP) for their very short life only operated 737-800s, which were indeed all acquired by JetSmart, at least what was left over and not repatriated back to Europe. These Dreamliners here were recently acquired by LATAM (assuming they got a VERY good deal) and will be converted to LATAM configuration and colours soon (https://www.planespotters.net/airline/LATAM-Airlines-Chile)
HAH...it's something I guess!
Yes, while the snack is nothing impressive, the consistent wireless IFE offering on short-haul flights is definitely more "full-service"
Thanks for sharing!
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