Welcome to the fifth leg in this series of Flight-Reviews.
For years, Chile had been on the top of my travel bucket list and prominent Flight-Report member Pilpintu's beautiful Flight-Reports have always been an inspiration. However, the pandemic had other plans! As the Covid-era restricted us to travel between our two homes in Europe and the US for several years, this trip to Chile would mark our first trip outside of those two continents since 2020. And what an amazing trip it was! Such indescribably beautiful and raw nature, quaint towns, and friendly people with a fascinating culture mixing new and old world traditions. Photos and videos, which you'll find in the tourist bonus sections of these reviews, just don't do justice to the majestic scenery of the Chilean lake district. Sadly, it was time to return to the US, but I fell in love with Chile and there's no doubt that we'll be back.
In this report we'll have a look at American Airlines' business class service on the 787-8. Those who read the first reviews in this series may remember that I had originally booked the American Airlines long-haul flights in Premium Economy intending to use SWUs (Systemwide Upgrade Certificates) to upgrade to Business class. For those not familiar with the AAdvantage mileage programme, top tier frequent flyers receive a certain amount of upgrade certificates each year that must be used on American Airlines-operated flights.
The upgrades hadn't cleared on the outbound flights, but they did on the return, thankfully! With only 25 seats in Business, the 787-8 is a tough aircraft on which to score an upgrade.
We took an Uber from our hotel in the chic and modern Providencia area of Santiago. It was a quick 20 minute drive as there was no traffic that day.
We were dropped off on the backside of Terminal 2, which was very quiet as it was mostly parking and not the normal drop-off zone.
We took the skywalk across from the parking lot. The new Terminal 2 building is impressive and imposing!
A long corridor leads to the check-in area on the other end of the terminal.
We arrive over the expansive check-in zone.
A check of the information screens indicated the American Airlines check-in counters were in zone B.
It was still early so the AA ticket counters were still uncrowded. There was no wait through the Priority lanes and we were checked-in within minutes.
Security was also a breeze and we were airside a few minutes later. Once airside I realised that the check-in staff hadn't indicated the location or name of the lounge.
The new terminal is huge and the only lounge that was indicated by signage in the immediate area was the LATAM lounge, so we walked towards the gate to see if we could find the lounge.
It was another long walk down long corridors.
There was a children's play area towards the end of the concourse, across from the AA gates, so our 3 year old son was able to play for a while as I tried to figure out where the lounge was located.
Checking on the AA app, the lounge information for SCL appeared to be outdated as the Andes Lounge is located in Terminal 1, now a purely domestic terminal. I was surprised the information was so out of date, considering American have been operating from Terminal 2 since it opened at the end of February 2022 and it was November 2022!
Luckily, as the AA Miami flight was about to board, there were agents at the gate. I asked a gate agent about the location of the lounge. She indicated it was called the Pacific Club and located towards the entrance of the concourse. I thanked her and showed her on my phone that the information was different and outdated, to which she rudely replied "Listen, I work here, I think I know where our lounge is." I was taken aback by such a rude response, and simply replied that AA have had plenty of time to correct this information on their own website.
So we headed back down towards the entrance of the concourse and found the Pacific Club–it wasn't hard to find as there was a ridiculously long queue to get in!
As we stood waiting in line I contacted AA to let them know about the outdated lounge information.
They responded immediately that they'd advised the proper department–the AA Twitter team are always great and responsive in my experience!
The very next day, the information on the website was updated. Yay! That was my good deed for the day, haha. I was still surprised that seemingly no one else had said anything in all those months.
It was about a 20 minute wait to finally get into the lounge–I don't think I'd ever waited so long to enter a lounge. The wait would have been even longer, actually, if it weren't for a lounge agent going through the queue giving priority to business class passengers over Priority Pass holders, so we were able to skip a few spots ahead.
The agent was very friendly and apologetic, as were all staff we saw, but clearly they were overwhelmed by all the demand. The lounge itself is very small, with seating for around 50 only.
I wanted to sit along the wall, but different sections were reserved for different carriers and it turned out to be the Air Canada section. The AA section was just 3 or 4 low tables with two chairs at each table! There was only one free table in the AA section when we arrived so I had to take my son on my lap until an adjacent table left. There wasn't even space to add an extra seat, not that we could because the chairs were nailed to the ground.
The layout of the lounge is weird and cramped with a huge, mostly empty buffet area taking up most of the space and only two small seating areas on either end of the buffet area. There are no views to outside as the lounge is situated smack in the middle of the building.
Food was nothing exciting, but there were quite a bit of fresh options and a few hot items. All individually wrapped per Covid safety measures still in place at the time.
As we left the lounge to head to the gate, there were still people waiting to get in.
As we were waiting for boarding to begin, one of the gate agents waves us up to pre-board with our son. An unexpected and pleasant surprise considering AA's policy has pre-boarding only for babies under 2 and our son was 3 1/2. The nice gesture helped to make up a bit for the rude encounter a few hours prior.
Our aircraft, N811AB, was delivered in 2015 and features the older "Concept D" Business class cabin–a bespoke AA seat design manufactured by Zodiac Aerospace. For some quick background, only about half of the AA 787-8 and 777-200ER fleets are equipped with these seats. Seat delivery delays led to AA cancelling the contract with Zodiac in 2016 and equipping the rest of the 788 and 77E fleets with Collins Super Diamond reverse herringbone seats.
As mentioned above, these Zodiac Concept D cabins are unique to American Airlines and have the particularity of featuring backwards facing seats in every, other row.
My window seat in row 5 was a forward-facing seat, while the centre seats in that row are backwards-facing.
A Pillows, blankets, an amenity kit, noise cancelling headphones, and dinner menu were pre-placed on the seats.
Contents of the Shinola branded amenity kit were pretty standard with the usual eye mask, socks, hand cream, ear plugs, pen, and dental kit.
Welcome drinks were served shortly after settling in. The choices of champagne, orange juice, and water were still served in plastic cups, but that's nothing new. This was already the case pre-Covid for pre-departure drinks.
Checking out the seat's features there are plenty of ways to keep electronic devices charges with two universal 110v AC power outlets and 2 USB ports.
touchscreen seat controls and in-flight entertainment remotes were also located on the side panel.
Printed menus were re-introduced in 2021 after being discontinued for over a year and a half at the height of the pandemic.
There were 4 choices of mains for dinner and 3 dessert options, which is decent for long-haul Business class. For the wine list, there was one champagne, two reds, two whites, and a port for dessert, again pretty standard.
The seats are spacious, though noticeably narrower at shoulder level than the newer Collins Super Diamond seats on some aircraft. Still, there's plenty of space. Very good legroom when upright and seats go fully flat with a comfortable bed length of 78" (2m) in bed mode.
Boarding wrapped up quite early with the flight not being as full as on the way down. There were even quite a few empty seats in Business class which has been a rare site in recent years as the pandemic has driven more demand for premium cabins.
We ended up pushing back from the gate 12 minutes ahead of schedule!
The safety video played as we pushed back from the gate and taxied to the departure runway.
The cabin was bathed in light blue mood lighting as the cabin lights were dimmed for departure. I like the overall look of this cabin, though I have a slight preference for the newer cabins–not that these are old by any means, having been introduced in 2015.
I always like to put on the airshow on departure. The Dallas flight is about an hour longer than the Miami flight at just over 9h of flying time. One of the nice features of the IFE system is the ability to browse films on the remote screen while having the airshow on the main screen and vice versa. Once I begin watching movies it's cool to have the moving map on the remote controller to know where we are at all times.
And we're off! Wheels up before we were even scheduled to leave the gate.
Welcome messages after takeoff.
This aircraft, like the vast majority of the AA fleet is equipped with Wi-Fi.
The Wi-Fi portal has offers free flight information and essentially lets you navigate AA.com free of charge.
As far as the pricing, the 2-hour pass for $19 is ridiculously expensive, making the full-flight pass for $24 on this 9h flight a much better value in comparison. While still expensive, it's in line with what I'm used to paying on British Airways and Iberia long-haul, which I fly more often than American.
Bottles of water were distributed shortly after takeoff. I usually like to save it for the night.
Shortly after, tablecloths were set and there was a hot towel service.
Checking out the in-flight entertainment while waiting for dinner service to begin. There's tons of content with hundreds of films, series, documentaries, music, audio books, games, children's programming, and one channel of Live TV.
The Bang & Olufsen noise-cancelling headphones are very high quality.
Pre-dinner drinks were served with warm nuts.
My son's child meal was served first. Once again, like on the way down, it looked nothing like a child meal. And in fact it looked suspiciously like the breaded chicken option in the menu. I honestly don't know if they forget to load CHMLs in premium cabins or they just don't actually have separate CHML options and just pass off one of the options as such. BA and IB do much better with the child meals in my experience.
Here's a look at the seafood option:
Shrimp, squid, and white fish ragoût roasted tomato sauce, couscous, black olives, sautéed spinach.
While it wasn't terribly appealing visually, it was a creative dish and tasty I'm told.
I went for the beef, which is something I rarely do on planes, but it sounded good to me on paper. And it turned out it was reasonably well cooked and tender.
Smoked trout Dijon potato salad with cucumber, cherry tomatoes
Seasonal greens & quinoa salad
The portion of beef was a bit small, but everything was tasty and fresh.
For dessert I had a mango tart, which I enjoyed with a glass of Port.
I never saw the bar area get set up with snacks and drinks, but it very well could have been as I fell asleep shortly after dinner and slept most of the rest of the flight.
I slept for a good 6 hours or more and woke up as we were crossing over the Mexico-U.S. border.
My son had barely touched his not-really-a-child-meal dinner so he was happy with his breakfast of fresh fruit, pastry, and yogurt.
I went for the hot option.
Potato frittata grilled ham, sautéed asparagus, red pepper seasonal fruit & pastries
There must have been a sale on asparagus to get a double dose for dinner and breakfast 🤣
Soon after the cabin was readied as we were on final descent into DFW.
We landed well ahead of schedule.
And arrived at the gate a full half-hour before scheduled arrival time!
We were off the aircraft quickly being in the last row of Business by the boarding door.
As you can see from the wait times it was a very quiet morning for international arrivals.
We finally got a good view of our aircraft heading to the baggage carousel.
As is norm in the U.S., we had to collect our luggage prior to going through customs and placing the bags on the recheck belt to then go on to our final destination of LAX.
Connecting from international to domestic in the U.S. is never a fun process but having had a decent night's sleep and Global Entry helped to ease the pain.
Tourism bonus - santiago de chile ⬇
Bonus : Click here display hide
We only had a day and a half to explore the expansive metropolis that is Santiago de Chile! We didn't see nearly as much of the city as we would have liked, given that you can't cram in too much sightseeing when travelling with a 3-year-old, but we did see a fair amount in the short time we were there and the weather was fantastic with very clear skies and temperatures of 30C / 85F. What a difference from the chilly temperatures in the South.
The afternoon we arrived in Santiago we took a short walk two blocks from our hotel to the Costanera Centre–the tallest skyscraper in all of South America, and third tallest in the southern hemisphere at more than 300m high.
The view from the SKY Costanera observation deck at the top is fantastic! We also really got lucky with such beautiful weather and low air pollution. Santiago is enormous and seems to go on forever–until it runs into the Andes, of course.
On the walk back to the hotel, we encountered a roller blade Halloween parade!
The next day we visited the historic centre beginning with the famou Palacio de la Moneda, the seat of the president of the Republic and several ministries.
The mix of beaux-arts and neo-classical architecture reminded me a bit of Madrid, though much less dense and with square blocks.
From there it was a short walk to the Plaza de Armas, the heart of the historic centre. With its beautiful 220 year old Baroque style cathedral and several museums and other historical buildings, the centre has a lovely old world feel.
As it was a public Holiday it was pleasantly uncrowded everywhere allowing us to fully enjoy the little time we had in Santiago. There was so much more to see, but we have to save them for a future visit to Chile! The Atacama desert, Easter Island, and deep Patagonia are on the list for future trips!
Hasta la proxima STGO!
Pacific Club - 2
Santiago - SCL
Dallas/Fort Worth - DFW
The new terminal is so expansive, it is absolutely mind-boggling that the only lounge in concourse C, from which most carriers operate outside of LATAM, was so tiny and cramped. That and being yelled at by a gate agent for no reason made for an unpleasant pre-boarding experience.
Luckily, the flight itself was very pleasant with a very friendly and proactive bilingual crew. It was nice to see some post-pandemic service improvements like the return of printed menus, hot towel service, a proper aperitif service with warm nuts, and after dinner chocolates. The main meal itself was good, but nothing fancy and served on one tray. This is mostly unchanged from pre-pandemic times when meals were already served on one tray on overnight flights to allow for more sleep time.
The flight departed over 10 minutes early and arrived a half hour early into Dallas. An very nice overall experience.
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Thank you for this comprenshive report
I'm glad to read that things in the sky are coming back to normality after Covid. Step by step...
The airport experience sounds such a shame compared to the apparent good level of the new terminal building. I hope they'll "get into rhytm" asap
Congrats for your successful advice to AA!
Take care :)
Hi Carlo thanks so much for your comments! Yes, I really hope that a bigger lounge is in the works if so many airlines are going to share. Demand for that lounge isn’t going to decrease as traffic recovers even more post-pandemic.
Thanks for stopping by!
In fact, I will suggest a better name for SCL - Long Corridor Airport. SCL is MADE UP of long corridors. Gosh, if you knew how much I had to walk when I came back from Coyhaique. Not even at GRU did I walk that long!
I have read good impressions and bad impressions about this check-in zone. Some find it too small and cramped, and others like you find it expansive. I had the feeling of a lack of space when I first entered there, but then I saw that it was much like my bedroom - messy but efficient. lol. I mean, the distribution is very clear. There's no way you will get lost there because all the counters are next to each other and the queuing areas for each counter are clearly defined. Besides, you have those skywalks at each end from where you can get a complete view of the scene.
Told you XD
It looks like she didn't understand that your intention was to point out that the information was outdated, not that she was wrong. But to snap like that...! Please, on behalf of the whole country and the National Tourism Service, accept my sincerest apologies. I will deal with that b... as soon as I find her.
Even the lounge at PMC looked better that this!! XD It's funny how the translator who translated the words on the tables made an effort to make the message less aggressive than the original, which actually reads "Show your good education and keep your feet off the table!"
The last straw. Even the seats outside McDonald's in T1 are a better option!
I'm not sure I like that. I mean, that guy sitting in 4H, it looks like he can make eye contact with the guy sitting across the aisle? I wouldn't like that.
It's never too soon to leave Santiago. AA understand that. XD
And if you keep complaining, next time it will be a whole lobster! XD
What a nice, elegant way to serve a mango! I'm going to steal that idea.
Your biological clock activates in the presence of civilization! XD
I must admit that Santiago can be a nice place to visit. In fact, I was there for a week this month and I enjoyed it. Living and commuting there is a different story.
I'm very happy and honored to know that my reports had some influence on you deciding to take this trip all the way down to Chile, and I'm even happier to know that it was an enjoyable experience. I hope to see you, Julien and cute little Thomas again!
Thanks for sharing!!
Hah, yeah, new SCL is right up there with FRA with the very long corridors.
While the floor space isn't huge, it's very well organised and the loft architecture makes it feel larger. I think the fact that the queues are set up with so much space in front of ticket counters keeps the flow of passengers well organised and avoids long queues overflowing and mixing between different airlines.
Yeah, it wasn't my primary intention, but I thought I'd let her know while I was at it. A simple, thanks for pointing that out would have sufficed, but noooo I got a shitty attitude and had to tell AA myself because one of their own didn't care. And they're actual AA agents in SCL, not a third party ground handler, so they SHOULD care!
It sure was! And here I thought the Pacific Club in PMC was small! But in comparison it's huge considering that they're both about the same size, but the one in SCL handles MUCH MORE traffic with multiple widebodies every afternoon and evening leaving T2 for Europe and North America.
Hahah, AA would never serve something that high-end 🤣
The rows are staggered just enough that that doesn't happen, also there's privacy walls that block the view--you have to purposely lean forward to see each other.
Yes, so much more to see next time, Cerro Santa Lucia, El museo de los derechos humanos, Cerro San Cristobal, the zoo, etc
And I'm so glad I did. Chile has everything you could possibly want and it's an easy country to travel with a small child, which was important!
We'll see you on our next trip down!
Thanks for the report, Kevin!
I was supposed to go to Chile and Argentina in March 2020, but then . . . oh well.
This is that great AA friendliness. She could work at DFW!
I don't know if you've seen the new SNL skit about Southwest Airlines, but this reminds me of the line from that skit: "Southwest premier lounge, located inside an active Starbucks, we just get there early and hold down 2-3 tables for y'all."
I tend to find any backward facing seats fascinating. What's your take on these compared to normal reverse herringbone seats?
Nothing says luxury than sparkling wine in a white plastic cup.
This is where things get weird--and we compare AA business to . . . Singapore Suites?
You can say that again.
Thanks again for the report!
Hey George thanks for your comments!
Yikes, and then the world as we knew it changed forever. Hope you can make that trip work out in the future!
Haha yes I have and that is exactly what it felt like hahaha
Me too, I like backwards facing seats for a fun change and different view. These seats are only slightly narrower than normal reverse herringbone seats. The design was an attempt at full-flat-with-aisle-access but denser, but for some reason didn't really lower the floorspace utilisation significantly vs reverse herringbone so it's not surprising they weren't popular or adopted by other carriers. When they first came out, the Concept D seats were creaky and rocky. A movement made by a neighbour would rock the other seat in the pair. That was fixed early on, thankfully.
Haha, right. The Bose headphones they had before were quite nice as well. The only think I don't like about fancy headphones is that they get collected well before landing so then you have to dig out your own headphones for the last 45 mins of flight. But then again, even some airlines that don't have super fancy headphones collect them well before landing.
Thanks for stopping by!
Nice review! Never flown on any of US carriers, so always curious to see how they compare within themselves and with the carriers from our part of the world.
Quick question, any reason you went for the forward facing? I thought the reverse facing one would be more exotic and give a better view of the engines.
Thanks for your comments!
They're all different variations of "meh" haha, but they can have their positives. US carriers definitely can't compete with carriers from Asia or Oceania on service though...well by Oceania I guess I mean just QF and NZ since VA is a shell of its former self.
I actually quite enjoy backwards-facing seats as an AvGeek. There are several reasons why I picked a forward-facing seat on this flight: I tend to prefer the last row for privacy and travelling with a kid it's just easier to be in the last row close to a lav and galley and more discrete so as not to bother anyone else. The other reason is that it looks like they changed the aircraft for this flight from an aircraft with the newer cabins, where all seats are forward-facing, to one with this forwards-backwards configuration. Usually the AA seatmaps will have arrows indicating seat direction for configurations that have backwards-facing rows, but in this case just showed all forward-facing, leading me to believe there was a last minute aircraft swap.
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