Welcome to my flight trip report. This report will cover my flight on Christmas eve from Sao Paulo to Santiago de Chile. This trip was booked in September as a part of my EWR-GRU-SCL, LIM-IAH-EWR for the winter. I thought it was a nice idea to use the $2000 business class fare available through UA to sample the regional premium product offered by TAM since JJ hardly ever release any premium cabin award to partners (although this has changed since March this year as a result of LAN take over). The booking process was a bit complicated as united.com was unable to offer routings through GRU but rather was forcing the fare on Copa via PTY on 737s, which is not a great deal given the aircrafts' domestic configuration.
I arrived at GRU transfer desk (actually just a gate) from my incoming UA flight about 4 hours before my flight on JJ. Lacking a visa to enter Brazil, I had to stay airside for my transit. I had a little trouble in locating a place to get my onwards boarding pass since there was no signs whatsoever about transfer desks. I had to convince the security agents manning the transfer security to allow me through without a boarding pass. Once cleared, I found my way to a staffed gate and requested my boarding pass. JJ has cut cost to give supermarket receipt type boarding passes even for international flights. Once this is issued, I was on my way to the newly renovated TAM lounge in terminal B.
The business class/*G lounge is one level above the departures level. The area hosts many lounges including AA, DL, JJ, as well as a specialized lounge only for LH/LX F and HON passengers. JJ also has a small F lounge on the other side of the terminal building.
The LH/LX F only lounge
For some reason it took a little bit work to convince the agent to let me into the lounge. I am still a bit confused over this since it is pretty obvious to me that a TAM J boarding pass should be sufficient for lounge access in any given case. Pictured is my carry on while awaiting agents to sort it out.
Once inside, the lounge is not crowded at all. I settled in the middle section and the only other occupant was a couple in the TV room.
The lounge has been recently renovated and looks very modern and clean.
The lounge has windows, but they are all closed off and it seems like the owner did not really want pax to see outside - maybe not a very pretty view.
It was during local meal time (around 2pm) but the lounge did not have any hot food. Some nice snacks though.
Lots of local wines
I very much liked the small piece of bread on the plate. I don't know what it is called and did not see it again during the rest of my trip.
The lounge is decorated with some interesting old pictures of TAM's operations.
Departure board in the lounge. It's a pretty busy evening with international departures.
I decided to leave the lounge a little bit early and do a little bit spotting in the airport. I don't frequent South America and GRU, like IST, has lots of interesting carriers.
AZ going to FCO. I hope you guys stay in business until I fly you in September.
Spotted this rare bird. I have always wanted to fly the southernly trans ocean routes, namely SCL-SYD-JNB-GRU. However they are all extremely expensive and hard to come by :(
AV at GRU
Waiting area in the airport. The terminal is not in its best shape and the cafes are outrageously expensive.
Back to the gate area. Boarding was almost ready to go.
I was asked to show a return ticket at gate which I thought was odd. Nevertheless I showed it to the agent and boarded seconds after. Onboard the aircraft felt refreshing and full long haul pillow/bedding was provided. I appreciated the nice and thick blanket but the pillow felt way too large for this recliner seat.
Regarding the seat I also liked the headrest adjustment features which greatly enhanced my comfort.
Leg room is 39'' and pretty good for this 3.5 hrs flight
A printed menu is provided. Because of the iberia meal hours this 4-8pm flight will have a snack served and thus a one-tray service.
We soon took off. Curtain up front was soon closed. The crew member working the front cabin came out and introduced himself to every passenger personally and wished us enjoy today's flight.
I quickly flipped through the inflight magazine provided and found it a pleasant reading. TAM's magazine is of probably the highest quality of print of all airline inflight magazines. Advertisement were moderate. Though it was in Portuguese and Spanish only.
LANTAM's network map
It looked beautiful outside. Meal order was taken at this time.
This snack is warm and I suppose this could qualify as lunch on a 3.5 hrs flight on a North American carrier.
Coffee was much needed at this point. I really liked the cup they served coffee in.
About an hour after our snack the plane started to fly over the Andes. The captain informed us that we were just a little bit west of Mendoza.
Most passengers took out their cameras and started taking pictures. It was a very clear day.
A final water refill was provided before landing.
Touchdown at SCL. A number of years ago my bag that was suppose to go to SLC got tagged to SCL and DL said it ended up here. I'm sure it's long gone but I still made an inquiry at the airport.
Awaiting to deplane.
Recent arrivals. SCL is not a particularly busy intercontinental hub. Most flights in and out are LA/JJ group flights with a solo DL flight and some AA flights arriving in the morning. UA mainline doesn't serve SCL anymore and Copa's 737 is not desirable for a 7 hours trip from PTY. I think LX used to fly SCL-GRU but that has been discontinued. AC's EZE service still stops at SCL though. On the upside, AF has its CDG flight and QF moved its SYD-EZE to SYD-SCL 3x weekly. As AR is about to discontinue EZE-SYD, the only southern transpacific flights will be LA SCL-AKL-SYD and QF SYD-SCL. I can see this getting very expensive really fast.
Baggage retrieving area.
Immigration was pretty fast and I watched a number of Americans shocked by the $160 reciprocity fee (abolished earlier this year as Chileans no longer need a visa to enter the USA). I took a taxi for the city.
So this is a touristic trip. I was just on vacation. Here are a few photos!
This is the upscale area of Providencia. I was very surprised by this as it looked so much like LA and southern CA. The car culture was similar too. I have been to BsAs a number of times and saw both the nice (european) and not so nice sides of the city. I was somewhat expecting a similar set up as BsAs but I was totally wrong on this one.
I lodged at the Park Tower. It is essentially an enhanced quality attachment to the Sheraton. It was a very nice hotel at a pretty good location. Chile is a prosperous country but the hotels industry somehow didn't catch up to speed. It was a little bit difficult in locating a nice hotel that is not so out of the way (conventions centers in most cases).
View of the city taken from my hotel room.
The next day we went for a walk in centro which was very nice. I liked the national drink a lot! Please see below for some pictures.
I will post SCL-IPC-SCL and my quick tour of Easter Island soon (Y). I will also post EWR-GRU (J) and LIM-IAH (J) on UA in the next months or so. Those are all coming from the same trip this past winter.
I have some pictures that could translate into a few trip reports of now discontinued flights taken in 2011-2012. I won't post all of them so please voice below in the comments section which ones you would like to see the most:
1. AZ FCO-PEK Classica Plus 2. AF PNH-BKK Business 3. KL BKK-TPE Business 4. DL DTW-HKG Business 5. UA IST-EWR Business
Also, over the summer I'm booked on BA004 JFK-LCY, a BA 787 in J, an Air Algerie widebody (767) in J, QR CMN-DOH, DOH-JFK, and CX EWR-HKG RT in Premium Eco. Hope you will enjoy :)
TAM Business and First Lounge
Sao Paulo - GRU
Santiago - SCL
Overall the flight was a solid experience. I would defiantly want to fly with TAM again. Now that they are in OW I hope to use my BA AVIOs for some no fuel surcharge ex-BRS redemptions. Cheers :)
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