Check-in There is a dedicated check-in area for business class passengers at Santiago airport. On this Friday evening it was really busy and the process took around 25 minutes to complete. I arrived at the airport at 1600 for my 1845 flight to Madrid (LA 704), which then goes on to Frankfurt. I was allocated the same seat as on my outward journey – 7A, a window seat. After check-in, security and immigration were fast, and I headed to the new business class LAN lounge after browsing in a few shops.
The lounge The facility opened in July and is situated by Gate 17, down some stairs. There are windows but they are high up, so although there was natural light, there was no view. The lounge was very busy and felt small, and I only managed to find a seat after searching for a while. There’s a large smoking room at one end, a computer centre with about ten PCs, an area with tables and chairs for those wanting to work, and a more relaxed section of seats with ottoman footrests. There’s a small kitchen with snacks such as cookies, brownies, cold meat and bread, apple-flavoured crisps, and the drinks. Flight details were on a small TV screen. Boarding was supposed to be at 1800 but it was 1815 when it was called. Gate 12 was just up the stairs and to the right of the lounge.
Boarding As I was a bit late to arrive the gate, I had to join the economy class queue, as priority passengers had already embarked. Once in my seat, I then had to wait for the passengers boarding behind me to sit down before I could get a drink, and even when I got it, I didn’t have time to consume it as it was whisked away when we started taxiing. We took-off on time and the pilot made an announcement that we were to remain seated for 25 minutes, as we were flying over the Andes and turbulence was common.
The seat The seats recline to a fully-flat bed and are upholstered in blue fabric with dark brown backs. There are privacy screens and four set seat positions controlled by a panel on the armrest, as well as a massage function and the ability to move the footrest in and out. The armrests lower when converting to the bed, giving five inches of extra width. And cozy, down duvets and soft white pillows are provided. The seat has a hardback shell with the one in front displaying a 15.4-inch screen. In-flight entertainment is AVOD (audio-visual on-demand) and there are 44 films, 95 channels of TV series and documentaries, 14 video games and 550 CDs. The remote is slotted under one armrest and the table is inside the other.
There’s a plug, which fitted my three-prong European laptop charger, noise-cancelling headphones, a small cubbyhole with a door at the bottom of the seat in front to store belongings, and an adjustable reading lamp. The amenity kits were inside a fold-out bag with three different sections, containing a toothbrush and paste, a plastic comb, a shoe horn, L’Occitane hand cream, moisturiser and lip balm, and a pocket mirror, eye mask and earplugs.For a seat plan of the A340-300 aircraft, click here.
Which seat to choose? The front cabin is quieter than the one behind. Business class seats are configured 2-2-2, with rows one to five occupying the front cabin, and six and seven in the middle, next to economy. Rows one and six do not have seats in front of them so have the in-flight entertainment on the wall and less storage for belongings, so might be best avoided. Seats in rows two, three and four are the best as they are quieter and don’t suffer from disturbance from a galley or washroom.
The flight The flight started with some turbulence over the mountains, as predicted, and there were about five announcements in Spanish and then English, which was a bit annoying if you were using the in-flight entertainment (IFE). Generally, the cabin was peaceful and the pull-down divider between the seats really gives you privacy. The IFE worked fine on this return journey, although the synopses of the films were a little lost in translation on a few occasions.
We were given landing cards for Madrid, although I did not need one, and meal orders were taken. The starters were Patagonian ham with artichokes and balsamic reduction or Pacific shrimp bisque. Main courses were: grilled filet of beef with native potatoes from Chiloe, sautéed shitake and roasted squash; ricotta and spinach ravioli with walnut sauce; or a light option of smoked trout salad and cottage cheese. Desserts were ice cream, molten chocolate with a passion fruit centre or fresh seasonal fruit. There was also the option of an express dinner with one less course.
Hot towels were given out and I plugged in my laptop – there’s a UK three-pronged plug so you don’t need an adaptor. My prawn bisque was very good, and I had the beef for main, paired with a 2007 Malbec from the Uco valley in Mendoza. It went perfectly, and although I found the meat a little dry, the meal was very tasty overall. As with the outbound journey, dinner was served with cheese – Edam and sheep’s milk on this occasion.
After dinner I filled in the breakfast card, ordering an omelette, and was informed that only passengers flying to Madrid could buy alcohol from the on board duty-free service. I started watching a film but then fell asleep with the bed fully reclined. It was very comfortable and I slept well, waking two hours before landing.
My omelette was served with asparagus, although I had been expecting a sausage, so I asked for some ham. Instead, was given jam, so I asked again and somewhat reluctantly, was given some ham and cheese. After breakfast I had a cup of tea and tried to get on with some work, but found the process of clearing up quite slow, with serviettes and glasses left for some time.
Arrival We arrived on time at Madrid and disembarked quickly. For a review of the Madrid-London leg, click here.
Verdict The new business class product is very good and the bed comfortable – I slept soundly on both the inbound and outbound flights. The service is good but on this return flight it was a little haphazard and quite slow, possibly because it was a full aircraft. The flight was punctual, and LAN is a good option for Oneworld members who miss the BA Santiago service.