Flying LAN to Chile
By Bill Triplett
When you’ve got a long flight ahead of you, few things are more comforting than the thought of a cushy seat in business class. On a recent trip from New York to Santiago, Chile – about 10 hours over 5,000 miles, as the 787 flies – I had the pleasure of nestling into a cozy pod one evening in LAN’s Premium Business, as the airline calls it.
I was as curious as I was relaxed. In 2012, LAN (based in Santiago) and its South American cousin TAM (based in Sao Paulo) merged, and there’d been talk in the industry about how the two corporate cultures might mesh. While they agreed to create a new, unified corporate identity – LATAM Airlines Group – each carrier would continue under its own name until a unifying rebranding, complete with a single livery, could be established, most likely later in the decade.
Would the service be LAN’s usual, or a glimpse of what LATAM’s might be like one day? Of course, there will be no answer to that until LAN and TAM disappear into one logo and one standard of service. But I did find out how much of the LAN Premium Business experience was worth preserving.
Pretty much all of it, I’d have to say.
The aircraft was relatively new, a Boeing 787 Series 9 Dreamliner, a slightly longer version than the Series 8. It was my first time on a 787 of any kind, and I confess to being impressed by the airy openness of the biz cabin. Plenty of large overhead storage that didn’t loom on the upper periphery of your sight, and soft, almost-moody lighting bathing the grays and reds of the decor.
The pods are a set of two seats sharing a console that has, among other things, a privacy screen you can raise. I was in the aisle seat of a pod by a window, and first thing I noticed was how big that window was (65 percent larger than those on other airliners, I later discovered). Better yet, there was no shade to get stuck either up, down, or in between; press a button under the window to either darken or lighten view, courtesy of electroluminescent technology.
Leg room? Plenty. Storage nooks and shelves, complete with a stocked magazine rack and noise-cancelling headphones, in front of me. More nooks in the console. Amenity bag bulging with all the little niceties – socks, ear plugs, sleep mask, pen, comb, shoe horn (?!?), and skin care products.
The entertainment system had a lot more to offer than just movies or TV shows: music, games, apps, maps, lighting control for your seat, call-attendant button, even the ability to browse and buy from the duty-free shop. All seemed easy to navigate and access via your personal remote control.
But with the whole night still ahead of me, the seat itself drew most of my attention. I was hoping for a lie-flat seat (vs. angled-flat, not nearly as comfortable), and I wasn’t disappointed. The control for adjusting the seat into a myriad of positions looked like something from the cockpit dash. There was even a massage option.
The welcoming glass of champagne (Louis Roederer) hit the spot. The in-flight menu was elegant, the wine list (heavy on the Chilean vineyards) inviting. Once at altitude, dinner appeared – and satisfied. I was tired, so I opted for light fare, a mix of greens and prawns with a glass of Casa Marin sauvignon blanc. I passed on the crème brûlée, but only because I was already starting to doze off.
The best part of the entire experience involved, as I was hoping, almost nothing at all: a deep and actually restful sleep. I pressed buttons, and the seat reclined into a bed, which easily accommodated all 5’ 10” of me. I settled my head into a pillow, pulled a blanket over me, and didn’t wake up until hours later, when I smelled coffee.
We were nearing Santiago, and breakfast was already served. I had forgotten to fill out a breakfast request, but the flight attendants quickly threw together a lovely tray of coffee and orange juice along with fruit, croissants and cheese.
If I haven’t mentioned the flight crew until now, it’s because they did their jobs right, in my book. They were immensely friendly and helpful, ready to get you anything, but not asking every ten minutes what they can do for you. (There’s a fine line between attentive and annoying.) I felt pretty well looked-after.
The only underwhelming part of the entire experience was the entertainment system’s music list, which admittedly I only glanced at – it seemed a bit predictable. But that’s been the case on almost every airline I’ve flown.
Here’s hoping LAN’s Premium Business service remains distinct in the integrated company.
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