The recent news about Delta Air Lines acquiring, subject to certain approvals, 20% of LATAM stock prompted me to report on a trip I took this summer to Isla de Pascua, Chile or Easter Island as it is commonly known in the U.S.. LATAM has a monopoly on flights to Easter Island. During low season there is one daily flight from Santiago. In high season there are two flights.
I was in Santiago on a mileage run for American Airlines qualifying miles and dollars. Going to Easter Island was a last minute decision. In June there are two flights per day from SCL. I booked the morning flight on a 787-9. The outbound flight was in business class, and the return flight was in coach. While the reservation was showing business class on the outbound, according to SeatGuru my seat would be in coach on a LATAM 787-9. But the LATAM call center assured me it was business class. Hmmm.
The flights cost just over $400 round trip. Alternatively, I could have used 47,000 American miles if award space had been available.
Isla de Pasqua Departure Procedures
My Uber arrived at 07:35 at Arturo Merino Benitez Airport (SCL) after a 25-minute ride from the Marriott Courtyard Santiago Los Condes. It is a great Courtyard in a great location. The review is upcoming.
Once inside the terminal it took a while to figure out where to check in. Easter Island flights have their own check-in counters separate from domestic and international.
At check in, the agent issued a boarding pass and a special information form for Easter Island. Travelers to Easter Island must then go through a two-step process before going through security and being admitted to the domestic terminal.
- They must complete a form with name, surname, nationality, travel document number (identity card or passport), and the name of the accommodation on Easter Island.
- They then present the form to Chilean Police who will inspect the form and verify the information it contains. Only passengers with reservations in registered accommodations or who present a personalized invitation letter from a citizen of Rapa Nui (Easter Island) origin may enter.
Security, passport, and arrival form vetting is carried out in an area segregated from other domestic and international departures. It was on a lower level and hard to find. Once you find it, expect up to 20 to 30 minutes to get through the line.
After clearing all of the checks, I had time for a short stay in the Primeclass Pacifico Condor Lounge, the only Priority Pass lounge in the domestic terminal at SCL. Then it was time to board.
The White Whale – LATAM Flight LA841 Santiago (SCL) to Isla de Pascua (IPC)
The flight departed from Gate 31, which is located in the basement of the domestic terminal. Basement gates usually mean a bus ride to the plane. That was the case here. Getting off the bus, I thought the driver made a mistake because there were no LATAM planes nearby. Passengers were walking toward a large plane with no identifying markings.
An all-white airplane with no identification not even a flag was a first for me. Being on the way to Easter Island, I couldn’t avoid thinking of Moby-Dick, the all-white sperm whale that was the hero Melville’s novel of the same name.
Business Class Cabin, Seat Features and Amenities
On board, I learned the plane was a 777-200. Business class is arranged 2-2-2 with recliner seats.
My seat was 14F, an aisle seat on the starboard side in the third row of the center section.
A duvet, pillow, headphones and amenity kit were on the seat at boarding. A large bottle of water was in a pocket on the seatback.
Seat controls and video remote are housed in the aisle armrest.
The video monitor is mounted on the seat back. Video resolution is low quality. More on that later.
The pilots pushed from the remote stand at 09:30, the scheduled departure time on the nose. Takeoff was at 09:50.
Once airborne I settled in for the 5.5 hour flight to Easter Island. The seat was comfortable if not private. The twin seats in the center both had direct aisle access. For the twin seats by the widow, it was very awkward for the passenger in the window seat to get up if the passenger in the aisle seat had reclined.
Flight attendants began distributing hot towels 50 minutes after takeoff. Breakfast service reached my seat in the third row 30 minutes later. It seemed longer because I was hungry. I did’t have much to eat in the Condor lounge.
I welcomed the meal but found it unsatisfying. I expected more for the only meal on a 5.5-hour flight in business class. It was also disappointing that LATAM stocked no alcohol on the flight.
After the meal I tried to watch a movie. That was also a letdown. The in-flight entertainment system on this plane is antiquated. There were only two movies to watch, and those movies were not available on demand. Adding insult to injury, the quality of the video and audio was very poor.
The amenities were the best thing about this flight. It was easy to curl up and relax in the recliner seat under the warm duvet and soft pillow. And given how stingy LATAM seemed to be with food and beverages, it was surprising that I received a very basic amenity kit.
The lavatory had hand lotion which is an upgrade from international flights on American Airlines.
A flight attendant shed light on the mystery of the White Whale for me. She stated that the all-white 777-200 was a “spare” that LATAM dry leased (no crew or ground staff). This flight was originally scheduled to be on a 787-9. Trying a LATAM 787-9 in business class was the primary reason I booked business class on this trip.
Some 787s equipped with Rolls Royce Trent 1000 engines have a propensity to develop hairline fractures in the turbine blades. Inspections and repairs require taking these planes out of service for extended periods. ANA, which operates more 787s than any other airline, has had to reduce its schedule. Other carriers like LATAM have leased replacement planes. It has been reported that LATAM will be leasing two 777-200s formerly owned by Singapore Airlines. Assuming the interiors are unchanged, the seats on those planes will be a bit dated but very nice.
Easter Island Arrival
We landed at Mataveri International Airport (IPC) on Easter Island exactly on time at 12:55. Easter Island was the first land we had seen on the 2,335 mile flight since passing over the west the coast of Chile. The 777 back taxied on the runway to reach the ramp. IPC has a wonderful asphalt runway that is nearly 11,000′ long and 150′ wide but there are no taxiways.
It was a pleasant stroll to the terminal.
It was a tad amusing to arrive on Easter Island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean on an all-white Moby-Dick look alike. LATAM should add a few identifying decals even if it doesn’t do the full livery. The seat, service, food, and beverages on this spare 777-200 was a bit of a let down but consistent with average at best experiences on other LATAM business-class flights. It was easy, though, to put any negatives of the flight aside when anticipating the adventures and new experiences that awaited on Rappa Nui.