As the posts listed below explain, going to Easter Island (Rapa Nui or Isla de Pasqua) provided unique experiences and unexpectedly provoked thoughts about a variety of subjects. The flights between Santiago, Chile (SCL) and Easter Island’s Mataveri International Airport (IPC) on LATAM Airlines also added to the qualification miles and dollars I needed to retain American Airlines Executive Platinum status for 2020. For a little icing on the cake, the return flight was on a Boeing 787-9, my favorite aircraft.
Other posts from the Easter Island series:
Check-In And Boarding
Jerome, the proprietor of the excellent B & B that served as my home base on the island, drove me to the airport. Along with the price, $75/night, free airport transfers was one of the reasons Chez Jerome was the choice for accomodations.
Unlike the flight from Santiago to Easter Island, there is no problem locating the proper check-in counter at Mataveri International Airport. With only two flights/day (three in high season), all departing passengers line up at one small counter.
After check in, there are opportunities pre and post security to pick up last-minute souvenirs or grab a snack. It took almost 30 minutes to pass through security and complete immigration screening.
Even though the flight to Santiago is essentially a domestic flight, all passengers must submit to a passport control process. Chile annexed Easter Island in 1888. In 2007, Rapa Nui became a Province of the Chile’s Valparaiso Region. There are special forms for arriving and departing passengers.
Passengers await boarding in a small shelter just off the tarmac.
American Airlines status got me to the head of the line, and I was fortunate to board during a break in the rain.
LATAM Chile’s fleet currently includes 15 787-9s and 10 787-8s with an additional 11 787-9s on order. The 787-9 serves as LATAM’s flagship having replaced A340-300 and 777-200 models.
The 787-9 is my favorite aircraft primarily because of the electronically dimmable windows. Higher cabin pressurization and humidity than on older aircraft also makes 787 flights less taxing on the body.
LATAM Economy Class 787-9 Seating
LATAM installs 274 economy seats arranged 3-3-3 in two cabins. Seats are just over 17 inches wide and have a reasonable seat pitch of between 32 and 34 inches. LATAM designates 63 economy class seats at the front of the forward economy cabin as “LATAM+”. These seats provide slightly more seat pitch than other economy seats and come with priority boarding and deplaning.
My seat was 12A, a bulkhead window seat on the port side in the first row of economy.
The biggest advantage of bulkhead seats is there is no seat in front that can be reclined into your space. Also, passengers in the bulkhead row can get up without forcing the others in the row to do the same.
Their primary drawbacks are limited legroom and no under-seat stowage. A potential drawback is the bulkhead can be used to install a bassinet. At a bulkhead, there is always a slim chance you might be sitting in a row with a baby.
Amenities and IFE
As pictured in the photo of Seat 12A above, amenities, a plastic wrapped pillow, blanket and headphones are on the seat at boarding. All economy seats have access to 110V and USB power ports.
Every economy seat has a video monitor for viewing the in-flight entertainment (IFE) system. It is well stocked with over 110 films, 200 TV show episodes, and 15 games. The IFE screen at bulkhead seats folds up for viewing from a storage compartment between the seats.
Departure and Flight to Santiago
Flight LA 842 completed boarding and pushed back on time. There was a five-minute delay before we began the short taxi to the active runway. Takeoff was to the west on Runway 28 (Two Eight), an asphalt strip just under 11,000 feet in length.
(In the 1980s, the United States footed the bill to bring this runway to its current condition to serve as an emergency landing strip for the space shuttle. At that time, the U. S. was contemplating shuttle launches on a polar orbital trajectory from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Those plans were cancelled, but the lengthened runway allowed wide-body airliners to land on Easter Island and boosted tourism there.)
About one hour after takeoff, flight attendants began service in the economy cabin. A beverage service was first. All beverages were free including beer, wine and whisky.
A satisfying dinner with a choice of two hot entrees, cheese and crackers and dessert followed. A salad or appetizer would have been a nice addition. But no real complaints for economy class on a “domestic” flight just under five hours in duration.
Two hours before arrival at Santiago, flights attendants provided a second beverage service.
I found the seat to be comfortable for economy class. The headrest provided good support, but it was more comfortable to rest my head on a pillow on the wall. I got up to stretch my legs a couple of times.
I dimmed the windows for viewing movies but eliminated the dimming effect for a short while to enjoy sunset over the Pacific.
Thanks to a steady tailwind, the flight only took four hours and 40 minutes to cover 2,335 great-circle miles between Rapa Nui and Santiago.
Overall Impression And Final Thoughts
A bulkhead seat was a good choice even though my 6′ 2″ frame was slightly cramped. The extra space and freedom of movement more than made up for that. In the fall of 2019, LATAM entered into a joint venture with Delta Airlines. LATAM will leave the Oneworld alliance in 2020. That is good news for Delta and SkyTeam fliers but bad news for American Airlines customers because once LATAM exits Oneworld these flights will no longer earn dollars and miles that count towards qualifying for American Airlines elite status.