Steve McCabe flies with Latam on flight 800 from Auckland to Santiago
: A rather new-looking Boeing 787-9. Latam used to use Airbus A340s on this route, and the upgrade to Boeing's new Dreamliner is a definite improvement — it's faster, quieter, smoother, and, with better cabin pressurisation and humidity, you land feeling slightly less jet-lagged.
Class: Economy. The flight originated in Sydney, and Latam often offer rather sweet deals on trans-Tasman wide-body Business Class fares, but for the full trans-Pacific leg, Economy was all I could manage.
Price: I booked directly through the airline's website, and my return ticket cost $1484.
Flight time: The eastbound flight to Santiago takes advantage of trade winds to cross the Pacific in a little more than 10 hours; we took off on time, and arrived about 15 minutes early.
My seat: 14H, an aisle seat toward the front of the Economy Class cabin. Latam designate the first few rows of Economy "Space+," and, apparently, these seats have extra legroom. I'm more than six feet and was grateful for the tiny amount of extra space. I could, just, stretch my feet under the seat in front.
Fellow passengers: Mostly Chileans on their way home, to judge from the language being spoken.
How full: Very. I think I saw a couple of empty seats toward the back when I got up for a walk, but it's entirely possible that these seats were empty for the same reason mine was.
Entertainment: Good. In-flight entertainment was provided on seat-back screens. I'd been to the Pop-Up Globe in Auckland a few weeks earlier, so I chose Shakespeare In Love to keep me amused. It did, for a couple of hours, then I watched a few of the standard-issue sitcoms — do Boeing pre-load all aircraft they build with a few dozen episodes of The Big Bang Theory? Latam has a good selection of films, in English as well as in Spanish and Portuguese.
The service: Very good, when the flight attendant working my aisle remembered to speak to me in English.
Food and drink: Dinner was served an hour into the flight — a beef curry-looking thing with rice that tasted as decent as any airline food. Drinks were kept topped up, the beer and wine selections reflecting the airline's home country. A cold breakfast of meat and cheese was offered a couple of hours before we arrived in Santiago.
The toilets: This being a brand-new 787, the toilets — eight or nine of them for the Economy Class cabin — were clean and in good order.
Luggage: I checked in one large suitcase, half-empty to leave room for souvenirs. It appeared on the carousel very promptly.
The airport experience: Santiago airport offers free Wi-Fi. This was a good thing — I needed something to keep me amused, as I waited for perhaps half an hour at immigration as two officers, who seemed fascinated and slightly confused by the passports they were being handed, processed a couple of plane-loads of passengers.
The bottom line: I loved Chile. I'm definitely going back. And I'd be happy to fly on Latam.