TRAVEL | Over the past few years, LATAM have been increasing their presence in Australia and currently operate three flights a week between Melbourne and Santiago. The plane that’s currently used on the route is the Boeing Boeing 787-9 (“Dreamliner”). The direct option means that the flight time has reduced from prior indirect options. You can now get to Santiago from Melbourne in 13 hours and 15 minutes. This was my first flight with LATAM, and first time travelling to South America, and needless to say I was very excited about getting on this plane.
Check in was smooth and efficient. The employee at the counter was friendly and helpful and the line moved fast.
Checked luggage is included with all LATAM Economy tickets when flying international. You can check-in two bags up to 23kg, and on carry-on bag up to 8kg.
I was happy with the service on this flight. At a minimum, all LATAM cabin crew on this flight speak fluent Spanish and English. Staff aren’t quite as personable as you find on Cathay Pacific and Virgin Australia, but they’re efficient, friendly, and get the job done. About the same as when I’ve flow Emirates.
The LATAM Economy cabin on the Dreamliner that flies from Melbourne to Santiago features 290 seats, in a 3-3-3 layout. There are enough flight attendants around so getting the attention of someone should you need assistance isn’t an issue. Colour wise it’s white and blue with a few flourishes of red, keeping in line with LATAM’s branding. Being the newest version of the Dreamliner means that you get the clean air benefits that the flight brings, with the snazzy electronic window shutters and lighting to help fight jetlag. When it comes to cleanliness, everything nice and clean.
The fabric seat has dimensions of about 81cm x 44cm – a bit narrower than other international economy cabins. Like any economy seat, it doesn’t recline that far back, but it’s no better or worse than the competition. The headrest is adjustable.
There are small armrests, and a fabric pocket sleeve at the back of the seat in front to place a few things. There’s not much space to get work done with the tray down if you’ve got a laptop, but for a tablet sized device it’s possible to get some productive stuff done.
There’s a USB port for charging devices, and a power outlet if you need even more juice.
There’s a 22.9cm screen on the back of each LATAM Economy Dreamliner seat which is your gateway to LATAM’s in-flight entertainment system. If features over 150 movies, 28 of which are new release, along with television programmes, music, games and apps, all of which rotate regularly to ensure that the content remains fresh and current. The content is a mixture of English language entertainment and content from across Latin America. Provided headphones are acceptable, but if you’re anything like me you’ll bring your own noise cancelling headphones and an adapter for the headphone socket.
Unfortunately for those who can only read English, VAMOS, the in-flight magazine, is almost entirely in Spanish and Portuguese.
Meals are included with all LATAM Economy tickets when the flight is over seven hours, with the exact options changing depending on what time of day you are flying. The offering is a mixture of Chilean and International food, and there’s always one vegetarian option. I was on the flight that departed at 10:45am so it was lunch, dinner and breakfast.
I was very impressed with the dinner option. There was a choice of potato gnocchi with basil pesto, tomato sauce, sauteed mushrooms and sundried tomato, slow cooked lamb with roasted kumara, beetroot relish, and steamed green beans, or marinated chicken with quinoa, mixed greens, and yoghurt herb dressing. My wife and I both opted for the lamb and the gnocchi. The gnocchi was merely fine but the lamb was a real highlight. It was surprisingly tender and lean, full of flavour, and of a very decent size.
The breakfast unfortunately didn’t match the dinner. There was a choice of cheese omelette with sauteed mushrooms and cherry tomato, or French toast with rhubarb compote and caramelised banana. Both options come with your choice of fresh fruit or yoghurt. Between my wife and I we tried both options and the omelette was definitely the winner of the two. Avoid the French toast which is very sweet with an odd texture.
For drinks its a selection of wine, beer, spirits, cocktails, soft drinks, fruit juices, coffee and tea which are all available at meal time and throughout the flight on request.
Beyond the usual blanket, eye mask and pillow that’s on your seat when you first board, there aren’t any additional amenities provided in Economy class.
My first experience flying LATAM was a positive one. The plane was clean, staff efficient and helpful, and the seat comfortable. The food could do with some work, but overall I’d definitely fly LATAM long-haul Economy again. You can also read about my experience flying Qantas back home here.
One thing that Australian passport holders should be aware of before their flight is that they are required to pay a US$117 “reciprocity fee” upon entry to Chile. It’s basically something that the Chilean government introduced because our government introduced a similar charge. It’s kind of like a visa on arrival without the official paperwork and effort of a visa – a counter in a side section of the airport when you arrive in Chile gets it taken care of relatively quickly.