Recently, I had the opportunity to attend the grand opening of LAN Airlines’ new VIP Lounge in Santiago, Chile (SCL). The new lounge impresses in nearly every way, especially when compared to its predecessor at SCL. As you may recall, AirlineReporter Associate Editor Blaine Nickeson visited the old one back in March and described it as “very crowded and a little dated.” This new lounge is none of that.
The new lounge occupies two floors at the west end of the check-in concourse. Located adjacent to the Priority Check-in Area, the lounge is up a few steps (or a short ramp) from the priority security screening area’s exit. Alternatively, for passengers passing through the regular security checkpoint, it can be accessed via elevators that are located just past the duty free shop.
As you enter, a reception desk staffed with friendly agents is directly in front of you. Once you have been granted access, you have two choices. To the left is a mini lounge, with club-style seating and atmosphere. To the right is the main lounge, which is where I spent most of my time. Both lounges feature buffets with a selection of hot and cold items, a self-service bar, private restrooms, and shower facilities.
The mini lounge struck me as being targeted towards those making a quick pit stop. It definitely felt much busier than the main lounge, though neither was overly crowded at any time during my roughly eight-hour stay.
I entered the downstairs area, passing a bank of luggage lockers (use your own luggage lock on the doors) and a large rack with local and international magazines and newspapers. Inside, the lower-level lounge featured plenty of seating in a variety of configurations. A couple of corners had seats arranged around large flat-screen televisions.
Around the perimeter of the room was restaurant-style seating with benches, chairs, and standard-height tables, perfect for eating or getting work done. Many of these were situated along the windows that stretched the length of the lounge. At the far end, adjacent to the buffet area, was a counter with three iMac computers. Over by the self-service bar were sets of chairs clustered around low tables. All of this is arranged around a grand staircase that led to the enormous upstairs area.
It is upstairs that the new lounge truly shines — with areas to fill the need of just about every traveler.
Along most of the windows are rows of tables and comfortable chairs. At the end are roughly half-a-dozen armchairs with ottomans and small side tables. It was there that I chose to spend most of my time, relaxing and even doing some planespotting (as a side note, I made sure to check with my hosts about whether planespotting was welcomed inside the airport, as you should always do when visiting an airport in an unfamiliar country.)
Moving away from the windows, I found another bar/buffet area along with a number of seats facing another large TV. They seemed to be using it as a news-watching area, with CNN Chile being broadcast all day. Stepping across a wide corridor connecting the front and back of the lounge, I found a pair of rooms with particular purposes.
The first was a “board room” with a large conference table in it. This room was designed to be more dimly lit than the surrounding lounge, while still allowing a fair amount of natural light in. This is accomplished through the use of heavy, vertical wooden slats, a look that is used widely inside the lounge. Those wooden slats were described by the lounge’s architect, Lillian Allen, as her favorite feature.
Next to the board room was an area with a completely different vibe. The entertainment room is filled with gaming chairs and an assortment of electronics. Apparently sponsored by Sony, the room had a number of Xperia tablets and Playstation Vita handheld gaming devices tethered to small tables throughout the room.
At either end were flatscreen televisions dedicated to more entertaining programs, such as the Formula 1 race that was being aired during my visit. If there was one odd choice in the design of these two rooms, it is the decision to use a slat wall to separate them. I can easily see the noise from one room disturbing the occupants of the other.
Across the corridor was the entrance to an extensive restroom complex. Each restroom is arranged as its own individual half-bathroom with a toilet, sink, and large mirrors. While these restrooms were spacious, it seemed that entering and exiting with luggage might be a bit of a tight squeeze with the inward-opening doors.
There were also shower facilities available, arranged similarly to the restrooms except that a spacious shower stall was added.
Located at the end of a short maze of hallways designed to be easily navigable while keeping outside sounds to a minimum, the sleeping room is a darkened area with space for weary travelers to catch some much needed shut-eye. Located behind the only door in any of the lounge’s public areas, the sleeping room has four beds inside.
Each comfortable bed is provided with packaged pillows and blankets, which are replaced after each use. Don’t let the photos fool you (I used flash and a few other exposure tricks!), it was dark in there. There is only enough indirect lighting provided to allow users to navigate the space without bumping into things. In all, it is a great space to rest in between flights.
THE FOOD AND DRINKS
Generally the food choices were about what I would expect from a business class lounge. For grab-and-go snacks, there were bowls of trail mix and fancy potato chips, as well as fresh fruit. For a more substantial snack or a light meal, a wide variety of fresh options (both hot and cold) were available.
On the cold side, the fresh options included items such as garden salads, fresh bread and rolls, and sliced cheeses and sausages, which were available throughout the day. In addition, there were other items that rotated in and out depending on the time of day. From the morning until the early afternoon, a variety of muffins and breakfast breads were available.
Beginning in the mid-afternoon, a variety of small sandwiches appeared. At one point in the evening, I even saw evidence of a platter of sushi, although all that was left by the time I passed by was wasabi, pickled ginger, and a pile of chopsticks. In my opinion, these freshly-made cold selections were the highlight of the food and beverage offerings.
In the hot food department, there were a couple of options available. At each of the buffets, a warmer stocked with a variety of hot bites in ramekins was available. With no indication of what was in each ramekin, I was left to choose based on what looked tasty. Most (but not all) had a pretty decent flavor, even if what we actually were eating was a mystery.
However the bigger pitfall was in the texture of the food, as none of the options were particularly appealing in that respect. Adding to that, several of the ramekins I tried had some sort of bland, soggy dough-like substance at the bottom, which (pardon the pun) left a bad taste in my mouth no matter how good the first bites were. A better experience was had with the vegetable soup that was available in the bistro. It was hot (but not too hot) and tasty, and served with appropriate garnishes. It really hit the spot!
Each of the four bars, located around the lounge, had several small refrigerators filled with canned and bottled beverages. On the bar was a hot beverage machine, capable of making espresso and cappuccino drinks, as well as hot chocolate. Also on top of the bar were the lounge’s wine selection.
Three varieties of Chilean red wines were on the counter, while two Chilean white wines were on ice in stainless steel wells set into the countertop. Separately, chilled bottles of Louis Roederer champagne were offered in countertop tubs. All of the wines I tried, as well as the champagne, were perfectly acceptable middle-of-the-road offerings.
While some bars were stocked better than others, when it came to liquor, each had at least the basics available. I found that the bar with the best stock was located upstairs near the grand staircase.
As mentioned previously, the styles of seating that were available in this lounge varied greatly. From bar stools to benches, club chairs to easy chairs, and office chairs to gaming chairs, pretty much everything was available. And of what I tried, pretty much everything was comfortable. I ended up spending most of the afternoon parked on an easy chair facing the ramp, and had no complaints: it was a perfect spot for lounging around. Also plentiful around the terminal were power outlets.
In many cases, the outlets were built into the tables near each seat for easy access, though in some spots they would pop up out of the floor in a manner that wasn’t always intuitive. Make sure you bring your travel adapter however. While outlets were plentiful, the number that could accommodate Australian, US, or UK -style plugs were limited. Another clever addition was a charging podium with slots to hold your device upright and an array of common charging plugs.
The use of natural building materials such as wood and stone (both of which saw extensive use throughout the lounge) lent a very comforting feeling. Interior noise levels were generally quite reasonable, even in the evening when the lounge became fairly busy.
Despite the lounge’s extensive, large windows and ramp views, exterior noise was quite tolerable. While the sounds of aircraft could be heard, they were not particularly loud by any means. In most parts of the lounge, you probably wouldn’t even notice them during busier times.
With showers available in the lounge, and with at least 12 hours of traveling ahead of me, I knew I had to take advantage. Initially I headed to the upstairs showers, only to find them locked with no attendant in sight. I made my way downstairs to the reception desk where I was quickly accommodated.
My shower was handsomely furnished and felt quite luxurious. Provided for my use was a packaged set of towels, an assortment of toiletries, and a business class amenity kit. The H2O Plus-branded toiletries included soap, shampoo, conditioner, and body lotion.
Truth be told, being able to take a shower, made a huge difference in how I felt both when I got on my flight home and when I got off of it.
Overall, I was really impressed by LATAM’s new VIP lounge in Santiago. While the food might not have been on par with other lounges I have tried, it was still quite good. That was particularly true with the cold items. The furnishings throughout the lounge were stylish and comfortable.
The wide range of atmospheres available mean that pretty much everybody should be able to find a spot where they can relax and unwind. Amenities such as showers and beds give weary travelers a welcome chance to refresh themselves. The overall fit and finish and craftsmanship used in the construction of the lounge really shows. Long story short, the new VIP Lounge is nothing short of impressive.
To view larger versions of these photos and many more shots of the lounge, click here to visit our Flickr Page!
Note: I was in Santiago as a guest of LATAM Airlines Group, and my flights and accommodations were furnished by them. However, all opinions are my own.