I think the most common question people have about flying premium cabins on overnight flights is “can I sleep?” When recently flying from New York’s JFK to Santiago, Chile (SCL), in LAN’s business class on the 787-9 Dreamliner, I was hoping to check out the amenities, but I was also looking to sleep. This was to be my first 787-9 flight and it was CC-BGC, which was delivered to LAN on June 25, 2015, just 25 days before my flight.
Maybe it’s just me, but I generally find that for a true overnight flight, under twelve hours, I am concerned about exactly one thing: is the seat flat? Do I care about the service? Sure, but I rarely get a chance to partake, as I am typically asleep until 90 minutes before landing to get ready for the new day and eat breakfast.
This makes reviewing hard. I want to say so many amazing things about LAN because they are fantastic, but short overnight flights always make me feel like I missed out on something.
LATAM’s harmonized business class product was designed by Priestmangoode and features a 2-2-2 layout – Photo: Jason Rabinowitz
LAN is a tenant of Terminal 8 at JFK (American Airlines’ home) – because of this, the only premium lounges in Terminal 8 (save the Flagship First room) are regular Admiral’s Clubs. While LAN Premium Business customers are entitled to a free alcoholic beverage, that says nothing of the food.
In LAN’s beautiful Santiago lounge, this would not be a problem. In the Terminal 8 Admiral’s Club, the only food on offer are tiny cups of soup, some oddly rubbery cookies, and suspicious looking cheese. Could a LAN flyer purchase something more substantial? Yes, but the thing is, I have had too many of the $11 Admiral’s Club paninis. They are, to put it gently, not what you would expect from food in a seemingly premium environment.
But, when I was able to board my 787-9, things were completely different.
An Air France Airbus A318. The airline is the world’s largest operator of the A318. Photo: Thomas Becker
The last Airbus A318 operated by a North American airline has exited service. The A318, sometimes affectionately referred to as the “Babybus,” is the smallest member of the Airbus A320 family. Weighing nearly the same as its larger brother, the A319, and operating with the same crew requirements, the economics of operating the A318 in North America just didn’t make sense. The similarly-sized Boeing 737-600 has largely suffered the same fate (although WestJet still operates a fleet in Canada).
LAN’s first Boeing 787 Dreamliner sits at their maintenance facility at Santiago.
Back in the day when the Boeing 787 was allowed to fly, I took LAN’s first 787 delivery flight from Everett, WA to Santiago Chile. During my short stay, I was able to tour their maintenance and training facility and I wanted to share what I was able to explore.
Boeing 767s get winglets installed.
LAN has been going through a huge undertaking of upgrading their older Boeing 767s to each have winglets to increase their fuel efficiency. When LAN started the process, it would take them about 49 days to install the winglets. More recently,it only takes them two weeks.
Sometimes, the simplest way is the best.
One of the most interesting aspects was using old-school white boards and papers to keep track of where each aircraft is at in the maintenance process. At first, I couldn’t imagine why they wouldn’t upgrade to computers, but their process absolutely works for them and why fix something that is not broken?
The Airbus A318 still looks like a baby airplane to me. LAN currently operates 5 of the type.
Typically, it takes about 12 hours to replace a Boeing 767 engine and only nine hours to replace one on an Airbus A318.
P&W4000 engine being worked on.
LAN is able to re-work up to ten engines at a time and the shop runs 24 hours per day, six days per week.
This is an engine cleaning truck (pretty sure that they had a fancier name for it) that can drive to clean the engines of a LAN aircraft.
I started to get TIREd at this point in the tour (okay, not really and that was a bad joke).
CAE training facility in Santiago.
LAN does not operate their own flight simulators or crew training, but outsource to CAE, which is located directly next to the airport.
You probably never will need to use a raft like this, but it is good to know that flight attendants know how to use it, if needed.
These may look like fun (I wasn’t allowed to slide down), but this is where flight attendants train how to evacuate an aircraft.
Boeing 767 interior mock up for safety training.
A CAE Boeing 767 flight simulator. Do I want to go inside? Um, yes please.
Pilots get training in the Boeing 767 simulator.
Was able to sit in on two current pilots who were doing additional training on the Boeing 767. They just had one engine go out during landing and had to react appropriately — we all made it.
CHECK ALL 41 PHOTOS OF THE MAINTENANCE / TRAINING FACILITY
||This story written by…David Parker Brown, Editor & Founder.
David started AirlineReporter.com in the summer of 2008, but has had a passion for aviation since he was a kid. Born and raised in the Seattle area (where he is currently based) has surely had an influence and he couldn’t imagine living anywhere else in the world.
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Before landing at SCL, we did a fly-over the airport. Photo by Lucas Frenk De Matos.
This is the third and final installment on LAN taking delivery of their first Boeing 787 Dreamliner. In PART 1, I shared what happened before the delivery, in PART 2, I talked about our flight and this part will wrap things up. In the near future, I will be sharing my thoughts on Santiago, giving a photo tour of LAN’s training facility and giving a review on my 767 flight back to LAX.
I should have been groggy with only four hours of sleep after twelve hours aloft, but the excitement of landing in a Dreamliner had me wired. I was told that we were going to fly over the airport before landing. I tried to predict what side of the airplane would face the airport and chose the left side: Darn it, the airport was on the right side. Oh well; win some, lose some.
As the plane landed, I could see hundreds of people surrounding the airport to catch a glimpse of Chile’s first Dreamliner landing. It was exciting to see so many people excited about seeing a 787 for the first time.
When taxiing to our gate, AvGeeks were not the only ones to welcome; there were also a few hundred airport employees who came out to the tarmac. I felt like a super star.
You can’t have a celebration without a water cannon salute. Photo by Lucas Frenk De Matos.
A proper welcome would not be complete without a classic water cannon salute. The picture above shows two nicely working water spouts, but unfortunately by the time the plane got to the fire trucks, something went wrong with the left one and there was no water shooting out. That is alright; I still felt plenty welcomed.
BONUS: VIDEO OF LAN’S BOEING 787 LANDING IN SANTIAGO
I arrived at the gate and a bunch more folks surrounded the aircraft on the ground. There was no ceremony at the airport, which was fine with me. Mostly because I wanted to get the hotel and take a much-needed shower. The Dreamliner is a great aircraft, but 12.5 hours flying economy on any plane can be tiring.
Chilean mountains and a curved wing tip — what more does one need?
Now for the big question: is the 787 that much better? To be honest it was hard to tell at the time. Boeing promotes the 787 as having lower pressure and higher humidity to lessen the effects of jetlag. Sure my nose wasn’t that dry and I actually felt okay for a 12.5 flight, but it wasn’t super obvious. It took flying home on a Boeing 767-300ER a few days later to fully realize how the 787 Dreamliner is actually different.
Even though I flew Business Class home and kept myself better hydrated, my nose was dry and I got a headache. Boeing might be on to something here.
The overhead bins on the 787 were another feature that I didn’t fully appreciate until flying home on the 767. My carry-on (which is border-line too large to be a carry-on) easily fit in the 787 bin in economy. But I had to remove some items from my bag to squeeze it into the 767 business class bin.
LAN’s 787 at the gate after we landed. People from around the airport came to check her out.
Previously, I have made fun of the LED lights. Mostly because Boeing, airlines, and media tout it as some revolutionary concept when really LED lights could be retrofitted into any other aircraft. But I do see there are some real benefits. Not only do they provide a great party atmosphere, but they also have the ability to slowly change the color settings. With the crew having full control over the windows and the lights programmed to slowly transition, it really allows passengers to feel the different stages of service. Again, not a huge thing, but these little things add up.
Another surprise was how spacious the cabin. The interior of the 787 seemed more like a Boeing 777 than a 767. Yes, the 3-3-3 layout in economy is a bit tight and if I had seatmates in my row, it would have been a pretty painful experience. I was told that LAN made this decision since they felt their service and product would make up for the skinnier seats.
And that wing; that amazing wing. No joke, airlines should put a notice under each window saying, “yes, the wing is supposed to do that.” At the beginning of the flight the wing was filled with fuel, so the arch wasn’t as obvious. As the fuel burned and the wing became lighter, it was quite obvious. Add turbulence to the equation and you really get a show. Sure, it might be a bit scary for those who are not used to it, but for those in the know it is truly beautiful.
Is it worth going out of your way and maybe spending a bit more to fly on a 787? I say absolutely. LAN should feel very proud to offer this new product and I cannot wait for my next flight.
ALL 120 PHOTOS OF THE LAN 787 DELIVERY:
A special thanks to Lucas Frenk De Matos for letting me use his arrival photos and to Sebastian Gomez for reaching out to me about the photos.
LAN’s first Boeing 787 takes of from Paine Field, heading south to Santiago. Image from Boeing.
Last time, on AirlineReporter.com… I talked about the pre-events for LAN’s first Boeing 787 Dreamliner delivery flight. This story will talk about what happened from just before boarding at Paine Field, to preparing to land in Santiago.
The excitement to board the aircraft was almost palatable. Sure, we had all been on the plane earlier in the day for a tour, but this was different. This time, we wouldn’t be getting off until we arrived in Chile.
Before boarding we all had to go through a security screening just like at any other airport. While Boeing handles the screening with their own equipment, they are unlike other airports at least in that there are no TSA to be seen.
My seat assignment was 15A; economy. Heck, they could have put me in the overhead bin; I wanted to be on the flight. Due to weight issues all the media sat in the forward economy section where each row had an empty middle seat. Thankfully after the meal service everyone was able to spread out and have their own row.
Taking off in the 787 is a great experience. Especially with a LearJet overhead.
Being inside of a 787 and hearing those engines spool up is amazing. The only thing better than hearing the engines roar (well, maybe ’œpurr’ since they are so quiet) was listening to the cheers coming from the passengers.
As we took off, some passengers noticed a black LearJet low on our left side: it was a spot plane from Wolfe Air Aviation. Instead of heading south towards Chile we instead headed west and did circles around Western Washington for about an hour.
It was entertaining watching the smaller LearJet dance around the 787, but some of the passengers weren’t so keen with the idea of another plane so close — they opted to not look out the windows.
This is just the appetizer part of the meal. Yum!
This was a special flight, so no matter where you sat on the plane, everyone was getting a Business Class level of service. This meant that I was able to enjoy in some champagne before take off and the full-on meal service.
After we started heading south our first meal was served. It started with an appetizer of marinated shrimp, grilled scallop and crab timbale (Yeah, I had to Google “timbale.” Turns out it is a type of pan used in cooking. Eh, whatever, it was delicious). With the entrees, I had the choice between salmon, butternut squash ravioli, and steak. I decided to go for the steak. Finishing up the meal, I could either have ice cream or cheesecake. I didn’t feel like deciding and it was a time to celebrate, so I had a bit of both.
LAN’s inflight entertainment system was the best I have seen.
I was very impressed with LAN’s new in-flight entertainment (IFE) system. The graphics, speed and interface were like nothing I have seen before in an IFE system.
Many systems are quite slow and take quite a bit of work to make it respond to inputs. This system reacts very quickly and has an i-product like usability. Users can easily flick the screen to move from one menu to the next. Everything is done by touching the screen — there is no remote.
Normally I do not play many games on flights. Honestly most of them are slow and boring. But the ones on LAN’s new system were actually quite entertaining. The first game I tried out was poker. You can get up to ten people on the plane to play with you. Then I decided to try out some bowling, where you can play with one other person. With a group or on your own, the games are not just for kids.
Probably the most epic photo I have ever taken inside an airline cabin. South Americans know how to party at 35,000 feet.
Right after the meal service was completed–about ninety minutes into the flight–I decided to settle down and start watching a movie, hoping to relax and prepare to get some sleep. Little did I know what was about to happen.
Suddenly the cabin’s LEDs started flashing different colors, music started playing and LAN employees came from the back of the aircraft dressed in party gear and glow in the dark sticks. They were handing out hats, masks, glow sticks and maracas. All of a sudden our 787 cabin turned into a disco-tech.
The many colors of the 787 LED lighting. I took multiple photos in the same location as the lighting changed.
People started dancing in the aisles as they sang to songs that were mostly in Spanish. I had no idea what the songs were saying, but it did not matter. The 30,000 foot party lasted about an hour before things started to die down and it was time for me to go back to my movie and try to get a few hours of sleep.
BONUS: VIDEO OF THE LAN BOEING 787 PARTY AT 30,000 FEET
I have to say that I have never experienced anything like that in mid-flight. I have been a part of quite a few delivery and celebratory flights, but nothing this epic.
This was taken as the cabin and windows were transitioning from sleep-mode to time to wake up and eat mode.
We took off at about 6:00pm and were going to land at about 10:00am local time. That means the only sleep for the night was going to be on the plane. Even having an entire row on the 787 I found myself pretty restless, but managed to get about four hours.
During sleep mode, the flight attendants are able to control the dimming of all the windows at once, rather than visiting each seat to close the window shades. They are also able to lock them into dim mode, so that a passenger isn’t able to let a bunch of light in while people are sleeping. FINALLY. You know there is always that one passenger who decides to open their shade in the middle of everyone sleeping while it is still light outside. Lucky for that guy the dimmable windows still allows him to see outside.
Previously there have been some questions if the windows on the 787 dim enough for passengers trying to sleep. Even with the brightest sun blasting through the window, they dimmed enough so I could easily look out the window without squinting and they darken the cabin nicely. However, the cabin does not darken as much as when all the sunshades are down on a classic airliner. It is not enough to cause a huge problem for me, but those who are light sensitive might want to have an eye mask.
CHECK OUT PART 3