A view from upstairs to downstairs of the LATAM lounge in Santiago
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.
Seating area with computers for use in the background
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.
LAN 787-8 Dreamliner at takeoff – Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter
Recently, LAN Airlines invited me down to their headquarters in Santiago de Chile, Chile, to check out their new Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. While LAN was the first carrier in the Americas to operate the 787-8, the new stretched 787-9 offers an all-new Premium Business hard product. Unfortunately, at the last minute, the special event was called off due to “operational issues.”
Dreamliner signature entryway on LAN’s 787-8 – Photo: Blaine Nickeson | AirlineReporter
Since flights to Santiago had already been arranged I decided to still make the trip, which would give me a chance to experience LAN’s 787-8 Premium Business class, check out Santiago briefly, and also take a look at the airport experience on both ends. All-in, I’d only be gone from home in Denver for 55 hours – not too shabby for 13,000 miles of travel.
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.