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Landing in Peru Onboard LAN's New SFO-Lima Flight

July 6, 2010 at 10:41 AM | by | Comments (2)

Here at Jaunted, we like to report the biggest travel news and the best travel experiences first for you, from iPads down to inaugural flights. That’s why our Eric Rosen hopped onboard LAN’s first flight on its new direct route between San Francisco-SFO and Lima, Peru. Check out all the South American partying in his report below.

LAN 2609 is a flight that marks much more than just the South American carrier's entrance into San Francisco, but it also means a return of boom tourism to Peru, a country wracked by floods and depressing tourism numbers earlier this year—especially after the routes to historical site Machu Picchu were closed or plain destroyed. But with all of that fixed and hope renewed, we flew due south.

All in the Timing
The new, 9:05-hour flight to Lima operates on a slightly different time frame than many of LAN’s other flights because it’s coming from the West Coast and the PST time zone. That’s why the flight down to Lima leaves at 1:15pm and arrives into Jorge Chavez International Airport at 12:30am the next day (which would be 10:30pm PST).

We were glad that the flight was taking place during our normal operating hours, figuring we’d have a good meal, grab a quick nap, then catch up on movies and games the rest of the time before getting into Lima and heading to our hotel for a good night’s rest. We didn’t know what to expect at the Lima airport, but we had it on good authority that the place is hopping all night long, with plenty of people around, so we weren’t too nervous about arriving at a deserted airport.

On the way back, the flight departs at a super-late 12:35am and arrives at SFO at 6:50am the following day, so prepare for a long day, and a long return trip that’s good for easy sleepers, but will be murder on fussy insomniacs.

Go Configure
Like most of LAN’s flights between North and South America, the new SFO-LIM route will be flown on its fleet of two-class Boeing 767-300s. Economy Class has 191 seats configured in a 2 x 3 x 2 seating arrangement, meaning if you book ahead, you could only have to contend with just one other person for the arm rest. They are a meager 18 inches wide, with a pitch just 32 inches; they’re just marginally larger than your average domestic flight, but the planes have at least undergone a recent refurb and they’re looking spruced up.

Premium Business Class is sort of like a hybrid of business and first classes (it would be first on an American carrier, but more like business on some of the other top-rate long-haul carriers like Qantas or Singapore) in a 2 x 2 x 2 configuration, comprised of just 30 lie-flat Skybed seats that recline to a completely horizontal position, so be sure to snag one of the window seats to avoid the bustling aisles. These special seats are 73 inches long and 23 inches wide.

As for the perks, they come with fluffy medium-sized pillows, and simple white duvets with which to cover up when you’re ready for bed. Unfortunately, there are no chic PJs, but Premium Biz fliers should brighten up once they spot the Bulgari skin care products, and the usuals: eye mask, footies, ear plugs, toothbrush and paste, and a comb and shoe horn for the business travelers.

Let Us Entertain You
All in all, we had to give the entertainment system on board a mixed review. Though the 8.9-inch high-def screens in Economy won’t be breaking any records, we were truly impressed by the ginormous seatback-framed 15.4-inch screens in Premium Business, which must be some of the biggest in the sky—not that we’re sizeists (but we are).

However, the films and features didn’t really impress us. The dozens of movies were a roster of about eight new releases, and a lot of old ones that didn’t interest us too much. We did, however, settle in for Alice in Wonderland, Invictus and The Wolfman (and we’d like to issue yet another apology to our seatmate for our girly screams at the latter).

There were also TV shows available, though they mostly seemed to be 90’s sitcoms like Friends and The Nanny (yes, The Nanny). We did, however, find all the episodes of In Treatment loaded in, so that was pretty cool.

The audio system was the usual mix of channels from which you could make your own playlist, and then there were 20 games available including some casino and card games, plus a video version of Battleship, which delighted our inner dork.

The Professionals Call It F&B
Because of the flight hours, flyers were treated to a gourmet multi-course lunch, and then a light dinner snack. Lunch service started around 3:45pm with a choice of appetizers: a creamy asparagus soup, or a fresh prawn on jicama and mango salad. We went for the prawn since it looked a little more exotic, and Peru is, after all, the land of ceviche.

From the choice of mains, we were too hungry for the light option of a marinated chicken salad over mixed lettuce with cherry tomatoes and sliced almonds, and took the stewed short ribs with potato spinach mash and baby carrots over the grilled salmon with lemon risotto and sautéed snow peas with mushrooms. The cheese course included a mild white cheddar, a smelly (in a good way) blue, and a wedge of rich triple cream. Then for dessert, you've got the choice or healthy or indulgent, with fresh seasonal fruit, Haagen Dazs ice cream or tiramisu.

We were also pretty impressed with the wine list aboard, which featured an all-South American cast of characters, including some big names like Montes, Salentein, and Casa Silva.

Turbulence
Despite a mostly rosy experience, we did have a few quibbles. We hoped to get a little work done while we were in the air, so we brought along our laptop and hoped to charge it one way or another—no luck. Both the USB ports and the universal adapter electrical outlets in our seat didn’t work. Nor did they in the two other seats where we tried them. So we just had to watch another movie instead…

The other drawback to this type of plane is that there are no individual ventilation fans, so you have to depend on the flight crew to keep the temperature within a comfortable range, and they did pretty admirably, though there were a few alternately shivery and sweaty moments.

Currency Exchange
The new flight is a great move by the airline to open up Peru to even more travel from the U.S. to major tourism destinations in the country like Lima, Cusco, Machu Pichu and the Amazon, as well as its existing hubs across South America (2609 continues on to Sao Paolo). It also ups the airline to connections with its oneworld partners from Asia who pass through the SFO hub, and bypasses the air traffic snarl around LAX, making for a better on-time record.

This summer, rates for the new SFO-LIM route are running around $820 for Economy and $5400 in Premium Business roundtrip.

Disclosure: Eric was a guest of LAN, but all views here are his own.

[All photos: Jaunted]

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SFO-LIMA-GRU on LAN

Just took the SFO-Lima-GRU (Sao Paulo) flight in coach. One immediately gets the feeling of a sometimes disorganizeed Latin America at the boarding gate in SF. The flight was late but the departure time never changed on the digital display, even when the boarding time had come and gone by nearly an hour. They did make a few announcements regarding the delay, sometimes only in Spanish. I asked a gate agent how the plane was boarded, and he said by row number. However they started boarding the plane by opening the jetway doors with barely an announcement, let Business on first, then never called any row numbers for coach. It was just a general mad rush of a couple hundred people boarding in no particular order. The coach seat, like all coach seats on all airlines I guess, was hellishly uncomfortable after a few hours, especially a window seat where you're trapped. The flight was packed so there was no opportunity to move. All this being said, the on-board service was very professional and cordial. Coach food nothing to comment on other than say it keeps you from starving. I liked the entertainment system. There were plenty of on-demand movies and music albums to pass many an hour. Coming in to Lima was quite bumpy. With our late arrival in Lima, there were agents at the gate grouping the Sao Paulo passengers together for a run, and I mean run, to the connecting gate. The agents told us we needed to hurry, and ran with us. But they did hold the flight which was greatly appreciated and it was probably the tightest connection I've ever made. Luggage made it too. Leaving Lima the Captain kept the flight attendants seated for over an hour after takeoff, such was the constant, uncomfortable moderate or stronger turbulence that did not let up. But watching on the live map, it's easy to see that the first part of the trip to Sao Paulo follows the spine of the Andes. Once we cleared the mountains it got better. Too bad it was night, would have loved to see the Andes while bouncing along in the air. The flight to Sao Paulo was much shorter and less crowded. Other than the boarding mess at SFO, I give LAN high marks.

sqageek

Nice information! thanks

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