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We feel like this isn’t the first—and probably isn’t the last—time something like this will go down at the airport, but once again we’re looking at a real life story straight out of the Tom Hanks movie The Terminal. It doesn’t sound like there was a cute flight attendant in this example, as apparently Catherine Zeta-Jones was too busy to reprise her role in the real life sorry. Anyway, the latest airport sleepover all took place over the last few months at Santiago Airport in Chile.
It’s been a couple of months since Rodrigo Ben-Azul first arrived at the airport, and it’s all because he can’t get back to Spain. There’s no political conflict back home like in the movie, but his problem is way simpler. He’s run out of money and he’s flat broke. Apparently he’s waiting for family back in Spain to wire some euros his way, but until then he’s been collecting the luggage trolleys hoping to earn a few cents here and there.
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It flies! It actually flies!
The Boeing 787 Dreamliner is a headline hog. You can read all about it and its drama (lately more than ever) throughout major media, but there's nothing better than actually stepping onboard with a ticket to ride.
After more than a year of hanging out with the 787 on the tarmac, we finally flew the darned thing as South American airline LAN celebrated the inaugural flight of their new Los Angeles-to-Santiago, Chile 10-hour non-stop with the spiffy new bird.
So, what actually happens onboard a 787 flight? Is it really so different from any other airplane? Having just stepped off of this, our first 787 flight, we can finally answer those questions: lots of stuff and yes.
To describe a 10-hour flight is akin to boring neighbors with photo slides of a water park vacation. Instead, we're breaking it down into the hourly highlights ("the short of it") and, for those rapt with pleasure for every detail, the long of it, in first-person:
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While this week hasn't exactly been all sunshine and rainbows for airlines flying their Boeing 787 Dreamliners around the world, last week sure was. On January 2, we stepped onboard aircraft CC-BBC, the gleaming new third 787 delivered to South American airline LAN for what would be a monumental inaugural flight, non-stop from Los Angeles-LAX to Santiago, Chile-SCL.
Our ticket read seat 1L. As the first row, first window on the right, that's practically a cockpit jumpseat (though our legroom and recline would be better). This would be more than a first 787 flight from LAX; it would be our own, personal first 787 flight. To say we were psyched is a gross understatement. The energy and optimism rippled through the line of waiting passengers in all classes, holding all types of tickets, as a special party for the full flight began at the gate.
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How do you say "787?" Seven-eight-seven or seven-eighty-seven? Though technically both are perfectly acceptable, the language may vary depending on the country to/from which you're flying the new airplane. And, since United is the only US operator of the airlines with Boeing 787 Dreamliners, the international names for the bird are more prevalent.
Before we set off on last week's LAN inaugural flight from LAX-SCL on their newest Dreamliner, @PointstoPointB tweeted us to ask: "how do they call the plane in Spanish onboard? Siete Ocho Siete? Siete Ochenta y Siete? El Sueñoliner?"
Well, dearest @PointstoPointB and future flyers of the LAN Dreamliner, we cleared up the issue firsthand with LAN's flight attendants. Their answer:
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Hello from LAX! Today we're off to Santiago, Chile (our 2012 Destination of the Year), though this time it's not the city we're checking out; we're flying 10-ish hours each way simply for the airplane taking us there. That's rightit's the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and this is yet another huge entry on its history timeline as LAN inaugurates a fresh route with their spanking new wings.
LAN Airlines was the fourth carrier to receive a Dreamliner, but first in the Americas. Today they tack on a few more records, as this inaugural flightLAN 603 LAX - SCLis...
· The first 787 scheduled service from LAX
· LAN's first 787 route to North America
· The first 787 service overall between North and South America
· The first non-stop service from LAX to Santiago, Chile (a new route that'll operate 3x/week, Wednesday-Friday-Sunday)
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Too much awesome aviation news came down the pipeline this week, so we'll just wrap it up neatly for you with some bullet points:
· LAN's first 787 Dreamliner hit the South American skies: Well, it's official; South America's first Dreamliner is running its first regularly scheduled service, flying 22x week between Santiago (SCL) and Buenos Aires (EZE). The inaugural happened on October 1 after the plane got some fresh ink (check out the 787 underneath the cockpit windows). Wanna see more? LAN's Facebook page has an entire gallery from the event and our own photos and video of the delivery event are still hot and fresh.
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New airplane alert! On Saturday, September 1, LAN Airlines picked up its very first Boeing 787 Dreamliner, becoming the first in the Americas to operate the aircraft. From the factory to the runway at Boeing's Paine Field in Everett, WA, we were there to kick the tires, put the seats back and get a feel for her. Stay tuned the next couple days for more Dreamliner dispatches.
It's been nearly one year since the first Boeing 787 Dreamliner flew off into the blue skies above Boeing's factory on its way into commercial service. And, in that year, not one airline in the Americas has gotten their hands on the American-made aircraft. Until now. Until Chile's
Why's it such a big deal anyway? Oh, well, aside from years of hard work and billions of dollars behind it, the 787 has some nifty features passengers will notice right away. For one, there's ginormous auto-dimming windows made possible by the plane's construction of composite materials. Another: the 30% increase in overhead bag storage space. Yet more: less engine noise, less CO2 emissions, the addition of humidity to that horribly dry cabin air, and the ability to pressurize the cabin at a lower altitude to cut down on headaches and fatigue. Enoughlet's go inside already!
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General Electric. Pratt & Whitney. Rolls Royce. Sound familiar? Sure, as appliances and cars, maybe, but these companies are also very much into the business of manufacturing airplane engines. And just like when airplanes go into a hangar for maintenance, so too do their engines have a special work area.
It's really odd to stand in a room so clean it's almost sterile, and be surrounded by machines that not only cost something like $13 million each, but are responsible for hundreds or thousands of lives every day, each again. You know, we could walk into Harry Winston on Fifth Avenue and look at velvet-lined trays of jewelry worth just as much and more, but the pendants and tiaras don't do anything. Next to an engine, however, we were left with a profound sense that here, right here, is a real machine, something worth every raw cent spent on it and every cent (sometimes $3 million) spent to keep it in tiptop condition.
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Away from the prying eyes of economy passengers at Santiago Chile's Arturo Merino Benitez International Airport sit two "VIP Salons," as LAN calls their lounges. Both are named for famous Chilean poetsMistral and Nerudaand both have almost the same amenities. BUT! But you've already seen inside the Mistral lounge, and not the Neruda. Until now.
Just down from Gate 20 in the International Terminal, the Neruda VIP Salon has two food and drink bars, several seating areas (including one area just of cozy cream leather chairs), a length of semi-private workstations andYAYshower rooms. Oh yes, and free, fast WiFi.
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Look out of the windows by your gate at the airport, before boarding a flight, and you'll likely spot the catering truck raised up to load its munchies directly into the airplane. There's a mystery about it, like "ooh ooh wonder what we'll get?" If you're flying LAN Airlines to South America, the answer to this questions is "something good from Gate Gourmet," to put it simply.
Although menus differ from route to route, there's still some standards to look for on LAN long-haul flights. For one, expect Chilean and Argentinean wine selections (even in economy), Pisco Sours in Business Class on flights to and from Chile and Peru, quality beef as an entree option, and a dessert incorporating dulce de leche. All this we saw and devoured ourselves on a recent roundtrip between New York-JFK and Santiago, Chile onboard one of LAN's 767s.
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Two words, or, rather, one hyphenated word: lie-flat. On a 10.5-hour direct flight overnight, how low your seat goes should be concern numero uno. The Premium Business Class cabin on LAN's Boeing 767 is made of 30 true lie-flat seats, meaning there's no angle when it's all the way down, and you're sleeping for 7 hours on the way to Chile. BOOM.
Of course that's just a small part of Biz Class on LAN, but the rest is experiential...wining, dining, catching up on 30 Rock, you know. We'll have more on the meals early next week, so for now enjoy our slew of photos, and the hard facts below.
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At 10 hours, 50 minutes, the LAN Airlines direct flight (LA 533) between New York-JFK and Santiago de Chile-Arturo Merino Benitez International isn't anything to sniff at. Longer than a Europe hop but shorter than an Asia haul, the South America jaunt is enough time to enjoy a leisurely dinner, a movie and a quality snoozeyes, even in Economy Class.
Economy is 191 seats behind only 30 Premium Business seats up front on a LAN 767-300ER. On an A340-300, you'll find a few more seats, but nothing too different. Regardless, you're in that ergonomic, upholstered seat for the long haul to the southern hemisphere.