Thursday, December 20, 2012

Easter Island/Santiago November 2012 - LAN Airlines 848 Economy Class (LIM-IPC)

***This post is part 3 of a full trip report. The index can be found here***

I headed down to Gate 27 with plenty of time to spare. Judging from the crowds in the waiting area, the plane didn't look to be completely full, which was a little surprising considering how few flights there are to Easter Island. After about half an hour, boarding commenced via shuttle bus, and we were dropped off in front of the ramp stairs.

LAN Airlines 848
Boeing 767-300ER
Lima (LIM) - Easter Island (IPC)
Sunday November 4, 2012
Departure: 1:20 AM (scheduled)
Arrival: 6:55 AM (scheduled)
Duration: 5h 35m (scheduled)
Seat: 26A (Economy) 

I took my time taking plenty of pictures of our Boeing 767-300ER before entering the aircraft. Once inside, I noticed that the layout was identical to my previous flight, and featured the old versions of their business and economy class seats.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Easter Island/Santiago November 2012 - LAN Airlines 2609 Economy Class (SFO-LIM)

***This post is part 2 of a full trip report. The index can be found here***

I arrived at San Francisco International Airport two hours prior to departure, and the lines for check-in at the LAN counters were already quite long. LAN is not known for their customer service, efficiency, or timeliness, so while there were approximately five agents assisting economy customers, the line still moved at a glacial pace. Business passengers didn't fare much better.

Once I got up to the counter, however, the friendly agent checked me in without issue and tagged my bag all the way to Easter Island. She also reconfirmed the seating assignment I had already selected on LAN's website. Once my boarding passes were printed out, I headed over to Boarding Area A security check. Lines weren't long, and I was through the nude-o-scope and airside within ten minutes.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

20% Off Virgin America Coupon From Banana Republic

Today only, go into your nearest Banana Republic store and grab a coupon for 20% off your next Virgin America flight. Unfortunately, it looks like the coupon is only available in stores and cannot be obtained online. Here is the fine print:

Coupon for 20% off, redeemable online for 3 day advance purchase non-refundable main cabin tickets only. Book by 12/31/12 (11:59 PM CST) to fly between 12/12/12 and 2/28/13. Significant blackout dates apply; subject to availability; and other restrictions apply. See store associate for complete details. One per customer, while supplies last in US (not including Puerto Rico) Banana Republic stores only. Not valid at Banana Republic factory stores or online.

I haven't seen the physical coupon yet, so I don't know exactly when the blackout dates are. If anyone has the coupon, please let us know. It says one per customer, but I'm sure you can go to multiple Banana Republic stores (if there is more than one in your area) and grab a couple, or just have some friends go into the same store and get some extras.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Easter Island/Santiago November 2012 - Introduction

***This post is part 1 of a full trip report. The index can be found here***

I never imagined I would ever step foot on Easter Island. It's always been one of those places people read about, but never actually visit. And understandably so - it's billed as the most remote inhabited island in the world (although residents of Tristan da Cunha would probably disagree). Airfare from North America routinely tops $1,500 round-trip for the best routes, and even then, it's difficult to get the exact dates you want due to limited flights.

More than one year ago, British Airways overhauled their entire loyalty program and massively devalued their award chart in the process. Rather than a region-based method of calculating the cost of an award ticket, the new system became distance-based. Many of their most lucrative awards, like North America to Asia or South America, immediately became their most expensive overnight.

Thankfully, they gave us several months of warning, and many people (myself included) were able to burn some of those miles prior to the revamp. One trip I knew I had to book was to Easter Island. Strangely enough, British Airways had categorized Easter Island as South America in its old award chart, and as such, traveling there from North America only cost 40,000 miles round-trip in economy. This was an absolutely fantastic deal. Immediately after the program change, the same itinerary I booked (SFO-LIM-IPC-SCL-LIM-SFO) would have cost 85,000 miles instead. Taxes and fees amounted to a reasonable $185.09, including a $70.00 fee I incurred due to a date change. In all, I estimated a redemption rate >$0.03 per mile, which is as good as it gets for the British Airways program.

Hotels, on the other hand, are notoriously lacking on the island. Unless you are willing to shell out close to $1,000 a night for one of the few all-inclusive luxury resorts, you are pretty much left with older, family-run, hostel-quality, bed and breakfasts. And even those don't come cheap. There are no international brands that I know of on the island, and therefore, no use of points. I settled on Kaimana Inn, which had great reviews on TripAdvisor, although I made sure to temper my expectations to Easter Island standards when booking.

I knew I wanted to include a stopover in Santiago as well since I had never been before. Luckily, Santiago has a much wider selection of hotels, though prices are very high as well. I decided to use a cash and points redemption for the Crowne Plaza Santiago, which is perfectly located within walking distance to many of the city's famous sites as well as the convenient metro system.

Total out-of-pocket cost for airfare and hotels combined amounted to $509.94 (with the hotels divided between two people), plus 40,000 British Airways miles and 30,000 Priority Club points. Without the benefit of miles and points, this trip would definitely not have been financially justifiable. Fortunately, I was able to go and experience some of the most beautiful and sublime scenery I've ever seen.

Sunrise at Tongariki

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Easter Island/Santiago November 2012 Trip Report

This will be a quick trip report covering my recent adventure to Easter Island and Santiago, Chile. The whole trip took just over a week, but it definitely required a bit of extra work to reach one of the most remote islands in the world. Sadly, all of my flights were in economy, so they may not be quite as exciting to read about. Although I do believe it's a good thing to have some balance between luxury and frugality while traveling. Read on for all the details: