Friday, March 22, 2013

Easter Island/Santiago November 2012 - LAN Airlines 2608 Economy Class (LIM-SFO)

***This post is the conclusion to a full trip report. The index can be found here***

Upon arrival in Lima, we only had about 45 minutes to catch our connection to San Francisco. We ran through the halls like madmen along with a number of other passengers, only breathing a huge sigh of relief when we realized that the transfer security queue had no one in line. After a very quick security check, we made a beeline for the departure gate, arriving just as boarding got underway. A secondary security check at the gate went a lot faster than in Santiago.

LAN Airlines 2608
Boeing 767-300ER
Lima (LIM) - San Francisco (SFO)
Monday November 12, 2012
Departure: 1:15 AM (scheduled) / 1:17 AM (actual)
Arrival: 7:55 AM (scheduled) / 7:42 AM (actual)
Duration: 9h 40m (scheduled) / 9h 25m (actual)
Seat: 27C -> 31H -> 25C (Economy)

Upon boarding the aircraft, I walked to my seat 27C and noticed that another gentleman was already sitting there. Similar to the previous flight, I had reserved my seat assignment online months earlier. And although the check-in agent in Santiago claimed I didn't have a seat reserved for the SCL-LIM flight, she didn't have an issue with the LIM-SFO leg, reconfirming my seat at 27C. I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised when I arrived and saw my seat occupied, given the chaos I experienced with the Santiago ground staff.

We looked at each other's boarding passes, and saw the exact same seat 27C printed on both. When I flagged down a flight attendant and asked her where I should sit, she directed me to 31H. However, when I made my way over to that seat, I noticed someone was already seated there too! I couldn't help but laugh at the situation. Fortunately, this flight was maybe 60% full, if that, with nobody in the exit rows. Again, I asked a flight attendant what I should do, and she told me to go ahead and take an entire exit row with plenty of extra legroom all to myself!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Easter Island/Santiago November 2012 - LAN Airlines 600 Economy Class (SCL-LIM)

***This post is part 9 of a full trip report. The index can be found here***

This was an absolute mess of a flight. I've never had such a chaotic, stressful, and unprofessional experience at the airport. We took the Taxi Oficial back to Santiago International Airport and arrived approximately three hours prior to departure. Unfortunately, what we thought would be a quick and easy check-in process turned into a nightmare. Immediately, I noticed a single massive line for all United States-bound flights.

Two hour wait to check in your bag

Apparently there was a flight cancellation to New York (from what I could gather), and on top of that, their systems were also having problems. Worst of all, they only had three agents working our counters for the hundreds of people in line. The check-in line stretched to almost two hours long and, understandably, people began getting extremely upset. Each person who finally got up to the counter ended up just standing there and waiting for fifteen minutes or more as the agent would simply stare at the computer screen waiting for a response.

Three agents working a line of hundreds

LAN finally added three more agents as people were close to missing their flights and yelling began to erupt in line. One lady literally sat down on the ground in front of the counters in protest. Not surprisingly, the wait time didn't improve by much. When I finally reached the counter, the agent told me I had to wait for a seat assignment despite having previously reserved my seat online and having the printout to prove it.

The agent dismissively denied that I had a seat assignment. She proceeded to turn to the agent next to her and began chatting and giggling. Needless to say, I quickly understood why people were becoming infuriated. The gentleman beside me was in a similar situation. He was arguing with his agent, and then escalated it to a supervisor manning the stations. I voiced my concerns to the supervisor as well, and her immediate response was to tell me to step aside so the agent could help others. I refused, and the gentleman next to me told me emphatically, "don't move or they will brush you aside".

The argument between me and the supervisor became heated as I was suddenly told that I'd been put on standby for the flight despite having a confirmed seat and previous seating assignment. Fed up with the situation, I finally lost it and begin yelling at the supervisor and agent, while the gentleman beside me went off on them as well. Magically, less than five minutes later, a seat was found for me and my boarding pass was quickly printed out.

This was hands down the most frustrating check-in experience I've ever had. The level of unprofessionalism displayed by the LAN ground staff was unbelievable, as the agents simply did not care if we got on the flight. They appeared far more concerned with chatting with each other than trying their best to resolve any issues. The supervisor was arguably worse, abetting their behavior and brushing off customers.

Despite getting delayed in line for two hours, we finally got our bags checked in and made it through security. When we got to the gate, we were hit with another surprise: our flight had been delayed by almost an hour. Normally, that wouldn't be an issue, but since we were already faced with a tight connection in Lima, this only made matters worse. We were now left with less than 45 minutes to deplane, go through transfer security, and make a mad dash to the departure gate.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Easter Island/Santiago November 2012 - Exploring Santiago

***This post is part 8 of a full trip report. The index can be found here***

I really liked Santiago de Chile. Perhaps not as famous as Buenos Aires or Rio de Janeiro, it is nevertheless filled with a myriad of cultural, entertainment, and culinary opportunities. I sort of liked the low-key nature of the city, and was pleasantly surprised at how friendly the people were. The metro system was particularly convenient for getting around, although it does shut down around midnight. Buy a rechargeable Bip! card for easiest access.

Santiago Metro

We arrived late on the first night and asked the hotel concierge for some dining recommendations. After a quick taxi ride, we arrived at Liguria, a noisy, chaotic, bustling bar/restaurant in Providencia filled with locals having a great time on a Thursday night. We definitely went to the right place for an introduction to Santiago! Try their famous Lomo a la Paila, and wash it down a Pisco Sour for safe measure. Sit at the bar is you don't want to wait for a table, and you'll get your food and drinks served quickly by a friendly waiter.

Bar Liguria

The next day, we decided to take a free walking tour of Santiago. I'd actually never done one of these before, so I had no idea what to expect. We opted for the afternoon tour, which met at 3:00 PM in front of the Catedral de Santiago in the Plaza de Armas. Lasting about four hours, we walked to a number of landmarks, including the Palacio de La Moneda, the Pre-Columbian Art Museum, the Supreme Court building, the Old Congress Building, the Santiago Stock Exchange, Cerro Santa Lucía, Barrio Lastarria, Barrio Bellavista, Cerro San Cristóbal, and Pablo Neruda's house (La Chascona).

Streets of Santiago

Plaza de Armas