If you would’ve asked be back in January of this year about what kinds of goals I had for SANspotter.com over the next 12 months, “LATAM Airlines reviews” would have been near the top of the list. Maybe not number 1 or anything…but certainly top 5.
Yeah, focusing on things like daily user sessions, bounce rates, and page views (like any airline and travel blogger should) is important, but come on – ticking checkboxes on lists feels so dang good!
Anyway, we all have our list of airlines that intrigues us, and for reasons I can’t explain logically, LATAM is on mine. Maybe it’s because I like the livery so much. Or the fact that they went from “tiny” to “one of the biggest airlines in the world” in a very short amount of time.
Whatever the reason, I’m excited as all heck to be writing this review of the LATAM Airlines 787-8 flight I took from Los Angeles to Santiago back in May…
Los Angeles, CA (LAX) – Santiago, Chile (SCL)
Saturday, June 8, 2019
Duration: 10 hours 8 minutes
Seat: 24L (economy class)
The more I put myself “out there” on social media, the more I realize how much of a goofball I really am. Case in point: the Youtube video for this flight, in which I claimed this particular aircraft to be a 787-9 instead of the 787-8 that it was. I proudly wrote “787-9” in the title, on the thumbnail, and even on the animated graphics within the video itself. I even verbally said “787-9” many times throughout.
Imagine the horror I felt when just minutes after publishing the video on YouTube, comments such as “uhh…bro…that’s a 787-8” came pouring in. Even though nobody specifically called me out as a goofball, I was definitely feeling like one.
Because of the fact that the video contained 787-9 references which couldn’t have been edited out without re-uploading, I didn’t even bother to change the titles or thumbnail. Oh well. But rest assured, I am fully aware of the error!
An awesome way to jump head first into the world of LATAM airlines reviews, eh?
Several things you need to know about checking in for your LATAM flight here at LAX
Kicking off a big international trip from LAX is getting to be a regular thing for me these days. This is the third time I’ve done it this year (first time was on Air Tahiti Nui to CDG, and the second was Xiamen Airlines to XMN) – and I’m starting to miss SAN! Well, technically, all of these trips (including this one) started by flying out of San Diego International Airport, but – the fun actually starts here at the Tom Bradley International Terminal here at LAX.
FYI, I booked my LATAM itinerary on the American Airlines website since it was nearly half the price of doing it on latam.com. Unfortunately, even though I saved a ton of money this way, I wasn’t able to make seat reservations at the time of booking. I had to call LATAM directly after the tickets had been issued to score the exact seats that I wanted.
The phone call to reserve my seats was quick and painless, and I was able to get an aisle seat in the center section just like I wanted (since it’s consistently been one of the best ways to end up with an empty seat next to me). So far so good, right?
Not exactly. Upon checking in for this flight here at LAX, the agent handed me a boarding pass with a window seat assignment. “Um…I called and made a reservation for an aisle seat three weeks ago” I said with a very concerned tone of voice.
“Seat assignments made over the phone aren’t confirmed until checking in” she replied…which immediately filled me with an irresistible urge to argue with her over the semantics of the word “reservation”. “What’s the point of giving other seat assignments over the phone if they aren’t going to be honored?” I asked. Her only reply to that was “sorry, we can’t confirm seat assignments until checking in”.
Okay then. I could have gone all DYKWIA on her, retorting with a whiny “it’ll be one of the worst LATAM Airlines reviews ever written!” – but I was in no mood for arguing. I took my boarding pass, thanked her for her help, and proceeded to the security checkpoint.
Oh – I almost forgot. The other thing you need to know about the LATAM Airlines check in process at LAX is that they at least have the decency to warn passengers about the dreaded bus gates (which I complained about in my recent Xiamen Airlines business class review). If the flight will be boarding from one of those bus gates, not only will they tell you – there will also be signage plastered with the bad news.
Anyway, ending up with a seat assignment I didn’t want and finding out that we’d be boarding from the bus gates this afternoon was not how I wanted to start this trip. But if there’s anything I’ve learned about frequent travel over the years, it’s that things can and do go wrong (a lot) and it’s best just to take it all in stride and be thankful that you’re able to travel in the first place.
A brief explanation of how I spent my time before the flight (not typical for all LAX-based LATAM Airlines reviews I reckon)
Thank God for Priority Pass. Instead of wandering around aimlessly for the entire two hours I had to kill before the boarding process began, I was able to spend a majority of it camped out in the amazing Korean Air (KAL) Lounge located on the 5th floor of the Tom Bradley International Terminal. Well, I did have to wander around and wait for it to open to Priority Pass members at 1pm, but once I was in, life was pretty good.
FYI, LATAM economy class passengers such as myself don’t get complimentary lounge access (duh), so having a Priority Pass membership to get me into arguably the best lounge at LAX (the KAL Lounge) was nice. However, LATAM business class passengers flying out of LAX do get complimentary access to the Oneworld Lounge (also located on level 5 of the TBIT) which is also pretty nice (or so I’ve heard).
The other thing about my experience that probably isn’t going to be typical of other LATAM Airlines reviews based out of LAX is that we boarded from one of those temporary bus gates located at ground level of the far north end of the TBIT. These gates will no longer be in use once the international terminal expansion is complete, so if you’re reading this review several years from now – this is something you’re not going to have to deal with.
The boarding process: messy…but full of adventure
Even though these bus gates aren’t really typical of LATAM Airlines reviews out of LAX, I enjoy documenting the process anyway since I’m an airline and airport history nerd and this kind of stuff will be fun to read about far into the future. I wish these kinds of trip reports and airline reviews were a thing back in the 60’s and 70’s because…I get weak in the knees fantasizing about reading super-detailed articles (with tons of pics) about what airline travel was way back then.
Gate 144 was our departure point. Well, technically, it was just the gateway to our actual departure point, since we’d have to board a bus once having our boarding passes scanned and stepping though the doors to the outside.
As I’ve noted in so many of my other reviews for flights in and out of LAX, I actual enjoy these bus rides quite a bit. This is an amazing airport with tons of interesting activity 24 hours a day. Basically: AvGeek heaven (to the extreme), with so many things to see in every direction.
Just as it was for my Xiamen Airlines flight to Xiamen several months ago, there wasn’t much of a view of the plane as we stepped off the bus and into the temporary terminal structure leading up to the jet bridge. I would’ve given anything to be able to run towards the plane and snap some really nice close-up pics of it, but…I’m pretty sure that LAX security would’ve frowned upon that. Not only would it be an abrupt end to this trip report, it’s likely that there would never be any more LATAM Airlines reviews here on SANspotter.com ever again. So sad!
Welcome aboard the LATAM 787-8
I guess I didn’t even know what to expect before boarding this airplane. LATAM Airlines reviews aren’t something I read on a regular basis (which is ironic considering how badly I wanted to fly this airline), but that’s ok. I like a little surprise when I travel, because if I know what to expect ahead of time, it’s never quite as fun as I imagined it would be. I’m weird like that, I know, but ignorance is bliss!
There were two things that popped into my head (in rapid succession) immediately after stepping onto this 787-8:
- “OMG the mood lighting!”
- “OMG business class looks cheap AF”
Regarding the first point, the deep purple and pink tones of the mood lighting fit the LATAM brand perfectly IMHO. After all, these are the colors used in their logo and printed brand elements, so seeing the entire cabin drenched in these hues was the perfect way to be introduced to this airline.
As for the second point, I’m not going to say much about it since this is an economy class review and I don’t want to stray too far off track. However, it is worth noting that the business class seats on this particular 787-8 are of the old school recliner variety, which is a really nice way of saying they didn’t look all that comfy for very long flights.
Their 787-9 business class is much better however. Check out the review that Moments in the Sky did of that product. And when you’re done with that, you’d be a fool not to check out Bay Area Traveler and QFS Aviation for epic airline content as well.
LATAM Airlines economy class first impressions
Despite business class not appearing to be all that comfortable (or good looking), economy class on these LATAM 787-8’s is pretty decent actually. Perhaps it was the Virgin America-style mood lighting which helped to make the seats far more exciting than they actually are, but whatever – my first impressions of this economy class cabin were quite good.
Very large pillows and blankets were on every seat, and I’ve got to say that it’s been a while since I’ve seen blankets and pillows this large and squishy in any economy class on any airline. You’d think that the amenities I received in both Emirates and Qatar economy class would be better, but…I’ve got to say that the pillows and blankets here on LATAM are legit. Imagine that.
Being stuck in a window seat wasn’t seeming like such a big deal once I was all settled in and comfy. Yeah, I would have definitely preferred to be in an aisle seat (with an empty seat next to me), but…I had a feeling that this was going to end up being ok. As long as I didn’t drink too much water and pee my pants.
Has the food *ever* been something to rave about in LATAM Airlines reviews?
After a really nice and scenic departure off of runway 24R, we were pointed southeast and ended up flying directly over top of San Diego. I even saw my house as we passed over! I know that absolutely none of you care about that little tidbit of info as much as I do, but let me have my fun, will ya? This is my LATAM Airlines review and I’ll say what I wanna say!
Menus (as well as arrival cards) were handed out by the flight attendants just as we were flying directly over top of SAN, and I had a look (trying to choose the option which would make me less likely to pee my pants by accident).
I went with the ravioli, which ended up being pretty good. The only issue I had with it was that it was a fairly small portion size and it didn’t do very much to fill me up. It tasted fine, but I certainly could have devoured another if they put it in front of me.
Another thing worth mentioning about LATAM Airlines food is that it was probably the best “cheap” economy class airline meal I’ve ever had. Not all economy class food is created equal, as I’ve had some amazing meals in steerage over the past several years (such as the meal I experienced on my Turkish Airlines flight from Chicago to Istanbul last year).
That Turkish Airlines meal was what I consider to be the higher-end of the economy class meal spectrum, with the food served on my recent Air Tahiti Nui flight from Los Angeles to Paris being at the bottom. Everything about that meal screamed “cheap”, and they made little effort to make it look appetizing (and delicious).
This particular meal here on LATAM also felt really cheap to me, but…at least it looked and tasted good. I can tell they actually made an effort to make it presentable, which is a huge plus IMHO. Even the tray it was served on was designed well, as it featured a handy indented area for placing utensils when not in use. Someone in the LATAM Airlines kitchen was using their noggin!
What is there to do in LATAM long haul economy class when you’re not eating?
Well, right off the bat, I do need to say that combined with the very large blankets and pillows they provided, real sleep is indeed possible (and comfortable).
Of course it’s not the same kind of meaningful sleep that you would get if you were up in business class, but I was actually able to doze off for a few hours. I even managed to do it without waking up spewing expletives!
If you’re the kind of person who can’t sleep on airplanes (and I know a lot of you can’t), the video entertainment system is quite good. I wouldn’t go as far as to say it was as good as something like Delta Studio or anything, but there was a wide selection of TV shows and movies on tap to keep me occupied when there was nothing else to do.
Anyway, it was a relatively uneventful flight and I did spend most of my free time writing blog articles when I wasn’t sleeping or eating.
I know. This isn’t the most exciting of LATAM Airlines reviews that you’ll ever read, but my goal is to state the facts. Sometimes long-haul economy class travel is hellishly boring, no matter how cool the airline which you’re flying on may be.
Something else worth noting before I close out this section is that there was indeed a snack bar located at the very rear of the aircraft. Complementary snacks and beverages were available to everyone, but unfortunately I got pictures of none of it. But I promise it did exist, and I’m mentioning it because it’s yet another fun thing to do if you’re completely bored out of your mind seven hours into the flight.
Come to think of it, maybe I should’ve taken full advantage of that snack bar considering how small the meals were…
My final thoughts on the LATAM long haul economy class product
So the big question is this: did this flight from Los Angeles down to Santiago satisfy my desire to fly this airline so badly? Well, sort of.
As we began the descent down into Santiago, I couldn’t help but to think that (overall) it was a really great experience. Except for the fact that they didn’t honor my seat assignment and I ended up sitting in a place I really didn’t really want to be.
Of course I love window seats, but not on long-haul flights over seven hours. I’m much happier to be in an aisle seat where I can get up and stretch whenever I dang well feel like it. Also, I’m far too introverted and shy to keep bugging other people to move so I can get up and use the lavatory.
Long story short, I’m not exactly sure that this qualifies as one of the epic LATAM Airlines reviews that I’ve been waiting to write for so long. Yeah, it was really fun to finally give this airline a try, but the seat assignment thing really rubbed me the wrong way. Not only that, it was completely dark on our arrival into Santiago and I was unable to see any of the magnificent Chilean landscape I’ve been dreaming about seeing for years.
Is LATAM Airlines long-haul economy worth it? Absolutely! It was a “decent” experience which could’ve been made “excellent” if I had the exact seat that I wanted (along with more food to eat).
The seat reservation thing is easily rectified by booking directly on latam.com instead of a third-party website. The food thing is easily solved by bringing snacks or taking full advantage of the complementary snack bar located in the rear galley of the aircraft.
Now you know.