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Winner April 2013

The winning user review for the April 2013 competition for the prize of a Rincon backpack and a set of Pack-It Specter Cubes from Eagle Creek

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rferguson flew LAN Premium Business, on a B767-300ER (26/04/2013)

LAN (operated by LAN chile)
Miami - Buenos Aires
Aircraft: 767-300
Class: Premier Business
Duration: 7hr47min.

Reservations/Before the flight:
Our reservation was made via and our ticked flight was an AA codeshare operated by LAN. Due to this we were not able to select our seats online but a quick call to AA reservations and this was taken care of. LAN only offers online check in for certain flights (domestic and a few intra LATAM routes). It does allow you to complete 'online pre check in' although this basically entails just entering your passport details to speed in check in formality.

At the airport:
Our flight was departing from Miami International Concourse J. For those of you not familiar with MIA it is a sprawling monstrosity of one huge building with concourses A-J. Land side is stuck in a 1980's time warp and it is not particularly pleasing to the eye or relaxing. Concourse J was very busy at this early evening hour. LAN was checking in four flights - two to Santiago and one flight each to Buenos Aires and Lima.

Suffice to say the check-in lines for LAN were L O N G. And everyone seemed to have at least two massive checked bags with them. There were three designated business class counters and after a short wait we were issued with our boarding cards and a lounge invitation and had our bags tagged. We had a short wait at the security checkpoint and was then airside.

The lounge:
In short, disappointing. LAN uses a contract lounge in Miami called Club America. It also seems to cater for most of the other non Skyteam airlines departing concourses H & J (Lufthansa, Swiss). The only other airline lounge in concourse H/J was a Delta lounge.

The lounge was vast although most of it was sectioned off, cramming everyone into a smaller area. There were no private areas or alcoves, it's basically one large room with rows of chairs. At least there was natural light and tarmac views.

There was a manned bar where all items had to be asked for by the barman, including soft drinks and coffee. Of course, being the US there was the not so subtle tip jar on the bar top. Fortunately they also had a 'proper' coffee machine and I was able to avail myself of an espresso. I saw people requesting bottled beers and wine but these items were not on display.

Snacks were limited to some small cut sandwiches, apples and chips. There were a few US plug power points around, one shower and decent wifi (free). Separate to the lounge was a good business centre with Mac's and a printer. Probably the highlight of the lounge to be honest.
The BA/AA/IB 'Premium Lounge' is located in concourse F and the other AA lounges in concourse D. Although you would have access to these lounges as flying OW partner LAN, concourse D/F are not directly connected airside with concourses H&J. So if you do have a longish transit in MIA or arrive very early at the airport you could check in at the LAN counters, head land side to concourse F and pass thru security there to use the Premium lounge. Though you would then need to come back land side, walk back down to concourse J and pass through security again.

The flight:
- the aircraft.
We were flying on a two class 767-300. Premier Business is in rows 1-5 and configured 2x2x2 (AB DH JL). Economy is behind and configured 2x3x2. This aircraft had been refurbished to the '787' standard with new seats and IFE in both classes. First impressions were very positive. Internally, the aircraft looked brand new.

- the seat
In summary, fantastic. All LAN long haul J seats are fully flat whether it be the older of newer incarnation. They are all forward facing seats with no weird or wonderful configurations/staggers/ying yangs etc. Leg room is massive and the seat controls are simple to use and you can control each function independently (ie leg rest, seat back) as well as a single button to put the bed in the fully flat bed position.

Each seat has a huge IFE screen fixed in the seat in front (which can feel a little far away as the legroom is so great), a lumbar function, multi plug power adapter and USB port. The table for each seat is located in the arm rest. This was the only design flaw. The table is relatively small (economy size) and does not have the ability to slide closer or further away. This was not an issue for me though. Fully flat the seat was extremely comfortable. I slept with no problem at all.
We were in row two and I was happy with our choice. I would probably avoid row 1 due to the proximity to the galley and row five with economy (and baby bassinets) directly behind.

- Inflight service & catering.
The inflight service was nothing sort of superb and I would honestly rate this flight higher than any I have experienced in J on CX or Qatar.The inflight service started with welcome drinks (juice or water only) with a small ramekin of nuts. A gueridon full of newspapers and magazines was then brought around and wash bags were distributed. They had separate male and female wash bags and each contained vastly more than what we are used to when flying J these days.

Menus were already in the seat pocket and choices for dinner were sundried tomato soup or shrimp for starter. Beef fillet, ravioli or a salmon salad for main course. And cheesecake of fresh fruits for desert. Each tray came with a fresh seasonal side salad and a small cheese plate. The was also an 'Express' option where you could choose a starter or a main course and have it immediately.

Breakfast was a 'room service card' that you completed and returned to the flight attendant. There were a range of continental items to select from (fruit/yoghurt etc) and also one hot option (scrambled eggs and mushrooms). There was an extensive separate wine list that featured around ten predominantly South American wines although you had to ask your attendant which ones they had on board that flight.

I ordered the the shrimp starter and salmon salad. My partner ordered the soup and ravioli. Both our meals were good. Nothing out of this world but also did not disappoint. I slept soundly before being woken for breakfast 90min before landing. Breakfast was fine. The hot dish was a bit tasteless - powdered eggs and mushrooms only. Though the fruit was fresh and sweet. It was nice to at least be offered something hot on such a relatively short flight. You also have the option on being woken 40 minutes before landing for an 'express breakfast' of coffee or tea with a pastry. When we were pulling onto stand the crew closed the curtains between J and Y class allowing true J class priority disembarkation.

- crew
The LAN Chile crew were predominately young and attractive, all immaculate and most importantly exhibited a genuine warmth that is few and far between when flying today. Our flight attendant came and introduced herself to us, asked our name and said she would be looking after us for the flight. Her care and attention from beginning to end was flawless.

The flight attendants worked extremely hard and always engaged in a little conversation with us, asking us where we were from and where we were going. And always always enquiring if they could get us anything else. Once dinner was cleared away the flight attendants came around to each passenger and asked them if they would like their duvet and pillow. It was really quite sweet, you were sat in your seats and they bring the pillow and lovely duvet (same as BA F) and kind of 'tuck you in'. A really nice touch.

Before landing the flight attendants came around and thanked each passenger for their patronage. I was so impressed with the service that I asked for a comments card and noted my impressions which I passed onto the thankful Flight Service Manager. I should note that the MIA-BUE route is usually flown by LAN Argentina and Argentine crews. Whether they are as good as their Chilean counterparts working our flight I can not say.

The IFE was robust and offered a wide variety of movies and tv programs. The screen was large and the picture quality excellent. Controls were located in the inside of the armrest. However the screens are fixed in the seat in front of you which in business class is quite a distance away!

We both thoroughly enjoyed the flight. It is no wonder that LAN is one of the few airlines within South America that has flourished and expanded. The hard product is fantastic and the inflight service was superb. It was genuine, professional and efficient. If LAN was one of the airlines flying a route where I had a choice of carrier it would be my first preference.

Overall: 8.1/10


Runner Up:

1nfrequent flew British Airways Euro Traveller (01/04/2013)

I flew BA from LBA to LHR on an Airbus 319.

LBA is a small airport – essentially one building divided into two ‘terminals’ – Terminal A and Terminal B. BA has 4 check-in desks (22 – 26) in Terminal A, which is clearly signposted and easy to find.

Thanks to light traffic on Yorkshire’s roads, I arrived at 18:45. I’d checked in on-line that morning using the BA App but I’m not a fan of downloading an electronic boarding card onto my phone and I didn’t have access to a printer so had opted to pick up the boarding card at the airport given that I had a bag I needed to check in anyway. There are no electronic check-in booths at the terminal – instead passengers have to use the manned desks and my heart did sink a little when I saw that check-in didn’t officially open until 19:10. However, there was a member of BA ground crew at the desks who gave me a friendly welcome and said that he’d be happy to check me in regardless of my being early, which was a relief.

When he saw that I was BAEC silver cardholder he also took the initiative to tell me that although BA didn’t have its own lounge at LBA, I may be entitled to use the Yorkshire Premiere Lounge and phoned someone in the lounge to confirm the same. He also told me that I was entitled to use the priority security lane and pointed out where to access it and told me how to find the lounge once I was through.

In the event, security was a doddle – I ended up being the only person in line and was through the whole thing in 5 minutes. Security personnel all seemed good-humoured, which made the experience less of a stress than is normally the case.

As I said, LBA isn’t a big airport but there were a number of eateries (a Burger King, a couple of family pub/chain type places) and a fairly good sized duty free shop, which you have to walk through to get to the gates. I didn’t notice much in the way of seating outside the eateries but must confess that I wasn’t really paying attention. The terminal was very clean however and smelt freshly painted so whether it’s been recently renovated or well maintained, it’s in good shape.

The Yorkshire Premiere Lounge is well signposted and located just past the duty free shop. It’s divided into 2 areas – a business lounge and a leisure lounge. It’s a third party lounge and does allow for paid access (although you’ll need to check on-line for the rates). However in addition to having a deal with BA (so that it’s open to business class passengers and gold and silver BAEC cardholders), they also seemed to have a deal with KLM – certainly for business class passengers but possibly also for elite card holders (although again, you will need to check).

The receptionist gave me a very warm welcome and directed me to the business lounge as I wanted to use the wi-fi. The lounge itself is a reasonably sized space but most of the chairs were of the comfy variety and it only seemed to have a handful of desks and chairs if you wanted to get on with some work. However there’s free wi-fi (log-in and password available at reception) and free refreshments. The range of soft drinks contained the usual suspects (including tea, coffee, fruit juice, fizzy drinks and tonic water) but the range of beers, wines and spirits seemed limited and I couldn’t find any water for those who wanted it.

There was also a range of snacks including pastries, tea cakes, toast, cheese and crackers, biscuits and crisps. I also spotted a bowl of apples for those who want something a bit healthier. There was a good range of newspapers and a television screen showing Sky News together with a screen showing departure information. Note though that the lounge doesn’t have its own toilets – instead you have to leave and go across the corridor to use the main terminal facilities – not a big deal but worth noting. Also worth noting is that the staff turn off the tea and coffee facilities at 8pm but do let you know before hand if you want a last minute brew. I should say that all the staff there were friendly, helpful and hard-working – taking away rubbish and topping up refreshments.

The lounge was quiet when I got there – only 4 of us in total and I took the opportunity to get some work done. The flight was scheduled to leave at 21:10 so I checked the screen at 20:40 to see if the gate had been announced only to see that the flight had actually been delayed to 22:00. I was still resigning myself to it when the BA ground crew member who’d checked me in arrived in the lounge to make sure that I was aware of the delay and to let me know what was going on (there’s been a technical issue earlier in the day, which had a knock-on effect on the shuttle service).

This was the first time that’s ever happened to me and I really appreciated the gesture (and I happen to know he was also looking for other BA passengers in the terminal to let them know the same). He went on to say that although the anticipated departure was 22:00, there was only a small number of passengers so they were hoping to do a fast turnaround of the plane in order to minimise the disruption and get us out before then if possible – in which case he’d make sure that a message got through to me at the lounge to let me know. I was actually so impressed with his initiative and attitude that I’ve posted my compliments on the BA website in the hope that management give him some well-deserved recognition as he’s definitely a credit to the airline.

In the event, the lounge receptionist let me know at 21:25 that the plane was ready to board and I made my way over to gate 7 where the excellent BA ground crew member gathered us in a line and said that as there were only 15 of us on the flight they were hoping for a fast departure. Boarding was via a remote stand, which involved a bit of a stroll across the airport apron (which I must confess I actually like because it means you can see the planes close up). Again, the BA ground crew member was excellent – making sure that the passengers were aware that it was cold outside and advising people to button up their coats – a small gesture but typical of the guy’s excellent attitude.

I should also mention that there was a passenger with mobility issues who was concerned that the late departure would affect a ground transportation link he was trying to make at Heathrow. The BA ground crew member assured him that he’d been in contact with LHR staff and there’d be someone with a wheelchair to get him to the ground transportation link.

Because it’s a domestic flight there’s only one class of travel and seats are arranged on a 3x3 basis. I’d noticed when checking in that I was unable to preselect any seats in the first 5 rows and had assumed that this was because they’d already been pre-grabbed by other passengers. However, given there were only 15 passengers, I now wonder if those rows are actually blocked out for BAEC gold cardholders. No doubt more knowledgeable people on BT will be able to tell me.

I’d preselected 5C on the basis that it was closest to the front of the plane and an aisle seat. In the event I had the whole row to myself so space wasn’t an issue. The cabin crew did invite passengers to move further forward if they wished but no one seemed to take them up on it. The gentleman with mobility issues was (quite rightly) allocated the first row. My seat was in good condition – clean and comfortable enough for the short flight.

The captain made an announcement at 21:40 to let us know of the reason for the delay (i.e. that there’d been a technical issue earlier in the day, which had to be fixed) and told us that the flight time was 35 minutes and they were hoping to leave as soon as possible. The purser then made a brief announcement welcoming passengers to the plane and we pushed back at 21:49. A safety video played while we were taxiing to the runway and then the cabin lights were dimmed as it was a night flight.

Because it was the last day of March, the plane had been loaded with the April edition of High Life so I entertained myself by flicking through it during take-off. The trolley service started 10 minutes after we were air-born and was done very efficiently with a good range of drinks (soft and alcoholic) and crisps/nuts being offered. If I’m being picky, given that there were so few passengers I do wonder if the crew couldn’t have actually done a second run instead of retiring to the cabin once they were done before finally coming down to collect rubbish. I know it’s a short flight so time is very tight but I would have thought it was achievable and again, would have been a nice thing to do.

The captain gave an announcement 10 minutes before landing that we’d be coming into Terminal 5. The landing itself was smooth, touching down at 22:35 with passengers disembarking 10 minutes later via an airbridge. The passenger with mobility issues was first off and was met by wheelchair assistance – a very nice lady who assured him that they’d get him to his connection.

I headed for the baggage carousel and after a brief wait the luggage started to come out at about 22:55. My bag was one of the first off, despite not having priority tags (not an issue given the small number of passengers) and I was out of the terminal and heading to the Underground by 23:00.

All in all, it was a perfectly satisfactory flight but given the low passenger numbers (compared to the nearly full flight I had on the way out) I wonder how long BA will continue to run it for and whether they will try to scale it back. For business travellers who want speed and the ability to work, you’re probably better off with the train as there’s less hassle and waiting-around time but price-wise it’s certainly a viable option for more time-rich leisure travellers looking for an alternative way to the region – especially those of us chasing Avios and BAEC tier points for status (10 tier points and 1,000 Avios with the silver tier bonus).

Overall: 6.4/10

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