I’m spending two months this summer (winter here) volunteering for a Non-Governmental Organization, Acción Emprendedora, in Santiago, Chile. Acción Emprendedora aims to reduce poverty by helping people acquire the skills and knowledge necessary to develop their own micro enterprises. The program is through DukeEngage, which provides funding to spend anywhere from 8 weeks to a year pretty much anywhere in the world volunteering. One of my friends participated in the Chile group program last year and had a great time. During her time in Chile, she traveled to Easter Island with two other people in the program. Once I gained accepted into the program, I knew I had to go to Easter Island for a few days. My parents agreed to pay for the flights for my 21st birthday present.
Unfortunately, figuring out the trip wasn’t as easy as I anticipated. The airfare on LAN’s Chile website varied widely. During the course of a day, the airfare for certain dates could go from 200,000 Chilean Pesos (under $400) to 450,000 Chilean Pesos (near $850). I found a great deal over the 4th of July. However, my program had schedule a tertulia with a writer and painter. I pleaded with the leader to miss the 1.5-hour talk but to avail. Instead, another girl in the program and myself decided to skip two days of work to make the trip. Skipping work instead of the talk still doesn’t make much sense to me, but at least things worked out. I found a roundtrip flight for July 8th and returning July 10th for only 185,000 Pesos ($350 dollars). I’m pretty sure this is the absolute minimum airfare for the route, especially because LAN has a monopoly on the route. Airfare can be as high as $1200. It’s important to use the Chile version of the site, if you’re in Chile. The airfare is up to five times cheaper than the U.S. version. Flights to Easter Island on Kayak were closer to $700. It wasn’t much time, but it was going to have to do. After some maneuvering, we got the okay to take the trip from the necessary people. We booked the flight on June 23rd, just two weeks in advance.
Scheduled: 8:20 – 12:10 (-2 hours) 5.50 hrs.
Actual: 8:20 (pushback) – 11:30
Load factor: ~98% in Economy, ~20% in Business
I woke up a bit before my alarm at 5:10 am. I threw on some clean clothes and checked the flight status online. Fortunately, it showed on time. I was a bit nervous that a long delay could really cut into our brief time on the Island.
My host mom called me a Radio Taxi for 5:45 to take me to the metro station, Los Héroes. From there, I would meet up with my friend Elana to catch a shuttle bus to the airport. We caught one of the airport buses at 6 for 2,500 pesos roundtrip (less than $5). The ride lasted less than 30 minutes. Since we didn’t need to check bags, we were at the gate by 6:45 am. Security was a breeze. Elana brought water through. Apparently they don’t have liquid restrictions down here.
Our flight departed from Gate 21, right next to a Dunkin Donuts. I was tempted, but I didn’t end up buying any donuts. However, many others in the gate area bought boxes full of donuts for the flight to Easter Island. I explored the domestic part of the terminal. It wasn’t as nice as the international wing, with less stores and food options. We boarded at 7:40. Before entering the Boeing 767, LAN provided a generous selection of newspapers. They also provided a short guide to Easter Island, which I thought was a nice touch.
When I had checked in online on Monday (LAN allows you to check in up to 48 hours before the flight), the plane looked empty. This was not the case. By the time we were done boarding, the flight was nearly full in economy with maybe 5 seats at most left untaken. When I disembarked, I noticed that business was a different story. Most seats still had the pillow and blanket still packaged and resting neatly on the comfortable seats. Nonetheless, our flight was full of excited tourists and maybe a few Islanders excited to return. I was surprised by the amount of children on the flight. There were a lot, at least 20. Everyone was taking photos. The atmosphere was full of excitement. I’ve never been on a plane where everyone was so happy. I felt even more excited. Trust me, I was already extremely excited. I’m pretty sure everyone else in my group and even Elana were fed up with all of my talk about Easter Island.
The Boeing 767-300 that we were on had an updated interior, but it wasn’t one of the new 777-style interiors, as referenced by the photos. The updated interior with appealing seats and PTVs really sets LAN apart from U.S. airlines and their 767 fleets. The cabin feels fresh, spacious, and modern, which is a far cry from Delta’s old 767’s. Additionally, the new overhead bins provide more space for luggage.
We pushed back from the gate on time at 8:20. It was quite foggy out, but the sun was just starting to peak through. During our 41 second take off roll, a woman who looked like she might be an Islander, yelled “Vamos a Isla de Pascua!” (We’re going to Easter Island!). Everyone cheered once we were airborne. During take off, some people put their hands up like they were riding a rollercoaster. It was a neat feeling, especially nowadays when so many are frustrated and grumpy to fly.
Passing an AA bird with new winglets during our taxi:
Looking back at some tails at the international terminal:
Leaving behind foggy Santiago:
I settled into my comfy seat for the five-hour flight. The captain announced a flight time of nearly five hours and took us on a route south of Valparaíso and straight for over a thousand miles before turning slightly to the north. Before leaving behind the safety of land, we had some nice views of the snow-capped Andes.
Looking back at the coast and the Andes in the distance:
About 45-minutes into the flight, the flight attendants served a delicious breakfast. The choices were a warm ham and cheese sandwich or eggs. I went with the sandwich, which came with coffee cake, bread, and strawberry yogurt. The yogurt wasn’t very good. To drink, I asked for Andina orange juice and water.
Making some progress:
Breakfast. I was starving so I had already eaten the sandwich before I remembered to take a picture:
I passed time by taking advantage of LAN’s superb in-flight entertainment system. With 45 movies to choose from, dozens of games and television shows, and hundreds of CDs, LAN’s system puts most American carriers to shame. I reclined by seat and enjoyed the 32-inch pitch as I watched Die Hard 4: Live Free or Die Hard. While watching the movie, I randomly looked at the window and spotted a small island about an hour and half into our journey. I’m not sure which island it was.
With three more hours to go, I watched Shooter, starring Mark Wahlberg. Once again, I was entertained. About an hour before landing, the flight attendants came around serving cheese and beef sandwiches. I devoured mine, as breakfast hadn’t filled me up. There was almost no turbulence throughout the whole flight. I think the seat belt sign may have been turned on for less than a minute once throughout the flight, if that.
Water and clouds:
Thirty minutes before landing, all of the screens displayed a five-minute info video about Easter Island. The video was first in English, then Spanish. The video focused on the importance of preserving the island. It was great to see the emphasis on responsible tourism. People cheered during the video. Following the video, the FA's passed out a brochure about protecting the island.
We flew over the Island and the only village, Hanga Roa. We pulled a u-turn back with our flaps now down and landed to raucous applause at 11:30 am. We taxied back from the end of the runway after landing from the east. I saw four FAs waiting on the tarmac. I also noticed a pilot sitting two rows behind me on our flight.
Elana and I disembarked from the front door, although there were also stairs from the backdoor. I noticed how empty business class was. On the tarmac, people were taking photos in front of the plane and enjoying the warmth. What a pleasant change from freezing Santiago!
Comfy, unused business class seats.
Since we hadn’t checked bags, we were free to find a guesthouse at baggage claim. There are several hotels and guests houses that advertise in the airport. We settled on Ana Rapu.
View from the parking lot:
The flight to Easter Island was very enjoyable on LAN. LAN has become a world-class airline, with a modern fleet of Airbuses and Boeing 767’s. Their flight attendants are friendly, attractive, professional, and multilingual. The entertainment system helps time fly by. I highly recommend LAN for any travel in and to South America.
Comments and questions are appreciated. I hope to have some pictures of Easter Island and the return trip report posted shortly!
Thanks for reading!
[Edited 2009-07-12 16:25:03]
[Edited 2009-07-12 16:49:40]
[Edited 2009-07-12 16:53:01]