Above image from LAN website
Had a great trip on LAN from Los Angeles to Lima and back, so thought will jot down my experience.
Background and Pre-departure:
This was a last minute trip with itinerary being SJC-LAX-LIM and back. While in Peru, I made a separate trip to fulfil my long time dream of visiting Machu Picchu - for that I took Lima - Cuzco on TACA Peru and Cuzco - Lima on LAN Peru. From Cuzco to Machu Picchu I took Peru Rail Vistadome service. This report primarily focuses on LAX-LIM-LAX. May write TACA trip report later.
Also note that I have used terms LAN, LAN PERU, LAN CHILE interchangeably and the more I read about various LAN outfits I get more confused as far as crew, planes - most recent being the whole LAN Argentina saga. But LAN.COM as a central portal for all LAN subsidaries in different countries certainly avoids lot of confusion from traveler's perspective.
I was unable to login to LANPASS site, so called LAN customer service and was assigned window seat. I also confirmed my special meal request. I think LAN 1-800 calls are answered out of US? Lot of noise on the line, but agent was efficient.
BTW received SSSS on both SJC - LAX and LAX - SJC on AA.
Los Angeles: This is my first trip on LAN and my reservation was on LAN PERU stock. All LAN CHILE signs in the airport can be confusing to infrequent travelers and there were one such elderly couple on our shuttle bus who kept asking driver to drop them at LAN PERU and not at LAN Chile.
There were two LAN flights departing Los Angeles to Lima.
LAN PERU 605 departing at 13:25 to Lima continuing on to Sao Paulo, Brazil.
LAN CHILE 601 departing at 14:05 to Lima continuing on to Santiago and Buenos Aires
I walked into International Terminal around 10:10AM and things were just getting started at check-in and there were none in the line. A LAN official asked something in Spanish as I entered the line, but realizing I didn't understand she laughed and just asked "you are a connecting passenger?".
At the counter, I received my boarding pass quickly. Sequence number:50. They also verified in the computer that American Airlines has delivered my check-in bag to them. Agent confirmed that bag is in LAN system.
Had a good late breakfast, breezed through the security line and completed some work while waiting for boarding.
LAN plane CC-CCZ, a Boeing 767-383ER a regular in LAX was already in the stand looking pretty good having arrived earlier in the day from Lima. There were two Korean Airlines 747s, ANA 747, JAL 747 and later LH flight arrived.
Photo © David Mueller
Meanwhile walking around, I witnessed efforts put in my Korean Airlines staff to board a 747. After the initial boarding, they were literally running around to get the remaining checked in passengers. I chuckled thinking what a mess it will be to board all checked-in passengers onboard on a full A380.
Los Angeles to Lima, Peru
LAN PERU 605
LAX Scheduled Departure: 13:25
LAX Actual Departure: 13:20
LIM Scheduled Arrival: 23:50
LIM Actual Arrival: 23:45
Load: 95% in Y, full in Biz
Fast forward to boarding:
Crowded gate and appeared to be a full flight. Boarding promptly started at 12:30PM with announcements in Spanish, English (and Portuguese?). Quick and orderly boarding process.
Was warmly welcomed on board with "buonas tardes". FAs actively helped people put their belongings in the luggage bin.
Announcements welcoming passengers were made in Spanish, English and Portuguese. FAs had a small flag on their sleeve and announcement mentioned that flight crew can be reached in any language based on the flag. The Brazil tag on this flight is operated four days a week I believe.
Seat layout in Economy 2-3-2. Seat was comfortable - 34' seat pitch in economy.
Neighbor was a nice Peruvian with limited English (but had shining new US passport). He was going to visit his family in Lima and told me that he works in construction industry in Los Angeles and goes to Peru twice or once a year. He was excited to hear this is my first trip to Peru and after seeing I am originally from India, praised Indian/Hindi movies. It appears while he was growing up in Peru, Indian movies dubbed to Spanish were very common in Peru.
Pilot came over PA and announced that we will be leaving on time and also briefly mentioned the path flight is going to take. If I understood correctly, we will be flying over Mexico - Gulf of Mexico - Pacific Ocean - Ecuador and then entering Peruvian airspace.
Push back was five minutes ahead of scheduled departure at 1:20PM and without much waiting we took off on time. Steep take off over ocean - not much noise.
After 20 minutes or so FAs gave us headphones and eye shades and service offerings were mentioned and drink service started immediately after that.
One odd thing I observed is the blankets had the security tag (you know the plastic tag attached to goods in stores to prevent shoplifting)
FAs gave Peruvian immigration forms to those headed to Peru.
And in next 30 minutes or so I got my vegetarian meal well before other meal service. Food..umm, ok I guess.
Duty free run followed this. LAN Peru does not have a separate in-flight magazine, but the LAN inflight magazine is well done. It had articles about new seats in business class and about LAN Ecuador completing three years of successful operations.
Flying over Gulf of Mexico
I don't remember what IFE was except "Just for laughs"
Slept for a while and woke up when many were loudly laughing at "Just for laughs" pranks.
Around 2 hours before the scheduled arrival we were given snacks and drinks.
I have to mention here the prompt, polite and helpful service by FAs. I was really impressed how helpful they were to passengers - be it offering to lift the bag or frequent drinks run etc. All of them were fluent in basic English, so language was never an issue.
Arrival at Lima
Around 23:10 pilot came on PA and announced that we have started our initial descent to Lima and should be on the ground on time at 23:50. As we were near Lima I could not see much outside and as we landed could see old planes, military planes and helicopters, GA planes. Landing was smooth.
As we taxied saw many LAN planes (767, A320s) and a Delta Airlines plane heading to Atlanta.
For some reason we went to remote stand. Both doors were opened and since my seat was kinda right in the middle I was one of the last to get down using old fashioned stairs! We were bussed into immigration. (and I think there were people holding board for transit passengers outside immigration door)
Waited hardly for 5 minutes at immigration and was directed to Diplomats line by the person managing the line. The bored officer without exchanging any word stamped me into Peru. They have passport scanning machine - but my Indian passport is not machine readable, so he manually entered some details into the computer. As an Indian citizen, I need a visa to Peru. So here is the visa issued by Consulate General of Peru, San Francisco for those who are interested.
Collected the bag and as I went away from luggage claim, LAN employees made sure that tags in my boarding pass and bags matched.
LIMA CUSTOMS:Many have written about random selection system in place at Lima International Airport for customs check. You press a button and if it turns green you walk away with your bags! The lady in front of me got RED light and was whisked away to a table for X-Ray. I got a green and walked away to the welcome of numerous touts for taxis and hotels. I found person holding board with my name and was on the way to Miraflores in a brand new Toyota Camry "Limo service"
CUZCO/MACHU PICCHU: I did not get to roam around Lima much but did try to see major touristy sights in the limited time I had. However I fulfilled a long time dream of visiting Machu Pichhu by making a three day getaway to Cuzco, ancient capital of Inca civilization (TACA Peru for Lima - Cuzco leg and LAN for Cuzco - Lima)
Cuzco airport again is named after another famed aviator - Alejandro Velasco Astete - first man to fly over Andes from Lima to Cuzco. Peru must be friendliest country to airliner nuts considering two of its major airports - Lima and Cuzco - are named after aviators! (complete with statue etc).
Alejandro exhibits inside Cuzco airport terminal
Statue of Alejandro Velasco Astete at Cuzco on a road named after him.
MACHU PICCHU - Truly magical place indeed.
LIMA to Los Angeles
LAN PERU 5600 (Operated by LAN CHILE LA 600)
LIMA Scheduled Departure: 1:05AM
LIMA Actual Departure: 1:00AM
LAX Scheduled Arrival: 7:40AM
LAX Actual Arrival: 7:10AM
Lima Jorge Chavez airport is quite modern - named after renowned aviator Jorge Chavez. Chavez, born to Peruvian parents in Paris was the first aviator to fly in a plane over Alps (though he died barely four day after that feat due to injuries sustained during crash landing)
Lima airport renovation was completed in 2005 and is jointly managed by Fraport. Official website: http://www.lap.com.pe/
Airport is still shiny spanking and I arrived around 8PM. At least 10 of LAN counters were open and I quickly received my boarding pass. Seat number 17A - exit row. Check-in agent asked for address and contact number (other than mine) in US. Bag was tagged till San Jose, CA.
I sat around to make some final calls. Saw big line at Delta check-in for Atlanta. Also long lines at Continental Airlines counters (CO has one departing to EWR and other to HOU around 23:xx hrs). Other odd thing I remember is drug sniffing dogs sniffing bags randomly of passengers waiting in check-in line.
Gate was still not assigned so I went around shopping. Also paid the departure tax in advance (USD 28.x) and got sticker on my boarding pass. However instead of continuing on to security I returned back to shopping and also browse high speed internet.
Around 11PM I went through security (you can show the sticker on your boarding pass to person manning entrance to departure tax counter and he will let you in through a different door to security). Security was a breeze, no special attention for US bound flights.
Gate was now assigned so sat around till flight was called for boarding. Orderly boarding again, but there was additional check at the gate and LAN agent took almost a minute to go through my passport before allowing to board.
17A is an exit row bulkhead seat and all rumours about 767 exit row seats being cold are true and I realized it within few minutes of the flight! FA sympathized later and voluntarily gave me second blanket after saying "yeah that seat is cold!"
Meanwhile FA came over and said something in Spanish for which I told "English" and he asked me to go through the instructions on emergency exit operations. (it was in Spanish..heh). For a moment I thought I may be asked to take some other seat due to my inadequate Spanish skills, but that did not happen.
It was a full flight but again FAs were helping passengers put their bags in place all with smile and lot of "gracias".
Captain came on PA and announced that we will be departing on time but will be arriving early to LAX and it is going to be a smooth ride all the way. Also went through the flight path. I think I heard Colombia but don't see why we would fly over Colombia?
It was completely dark outside, so no chance for photo. So flight took off - no idea which runway etc but only remember it was a steep climb out of Lima.
There was a snack service followed by Duty Free offerings. Pretty uneventful after that and I slept well despite the cold.
Neighbor was an American working for SAP as software engineer.
Around two hours before arrival at LAX lights were switched on and I got my "priority" Vegetarian Meal ahead of others .
Not a bad omelette.
Route map was on at this time and was interesting to fly over Mexico - US border. Pilot again came on PA and announced beginning of our descent to LAX.
Descent to LAX took forever and finally we landed. Had to wait for a while as a Qantas 747 also arrived at the same time.
Since I was at the front, was out of the plane quite early - there were Immigration and Customs officer on the air bridge checking passports but mine was not checked. There were lot of Japanese, Chinese passengers (not sure if they were Peruvian nationals considering large Japanese/Chinese population in Peru) on plane and I saw their passports being scrutinized.
LAX Immigration and customs: Less than three minutes wait at non-resident immigration line. A polite and funny officer stamped me in after asking what I do for a living and taking my fingerprint and photo.
Baggage claim was empty except our flight - there were sniffer dogs around the belt. I got my bags and headed out after customs agent took a quick look at my bag and customs declaration card. Saw the officer giving some grief to elderly Peruvian lady who flew in first and had half ton of jewellery on her! Next I handed over my bag for check-in to San Jose later on AA.
Thoughts on LAN I am really impressed with LAN - very professionally run company. Colleagues had scared me about South American travel but everything worked as planned for me. All flights on-time. Clean neat planes. Efficient, friendly, polite, multi-lingual cabin crew. Check-in a breeze (web check-in problems were due to my password issues and not due to LAN). Kilometers appeared in my account within days. Decent IFE and good in-flight service. Food was ok considering it is a special meal request.
While in Peru I flew TACA PERU from Lima to Cuzco - not impressive to say the least. Dirty planes, angry and indifferent agents and crew etc. May write a report later on that. And finally flew Cuzco to Lima on LAN - good experience again there. I may also write a report on Cuzco - Machu Picchu train report on Peru Rail Vistadome service (complete with onboard fashion show!)
That concludes aviation part of this report. Feel free to leave comments or let me know if you have any questions.
Some random notes on Peru:
Before the trip I did not realize how diverse Peru is - both in terms of geography as well as people. Very impressive and I am looking forward to my next trip there. My trip coincided with Presidential elections, so was fun to watch all the parades, protests etc.
One thing that stuck me odd as an outsider was how Amerindians/natives seem to be invisible in government/service jobs. For example almost all the airport employees I saw at Lima International Airport (except cleaners), managers and staff at star hotels, shops were of European descent. Even in Andes range - Cuzco, most of travel agencies, hotels are owned by people European descent while porters and drivers are Amerindians even though Amerindians constitute 45% of Peru's population. [no offense to anyone here -just a dumb visitor observation]
Another surprise was the large Chinese presence. I was aware of Japanese presence but did not realize there are so many Chinese. Chinese were primarily brought over to Peru after slavery was abolished and now there are one million Chinese in Peru and Chinese food joints are very common (I ended up being regular there to get vegetarian food)
PERU AND INDIA:Most people know little about India. But generally India was invoked as land of Mahatma Gandhi, Hindi movies and now - Bajaj! Bajaj autorickshaws (tuk tuks) and motorbikes are very common on Peru roads. Also, small Hyundai sedans/taxis that roam around Peru roads are increasingly manufactured and imported from Hyundai's Indian plant (Chennai). There are Govinda vegetarian restaurants in Peru run by ISKCON Hare Krishnas - for cheap veggie food.
All in all very enjoyable trip and even with my pathetic Spanish knowledge Peruvians turned out to be friendly people. Felt very safe everywhere except some parts of Lima. Machu Picchu of course, mesmerizes everyone. Even with hordes of tourists crowding whole area has some magic in it.
THANKS for reading!