as my Star Alliance miles were to expire some time this year I toyed around on the Miles and More-homepage and set up some potential itineraries (in March 2008). Much to my surprise there were flights available to Santiago, Chile in June - during the Euro, at a time when I had some days to fill. So I spontaneously spent 77,000 miles and some 500 $ for taxes for my flights routing ZRH-FRA-GRU-SCL-GRU-FRA-ZRH. The segment between ZRH and GRU was never available, so I had to take the detour via FRA. Even though I was aware of the discomfort of LH's 747s in Y I was thrilled to be able to fly to South America on miles at all.
First I planned to stay in Chile, doing some trekking and/ or skiing. However, I recently read an article about the Galapagos, and as I always wanted to visit those islands I checked LA's and TA's airfares from SCL to GYE and UIO. Given the distance, heck, these countries are a 5-hour-flight apart, the fares were acceptable and thus I booked on to the Equator, to Ecuador. (It would have been closer to fly to Miami first for example, however, no flights on miles were available on the Miles and More-homepage, either). Anyway, I was perfectly happy as I had the opportunity to experience some exciting routes, and great airlines and airliners. Above all, I was looking forward to flying between GRU and SCL, seeing the Andes.
Date: June,19, 2008
Route: ZRH - FRA
Aircraft: A319 HB-IPX
Flight: LX1074 16:10 - 17:15
HB-IPX at Zürich Airport.
View of runway 28, from where we took off two minutes later.
View onto Zürich and its lake.
Overview of ZRH's airfield.
The flight itself was relaxing, exactly what I needed as the travel preparations had been, as usual, rather hectic. I enjoyed seeing Switzerland glide under me, got a coffee from a nice flight attendant (a blonde with what I would describe as an attractive Slavic face who gave the impression that she smiled just for me). The loads were light, the flight very quiet and pleasant. All in all I must say a perfect start for such a long trip.
In FRA, where we landed 10 minutes before schedule, there were some fine birds around (as usual):
Air Bridge Cargo 747 VP-BIC, a -329 model, once flying for Sabena.
Volga-Dnepr Ilyushin 76 RA-76950. A shame this aircraft has gotten so rare in Western Europe.
Stunning Asiana Cargo 744.
I had a 5-hour stopover in FRA during which I was reading and plane spotting. At quarter to 9 p.m. the first of the Euro's quarter final, Germany vs. Portugal began. Fortunately, it was shown on screens around Gate C16, from where the LH 747 to GRU was to leave.
I was under the impression that the gate agents paid at least as much attention to the game as to some pax issues. Admittedly, the game was a thriller, Germany won 3:2.
The fantastic retrojet D-AIRX passed by during Germany vs. Portugal.
Date: June,19, 2008
Route: FRA - GRU
Aircraft: B747-430 D-ABVL "München"
Flight: LH506 22:35 - 05:15 (June, 20)
The boarding was 30 minutes late, which I found alright as I could see more of the football game.
The flight was completely full. I was a bit surprised to see a lot of Asian pax connecting from other flights (the flight had a CA code share, too). During the security announements the Captain interrupted to say that Germany had won...Before take off we had to wait for around 20 minutes because a dead rabit had to be removed from the runway. While the flight attendants did a great job and joyfully gave out red wine (something that sparked the conversation between me and my Brazilian seating neighbour), the seating experience on LH's 747s must be among the most unpleasant of the whole airline industry. The lack of inflight entertainment certainly does not help to make up for the narrow seat rows... Anyway, after a couple of red wine refills I was able to find some sleep.
The food was light and quite tasty. I went for the chicken.
LH's flagship, in this case D-ABVL "München", resting at GRU after the flight from FRA.
Connecting in GRU was easy. Hand luggage was screened again, and after less than an hour boarding into Swiss' HB-JMI began.
Date: June,20, 2008
Route: GRU - SCL
Aircraft: A340 HB-JMI
Flight: LX096 06:45 - 09:55
After LH's cattle class I experienced Swiss' Y cabin as much better. In addition, I was seated at an emergency exit, so I had lots and lots of room. The flight attendants were not only nice, but also chatted quite a bit - I felt as if I had arrived in heaven. The heavenly feeling was nicely underlined by the divine views:
Argentina is very flat, for the most part, in the west, however, the landscape gets wrinkles...
...wrinkles that turn into mountains. Well, this is the time I guess to be quiet and let the landscape speak:
If I am not mistaken this is the highest mountain of the Americas, Aconcagua, with an altitude of 6,962 metres (22,841 ft).
The Swiss flag is not completely inappropriate as Aconcagua was first ascended by a Swiss montaineer in 1897.
HB-JMI veering towards south. SCL is in the fog (on the right).
Landing at a foggy SCL...
I was extremely satisfied with the flight. I was as pleased with the flight as I was with the views. This must have been the stereotype of a perfect flight in Y...
Immigration into Chile is quick and pleasant.
I had a 21-hour layover in Santiago, where I stayed in a nice hotel. As I did not have much time, I did not do a lot in Chile's capital, sleep a bit, walk a bit, climbed Cerro St. Lucia, worked out, ate a hearty meal and went to bed early - I had to get up at 3am the next morning...
Date: June,21, 2008
Route: SCL - LIM
Aircraft: B767-316ER CC-CWN
Flight:LA634 06:25 - 09:10
LAN is a great airline. The seats are comfortable, the leg room is generous and a there is a modern screen on the back of each seat. I experienced the flight attendants as a bit snappy though. I did not touch the breakfast as it only consisted of sugary carbohydrates - a huge cooky and a tired-looking cheese and ham sandwich with white bread. I was glad that I ate fruit salad for breakfast...
Announcements were in Spanish and English, the flight nicely smooth. Even though I was sitting over the wing I could get some sights:
Sunrise over the Pacific.
The north of Chile: dry and often foggy at the coast.
Flying along the Peruvian coast:
The whole coastline appeared to be covered by cotton...
Landing at a foggy Lima airport.
At LIM there are always some highly interesting aircraft around. Such as this nice threeholer, N279AX, a DC-10-30 freighter of Centurion Cargo.
Cielos Cargo DC-10 and a fuselage that obviously once flew for Iberia...
A late addition to Aerocondor's fleet: Boeing 727 freighter OB-1883-P.
Nice surprise: Safair Hercules ZS-ORA. One of only a few non-military operators of that cute propliner.
Peruvian Navy Antanov An-32B AT530. I was told to stop taking pictures after this shot.
Date: June,21, 2008
Route: LIM - GYE
Aircraft: B767-316ER CC-CWN
Flight:LP630 10:10 – 12:10
The flight to Guayaquil was again on CC-CWN - the flight number changed from a LA (LAN Airlines) to a LP-flight (LAN Peru)...
I managed to take a couple of shots from LIM on the ground:
TA A320 N496TA.
Air Comet A340 EC-KHU taking off to MAD.
Peruvian Air Force DC-8-62CF '370'. A true highlight - this beauty used to fly for Swissair as HB-IDK between 1969 and 1981.
A sad sight (matching the depressing weather though): an abandoned 737-200.
Former Cielos Cargo DC-10-30F N831LA.
N831LA with a former Arrow Cargo DC-8 and a Bolivian-registered 737-200.
Aerocontinente's corrosion corner: three 737-200s, two 727s and a Fokker F28. A former TANS Fokker F28 and a 737-200 can also be recognized.
A white An-32 and one of the first BAe 146s for Aerocondor can be seen shortly after take off.
The flight was very pleasant again - this time I took the triangle sandwich: white bread, ham and cheese. It was not that bad...
Landing at GYE. Yes, we are in the tropics.
Former AR and BA 737-200 LV-ZIE.
Quite an interesting aircraft. Please look at the following picture and the aircraft's history:
Photo © Andy Martin - AirTeamImages
LAN is, just to mention it again, a very good airline. From this and earlier experiences I would not hesitate one second to fly them again.
Immigration into Ecuador was not difficult and also very quick. GYE has a new terminal which I found modern and efficient. After picking up my backpack I went to Aerogal's ticket office and bought a one-way to Quito UIO (for 65$).
Date: June,21, 2008
Route: GYE - UIO
Aircraft: B737-2Y5 HC-CER
Flight:2K029 ca. 13:00 - 13:45
I love the 737-200 and I thus selected Aerogal over TAME (see next report). The 737-200 I flew on is a former Air Malta machine. First airborne in July 1987, this is one of the youngest -200 at all. The interior is well kept, very bright and clean. The CO 738s for example look much older if you ask me...
HC-CER at gate 4 at GYE.
Yukon HC-AZH from the air shortly after take off.
Guayaquil and Guayas river.
That's what I call an engine: it was great fun to admire the lovely JT8 during the flight to UIO.
Flights between the coast and UIO can be really bumpy as the wet tropical clouds are squeezed out over the Andes and heavily influence flying conditions. Massive and magnificent clouds were visible after only a few minutes.
That's where the clouds stop - the valleys around Quito were quite sunny that afternoon.
What an engine, what a contrast to the landscape!
Landing in Quito means flying over the city...
...right over the city.
There were some exciting planes around, too. Such as these Ecuadorian Air Force BAe748s...
...or the ill-fated Iberia Airbus A340-600 written off after a landing accident last year (now on white colors. The process of scrapping has just begun.
Ecuadorian Air Force Hercules with an Arrow Cargo DC-10 behind.
Former TAME 727 - still quite intact.
Aerogal impressed me - their 737 appeared to be in superb shape, and as mentioned above, the interior is impeccably clean. I especially enjoyed the ride on a 737-200 - not too many of that kind are still around.
End of first part...
Feedback and criticism welcome.
[Edited 2008-07-10 14:32:01]