In 2012 I spent the Easter break in the city of Cordoba in Spain. For my return home I picked the last scheduled Korean Air flight from Madrid to Amsterdam. The day after, Korean Air would operate to both Madrid and Amsterdam as nonstop services. Quite by coincidence I decided to spend the Easter of 2013 in Spain again – this time visiting the city of Toledo, 70 kilometres away from Madrid. For the return I decided to fly from Madrid to Frankfurt with LAN Chile. Quite by coincidence, I only realised when I got on board that mine would be the last flight from Santiago de Chile via Madrid to Frankfurt. Originally, LAN had planned to operate a daily nonstop service with the B 787 to Frankfurt with the beginning of the summer schedule 2013. The worldwide grounding of the B 787 fleet obviously put an end to those plans. However, one of the flight attendants on my flight did mention that LAN would only be suspending Frankfurt for three months and would resume the destination once they had received ‘the new product’. So I can only assume that LAN is expecting the B 787 to be operational within the next three months. We shall see…
Airline: LAN Chile
Aircraft: Airbus A 340-300
Cabin Class: Business
Seat: 1C, aisle
Date: 31 March 2013
GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
Toledo station is a truly remarkable building. It resembles a mosque more than it does a public building, with many Moorish influences incorporated in the structure.
My train leaves at 10h25 and takes 32 minutes to complete the journey of 70 kilometres from Toledo to Madrid’s Atocha terminus.
At Atocha I change trains to the suburban line that goes to Madrid airport’s new T4.
T4 really is a remarkable building. It’s also quite remarkable that the facility is in fact way to big for the amount of traffic it handles. But perhaps it’s just because of the Easter weekend. Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt.
I make my way up three or four floors – I stopped counting – to the check-in level for LAN, which has quite an extensive operation here in Madrid.
A ground agent guides me to the check-in counters for Business Class passengers, where I am issued my boarding pass for the flight to Frankfurt straight away. I am then given instructions on how to reach the satellite, from where my flight will be leaving.
The satellite is accessed by an underground automated shuttle, which means that I will have to take the escalators all the way down into the basement again to catch the shuttle and then up again on the other side. This place is simply massive.
LAN being a member of the Oneworld alliance means that I can use the Iberia lounge and I must say, it really is a very nice place. The lounge is quite large, has a good selection of food and drinks and offers some excellent views of the apron. My only complaint is that wifi access is limited to thirty minutes at a time and you have to get a scratch card from reception to gain access.
Eventually my flight shows up on the screen as ‘Embarque’ – boarding - so I make my way to the gate.
By the time I get there, boarding has already started. There is a separate line for Business Class passengers but it is cordoned off. ‘No such luck’ me thinks, when one of the gate agents sees me standing there. She greets me, scans by boarding pass and lets me through, wishing me a pleasant trip in the process.
The bulkhead on this bird has a finish that it supposed to make it look like wood panelling, which obviously it is not. But even so, somehow it doesn’t look that bad. The seat covers are a dark grey colour, which goes quite well with the red tone of the faux wood bulkhead. The seat itself has a lot in common with the model Iberia has installed on its A 340s.
The crew on this flight is a mixed bag. The men generally seem much friendlier than the ladies on this flight. It’s not that the females are rude or anything, they just seem a bit standoffish. The lead flight attendant in Business Class is a middle-aged female who speaks close to no English at all, which I find rather strange for an airline operating internationally. I also think her lack of English could potentially be a safety concern, particularly in case of a medical emergency or the likes.
This flight very much has the feel of a long-haul flight, which essentially it is, even though I only boarded in Madrid and the flight to Frankfurt is only two hours. When I arrive at my seat, there is a fresh set of earphones in one of the seat pockets in the side of the seat.
And later on during the flight, once the meal service is over, I ask for a blanket and receive – much to my surprise – a proper duvet cover instead.
As soon as I am comfortably settled in my seat, a friendly young man arrives with a tray of drinks and warm nuts. On offer today we have champagne, water or something called a pisco sour. I decide to make an exception from my usual habit of not drinking any alcohol on a plane and try the Pisco sour, which is in fact quite tasty (although I’m still not quite sure what it is).
After that a selection of magazines is offered. Apart form the usual offerings like The Economist and Time Magazine, there is also a good selection if German magazines like Der Spiegel.
Departure is one time and the take-off roll is unusually nimble for an A 340-300.
As soon as we’re airborne, the meal service starts straight away. We begin with warm towels. They are not scented. Quite the contrary, they have a strong pong of chlorine.
Then the table is set with a tablecloth.
The meal itself is somewhat underwhelming and there are no choices.
It consists of:
- A mixed salad with slices of cold pork and an apple chutney.
- A plate of cheese.
- A bowl of fresh melon and pineapple.
- A small piece of Lindt dark chocolate.
- A selection of warm bread.
To drink my neighbour orders a still water, while I ask for a glass of sparkling water with ice. But seemingly it is too much to ask to expect the flight attendant to remember two items at a time and so we both end up with just a glass of warm still water.
On a positive note, LAN use these huge mugs for their tea and coffee service. Pity the coffee itself is so vile!
After the meal I put the seat into sleep mode, cover up with the duvet and doze off until it’s time for us to land in Frankfurt.
Arrival in Frankfurt is pretty much on time. We land on the new runway, from where it's quite a trek to our final parking position at terminal 2.
So what did I think of LAN Chile? As I said, the flight certainly had the feel of a long-haul service about it, which is always nice. The crew were much more personable and friendly than the ones I had on Iberia and I think it is quite clear that LAN goes out of its way to reach out to its customers and tries to provide good service. Did they succeed? They were okay, in fact for a short-haul European sector I think they were more than okay. But then again that’s hardly a fair comparison.