Published on May 23rd, 2017 | by Mark Chesnut
AIRLINE REVIEW: American Airlines Boeing 777, Santiago de Chile to DFW
Following a super-enjoyable trip to Chile, where I checked out everything from the capital city of Santiago to the beautiful Colchagua wine region to the stunning Atacama Desert, I flew home on American Airlines. This is a review of my air travel experience — which actually involved flights I wasn’t even supposed to be on.
TRAVEL TIPS: Why Can’t All Airports Be Like This Amazing One in Chile?
THE ROUTE: Santiago de Chile (SCL) to Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW); Boeing 777-200; economy class; nine hours, 28 minutes
THE DEPARTURE: I wasn’t supposed to be on this flight. I was supposed to fly nonstop from Santiago to Miami, but upon arriving on a LATAM Airlines flight from Calama (gateway to the Atacama Desert), I found that the Miami flight was cancelled — or delayed by more than 12 hours to the following day, depending on how you describe it. I did appreciate the efficiency of the notification, which arrived via email and the American Airlines app. The message indicated that I’d been automatically rebooked to a departure the following day, but I needed to get back to work, so I went to the ticket counter at the Santiago airport, where — after a 15- or 20-minute wait — they rebooked me on a flight to Dallas/Fort Worth. They checked my luggage for free and gave me a non-impressive Group 8 boarding designation.
AIRLINE REVIEW: LATAM Airlines Airbus A321, Santiago to Calama
I waited in line for about 10 minutes to go through the exit immigration process at the Santiago airport; the security line was thankfully much shorter, and has a very efficient carrousel system that automatically delivers empty bins to the front of the line.
As in many large airports, all departing international passengers here are forced to walk through an extensive duty free section. I did my usual thing of stopping to moisturize my face using samples, then proceeded to the concourse, where I found a variety of rather predictable Britt gift shops as well as chain restaurants that include Johnny Rocket’s, Dunkin’ Donuts and Ruby Tuesday. Not the most unique airport food, of course, but I did have a pretty good personal-size pizza at Telepizza.
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Boarding was on time, but airport staff stopped all passengers to search bags again before we could proceed to the jetway, and they confiscated water bottles and other liquids. (I’ve asked this question publicly many times, and still have no answer: Why do some airports in Latin America take away liquids that you bought within the secure area, while other airports don’t?)
THE AIRCRAFT: The American Airlines Boeing 777-200 featured 2-5-2 seating in most of the economy class cabin. On each seat was a shrink-wrapped blanket and pillow, and the headrests had wings. There were, however, no outlets for recharging devices.
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IN-FLIGHT ENTERTAINMENT: A smiling and pleasant flight attendant handed out free newspapers before takeoff. When it comes to technology, this type of American Airlines plane provides in-flight entertainment that was certainly cutting edge 10 or 20 years ago. Tiny seat-back screens and remote controls (in the arms of the seats) allow you to choose a variety of channels, but it’s not on demand, and you need to wait for movies and shows to start again if you missed the beginning. I tried watching “Passengers,” but after about 20 minutes it stopped playing. I tried watching TV shows and they stopped after a few minutes, too. Finally, a flight attendant announced that they need to perform a 30-minute reboot on the entertainment system. That seemed to work.
AIRLINE FOOD: The airline meal served on this American Airlines flight was dubbed an “International Flagship Service” menu, and included a free dinner (choice of pasta or beef with mashed potatoes; both entrees were accompanied by bread, salad, a tiny water bottle and Chips Ahoy cookies). Booze was free. About an hour and a half before landing, they served a breakfast that consisted of a warm croissant and fruit.
THE ARRIVAL: Before landing, the crew attempted to show a video about the customs and immigrations process. They tried to show it twice. Neither time did the audio work, so a flight attendant read instructions live.
In-flight Service: **** (out of 5)