Published on April 23rd, 2017 | by Mark Chesnut
AIRLINE REVIEW: LATAM Airbus A321, Santiago to Calama, Chile
During my most recent visit to the beautiful South American nation of Chile, I flew LATAM Airlines from the capital city of Santiago to Calama, which is the primary gateway to the wonders of the Atacama Desert. This is a review of my Chile flight experience.
THE ROUTE: Santiago de Chile (Comodoro Arturo Merino Benítez International Airport; SCL) to Calama (El Loa Airport; CJC); Airbus A321; economy class; 1 hour, 30 minutes
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THE DEPARTURE: We arrived at the Santiago airport with plenty of time to spare. The Santiago airport is a modern, relatively spacious facility, and construction is underway to expand the international arrivals and departures area and provide a total of 67 gates by 2020. The ticketing area of the existing terminal has super-high ceilings and lots of glass, allowing for plenty of natural light. We waited about 15 minutes for check-in and baggage drop (and there was no charge for checking a bag).
Security screening at the Santiago airport was quite fast — only about five minutes to walk through — and the facilities have equipment that I wish more airports would carry: a continuous carrousel that delivers empty trays to the front of the conveyor belt.
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The domestic section of the Santiago airport is clean and modern, with a variety of small gift shops and food outlets (including McDonald’s and Starbucks). Boarding was all at once, rather than by group or zone number.
THE AIRCRAFT: The LATAM Airbus A321 was still carrying the paint job of LAN, its predecessor. Like LAN, LATAM — the result of a merger between LAN and TAM — is not exactly one airline, but rather (for legal and operational reasons) a collection of airlines united under one brand. One look at the LATAM in-flight magazine confirms this; you’ll see routes that are color-coded to indicate various identities — LATAM Airlines Argentina, LATAM Airlines Chile and LATAM Airlines Colombia, to name a few.
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The interior of the LATAM A321, however, was updated with LATAM colors of gray, black and red. The airline seats on the plane had wings, and there was one cabin of service, with flight attendants dressed crisply in their new LATAM uniforms.
INFLIGHT SERVICE: There was no inflight entertainment on board, other than the inflight magazine (which has only a small English-language section in the back); I’m not sure if perhaps we could access entertainment for free using the LATAM app, since I hadn’t downloaded it.
Surprisingly, not only were snacks free, but the flight attendants presented an actual menu of free choices, allowing us to choose any two (I chose the trail mix and a tomato pastry).
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THE ARRIVAL: We landed at the attractive Calama airport on schedule, and the baggage delivery at the claim was very fast. I especially like the architecture of the Calama airport; it’s not a big airport, but its design features large windows and sweeping architectural lines that mimic the flow of the mountains in the distance. Lovely.