Sydney - Auckland
- Fully loaded entertainment system
- Cheap biz fares accrue QF status credits/points
- Notoriously late
- Food is OK but hardly best-in-class
- Fly an airline to NZ you normally wouldn't!
- Seat/IFE a cut above the competitors to NZ
LAN flies once daily from Santiago to Auckland then on to Sydney and returns. The departure is at 5:50am from AKL, which turns around and leaves Sydney at 9.50am. It's well-priced as a return -- you can buy a seat in LAN's "Premium Business" cabin at around $750 if you book well in advance. You just have to be able to cope with the oh-my-god-o'clock in the morning return from Auckland to Sydney.
LAN primarily uses Qantas check-in services at Sydney, meaning the check-in process and location should be familiar to those who have travelled internationally on Qantas services before. Check-in for both LAN Economy and Business takes place in section C, opposite the Qantas premium check-in desks. LAN requests arrival at the airport three hours prior to check-in, but I arrived 1h 45m before the 9:55am departure without issue.
With no bags to check, the process only took a minute or so. The agent offered faultless, amenable service including assistance with printing my return ticket for NZ customs. There's no mobile or online check-in available, but business passengers can pre-select their seat at lan.com.
I was soon on my way, with a Qantas lounge invite and Express card for customs and security in hand. Thankfully the lines were minimal both for Express and non-Express card holders.
I find the Qantas International Business Lounge a mixed affair.
Early mornings in this lounge are quieter than the rest of the day, as the first big Qantas departure to the US is not until 11am. This means finding a seat is easy -- later in the day it can be more difficult.
A barista was on call at the bar, so first up was a (decent-enough) coffee. There's an OK variety of food on offer, mostly a bit snacky, however there are enough healthy options, which can't always be said for airline lounges. The hot breakfast offers the expected protein kick, however as the lounge only offers small plates it's hard to give yourself a decent serving. It was also barely warm enough.
Qantas has recently replaced the workstations with a suite of iMacs which can also boot into Windows and they're positioned with views of the tarmac, which definitely give you one of the more interesting sights to take in while checking your email.
The environment is generally calm and the staff happy to help - a mother and unhappy infant were offered assistance without hesitation, but it ultimately it's just missing some X-factor to give this place a really exclusive feel.
Boarding was called at 9.05am, about 45 minutes before departure. I headed to the gate, where there were very few passengers in the business class queue. On boarding, business passengers were offered chilled water or orange juice while we waited for boarding to complete. Departure was on-time to the minute, departing from the gate at 9.50am and airborne at 9.55am.
The cabin was quiet, and around 50% full so I had my choice of seats. I stuck to my pre-allocated window 2L, with a free aisle next to me. LAN's A340-400 business cabin is configured as 2-2-2 and would have felt roomy even if close to full. If you want even more privacy there's a mini-cabin for rows 6 & 7, however 2L was great - well ahead of the wing and engines for a quiet journey.
Just one introductory announcement from the flight-deck throughout allowed for uninterrupted rest for those who wanted it, and we arrived in Auckland after a smooth journey and landing, around 25 minutes early.
The seat is LAN's full long haul business class product, with a seat pitch and width of 56" (142cm) and 20" (51cm) respectively, and a nearly flat, 175 degree recline. This is comparable to Qantas' Business Skybed (which is 4" longer and completely lie flat) but you won't find the Skybed on many of QF's Australia - New Zealand routes.
For this three hour flight it's as comfortable as you'd hope, with good cushioning, support, adjustability and massage functions. Travelling on to Santiago would test my 6'2" frame, as my feet were hanging over the end of the foot rests and I couldn't quite get them comfy in either of the foot-rest positions. A minor irritation though on a flight of this length.
LAN served a brunch consisting of a warmed ham and cheese croissant, a beef and capsicum foccacia, crackers with Chilean marmalade and an apple and cinnamon dessert which I can't quite describe, as no menu was offered. It was all tasty, although the focaccia was a touch "fresh out of the fridge".
There were no meal choices, but for the time of day the meal was appropriate, and pretty tasty. A full choice of alcoholic and other beverages was also on offer and the crew were happy to oblige, offering and topping up where necessary.
Due to the empty seat next to me, I was given the option of the table being laid on the free seat. This allowed me to stay reclined and watching my movie in comfort until I was ready to eat, either by moving seats, or moving the food to me. I also requested this on the return Auckland - Sydney which was a godsend, letting me sleep through the 6.30am meal service.
Entertainment & Service
The LAN crew were friendly and professional, understandably addressing everyone in Spanish first and then English. They run the Auckland-Sydney route prior to Sydney-Auckland, meaning they've been on the go for a 4-5 hours or so by departure - but it didn't show. One crew member tended to my side of the cabin for the entire flight and was particularly accommodating with numerous drink requests, including decent coffee. On the whole they were quiet, unassuming and blended into the background, which I like, although others may prefer more attentive service.
The IFE is excellent - easy to use and with a great quality screen, although LAN's Chilean origins make themselves clear as soon as you switch it on, with the default language set to Spanish. Flicking to English is simple, and English movies are not force-subtitled with Spanish so once you've made the switch you don't have to think about it again.
The choice of entertainment was good, and the flight is just long enough to squeeze in a movie, although the IFE wasn't available until the seat-belt sign was turned off and was made unavailable 10 minutes prior to landing. Pick your length of movie carefully and time the start accordingly, or you'll miss the end.