MIAMI — After an initial flight to Punta Cana from Miami in economy class, I upgraded myself to “Premium Business” for the return leg. This gave me an opportunity to finish the trip by experiencing every aspect of LAN’s 787.
Business Class – Punta Cana to Miami
After enjoying a few hours beachside, I showed up at the airport two hours before the scheduled departure time of 5:50 PM. LAN’s website offered two different one-way business class prices. The fully-flexible one was $322, and the restricted one $204, so I opted for the latter. That afternoon, I went online to track the inbound flight from Santiago, which departed 30 minutes behind schedule and our departure time from Punta Cana was adjusted to 6:50 PM. Check-in was very crowded, since there was also a LAN (Peru) flight ahead of us, with one counter dedicated to business customers and elite frequent flyers from LAN and partner airlines. The process was quick, and a member of the LAN ground staff took my passport and boarding pass and walked me through security and immigration in dedicated lines. I passed a walkway consisting of various duty-free shops and then proceeded to the food court which offers nice open-air views of the ramp. This particular evening, the ramp had various aircraft from the U.S. and Europe, the main highlight being a Jetairfly 787. Planespotting in Punta Cana must be a real treat during high tourist season, given the variety of mainline and charter carriers that frequent the airport. A new terminal with jet bridges will open in November, so the nostalgic experience of walking up to your aircraft and using the stairs will become a thing of the past.
Boarding commenced at 6:20 PM. One line was dedicated to premium and elite customers, while the other one was dedicated to the economy. Passengers from Santiago had to deplane and were holding yellow transition cards, and they were allowed to board first. Soon it was my turn, and I boarded the bus to the 787. Along the way, I got close-up pictures of a White Airways (Portuguese charter company) A310-300 and a British Airways 777-200ER. Our boarding time was during sunset, so I was able to get some shots of our 787 before going up the stairs. I walked up to the Captain, who was greeting us, and asked if I could get a picture of the flight deck. He showed me the way, and I greeted the other two pilots who were finishing up the preflight procedures. When I sat down again, the flight attendant offered me a welcome drink and nuts, and I chose a traditional pisco sour, which consists of a brandy, lemon juice, syrup, and egg whites. A bit of friendly advice: if you encounter a Chilean and a Peruvian, do not ask them which of the two countries invented the pisco sour, unless you want to revive a lively regional rivalry.
In the evening hours, the warm orange LED lighting created a very pleasant visual atmosphere in the cabin. In business class, the IFE screen in larger but farther away because the seat converts to a bed, and the screen is on the back of the seat in front. The selections are identical to those of economy, so the only key differences are the screen size and the availability of noise-cancelling headsets.
We were quickly airborne for the two hours back to Miami. I was going through the wine list but noticed there was no dinner menu. Soon the attendant came to offer only a snack service consisting of sandwiches. Having experienced LAN’s fantastic meal service in the past, I was a bit disappointed, as I had figured it would not be too difficult to provide a full business class quality meal service in less than 90 minutes. Despite the lack of a quality dinner, the crew did not miss a beat when it came to friendliness and attentiveness. For the remainder of the flight, the mood lighting changed to a dim blue color that made the cabin almost entirely dark. I played with the seat settings and switched to the fully flat position. LAN did not opt for any staggered or herringbone configuration, which means all window customers will have to step over their sleeping neighbor, should they need to get up. I thought the bed position was very wide and comfortable, but the length is exactly six feet. I am five feet, eleven inches tall and could immediately tell that anyone taller will not be able to fully stretch their body when sleeping. There is also a storable partition between seats.
Before I knew it, the captain announced the start of the descent into Miami. We were on the ground after an uneventful flight, which was about half-full, but I was still very impressed with the level of innovation and comfort of the 787. We arrived in Miami around 9 PM, and there were no other international flights arriving in Concourse J. Since I belong to the Global Entry program, customs and immigration took a matter of seconds, and since I had no checked bags, I was soon in my car. It was actually longer to walk the length of the concourse than to go through the arrival formalities.
I will definitely have to experience LAN’s long-haul international economy or business service on the 787 in the future, based on the two very pleasant segments I flew. I checked the 787 off on my AvGeek bucket list, and I look forward to flying it many other times, as more and more aircraft roll out. American Airlines dominates Miami to Latin America service, but in my frequent travels from the U.S. to the region, I have always opted for LAN over American, when they serve the same city, not just because they are in the same alliance for frequent flier mile accrual, but simply because of the overall quality of service. American is catching up by reconfiguring its fleet with the latest onboard technology and will have a leg up on LAN with Wi-Fi access on international flights, but LAN’s level of comfort and meal service, especially for economy travelers, is still superior. American will also start to roll-out its 787s later this year, and this will allow for an even better comparison. In the meantime, I strongly recommend LAN for anyone who has not experienced this great airline!