Airline review: LATAM Premium Business class Sydney to Santiago via Auckland

THE ROUTE

LA800 Sydney to Santiago via Auckland

THE AIRCRAFT

Boeing 787-800. While LATAM uses the newer 787-900 on its direct Melbourne to Santiago service, the Sydney via Auckland route still uses the older 787-800. In July, it swaps them, so the 787-900 will fly out of Sydney and the 787-800 out of Melbourne.

THE LOYALTY SCHEME

LATAM Pass. LATAM is part of the Oneworld alliance that includes Qantas.

CLASS

Premium Business, 3L (window)

DURATION

Three hours, five minutes to Auckland, a two-hour stopover, then 11 hours to Santiago.

FREQUENCY

Daily. The flight leaves Sydney at 11.15am and arrives in Santiago at 1.20pm the same day.

CHECKING IN

It is quick and efficient thanks to a dedicated business check-in line. Business passengers also get an Express pass for faster processing through customs and immigration.

THE SEAT

Premium Business occupies the first five rows in a 2-2-2 configuration. Each seat has electronic controls (including a useful memory function), a privacy screen, a USB charger and a multi-region power point. There's space for a water bottle under the armrest and more storage under the footrest in the seat in front. The seat converts into a fully flat bed that is 58 centimetres wide and about 180 centimetres long. A handy pivoting tray table means you can get in and out of the seat without putting it away. However, if you're next to the window and your neighbour is sleeping, you'll have to step over them.

BAGGAGE

Three checked bags (up to 23 kilograms each), one carry-on bag (up to 16 kilograms) and a small personal item such as a laptop or purse.

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COMFORT

The cabin on this 787-800 looks a little tired but the seat is comfortable, with ample leg room and a padded footrest. There are all the usual Dreamliner benefits: lower cabin altitude pressure, higher humidity, electronic dimming windows and – perhaps the most noticeable – a significant decrease in cabin noise. Of course, the real reward comes on the Auckland to Santiago leg. The flat bed has a mattress, a plump pillow and a warm duvet – all of which contribute to a solid six-hour sleep. There's a basic amenity kit on the first leg (socks, eye mask and a pen) and an upgraded version on the second with a toothbrush and toiletries by L'Occitane.

ENTERTAINMENT

Accessed via a touch-sensitive 39-centimetre screen in the seat back in front, the on-board entertainment is passable by today's standards. I count 43 new releases (although many are in Spanish), 16 TV box sets and a good selection of music. Usefully, the system is available gate-to-gate and a save function means you can store items as you browse. Over the ear noise-cancelling headphones are provided or you can plug in your own. Unfortunately, the LATAM Play app, which allows passengers to stream TV and movies through their personal device, doesn't work on international flights. Nor is there Wi-Fi.

SERVICE

Friendly, accommodating and patient (even when I ask to sample all five wines). I'm welcomed on board with a glass of champagne and a bowl of nuts, and I lose count of the number of times I'm offered a hot towel.

FOOD

Disappointing on the first leg. My quiche with roast carrots and eggplant is bland. I try to swap it for the roast beef sandwich (the only other option) but they've run out. Things improve markedly on the second leg, where dinner commences with a flavoursome green pea and mint soup, followed by a delicious and substantial short rib beef with potato and broccoli. For dessert there's a choice of cheesecake, ice-cream or cheese plus tea and coffee. As you'd expect, the wine choice is excellent with three reds and two whites, all from South America and all (hiccup) very drinkable. Breakfast is ordered in advance via a printed menu and is adequate rather than amazing. The scrambled eggs with bacon and asparagus is lacklustre but it does come with the unexpected bonus of two slices of cake.

ONE MORE THING

Premium Business passengers can use the Qantas business-class lounge while in transit in Auckland.

VERDICT

LATAM recently announced it will start flying direct from Sydney to Santiago at the end of 2019 which is good news as the stop in Auckland adds about three hours to the journey. Either way, the Dreamliner provides a superior flying experience and Premium Business means you'll arrive rested and relaxed. It'll be even more compelling from July when the airline starts using the 787-900 on this route with an upgraded business class.

OUR RATING OUT OF FIVE

4

Rob McFarland travelled as a guest of Peru Tourism (visitperu.com) and was upgraded by LATAM (latam.com).

See also: Airline plans first Australia-South America route via Antarctica

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