Airline review: LATAM business class, Melbourne to Santiago, Chile

THE PLANE

Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner with 290 seats in two classes.

THE ROUTE

Melbourne to Santiago

LOYALTY SCHEME

LATAM Pass, part of the oneworld alliance that includes Qantas, Japan Airlines and British Airways.

CLASS

Premium Business, window seat 5L

DURATION

12 hours, 15 minutes

FREQUENCY

LATAM now flies this new route, the first non-stop connection between Melbourne and South America, three times a week, departing Melbourne on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

SEAT

There are five rows of Premium Business seats in a 2-2-2 configuration. Each grey and red seat reclines fully to a flat-bed 23 inches (58 centimetres) wide and 73 inches (185 centimetres) long and has a universal power point, a USB port, a reading light, a pull-up privacy screen and storage space under the padded footrest.

BAGGAGE

Premium Business passengers can check in three bags weighing up to 23 kilograms each. The carry-on limit is 16 kilograms, double the Economy limit.

COMFORT

The red Salvatore Ferragamo amenities kit contains 13 handy items: essentials such as an eye mask, socks and a toothbrush as well as nice-to-haves such as a mirror and face cream. After dinner, flight attendants dim the lights and distribute dove-white duvets and pillows. As a testimony to how comfortable these seats/beds are, no one stays up late to work or watch movies on this overnight flight.

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ENTERTAINMENT

The seatback screens are a generous 15.4-inch and there's gate-to-gate viewing – good to know if you're trying to see the end of one of the 110 movies on offer before disembarking. To give you an idea of the selection, the featured movies are Baywatch and the two latest Pirates of the Caribbean blockbusters; there are also TV programs and series. VAMOS, the inflight magazine, is almost entirely in Spanish and Portuguese, with a few pages in English at the back.

SERVICE

There's much fanfare for this inaugural flight: guitar-playing folk singers at check-in, LATAM-branded cupcakes in the Qantas business lounge, speeches at the departure gate. But the pisco sours served on boarding will be standard for all Premium Business passengers. The all-male flight crew, Latino Alex Perrys in tight white shirts with names like Ignacio and Patricio, exude a casual efficiency; nothing is too much trouble.

FOOD

The three-course dinner is worth staying awake for, mostly. A fresh green salad and a selection of cheeses are served with the appetiser; my tomato-lemongrass soup is superb (the other option is a smoked chicken Israeli couscous salad with green olive dressing). The main dish looks and tastes like it jumped ship from Economy: Ecuadorian prawns in Thai sauce with jasmine rice, toasted sesame seeds and roasted scallops. (The other main options are grilled tenderloin with pepper sauce, truffle mashed potatoes, roasted asparagus and mushrooms; and mixed greens with smoked salmon, mango and cucumber.) But the meal is saved by the premium Chilean and Argentinian wines paired with each dish by South America's only Master Sommelier. Dessert offerings are simple: New Zealand Natural ice cream, chocolate cake or fresh fruit. Before landing, I opt for the express breakfast to get more sleep, but it's skimpy: a cup of tea and a muffin. Water bottles are brought out mid-flight, but no snacks.

ONE MORE THING

There are now non-stop flights to 36 international destinations out of Melbourne Airport, which seems to be capitalising on its curfew-free status. LATAM also flies from Sydney to Santiago via Auckland seven days a week.

THE LAST WORD

If you're headed to South America, LATAM's offering is hard to beat: a oneworld airline, non-stop flights and connections with more than 120 Latin American destinations from Santiago.

OUR RATING OUT OF FIVE

★★★★

Louise Southerden travelled as a guest of LATAM Airlines Group.

See also: Airline review: Singapore Airlines business class

See also: Airline review: Qantas serves up the best economy meal ever

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