LA802, Sydney to Santiago
Boeing 787-9. Previously, LATAM used the 787-8 on the indirect service via Auckland, but it's now using the newer 787-9 for all flights (direct and indirect) from Sydney.
THE LOYALTY SCHEME
LATAM Pass. LATAM is part of the Oneworld alliance, which includes Qantas.
Premium Business, 1D (aisle)
Scheduled flight time: 13 hours, 15 minutes. Actual flight time: 12 hours, 45 minutes.
This new direct service started in October and operates three times a week (Monday, Thursday and Saturday), leaving Sydney at 10am and arriving in Santiago at 9:15am the same day. On the other days, the service flies indirect via Auckland.
Painless thanks to a dedicated business check-in line and an Express pass for faster passage through security and immigration.
Housed in a separate 30-seat cabin, business seats are in a 2-2-2 configuration. At a generous 58 centimetres wide, they're spacious and comfy with all the bells and whistles you'd expect (USB charging, multi-region power point, privacy screen and adjustable reading lamp). There's plenty of storage under the footrest in front plus space under the armrest and a slot for tablets and magazines. According to LATAM, the seat converts into a 194-centimetre-long fully-flat bed, but I'm 180 centimetres tall and my head and feet are just touching both ends. If you opt for the window seat, be aware you may have to step over your slumbering neighbour.
Three checked bags (up to 23 kilograms each), one carry-on bag (up to 16 kilograms) and a personal item such as a purse or laptop.
While upright, the seat is supportive with a padded footrest and a handy pivoting tray system that allows you to get in and out without having to put it away. In bed mode, it comes with a padded mattress, thick duvet and a plump pillow. There's also a well-stocked amenity kit in a natty striped bag which includes ear plugs, an eye mask and products by L'Occitane. Perhaps the biggest sleep-inducer is the Dreamliner itself, which boasts a quieter, more humid cabin that's pressurised to a lower altitude. While the interior is still stylish (dark grey seats with bright red headrests), it's starting to look a little worn around the edges. In January 2019, LATAM announced it will be retrofitting a new business class to all its Dreamliners, however it's unclear when this route will benefit from that.
By today's business class standards, the 39-centimetre screen in the seatback in front is on the small side, but it's responsive and operates gate-to-gate. The range of movies and TV shows is decent rather than dazzling – there are 22 new releases, 12 TV series and a handful of lifestyle, sport and travel shows. There's also a wide range of Spanish titles (useful for practising your Spanish before arriving in Santiago) and a handy system for choosing favourites. Noise-cancelling headphones are provided or you can use your own.
There's considerable excitement on this inaugural service and beaming staff hand out free water bottles and alfajores (sweet, dulce de leche-filled cookies) as we board. The upbeat atmosphere continues during the flight with friendly, attentive service throughout.
A lavish printed menu outlines the meal options and highlights LATAM's impressive wine selection. The first meal is breakfast, which is a little odd given it's 11:30am. There are two options – an "active breakfast" with fruit, granola, breads and a cold plate of meats and cheeses, or a "feel good breakfast", which swaps the cold plate for a tasty cheese omelette with garlic infused mushrooms and baby tomatoes. I'm particularly taken with the bread selection, which is served warm in a cute drawstring linen bag, and the large mug of English breakfast tea. The cabin lights are then dimmed for most of the flight (which is also odd given it's still daytime in Sydney) and dinner doesn't appear for another nine hours (a small cheese plate is available in-between). Dinner is a rollercoaster. The cold duck with coleslaw starter is delicious; the short rib with mashed potato and vegetables main is bland; the chocolate sponge pudding dessert is just okay. Thankfully, the wines are knockout – a lovely sauvignon blanc from Chile's San Antonio Valley, a hearty cabernet franc from Mendoza and a vintage 2010 port from Portugal.
ONE MORE THING
Premium Business passengers can use the Qantas business class lounge in Sydney.
This new non-stop flight is a welcome addition to LATAM's Sydney line-up (Melburnians have had a direct service since 2017). Not only does it save about three hours over the indirect service via Auckland but it arrives earlier into Santiago, offering passengers more same-day connections to the rest of South America. Apart from the odd meal timings, there's a surprising lack of teething problems on this inaugural flight and I arrive into Santiago feeling rested, replete and refreshed.
OUR RATING OUT OF FIVE
Rob McFarland travelled as a guest of LATAM (latam.com).