- American Airlines Admirals Club New York JFK
- LAN Business Class: New York to Lima
- LAN Economy Class: Lima to Cusco
- Machu Picchu
- LAN Economy Class: Cusco to Lima
- Radisson Decapolis Miraflores
- SUMAQ Lounge Lima
- LAN Business Class Lima to Easter Island
- Easter Island
- LAN Business Class: Easter Island to Santiago
- LAN Neruda Lounge Santiago
- LAN Business Class: Santiago to Lima
- LAN Business Class: Lima to New York
- Yotel New York City
- American Airlines Transcontinental Business Class: New York to Los Angeles
Realizing that 12:15am was probably much earlier than LAN intended for a 1:15am departure, I didn’t get to the gate until about 12:25am. No activity. Not even a gate agent. This wasn’t looking good. Gate agents turned up shortly and commented that it would just be a few minutes, even getting a few pre-boards (a family with a young baby and stroller, plus a woman with a cast) to the front. However, when a slew of pilots and flight attendants turned up at 12:45am, I knew what would occur. The gate agents kept the “we’re boarding soon” BS going, but I could tell. I love when airlines try to so obviously lie to customers.
I made friends with 2 young Japanese passengers behind me in the business line, exchanging grins at our predicament. Why is it that when I’m in coach, I’m delayed on the plane, but when I’m booked in business, I’m delayed at the gate? A brash man soon entered the line, and nudged the 2 Japanese girls aside … “excuse me.” They held their position. Good on them. I have no clue how they got into business (miles or cash), but either way, don’t let ignorant oldies push you around.
Soon after this episode, 1:15am hit. Obviously the plane was not leaving. My Spanish may not be perfecto, but I heard the gate agent say the words “problemas tecnicas,” as did the British gentleman next to me. We chuckled and took seats in the gatehouse, as the screen changed from 1:15 to 2:10. I debated heading back to the SUMAQ but decided against it. A few of the passengers in the gatehouse made their own versions of flatbeds in the waiting area, and I noticed that the 2:10 disappeared from the gate screen. Uh. Oh.
Sunday February 12, 2012
Lima (LIM) – Easter Island/Isla de Pascua (IPC)
Aircraft: Boeing 767-300ER
Seat: 1L (Premium Business – Window – Bulkhead)
Fortunately, though, boarding commenced close to 1:45am. Muy bien. I had found a seat near the “Preferente” line and was able to board first in the business cabin, although this were the best picture I could get of the cabin as other passengers quickly followed (I try to limit shots of strangers in my pictures, golden rule)
My flight attendant introduced himself to me and asked if should I fall asleep, I wanted to be woken up for dinner. For some reason, I assumed this would be a breakfast flight, given the very late departure and semi-morning arrival. It’s pretty much a red-eye, except westward. Since Lima and Easter Island are on the same time-zone in the South American summer, the flight time is possible.
I was about to say no to dinner until I felt a little rumble in my stomach, from the lack of any good food in the SUMAQ lounge, and told him, “yes.” I was given a Chilean immigration card, amenity kit similar to the one on JFK-LIM, a ramekin of nuts (a bit warmer than the ones at JFK), and a pre-flight drink. I chose the champagne over the Pisco sour.
Given that this LIM-IPC flight had just started the week prior, and that they were offering coach/biz tickets on this route for $400/$800 one-way for later dates, I’m not surprised that the flight seemed rather empty. Of 28 available business seats, about 17 were taken, with only the center bulkhead empty. Each single traveler got a window and an empty aisle. The economy cabin seemed less than half full.
After a quick takeoff roll, we turned right and entered the area above the Pacific Ocean. Better get used to this view for a while.
Dinner service began shortly after takeoff, and was placed on one tray so as to expedite the meal service and allow passengers to sleep. I turned on “Unstoppable” on the IFE, a pretty lousy flick that I still decided to watch all the way through. Here’s the menu, with what I ordered asterisked. The wine list is the same as before (see JFK-LIM part) and I have abbreviated the wine suggestions (because I’m lazy):
Salad greens with seasonal vegetables
Grilled filet of beed accompanied with mushroom sauce, potato Gaufrette and sautéed asparagus
Master Sommelier’s suggestion: Cabernet Sauvignon 2007
*Chicken stuffed with Mascarpone cheese and almonds, with white asparagus sauce, accompanied by mashed potatoes
Master Sommelier’s suggestion: Malbec 2007
Prosciutto salad, tomato confit, hearts of palm and assorted lettuce
Master Sommelier’s suggestion: Torrontés 2011
*Passion fruit and lemon verbena pannacotta
Fresh seasonal fruit
Lights were turned off during the dinner service, so I ate with my reading lights on. Soon after, I reclined my bed fully. Since business was about half-full, I was able to put a duvet on the bed and then use another duvet as a blanket. I still had a pretty good sleep, given that it only ended up being a little over 3 hours.
Around 6:50am, lights were turned back on in preparation for landing. I eagerly opened my window shades only to see that it was still very dark outside. Drat. I had really wanted an ‘A’ seat to see the island upon landing, but given how dark it still was, any window seat was useless. A center seat would give as much view. I guess I’d have to wait for the outbound.
As the airport’s runway (10/28) literally starts at one side of the island and ends on the other, the approach was one of the darkest I have experienced, given that we were over a dark and cold Pacific approaching an equally dark island. We touched down close to 7:10am, only 20 minutes behind schedule after a 75-minute delay. Given how tired I was, and that I had to wait for my friend from Santiago before doing anything on the island, I wished this flight lasted longer. However, it would have delayed the aircraft’s next leg to Santiago.
We made a quick U-Turn at the end of the runway and headed back toward the main terminal building, parking at, well … gate 1? It’s really just “the spot where you park the plane.” A stair-car approached door 1L, where we quickly de-boarded and felt the island weather for the first time.
There are 2 pathways once you de-board, one for “transit” (I assume for passengers continuing onward to PPT) and one for Easter Island. There is a kiosk where you can purchase Rapa Nui National Park / Orongo tickets for $50 USD, a $10USD discount. I skipped this, but realized later that this was a fantastic deal, and would recommend everyone to take advantage of this one-time opportunity on the island. Just note that the ticket lasts for 5 days from the date of purchase, not from date of first entry. Oh well, hope others can learn from my mistake.
Given that I was one of the first passengers off the plane, I was able to go through immigration very quickly, since it’s not just the only international flight … it’s the only flight at the airport (I later learned that given IPC’s remote position, a plane cannot takeoff from Santiago/Lima/Tahiti until the runway at IPC is clear because the nearest diversion airport (GMR) is about 1600 miles away). The immigration officer asked none of the “purpose of your visit” mumbo-jumbo – they know what you’re here for.
Taking the LIM-IPC flight has 2 amazing benefits:
- You get a flippin’ awesome Chilean passport entry stamp that says “Isla de Pascua.” Of course, you can always get an unofficial Easter Island stamp at the town post office, but not the official one.
- If you’re a citizen of a Visa Reciprocity Fee country (like the U.S., U.K., and Australia), this fee is not collected at IPC. If you return to SCL, you fly IPC-SCL as a domestic flight, and will not have to pay at Santiago.
Had I routed LIM-SCL-IPC (or xxx-SCL-IPC), I would have cleared Chilean immigration at SCL/Santiago, which would have gotten me a boring Santiago stamp AND cost me $141 for entering Chile at SCL via air. Not so at IPC.
I walked over to the bag carousel (let’s call it Belt #1), retrieved my baggage, went through an easy customs check, and headed outside to meet my hotel owner for the short ride into Hanga Roa.