Our trip to Peru and Bolivia gave us several options for traveling between the Cities. Our trip, included visits to Lima, Cuzco, Arequipa and La Paz. We did quite a bit of research and found the most common ways to travel between these three Cities are bus, car (drive yourself or a car service) or to fly. We knew we didn’t want to drive – period. We debated on taking the buses, but the reviews were all over the board – most people said the buses were marginally comfortable and they could take forever. We decided to fly.
There were two airlines that really could get us to where we wanted to go: LATAM and Avianca. LATAM is the new name of the recently merged LAN and TAM airlines. For most of the trip, LATAM offered much better pricing and a better schedule. We would have preferred Avianca only because it is a member of Star Alliance and we could have credited our miles to United. With LATAM we were crediting to American’s AAdvantage program. It wasn’t really a big deal, considering the limited number of miles we’re actually talking about here.
We have no status with Oneworld (the airline alliance that American and LATAM both belong). There was no way we could justify flying business class on these short flights – they were cost prohibitive and the premium cabin on these short flights isn’t worth the upgrade fee, in my mind. So there we were, stuck flying coach on an airline we had no status with – we’d be waiting in long lines at the airport, checking in at the regular desks, we’d be getting the worst seats available, we’d experience travel like most people do. Sometimes it is good to see how everyone else travels.
We flew four legs with LATAM, including: Lima-Cuzco; Cuzco-Arequipa; Arequipa-Lima-La Paz. All flights were on LATAM liveried narrow bodied jets. The flights were schedule between one and two hours. In all but ONE of the flights, I was very comfortable I found the pitch (the distance between the two seats) was quite respectable for a short haul, domestic flight.
The one exception was the flight from Lima to La Paz, which was on an Airbus 319. I was in the middle seat with a lovely Bolivian man next to me who demanded not only the armrest, but found the best place to put his elbow was under my rib cage. That’s not LATAMs fault though. The pitch on this plane was utterly awful. My knees were wedged into the seat in front of me. On the plus side, the dude in front of my slammed his seat into full recline the second he sat down.
We also encounter a ground stop at Lima because of traffic issues in La Paz, so we sat on the runway for about 50 minutes before we left. The flight itself was only two hours, but it was by far the least comfortable flights I have been on in year.
On all my LATAM flights we were served a beverage and some sort of food. I didn’t try to get any alcohol, so I don’t know if they charge or it is included. The food, was surprisingly good, although basic. The food varied by flight – we had one flight with a muffin, yogurt and crackers, one with fruit and crackers and another with a small selection of soft jolly ranchers (served off of a silver tray, no less).
All in all, I enjoyed my travels with LATAM. One of my favorite parts of the flight was the announcements (both boarding and landing). After they read the appropriate script, they ended the announcement with “My name is Tim and I am LATAM” The emphasis was clear: I am LATAM. While you don’t have many options on certain routes throughout South America, I wouldn’t hesitate flying LATAM on these short hops in the future.
Have you flown the new LATAM? How does it differ (if at all) from the predecessor companies of LAN and TAM? Is there a better option to hop around South America that you’d recommend?