What would you do with a 13 hour layover in Santiago? I could go into town and see something or
stay in the airport and fill up on sushi and beer in the lounge. I had just been in Santiago the day before
and there wasn’t anything in town I felt I had missed, so I took the lounge
option (it was also less risky as the public transit is not exceptionally reliable and saves me 2 hours standing in line at customs).
- Easter Island
Lucky for me, LAN helped shorten the layover because my
flight from Montevideo was delayed an hour.
I arrived at the airport about 75 minutes before departure to check my
bag. Check in was very leisurely and the agents were exceptionally friendly and talkative. They seemed sincerely interested in my experience in Uruguay and my travels that day. Once my boarding passes were printed, I asked
how long customs would take; they said not to worry, there was no need to rush
because the flight would be a little delayed.
|Montevideo Airport, MVD
Montevideo airport has an entertaining display about the history of
aviation in Uruguay that includes photos, tickets, and a small plane (not as large as MKE's museum, but still a welcome enhancement). I
also picked up some souvenirs (the tea cup and straw things that everyone has in town) and enjoyed the grand vistas the terminal
provides. For an airport with four gates, it presents an impressive figure and has quite a few amenities like an observation level and indoor garden.
I love airports that give large sweeping views and Montevideo is the best example I have found. Airports should inspire and build excitement about flight. Large windows that lift your view to the sky are a great way to convey those strong feelings and emotions. Seattle's food court area does a similar job too, though on a smaller scale. Too many airports in the US, like LGA, IAD, and BOS, have low ceilings with limited windows and views blocked by jetways. Airports should be inspirational, not a utilitarian exercise in moving people and things. Montevideo does a great job at this and new terminals should aspire to be like it.
|Montevideo Airport, MVD
|Montevideo Airport Aviation Display, MVD
Customs and security took
maybe 5 minutes. The duty free store had
a very good wine and liquor selection, but no cigars (US$17 for a carton of
Camels though). There was a very wide
selection products and decent prices. The terminal has free wifi and little else to do but look out the window. Regional carrier Pluna has some really cool looking paint designs, take a look at their planes.
|Montevideo Airport, MVD, Gate Area|
|Montevideo Airport, MVD|
|LAN Chile 318 in Montevideo|
My flight boarded 30 minutes late and departed about 90
minutes late. This was my first flight
on an Airbus 318 and I was excited to try out an new airplane model; turns out
it is just like a 319 or 320, just not as long (the nerd in me was still happy to check off a new aircraft type).
The in-flight entertainment was a news program (looked recently updated with a long sports section) and a light snack served in coach. The plane did have 6 flight attendants; double
what a US airline would staff. It turns
out two of them are dedicated to duty free sales. The flight was enjoyable with some great
views of Argentina and the Andes.
|LAN Chile 318 Business Class|
|LAN Chile 318 Coach Class|
|Snack in coach on LAN Chile 318|
|LAN Chile 318 Leg Room in Coach|
Once on the ground, I went to the connecting passenger area
and entered the departures area. Once
there I found the first LAN VIP Salon and took a seat with a view. I had wifi, two magazines to read, and
endless plates of sushi and finger sandwiches. After a few hours, I was bored and went for a
walk to see what each end of the terminal looks like. There are quite a few stores in the airport,
but they all seem to carry the same items.
Still, it is a good way to kill time and stretch.
|LAN boarding area, makes Denver look orderly|
Next I decided to check out the other LAN VIP Salon in
Santiago. It was like the first one but
slightly larger and with many more people.
I found a nice quiet corner to do some work, but after an hour or two, a
family tried to take it over for their exclusive use. They knew that being loud and letting their
children run around and scream was a great way to get their own space. A short while after I moved (and refilled my plate and glass) a lounge attendant told them to keep it down and start
parenting (or so I thought, her tone sounded like she was threatening to kick them out). There was also a couple that rearranged the chairs to make a bed; again detracting from the lofty feel
of the place. I was able to keep occupied with work emails, Google voice calls home, and Netflix for the next couple hours while trying to tune out the increasingly louder lounge (the smaller more peaceful lounge closes at 6pm).
After filling up on sushi, beer, and reading material, it
was time to go home. Boarding was delayed
again though after 12 hours, what's another 20 minutes? Business class was about 40% full, so I had no seat mate and spread out. I was really tired and ready to pass out
asleep, buy stayed up to have dinner. It was a similar dish to my previous meals on LAN, but just tasted a little off, maybe the soy sauce and wasabi effected my palate. The cheese plate was welcome as always and I wish United would add it to their in-flight service. I also never got my ice cream for desert; a problem with the crew's attention to customers, not limited catering supplies.
|LAN Chile 767 Business Class Meal from Santiago (SCL)|
After my tray was cleared, I reclined the seat flat and was out like a light. The crew woke me 30 minutes before landing
for the light breakfast option, a croissant and fruit. I nibbled for a few minutes, trying to shake
my groggy feeling. Before I knew it, the cabin was being prepared for landing. The customs line at Miami was short and
slow, but I wasn’t in a rush because I
checked my bag.
I made it through customs (polite and friendly agents, just very slow and methodical), grabbed my bag and went to check
in for my United Airlines flight 3.5 hours away.
The United agent said it was too early to check in, but I could get on
an earlier flight. I was inside the
checked bag window, but she said it would most likely make the flight. I jumped on the offer to go home early even though if my bag didn't make it, I would have to wait 4 hours for it in Denver.
The flight to Dulles was a little delayed, good news for my
bag, but I couldn't see the loading operation to make sure it was there. I didn’t clear an upgrade, but had
the first row in coach with miles of legroom.
My flight seemed to be a regular commuter flight for United
employees. Everyone knew everyone and
there was a lot of shop talk. The segment was uneventful and before long I was in Dulles and off to the final part of my trip. I had a 40 minute connection, not enough time
to visit the Lufthansa lounge, but fine for a leisurely stroll to the gate.
|First row in coach on United E170|
The flight to Denver was 99% full and my upgrade didn’t
clear again. I slept most of the flight
so it was the best of the day. The
landing was smooth and the taxi quick. I
made it to the baggage claim area in time to see my bag pop up on the
belt. My trip was over and my bag made
it with me, if a few minutes later.