Chile’s flag carrier LAN has been in the air since 1929. The airline grew to provide both domestic and international services from Santiago and its history has been one of steady growth and high service standards. Until 2004 the airline was known as LAN Chile but shortened it to LAN as the airline acquired subsidiaries throughout Latin America. In 1989 the government privatised the airline and it is now listed on the New York and Santiago stock exchanges. Nordic carrier SAS is the largest shareholder but has little say in day to day operations. LAN has recently been spreading its wings and now has subsidiaries in Argentina, Peru, Ecuador and the Dominican Republic providing both domestic and international services from each location. They are the only airline flying to mythical Easter Island. In 2007 LAN achieved the rare distinction of experiencing a near miss with a meteor over the Pacific Ocean.
LAN has gone for an international feel onboard their aircraft in the three colours of Chile’s flag; red, white and blue. LAN’s Spanish speaking staff are rather formally attired and perform their tasks diligently although they do not interact with passengers overly. Even in Business class the crew remain aloof while being extremely polite. In a continent known for terrible airline service LAN shines above the others with modern and clean interiors, pleasant staff and a nice cabin experience.
LAN is more than a Chilean airline as they also have extensive domestic services within Ecuador, Peru, Argentina and the Dominican Republic with more to follow in Colombia. They also operate international flights from Chile and all their subsidiary countries. LAN flies throughout the rest of Latin America and has routes to several US cities, Madrid, Sydney and Auckland. LAN offers the best connections between Australia/New Zealand and all of South America through their Santiago hub.
LAN is competitively priced but is often beaten by cheaper rivals. However service is typically superior, scheduling is more punctual and connections to further destinations will be handled far more reliably than most competitors. While Brazil’s TAM and Aerolineas Argentinas are usually cheaper LAN wins customers by its perceived quality which it has justifiably earned. LAN’s services from Miami and the other US cities it serves are better than any of their gringo rivals.
Business Class catering is very nicely presented and LAN’s cutlery and china looks very distinctive and stylish. What’s on the plate is also attractively presented but is unquestionably airline food. Economy catering is typically better than most rivals but on some legs servings can be unexpectedly small. LAN’s catering shows signs of economising and does not match premium airlines, but considering the fares it’s often surprising how lavish it is at all.
LAN has recently modernised its entertainment system and is progressively installing individual seat back in-flight entertainment TV screens in all classes. Their system has up to 47 films and 127 TV shows, sitcoms and games. For Spanish speakers their entertainment is one of the best in the sky but English speakers are well catered to as well. There are 10 audio channels and 750 music CD’s to listen to. Smaller aircraft have fewer offerings with dropdown TV screens showing a single movie. Their in-flight magazine is standard stuff – articles about far off places most people will never go to and sycophantic articles about advertisers dressed up as journalism.
In a continent renown for providing awful ground service, LAN does a good job and stands out. Staff are dressed in a very nice uniform, polite, efficient and baggage transfers are conducted reliably. Chile’s baggage handlers are saints compared to their co-workers in other countries who seem to have been recruited straight from jails. Baggage theft and mishandling happens throughout South America, but typically not in Chile.
LAN recently axed its First Class and redefined it as Premium Business class, while introducing a Premium Economy class. There really was little difference between their First and Business anyway, so no one will miss it. LAN’s new Premium Business class seats are very nice. Seats fold out into 100% flatbeds and are a considerable improvement on their old seats and those of rivals. The feel of the cabin is that of sophistication rather than luxury and is designed to appeal to business travellers rather than celebrities. LAN’s VIP Salon’s are nice but tend towards resembling cafes. They use a variety of partner airline lounges around the world which vary considerably.
LAN is a better choice than most rivals on long distance flights but is usually pricier. Cabins are definitely more pleasant and cleaner than rivals which explains why in countries like Argentina, LAN has a better reputation than the local carriers. LAN’s entertainment system together with nice meals will make long flights seem shorter and baggage transfers and reliable fleet take dramas out of a trip. LAN is worth paying more for. Premium Economy is excellent for bigger build passengers on longer flights.
LAN is a member of One World so a LANPASS membership will come in handy the world over. Like all airline loyalty schemes points are worthless and a lot of travel is required to justify it. A typical ticket from Santiago to Buenos Aires for example will accrue points to the value of only $2.50. Even though all schemes are generally useless, LAN’s has not been as well developed at others and lags behind. LAN is completely metricated and points are called Kilometres.
LAN staff are proud to be working for the most prestigious airline in Latin America and it shows. Staff are diligent and management are expected to perform as well as those they manage. While looking at cutting costs the airline does not screw its staff the way US carriers do. The airline has a reputation for not being corrupt, unlike many in the region. Management and employees enjoy better relations than rivals.
North and South American airlines operate in an intensely competitive market and managers are constantly searching for cuts which typically stretch to fleet maintenance and pilot pay; however LAN enjoys a good reputation and is less guilty than others at doing this. Aircraft are well maintained and crews are perfectly trained. The airline has been involved in incidents but the last fatal one was in 1991.
Latin America’s most prestigious airline providing good service at the right price.
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