On our 2012 trip to Chile we were told multiple times that we had to see Patagonia, and that November was a good time that balanced decent weather and crowds. In the intervening years we’d almost booked Thanksgiving trips twice, but for one reason or another, ended up elsewhere. Then in July we had read about a good deal using Virgin Atlantic points to get business class seats on the direct Delta flight from Atlanta to Santiago. Intrigued, we started investigating some options in southern Chile, and eventually settled on an itinerary that would take us to the famous Torres del Paine park in Southern Patagonia, then up to the lake district around Puerto Montt in Northern Patagonia.
Of course, in October 2019 there was widely reported civil unrest within Chile. We read through forums and tried to get a feel for reality versus reporting; in the end we did change hotels in Santiago (our original was 2 blocks from the main square where protests were centered…) but otherwise felt safe going. Within cities there were signs of the protests (every bank was boarded up, lots of graffiti, and some damage to bus stops, etc) but we never encountered anything dangerous. Chile is a beautiful country – we were glad we could return, and there is still so much more to see.
A few random notes:
- Paper napkins are so small in Chile!
- Most of the orange juice tasted like bad Tang.
- Lots of construction at the Santiago airport, and the walk to the outer satellites where Delta is located is really long.
Flights on Delta
The Delta One business class seat is rather tight, and Eric felt crammed against the fuselage. Surprisingly there was little seat storage except two small pockets, so you end up leaving things on the table which is a bit slippery. Seat is a rather hard for sleeping, you definitely want to use the blanket as padding.
Food was surprisingly good – salad was fresh (and not iceberg lettuce!), and the beef was well done but still tender. For some reason, the food wasn’t as nice leaving from Santiago as it was leaving from Atlanta. Service was very cheerful (on board and before the flight too, even in the lounge), but inconsistent. For example, Eric never got a menu on the flight down to Santiago (although Leandra got one), and both times the listed wines were wrong. Even better, the flight attendants apparently didn’t notice a passenger was in the bathroom when the plane landed in Atlanta!
Flights on LATAM
We had three one-way flights with LATAM, from Santiago to Puerto Natales, Punta Arenas to Puerto Montt, and Puerto Montt to Santiago.
In Santiago and Punta Arenas the priority lane for One World let us skip the 40 or so people waiting to check a bag. For some reason the LATAM representative in Puerto Montt insisted that the priority line was only for international flights, and directed us to use the automated check-in system instead.
The LATAM flights were fine, pretty similar to domestic US flights. Given the small carry-on sizes there was a good amount of bin space available on most of the flights too. For all the flights we booked an aisle and window seat and we lucked out with an open seat between us once. On the second flight, the plane was half full but the woman between us didn’t want to move to an empty row. Ah well.
For the Puerto Montt to Santiago flight, upon landing we were bussed from the plane to the terminal baggage claim, which took an extra ten minutes.
Delta’s Atlanta F terminal lounge was quite comfortable, reasonably quiet both on our Sunday night, and then on early Thursday morning. They offered a nice food selection with a variety of salad options, two soups, and two hot buffet items. The outdoor deck would be nice in warmer weather.
We also tried the E terminal lounge, which was pleasant but definitely a little shabbier in comparison.
Both the Punta Arenas and Puerto Montt priority lounges were small, but had some food (cereal and cookies) and a coffee machine. Both had unreliable WiFi.
small lounge in Punta Arenas
We had ~7 hour layover in Santiago, so we thankfully we had access to ‘The Lounge’ through Priority Pass. They had a few different snacks, plus still and sparkling wine with plenty of seating options and outlets. WiFi access was good.