DC to Dubai and Tokyo via… Santiago?: Review: TAM Economy Class – Sao Paulo to New York JFK

Introduction
Planning
TAM Economy Class New York JFK – Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro
Santiago
LAN Economy Class Santiago – Sao Paulo
TAM Economy Class Sao Paulo – New York JFK
United BusinessFirst Denver to Tokyo Seattle (Emergency Landing)
United BusinessFirst on the 787 Seattle to Tokyo
Cathay Pacific Regional Business Class Tokyo Narita – Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific “The Wing” Business Class Lounge Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific Business Class Hong Kong – Dubai
Dubai, Day 1  (Traiteur Brunch, Park Hyatt Dubai, Burj Khalifa, Atlantis Palm Islands)
Dubai, Day 2 (Shark Dive at Dubai Aquarium, Burj Al Arab, 360)
Cathay Pacific Business Class Dubai – Hong Kong – Tokyo Haneda


After transiting through transfer security at Sao Paulo’s Guarulhos Airport, I headed to the United Club where I had a quick drink before heading down to the gate to board a TAM Airlines B777-300 bound for JFK.

TAM Airlines (JJ) 8080
Sao Paulo (GRU) – New York (JFK) 

Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER
Seat: 20A (Economy Class)

Sunday, June 16
10:30PM – 7:00AM (+1 day)
Duration: 9:30

As I boarded the aircraft, it was immediately apparent to me that the onboard hard product was substantially different than the somewhat dated interior of TAM’s A330-200 fleet, which I’ve flown long-haul three times before, including my outbound trip a few days earlier.

What we had here was a brand, spankin’ new B777-300ER.  The interior was sparkling, but my enthusiasm was short-lived as I realized that this particular aircraft was configured in a ten-abreast fashion (3-4-3) instead of the nine-abreast way that other 77W’s in the fleet indicated.  After the first and business cabins, there was a small, mini-cabin of about five “Space +” rows, followed by the high-density coach cabin.

Economy Class Cabin on TAM B777-300ER

Economy Class Cabin on TAM B777-300ER

Row 20 on TAM B777-300ER

Row 20 on TAM B777-300ER

I settled into my seat, 20A – an exit row, window seat.  I pre-booked TAM’s “Space +” seat, which gives you extra legroom for $75.  Given my height, I can easily justify this expense in the name of comfort.

My Seat - 20A on a TAM B777-300ER

My Seat – 20A on a TAM B777-300ER

Plenty of legroom

Plenty of legroom

This seat should have been the perfect economy class seat for sleeping.  I mean, since it was an exit row, it had over four feet of legroom.  The window was non-existent, so I had a flat wall on which I could lean my head to sleep.  In theory, this was a perfect setup.

However, that was not the case.  Why is that?

The new, slimline seat.  These seats are awful.  While tolerable for a shorter flight, they are almost inhumane for a ten hour flight.  It’s like sitting on a board.  Ultimately, I was more comfortable on my outbound flight – one which I had no legroom, but the seat was cushioned very well.  I sincerely struggled to sleep on this flight simply because I was so uncomfortable.  My butt hated me, and I had to continuously get up and move around because I couldn’t take sitting down another minute.

Sadly, this is the way airlines are going now.  The slimline seat saves carriers 1-2″ inches in seat pitch, allowing them to add more rows to the plane.  In the case of a B777-300ER, with a 10-abreast configuration, that translate very conservatively to an extra 2-3 rows, or 20-30 seats – that’s a lot of extra revenue we’re talking.  So you can see the business reason as to why the airlines (almost all of them) are going this way.  Unfortunately, it is at the cost of the passenger comfort.

I was able to sleep on-and-off for about three hours during the ten hour flight after watching Life of Pi on the very good Inflight Entertainment System.

Inflight Entertainment System

Inflight Entertainment System

Again, the dinner choice was beef or pasta.  As per usual in economy, I ordered the pasta.  It was decently tasty for an economy meal.  The desert was delicious – not sure what it as, but it was good.

Dinner

Dinner

Breakfast was served about 90 minutes out of New York, and as luck would have it, all the commotion for breakfast coincided with one of the few times during the night that I had actually dozed off.   The breakfast offering once again consisted of fruit, a roll, and a toasted sandwich, though this one was actually appetizing and pretty good, unlike my flight from New York to Rio.

Breakfast

Breakfast

We touched down in New York as scheduled, and arrived at the gate at 7:00am on the dot – just as scheduled.  Impressive punctuality right there, TAM.

Overall, the flight was fine.  The slimline seats that I’ve complained about are becoming an industry standard, so this isn’t so much a TAM problem as it is an industry issue for long-haul, economy flights.   Other than that, the plane truly was in great shape and was aesthetically pleasing.  The service was very good, the flight attendants were cheerful and friendly, and the food was decent.  Once again, for the price point at which I booked this flight, I really cannot complain.

DC to Dubai and Tokyo via… Santiago?: Review: LAN Economy Class – Santiago to Sao Paulo

Introduction
Planning
TAM Economy Class New York JFK – Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro
Santiago
LAN Economy Class Santiago – Sao Paulo
TAM Economy Class Sao Paulo – New York JFK
United BusinessFirst Denver to Tokyo Seattle (Emergency Landing)
United BusinessFirst on the 787 Seattle to Tokyo
Cathay Pacific Regional Business Class Tokyo Narita – Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific “The Wing” Business Class Lounge Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific Business Class Hong Kong – Dubai
Dubai, Day 1  (Traiteur Brunch, Park Hyatt Dubai, Burj Khalifa, Atlantis Palm Islands)
Dubai, Day 2 (Shark Dive at Dubai Aquarium, Burj Al Arab, 360)
Cathay Pacific Business Class Dubai – Hong Kong – Tokyo Haneda


I was not looking forward to this segment of the trip simply because it was breaking pretty much every rule I set for myself when it comes to earning miles by flying.  Simply put:  it earned no mileage.

None.

Normally, I would not write about a short flight in economy class, but since this was my first time flying LAN, I decided to write about it.

I’d originally booked my ticket in November through Orbitz, and TAM changed the schedule a number of times.  Ultimately, for the Santiago – Sao Paulo segment, I ended up on a TAM-marketed, but LAN-operated flight.  What does that mean?  Well, based on the mileage earning rules for United, the miles get awarded based on the award chart set for the Star Alliance operating carrier.  In this case, LAN Chile is not even a Star Alliance partner, so that meant no United miles.   My backup plan was to credit these miles to my American account, but its mileage rule is that the award chart is dictated by the OneWorld partner airline who is the marketing carrier.  In this case, TAM – who is not a OneWorld carrier.  So essentially, I was in no-man’s land as far as mileage earning was concerned.

Anyway, I arrived in plenty time to deal with any potential complications that this codeshare ticket may have.  As it turns out, there were no  problems, but I did have to check in with LAN, as the TAM personnel at SCL were non-existent.   My next problem was that I was holding a ticket on LAN Chile – an airlines whose inclusion in the OneWorld alliance does absolutely nothing for my Star Alliance Gold status as far as lounge access was concerned.

Santiago is without a doubt, OneWorld country.  LAN dominates the airport along with its partner airlines.

Luckily, I recently acquired a one-day American Admirals pass from a friend, and was ultimately able to enter the Admirals Club at Santiago with my LAN ticket.

 

American Airlines Admiral Club in Santiago

American Airlines Admiral Club in Santiago

Admirals Club SCL spread

Admirals Club SCL spread

This was a nice space, and was barely even populated.  I almost had the lounge to myself.  It was a very comfortable space to pass a couple hours and get some work done.

LAN Chile Airlines (LA) 750
Santiago (SCL) to Sao Paulo (GRU)
Aircraft: Boeing 767-300ER
Seat: 12C (Economy)
Sunday, June 16
3:25PM – 8:25PM
Duration: 4:00

My first impressions upon boarding my LAN 767 were that the interior was brand new.  I walked through the extremely spacious and sparkling business class to my bulked aisle seat in the first row of the economy section.  From here I was able to look into the business class cabin for much of the flight.

My aisle, bulkhead seat 12C

My aisle, bulkhead seat 12C

Plenty of legroom - not really restricted by bulkhead

Plenty of legroom – not really restricted by bulkhead

Now, I’ve seen pictures of LAN’s business class before, but in person, it really did look like a fantastic product.

 

Business class from my seat

Business class from my seat

The economy product wasn’t too shabby either, as it featured the new, slimline seats and Panasonic IFE systems similar to what United has been installing in its international fleet.  The interior of the plane was very fresh looking, and provided a very good initial impression of the airline.

Entertainment System

Entertainment System

The meal consisted of a sandwich and some bread – not the highlight of the flight, as it was pretty tasteless.

A blah sandwich and an okay dessert

A blah sandwich and an okay dessert

After a little less than four hours of flight time, we touched down in Sao Paulo, and I proceeded through transfer security.

Flight path:  SCL-GRU

Flight path: SCL-GRU

Overall, I was pretty impressed with LAN.  Though I was still upset I didn’t earn any miles for this portion of my trip, I was definitely glad for the opportunity to try LAN.  Maybe next time I fly LAN, it will be in the front cabin to somewhere really cool – Easter Island, anyone?

 

DC to Dubai and Tokyo via… Santiago?: Introduction

Introduction
Planning
TAM Economy Class New York JFK – Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro
Santiago
LAN Economy Class Santiago – Sao Paulo
TAM Economy Class Sao Paulo – New York JFK
United BusinessFirst Denver to Tokyo Seattle (Emergency Landing)
United BusinessFirst on the 787 Seattle to Tokyo
Cathay Pacific Regional Business Class Tokyo Narita – Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific “The Wing” Business Class Lounge Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific Business Class Hong Kong – Dubai
Dubai, Day 1  (Traiteur Brunch, Park Hyatt Dubai, Burj Khalifa, Atlantis Palm Islands)
Dubai, Day 2 (Shark Dive at Dubai Aquarium, Burj Al Arab, 360)
Cathay Pacific Business Class Dubai – Hong Kong – Tokyo Haneda


If you read the title and found yourself wondering, “uhhh… what?”  Don’t worry, it’s not you.

It’s me.

Over the next few weeks, I will be chronicling my adventures through three different continents, over a dozen flights, and of course all the fun I have in the different cities I’ll be visiting.  This trip has ended up being a rather complex one to plan and organize, so I will  make  separate post that details how this thing ultimately came to fruition.  Planning for this trip has ultimately been in the works for well over a year thanks to the continual delays of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

United 787-8 Dreamliner

United’s 787-8 Dreamliner

I will detail parts of my trip that I find interesting — especially the international flights in premium cabins.  I’ll also highlight some of the other flights, possibly some hotels, and definitely my activities in the various destinations on this trip.  I may however, choose not to mention in detail the shorter, domestic flights — especially the one(s) in economy class  unless something unusual happens.

The path of my journey:  DCA-JFK-GIG-SCL-GRU-JFK, LGA-DEN-NRT-HKG-DXB-HND, NRT-DEN-IAD

The path of my journey: DCA-JFK-GIG-SCL-GRU-JFK, LGA-DEN-NRT-HKG-DXB-HND, NRT-DEN-IAD

This is my first trip report that will be covered on this blog, so please bear with me.  I’ll try to make the updates as timely as possible, but I also want to enjoy my vacation.  So content will be added, but I’m not sure at what pace I’ll be able to publish it.

Enjoy!