Airlines

Mendoza Trip Report #3 –MIA -(Caracas?)- SCL

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Checking in for our LAN flight was hilarious. Both representatives were helping people when we walked up, but we didn’t have to wait long and soon the male representative was pulling up our itinerary.

When it came to the question of how many bags we were checking, all my crankiness about having limited myself to only what I could fit in a carry-on vanished.

“How many bags will you be checking?”

“None.”

“What?” <comes around the counter and stares in slight disbelief at our two suitcases.> “Let me just pick this up and make sure it will fit the weight limits. Yep, you’re fine.”

His expression of both shock and humor during the rest of the check in process had us highly amused.

Security was much less amusing. I opted out (as I always do). They were civil about it, but it took awhile to get someone to come do the “female assist.” She shows up, panics a little bit about carrying my suitcase, laptop case, the bin with my laptop, and the bin with my shoes , coat, and toiletries to the pat down area. She finally settled, much to my chagrin, with putting my laptop bag on top of my jacket and then putting all of that on top of my laptop. <crack>

She was impersonal enough, but gave me one of the most thorough pat downs I’ve had in awhile. I learned a couple of months ago that wearing a dress through security reduces the invasiveness of the pat down. Because they don’t want to risk lifting your skirt, they have you take a slightly different stance (more like a slight lunge) and pat the front and back of your legs, thus skipping the “moving up your thigh until I meet resistance.”

Not this time. She managed to “hit resistance” on the front and back of each leg 😛 I felt worse for my friend, because they became extremely irritated that they had two back to back female opt-outs and were more brusque with her than me.

Tip: if opting-out, make sure all valuables, like passport or jewelry are in something and not on top. She had to wait outside security for 10 minutes after her luggage had gone through and someone could easily have grabbed her passport and walked off since they wouldn’t let me take it with my stuff.

We finally headed to the Club America lounge, although having spent an extra 25 min waiting in security, we had only enough time to grab some water and use the restroom. Not a huge hardship as the lounge is very basic. Decent view of the Miami skyline, nice bathrooms, but the food wasn’t very appetizing. At 7AM, potato chips, egg salad sandwiches, and Milano cookies aren’t very appetizing.

View from Club America Lounge Miami

When we arrived at the gate we discovered the non-stop flight we’d booked had acquired a stop in Caracas. Once on the flight I was hoping that explained the amenity kit, the likes of which I’d never seen.

It contained socks, ear plugs, an eye mask, a plastic wrapped pen, and a cheap bag. No toothpaste, lotion, chapstick or anything. But I figured since it was only at 3 hour flight, we might get a better goody bag on the next leg.

The business class cabin was almost full and we were the only non-spanish speakers and probably the only Americans. We had seats in the last row, 5. They were good, lie-flat but on the narrow side. The armrests were only about 3 inches wide which means you’re extremely close to your seatmate. The entertainment system was probably the best part, a large screen and lots of options to choose from, including several full seasons of tv shows.

The fasten seat belt sign was turned off quickly, before we’d even reached a cruising altitude, but they didn’t start serving breakfast for another 45 minutes. They came by with luke warm towels beforehand, but did not offer any beverages until the meal. Our choices were “plain omelet” or meat and cheese. We both chose the omelet and coffee. We’d toyed with the idea of ordering some champagne to kick off our vacation (they had Roederer), but there was no offer of any alcoholic beverages and we decided to wait.

I would have liked some more coffee though, but they never came round with refills for the remainder of the 3 hour flight and I didn’t feel like pushing my call button.

When we landed in Caracas, Venezuela, there was some confusion about whether those continuing on to Santiago had to deplane and we were halfway down the aisle with all our luggage when the announcement came that we should stay. <Phew> It would have been fine if we’d had to go through transit security there, but we just felt a lot safer staying on the plane!

The one part of the deplaning process I really appreciated was the flight attendants kept the curtains shut and blocked the doors to allow the biz cabin to deplane without everyone from economy surging up while you’re trying to get your stuff together. Makes for a much less stressful experience.

We were on the ground for about 40 minutes and when the plane was reboarding we were offered more juice options for a pre-departure beverage as well as a nut/cranberry mixture.

They served lunch an hour after takeoff, this time with warmer hot towels and more friendly service. My choice of shrimp wasn’t available by the time they got to me, so I went with the chicken which was surprisingly good.

Wine was on the cart for lunch, so I started with a 2009 Malbec Gran Reserva from Mendoza. Their wine presentation was one of the things they did best. Your food may arrive all at once on a tray from the cart, but the wine is presented, described, and then a tasting poured before they fill your glass.

When they came around with the dessert cart we chose the fresh fruit and tried a red blend from Chile next. Everyone else in the cabin immediately went to sleep after lunch which surprised us, since it was only a 5 hour midday flight. We stayed up and sipped our wine and chatted about our trip plans, switching to the Roederer champagne after the red blend.

We wound up pushing our call buttons for refills on water and wine about every 45 minutes as they never came around on their own. During our 4th small glass (in 3 hours) the purser came back to chat with us about where we were going and what our plans were. It seemed pretty obvious that she was really checking on our sobriety. We both have high tolerance, so 4 small glasses in, we had only begun to relax and were perhaps more articulate at that point, not less.

An hour and a half before landing they served us a small snack (not on the menu) of two turkey and brie sandwich halves. I’ll admit, I was surprised at the small portions and lack of food offerings on such a long flight. Comparing it to United Domestic First or Business for a 5-6 hour flight, the only way it was better was the wine presentations.

The best part of the whole flight was coming in over the Andes at sunset. Wow. We knew the trip would be good, but this was prettier than we dreamed!

Next: Mendoza Trip Report #4 — Holiday Inn Santiago Airport 

Previous Posts:

Mendoza Trip Report #1 — IAD-MIA
Mendoza Trip Report #2 — Element by Westin Miami Airport

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Living for the little (and big things) that make life so fun, especially mistake deals and crazy last minute weekend mileage runs across the world. www.twitter.com/klatravel

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