Carrying more passengers than any other airline in South America, LATAM was created a decade ago when LAN Chile and TAM merged. An immediate goal was to unify and elevate the passenger experience, and while the ground product, including the glorious new lounge in Santiago, was the first element to be undertaken, LATAM ultimately released its stylish new 777—in the midst of the pandemic.
Two years on, I took the flagship 777 for a spin, to see how it stacks up on a global stage. For most people traveling from the U.S. to South America, and in particular Brazil, there are limited options, with the major domestic carriers dominating the routes, but LATAM remains a large presence in the Miami region.
I was flying from São Paulo, one of the two beating hearts of LATAM’s network (the other being Santiago). International flights depart from Sao Paulo/Guarulhos’ modern Terminal 3, and though large, it’s simply appointed with a handful of shops, restaurants and lounges. Happily, LATAM has one of the largest lounges in the airport, and as a former Oneworld carrier facility is busy, as it still accepts passengers from Qatar Airways, British Airways and Delta.
The lounge offers plenty of seating, the best and most comfortable of which faces the main promenade. When I was there, gloves had to be worn to handle food and drink, with the lounge staff following Covid protocols. The airline offers sparkling wine in proper champagne flutes, as well as a range of South American reds and whites. There’s a well-stocked bar and a nice range of hot and cold dishes, including Brazil’s popular snack pão de queijo. Many of the lounge’s functions were closed when I visited, including the cinema and quiet rooms, but overall this was a perfectly suitable place to spend an hour before boarding.
Having flown in the previous incarnation of the Thompson Vantage XL seat a few years ago, I had fairly low expectations. And while press images usually sell a dream, I wasn’t expecting the new cabin to live up to the hype. However, I was incredibly impressed on boarding. The cabin was dimly lit, a welcome level for a midnight departure.
Surrounded by high walls in a staggered 1x2x1 arrangement, the forward-facing seats are large, offering a lot of real estate per passenger. However, because of the pitch, they feel quite close to one another. And while the seat transforms into a fully flat long bed with a large footwell, on reclining approximately half of your body is situated in the footwell, making it seem claustrophobic. Perhaps just an extra inch would have made the arrangement feel more spacious.
That said, the seats are well designed, with the back walls dressed in a natural fabric and the facing walls adorned with a wavelike 3D finish. Mood lighting adds a designer touch, along with black marble finishes on the side tables and brushed bronze trim.
LATAM’s food and drink wasn’t as great as I had hoped. As this was a night flight, the airline offered a quick “one tray” service in which all courses are brought together. Considering that most of the airline’s flagship flights are overnight, with a flight time exceeding 10 hours, a proper dinner service would seem to be warranted. There’s no dine-on-demand offering, either.
The food itself hadn’t changed much since 2019, and the predictable beef, fish, pasta and vegetarian courses were hearty but only adequately presented. The wine list, however, was impressive.
LATAM is a suitable carrier, on par with North American airlines. Every seat offers aisle access and a comfortable bed with a decent mattress protector, blanket and pillows, but there are some areas for improvement. The staff was hit-and-miss, with some of the crew absolute gems and others not really caring. There does need to be more consistency here. Sadly there is no WiFi, but there is in-seat power and USB charging. That said, the ground product is great, and the flights not badly priced. LATAM still has a way to go to reach an international standard, but it will do for a long-haul trip.