- Read tips for getting the lowest fare
- A bad start on the ground is alleviated on board
- Nothing beats a Polynesian welcome
Easter Island (Rapa Nui to the locals) had been on my radar for quite some time, and I finally got the opportunity to come face-to-face with the world-renowned moai statues and Polynesian cultural history earlier this year.
First of all, I had to make my way to Santiago in Chile. Let’s take the story from there.
- Airline: LATAM Airlines (largest airline in Latin America, formerly LAN Airlines)
- Flight number: LA 841
- Route: Santiago de Chile - Easter Island
- Duration: 5 hours 10 mins
- Cabin: Economy Class
- When: March 2019
- Cost: $273
- Aircraft: Boeing 787-9
- Seat number: 26A
- Overnight flight: No
- Meal included: Yes
- Amenity kit provided: No
- Pyjamas provided: No
- Inflight Wi-Fi: Yes
- Baggage: Carry on, plus 2 x 23kg checked baggage
Booking the flight
I didn’t have to waste any time deciding which airline to fly, since only one airline flies into Easter Island – LATAM. Nor were there many flights to choose from on my selected date, 25th March. On some days there are two scheduled flights, on others only one.
Three months ahead I started checking fare comparison sites like Skyscanner, and the best deal I could see cost around $550 AUD for the one-way Santiago-Easter Island leg. Expensive!
My solution? I logged in directly to the LATAM website, and instead of choosing the Australia/English language option I selected Chile as my location. This means you have to navigate the site in Spanish, but it’s not that difficult (all flight booking sites use the same selection conventions, so you can work out what you’re meant to be doing) and well worth the effort.
The amount I paid in Chilean Pesos came to about $273 AUD, about half what I would have paid on the Australian version of the site. So brush up your Spanish and score a serious discount!
LATAM is part of the Oneworld Alliance – earn Qantas points
Quote your Qantas Frequent Flyer number when you book your Santiago-Easter Island flight, and earn Qantas points and status credits – 500 points/20 status credits for Discount Economy, 1000 points/20 status credits for Economy.
My airport and boarding experience at the airport at 4.45 am wasn’t great. It’s not the best time of day to fly, but LATAM has a monopoly on this route, so I didn’t have much choice.
I checked in the night before, and despite the fact that I was super early the airport was very busy, and it took a long time to drop off my bags.
Then there was a lack of clear signage indicating where to go next. I eventually found my way to the 3rd floor to go through departure procedures, only to discover that I needed a special form (which LATAM should have given me) to go to Easter Island.
Back I went to the 2nd floor to get it. This was not the sort of service I appreciate at any time, but especially not at that time of the morning.
The boarding queue was very long, in spite of the fact that the flight was only half full. Luckily there were plenty of seating options in the gate lounge, because it took nearly half and hour to get everyone on board. (I took this opportunity to fill up on doughnuts and chocolate caliente, just like the locals, many of whom took large boxes of doughnuts on board.)
Thumbs up for the cabin and seats – starting to feel better
Things definitely started to improve once I was on board. The cabin was very modern-looking, with mood-regulating lights which suited the colour palette of the seat upholstery.
Seats were quite spacious (for Economy) and had an adjustable headrest. And the now rare luxury of a half-full flight meant there was plenty of room to spread out without annoying the neighbours.
At this stage I’m starting to forgive and forget the bag drop, immigration and boarding mess-up.
Entertaining safety video
Most airline safety videos are a big yawn, and I don’t usually pay much attention to them (though I probably should). But LATAM’s safety video was actually quite clever and funny, and I felt myself begin to smile and relax.
And while we’re on the video theme, the movie selection was good as well.
We’ve all been on flights where the timing of the meals seems specifically designed to interfere with sleeping time, but on this flight it was just right. Breakfast – a choice of ham sandwich or omelette with frittata, plus crackers and fruit – was served an hour into the flight. The frittata was surprisingly good.
And that left me over three hours to nap after my 3 am wake-up call.
Smooth flight with amazing sunrise
The thing about flying backwards in time (heading west towards the dateline) is that time can seem to stand still. I really should have been sleeping, and the flight was so smooth there was nothing to prevent me except the incredible colours of the three-hour-long sunrise playing outside my window.
Landing in Polynesia is extraordinary
There’s something about landing on a Polynesian island that is magically different from anywhere else. The runway at Mataveri airport is really short, and for a moment it looked as though we were going to land in the ocean.
Once we disembarked, we were free to wander about on the runway (no more planes expected) and people were taking selfies with the plane and the pilots.
We had lei flower garlands placed around our necks. I could feel the island vibe right away. Welcome to Polynesia!
There’s nothing I can say that will affect your choice of who to fly with when you go to Easter Island, since a choice is the one thing you don’t have.
But be prepared for slow and disorganised ground staff in Santiago, and for that bad starting impression to quickly fade away once you board the plane (especially if you’re lucky enough to be on a half-full flight, like me). The seats were comfortable, the cabin staff were pleasant and efficient, and the food was tasty and well-timed.
Overall, it was really good value Economy Class experience.