When travelling to South America for business, my company often books me on LATAM. Find out why I would rather avoid crossing the Atlantic in LATAM’S Boeing 777-300. Here’s a trip report of my recent flight from Sao Paulo to Frankfurt.
LATAM Check-in Sao Paulo
Traffic is really unpredictable in Sao Paulo. Therefore I decided to take an early taxi to the airport. In retrospect that precaution wasn’t necessary on this particular Friday afternoon – but as they say: Better safe than sorry!
LATAM operates its international flights from terminal 3 at Guarulhos International Airport. I went straight over to the check-in area to drop-off my luggage. The lady at the check-in desk was friendly and efficient. After merely a minute I was done and proceeded to the security checkpoint and immigration counter. Again there were no queues so that I could pass immediately. So, just a few minutes after arriving at the airport, I was already airside. The only question was: What to do with all that spare time now?!
LATAM Business Class Lounge at Guarulhos International Airport
Luckily LATAM operates an excellent Lounge at Guarulhos International Airport.
The LATAM VIP Lounge really has it all: Nice atmosphere, various seating areas, delicious food and drinks as well as a nice view on the apron.
Showers are available too:
Boarding flight JJ 8070
One hour prior to departure, flight JJ 8070 was ready for boarding. Given that I had spent quite some time at the airport by then, I went over to the gate immediately. Time to fly home!
There was a separate entrance for priority passengers that led directly into the business class cabin (Gate 319 on the Picture):
LATAM business class cabin and seat
Until then, my LATAM premium experience was quite pleasant: Check-in was smooth, the lounge is great and boarding was pleasant too. But when I entered the plane, I once again knew why I choose to avoid LATAM if possible.
While LATAM comes up with a decent business class cabin in its newer planes, the Boeing Triple Seven is still equipped with TAM’s old premium cabin. In total there are 56 angle-flat business class seats in the front of the plane, which are arranged in a 2-3-2 configuration.
There’s no way LATAM could compete with other Airlines, such as China Airlines or even Lufthansa with this old-fashioned business class cabin. But the thing is: They don’t really have to. As only a handful of other airlines serve South America from Europe on a frequent basis, all LATAM has to do is keep its prices down in order to offer the most economic option.
When LATAM – or more specifically TAM Brazil – decided to remove first class from its planes, they increased the seat pitch in business class. Additionally, ottomans were installed which made the business class seat more comfortable. The seat still comes with a slight angle, but surprisingly, that doesn’t bother me too much. I always sleep very well on LATAM flights between Europe and South America despite the missing flat-bad option.
The 2-3-2 configuration is a big disadvantage though. With these many seats in the business class cabin, there’s hardly any storage room left. Prepare to store all your belongings in the overhead bins! Another inconvenience is the lack of privacy from your seat neighbour. As is the fact that no matter which seat you choose, you’ll always have to climb over the person next to you – or the other way around – in order to get up.
Welcome on board
Shortly after taking my seat, a flight attendant approached me and presented herself by name. She crouched down in order to be at eye level with me. A really nice gesture!
As a welcome drink she offered water, orange juice as well as Chilean or Brazilian sparkling wine.
Prior to take-off the flight attendant wrote down my menu preferences for dinner and breakfast. Having already eaten in the lounge, I skipped dinner and was looking forward to get some early sleep.
Inflight GRU to FRA
After a week full of meetings and business dinners in Sao Paulo, I was too tired to even keep my eyes open during taxi and take-off. As soon as the fasten-seatbelt sign was switched-off I turned my seat into (almost) lying-position and fell asleep on the spot.
When I opened my eyes again, we had already reached Europe and the flight attendants were preparing breakfast. A few minutes later they offered me a coffee and brought my breakfast plate:
Arriving at Frankfurt Airport
On arrival at Frankfurt, the plane parked at a remote position. It’s always annoying to board a transfer bus after a long-haul flight, when all I want is to leave the airport as quickly as possible.
At least they sent a separate bus for business class passengers which drove us a non-Schengen arrival gate. Thanks to the automated immigration lanes at Frankfurt Airport, passing immigration has become quick and easy. It took me less than a minute to officially re-enter my home country.
To sum it up: LATAM’s business class product is below common standard in almost every aspect. Even the good lounge and friendly service can’t make up for the shortcomings. Flight times are ideal though, so that I always sleep very well on my flights between Brazil and Germany. I guess that’s the most important thing when travelling for business. That’s why I still consider LATAM tolerable. But it’s still nowhere near being good.