Aircraft Type: 777-300ER
Class: Business Class
Date: January 2019
LATAM‘s 777 has long been on our radar to experience. While we had experienced the 787-8 operated by LAN back in 2015, the 777 offered a very different experience, with a traditional 2 x 3 x 2 configuration in business class with the ‘dreaded’ middle seat. While the airline has announced a new cabin product, which is in the process of being rolled out, we wanted to see what LATAM offered in terms of ground product and service.
On the ground
Departing on New Year’s Day should have meant a quiet Sao Paulo GRU airport, however, at 9.30pm the airport was very busy. LATAM uses Terminal 3 for its long haul routes, and there is a dedicated check in area for the airline’s premium frequent fliers and business class passengers.
Situated in Zone F, the check in zone almost feels temporary, being tacked on to the end of the normal check-in counters, with luggage being manually taken from the check in desks to the conveyor belts of the main check in zones.
Sadly the check in zone even for premium was incredibly busy, it took almost 30 minutes to check in our bags and receive the boarding passes. While the check-in agents were very apologetic, we felt this set up meant too little desks for what are quite densely configured long-haul aircraft (meaning a large business class churn every day, especially when most flights leave at the same time of day)
Check in complete however, we headed to the VIP lounge, after clearing security. Sadly GRU doesn’t offer a fast track through security, something that would make a difference to the passenger experience and should potentially be invested in. The LATAM lounge is situated on the top floor of Terminal 3’s departure area, alongside other lounges including American Express, the South African Airlines Star Alliance lounge and a handful of others.
LATAM’s second flagship lounge is impressive, and to be truthful… huge. It’s not however, daunting or vacuous. It’s clever zoning makes the whole space seem like a never ending residence, with cubby holes, and nooks to make yourself comfortable.
The design is a myriad of wooden paneling, rich stone monuments and leather, all centralised around a buffet-bar dining area rich with white marble finishes. The designers, Putman, a Parisian based studio have thought of a real business passengers needs. From chilled water on hand by the entrance for those wanting to grab and go, to lockers at the reception for unwanted luggage.
The lounge features a self service bar at one end, which is perhaps one of the best spots with large comfortable sofas and less passing footfall.
Then there is the main buffet area, which weirdly is one of the busiest areas although it doesn’t offer the most comfortable seats. There is a wide selection of food on offer, from the Brazilian classic Pão de Queijo to freshly prepared salads and sandwiches. There is also a substantial and high quality wine offering, and while not Champagne, the bubbles are excellent too.
As you dive deeper, the lounge offers showers, a sleeping room, large TV area a massive work desk and other areas including child friendly zones, and the large expansive balcony featuring relaxing chairs and power points throughout.
The boarding of the flight was announced approximately 60 minutes before departure, and the lounge is situated at least a 5-minute walk from any gate, let alone ours which was at the far end of the terminal.
Interestingly the queue for business passengers was already lengthy when we got there, but Brazil allows passengers over 60 priority anywhere, from the post office to the boarding gate, so if you are over 60, you should be able to access the priority line, meaning you board even before Business Class passengers.
LATAM’s 777 Business Class cabin offers a very spacious cabin environment, due to the older style seats. It’s a similar layout to the Turkish Airlines cabin, however the seats in the LATAM cabin certainly do feel older.
The seats are operated in a 2 x 3 x 2 configuration, with 4 rows in the forward cabin and 4 rows behind door 2, situated just in front of the economy cabin.
The cabin is fairly traditional in approach, but there are small tweaks which make the cabin feel more residential and actually reference the lounge experience like the wooden veneer on the bulkheads, or the black and white tiled walkways in Sao Paulo and Rio which adorn the floor of the restrooms.
While the best seats could be seen as the front rows, the positioning of the TV’s being above the eyeliner of the seats means that every passenger can watch what you are watching, so if you have obscure or embarrassing viewing habits, its best to avoid this row. We’d also suggest opting for the forward cabin, as during boarding, you avoid what seems like 10,000 passengers waking past, making settling in to your seat a little harder.
Yup. We braved it. The dreaded middle seat. First impressions, and something that doesn’t translate in the photos, is that the seat seems large and comfortable if a little dated. However, this is something the new 777 cabins will go very far to fix.
Each seat offers a large ottoman, an upgrade on the previous incarnation of the cabin, which makes a huge difference to the seat comfort. The seat doesn’t turn in to a fully flat bed, however, the slight slant to the seat actually makes the seat quite comfortable to sleep in.
However, one thing that does become apparent when fully reclined, the seat is quite narrow, and first appearances quickly dissipate. The feeling of the narrow seat increases for those in the middle seat. Luckily I had two passengers I knew either side, however, for a stranger, this would feel a little awkward.
There is a hidden secret to increase the seat width, with a single button to lower the armrest, giving an extra couple of inches of wiggle room.
While the seat is incredibly comfortable, and well-padded, storage is limited. There are just a few surfaces to keep personal belongings on, and space under the ottoman to keep small bags and personal items.
The Food & Drink
LATAM offers a fairly decent food and beverage offering. On boarding we were offered welcome drinks including Nicolas Feuillatte champagne.
The menu can be seen below, but what was interesting to see was that the airline had adopted a fast service, rather than a restaurant service concept to its dining. While the flight was departing at midnight, the cabin crew decided to offer all the courses at the same time on the same tray.
Ordinarily this wouldn’t phase us, in fact we would welcome the opportunity to sleep well, by having all courses delivered at the same time – and saving the lengthy approach to service, eating in to valuable sleeping time. However, for us, that only makes sense on 6-8 hour flights, but on a near 11 hour flight, this felt a little rushed, compounded by the fact there was no space for all courses on the tray, meaning juggling the multiple dishes became a little challenging.
So we opted for the roasted tomato soup, beef bourguignon with gratin potatoes and then a Haagen Dazs ice cream.
The soup was incredibly tasty, and served piping hot. It came with a selection of breads and the portion is fairly large. Seconds were even offered on the crew’s second run through the cabin. During the food service the lights were dimmed in the cabin, allowing those who wanted to sleep, to do so in comfort. A nice touch.
The beef wasn’t too bad, and the sauce was rich. While the presentation certainly wasn’t anything to write about, the taste was perfect and the beef fairly tender.
In comparison, the shrimp in cassava cream was tasty, rich in flavour and certainly the winning dish on the menu.
After dinner, trays were removed and chocolates handed out before getting some shut eye. While we mentioned earlier that the seats were narrow, they were also comfortable, meaning we got a very good nights sleep.
The menu included a breakfast card, which allowed passengers to preselect their breakfast. This meant for maximum sleep, which started with a hot towel to refresh as we woke up.
This followed by another tray service, which included scrambled eggs, hash brown and tomatoes, ‘pound cake’ which turned out to be two massive slices of chocolate cake, another traditional breakfast option in Brazil, and very tasty (so much so, we ended up having four slices) as well as a pastry and bread basket.
This included the option for an espresso, compared to the usual black filter coffee, which was a welcome addition.
LATAM offers an extensive entertainment option. The screen is fairly large (we didn’t have a tape measure this time, but it’s certainly competitive. However, the user experience is a little backward, having to use the remote control to select options, which sits in the seat armrest.
The airline also offers a wide range of magazines, newspapers and their in-flight magazine Vamos.
However, one thing we are looking forward to is the new business class cabin, with new seats and technology. Sadly the IFE system for my fellow passengers wasn’t the most reliable, pausing, freezing and automatically resetting every 15 minutes.
An amazing benefit to LATAM’s business class cabin is the huge comfortable pillow and massive duvet, both of which are comfortable, crisp and hotel-quality white.
Also waiting at the seat were water bottles and LATAM’s standard headphones, which haven’t changed since our flight 4 years prior.
The airline also offered a cool black and white amenity kit. which featured L’Occitane amenities as well as the traditional additions including toothbrush, eye mask, and pen.
It was very enlightening to see LATAM’s 777 product. While the hard product differs in comparison to the 787-8, and isn’t as modern, it is clear to see that the new hard product will certainly make a huge elevation to the carrier, and push it far above its core competition on similar markets. While the food service in our opinion could do with some embellishment, the overall product is certainly sound. The lounge in Sao Paulo is fantastic, the service is authentic and caring and with the addition of the new hard product which is coming on line this year, LATAM (with a few small tweaks) could be a serious international player.
The Big Picture