We woke up early this morning as we had an 8:30am flight from Santiago, Chile to Easter Island. Although technically a domestic flight, they treat it as an international flight with their check in and agricultural requirements, so they recommend you being there three hours early. Our cab driver from yesterday, Pierre, was waiting for us at our Hyatt Hotel Santiago for our 5:30am pickup. At this early hour there was little traffic, and we made it the airport in less than half an hour.
We had bought separate tickets on LAN Airlines (now called LATAM) from our American Airline’s tickets to Santiago, so we had flexibility in our schedule, allowing us to stay overnight in Santiago going down and flying back. We checked in for our flight after a bit of confusion as to where to check-in. After going to a couple different lines and getting a couple different answers, we found a friendly customer service agent who looked at or tickets and explained we would check in at the First Class international check-in area on the other side of the terminal, and on the second level up. Then we would come downstairs, and all the way back across the terminal and go thru the domestic gates – a bit confusing at best.
The First Class check-in area was upstairs and at the other end of the terminal, which seemed like an odd place to put it on the second floor with luggage and all. Anyway, we checked in showing our passports, and then walked all the back to where we started, by the domestic check-in and security section of the airport.
Security was fairly quick, and similar to the US, but without body scanners, and no ‘take off our shoe requirement’. My belt set off the metal detector, which it never does in the US, but after removing it and putting it thru the X-ray machine, I went thru again without issues. I waited for Steve (DOS) as he required a ‘pat down’ since he has a pacemaker and can’t go thru the metal detector.
Once thru security, we soon realized the separate domestic terminal was fairly simple (actually a bit dreary) with very few concession areas. They did have a Starbucks (with a line down the hall) and a couple other places, but not much else, and it was oddly arranged with different levels of gates scattered about.
We found a small Dunkin Donuts counter near our gate 20A, and while there was only one other customer in front of us, we waited a short eternity for our coffees and breakfast sandwiches. While waiting in line (the one man working did everything, cook, took money etc), we met a couple ladies from the US who were also traveling to Easter Island. We sat at adjacent tables and chatted a bit about our upcoming as well as past trips. We exchanged introductions (Stephanie and Valerie from Rochester) and gave them our card, and hoped to see them on the island, as they were also staying for four nights.
By 7:45am, our flight was already boarding, so we headed off to the adjacent gate, eyeing a really long line of people waiting to board. I felt just a wee bit guilty walking past everyone to the First Class boarding line which was empty. We proceeded down the boarding jet bridge, and we were soon aboard the LATAM Airways brand new Boeing 787, and we were immediately impressed with the plane, as well as the crew.
LAN configures their 787 Business-First cabin in a 2 X 2 X 2 configuration. While not the cube-style suites on American, the seats are a bit wider, and the pitch offers an amazing 75 inches of room! Like American, there are only two classes: Business(First) and Coach.
Scanning our fellow passengers as they boarded, It was clear that most people were tourists like us, heading off to Easter Island to check off an item on their ‘bucket list’, although some were visiting family or even natives of Easter Island no doubt.
On the five hour flight, we were served a nice breakfast. We had large individual TV screens, and the entertainment using the provided Bose headsets, made the flight seem quite fast and comfortable. I watched the movie “45 years” while having breakfast, and then paused it so I could nap for a couple hours, returning to the movie half an hour before landing. The drama is about a couple about to celebrate their 45th anniversary with a big party for friends, only to discover the husband learns of his former lover (possibly wife) has been found from 1962. They had been hiking in the Swiss Alps, and she was found ‘frozen’ all these years later. The wife becomes jealous and angry about his past secrets catching up to them and so on. Not a bad movie, but not that great either. I liked it because it was fairly simple, and took place in England. But I digress about the flight.
The seats on the 787 jet made in to a 180 degree flat bed, and we were provided an amenity kit, huge pillow, and luxurious down blanket.
The First Class cabin was not full, and the Chilean crew were outstanding, friendly, spoke good English, and were very professional.
The 787 jet was pretty cool as well; the windows and overhead bins are huge, and the mood lighting was impressive. The windows do not have window shades; rather a push of the button lightens or darkens them.
I was able to get a nice two hour nap in before we landed, and still watch the end of the movie. We were literally touching down as the movie ended. DOS was sitting by the window and took a couple photos as we were on final approach for landing.
The single runway at Easter Island is very long (we would later find out it was lengthened at the request of NASA as an alternate landing site for the Space Shuttle), and the landing was quite smooth. As there is only the one runway, and no taxi-way, the plane literally turns around at the end of the runway.
After landing, we deplaned via the stairs that were wheeled up to the plane. We also took a couple pics on the ground standing in front of the huge 787 jumbo jet.
The terminal was fairly spartan, and we stopped to get a photo of the Easter Island sign before going in.
Once in the small terminal, we got a couple complimentary carts, and waited for our luggage, which took quite a while. I guess they have it checked for agricultural as there were some agricultural dogs sniffing around in the terminal. Also, I think LAN thinks the Priority-tagged bags should come out last, which they did – no kidding. (Only complaint I had about LAN – everything else was wonderful.)
Once we got our luggage, we went outside and got ‘lei-ed’ by a couple members of the Hotel Hangar Eco Village and Spa staff who were waiting for us.
On the short drive from the airport, perhaps two miles, we drove thru the small town of Rapa Nui, with it’s rustic shops, homes, restaurants, tour information booths etc, before arriving at our luxurious resort: The Hotel Hangaroa Eco Village and Spa. We were asked to sit comfortably in the lobby, and offered a tropical punch, while we waited a few minutes for a hotel staff member to personally assist us.
Sitting in the modern-eco-rustic lobby, we were checked in by a lady DOS had corresponded with prior to our visit. She brought a packet of information over to us, which included the daily tour schedule, meal times, resort facilities, and map. She then gave us a tour of the property, past the pool, spa, and gym, and finally to our room, number 55.
We had reserved a Manga Suite, and sweet it was! Absolutely amazing and unique is a better description of our ‘cave’. This resort, (like all of Easter Island), is very Eco-friendly and was designed to fit in with the environment, as well as a recreation of some ‘cave homes’ of ancient years we would see later on a tour. We had a welcoming bottle of wine and chocolates in our room waiting for us,
and complimentary initial mini-bar setup, paying only for subsequent refills if you wished additional. While it contained no liquors or wine, it did have 2 Heinekens, Coke, Coke Light, Orange drink and Ginger ale, and waters, and a coffee maker was also included. They also provided two complimentary bottles of water daily with morning maid service, and evening turndown service.
Our Suite had one full and one half bath with high quality toiletries and flower petals decorating the vanity areas. It had a large recessed living room area, and was equipped with ceiling fans and sky lights (as well as air conditioner).
An outdoor private terrace provided a beautiful view of the water and a nice place to relax in the reclining lounge chairs. The suites also had an additional doorway and patio with wooded chairs.
For now though, I’ll end this post and continue on with a new post later.
Bienvenido a la isla de Pascua ! (Easter Island)