LATAM 787-9 Premium Business Class Sydney to Auckland Review
- Flatbed for a short haul flight
- Excellent leg room
- Lack of direct aisle access
- Mediocre catering
A Dreamliner service across the Tasman, featuring a comfortable cabin despite below par service.
oneworld carrier LATAM (formerly known as LAN) is the only South American airline that operates flights to Australia, offering direct routes to Melbourne and a one-stop service to Sydney via Auckland. Recently I had the opportunity to fly with LATAM for the first time during a work trip to Auckland. Since LATAM has pick-up rights between Sydney and Auckland, I was able to hop over the pond on a LATAM flight without a continuing journey to Chile. This service is also a QF codeshare flight, which meant I could earn Qantas points and status credits. Plus, this flight qualified for the double status promotion that Qantas was running at that time. Here's what I thought of the service.
Table of contents
Flight number: LA 800 (QF 321)
Aircraft Type: Boeing 787-9
Route: Sydney to Auckland
Class: Premium Business Class
This ticket was part of a trip originating from Colombo, Sri Lanka. All in all I paid $1,200 for the following all-business itinerary:
- Colombo - Singapore (Sri Lankan Airlines)
- Singapore - Sydney (Qantas)
- Sydney - Auckland (LATAM)
Overall I think this fare was a bargain as tickets originating from the other direction, (from Auckland to Colombo) typically cost more than $2,500 one-way. To further sweeten the deal, this trip earned 480 status credits through a double status credit promotion, which helped me re-qualify for Qantas status this year. While this deal is not currently available, business fares for the Sydney to Auckland flight published on LATAM's own website are quite decently priced for most of the year (around $400 one way). As well as being a good price it's a novel way to fly over the Tasman in premium class.
Redeeming points for a LATAM flight from Sydney to Auckland, in theory, costs 36,000 Qantas points one-way in business class, but having done some dummy searches, the availability was pretty dismal. However, I had more luck finding redemption seats from Sydney to Santiago, suggesting that LATAM is restricting the release of award seats for the trans-Tasman segment of this service.
LATAM business class redemption using Qantas points – 104,000 points from Sydney to Santiago.
Lounge access: Qantas Sydney International Business Lounge
LATAM premium passengers are given access to the Qantas Business Lounge located on level three in the departure lounge after you pass through Border Control. After an overnight flight, I was looking forward to unwinding and to take a morning shower during my three-hour layover in Sydney. Due to a delay with the incoming aircraft, I ended up staying in the lounge for almost five hours. Thankfully the lounge wasn't too crowded during my visit which can often add to the frustration of a flight delay. While I do not find the business lounge particularly spectacular, the barista-made coffee here is always great. If you hold oneworld Emerald status, Qantas has a superb first class lounge in Sydney which is definitely worth a visit.
Qantas Sydney Business Lounge
There's plenty of natural light throughout the lounge, but it is a shame the view from the windows isn't as great as one would imagine. It's basically some buildings which obscure the view of the tarmac. Breakfast was pretty standard; pastries, cereals, fresh fruit, pre-made omelettes, baked beans and sausages.
Apart from the food at the self-serve bar, lounge staff also dished out small plates periodically from the special menu. I enjoyed the roasted cauliflower and poached egg dish served by lounge assistant Tyla, who was cheerful, engaging and helpful – even offering to speak to the lounge agent on my behalf to explore other flight options (in the context of the delay).
Qantas lounge breakfast
Flat white and pastries
Roasted spiced cauliflower and poached egg
Business class cabin
We boarded the aircraft from the middle door, from which we were directed to the front end of the cabin. The cabin was clean and bright, but it has a striking colour scheme composing of bright red seats and footrests, green blankets and purple mood-lighting. There were a total of 30 forward facing seats in a 2-2-2 configuration. The cabin interior and seat specifications resemble the Dreamliner business class product offered by Air India and LOT Polish Airlines.
The seat felt quite comfortable, with a width measuring 23 inches and a generous seat pitch of 75 inches. When fully reclined the seat converts to a flatbed, adjoining the seat to the ottoman below the IFE screen. However, these seats are not as competitive as the newer generation of business class products seen in the industry.
This is primarily due to the lack of privacy and the lack of direct aisle access when seated by the window. The 2-2-2 configuration is more suited for couples rather than solo travellers. Nevertheless, I'm conscious of the fact that LATAM Group has announced plans to introduce the stylish staggered Thompson Vantage seats (similar to Qantas A330 and B787), which will be progressively rolled out over the next two years.
LATAM business class cabin with 2-2-2 seat configuration
Apart from the overhead compartments, there is a good amount of storage space beside the TV screen and underneath the footrest. Unfortunately, these spaces are not within arm's length, requiring passengers to leave their seats in order to reach out for their stowed items. Likewise, it is impossible to utilise the touch-screen function on the IFE monitor when in a seated position as it is simply too far away.
Dreamliner's dimmable window
Soon after we reached cruising altitude, I activated my dimmable window to reduce the glare. I then discovered all three windows are connected electronically so I didn't have to activate each window individually. Beside the seat is a basic handheld TV console and the in-seat power source (universal socket and USB port). Although the 15.4 inch IFE screen was not cutting-edge in its resolution, the variety of entertainment options was acceptable. A generic noise-cancelling headset was also provided to each passenger.
In-seat power supply and handheld IFE console
LATAM business class cabin
I opted to take a nap after the meal service. While I didn't expect pajamas or bedding for a short-haul flight, I did wish that the pillow and blanket were a little plusher than what was offered. I wasn't alone as I overheard several passengers requesting for more than one blanket to keep warm. On the positive side the seat has ample legroom.
LATAM business class seat when reclined
LATAM business class flatbed
Inflight I checked out LATAM's inflight magazine Vamos. Interestingly, the entire publication was in Spanish and Portuguese which is surprising given LATAM's international footprint.
Vamos in-flight magazine
Cabin crew were prompt to serve us drinks and mixed nuts initially, but there was a significant gap from then until the time the main meal was served. Neither a written menu nor drinks list was available on this service. Tray lunches were served from a trolley, so I got to check out the lunch options before choosing my meal. Neither the quiche or the semi-toasted ham and cheese sandwich looked appetising. While I wasn't expecting anything extraordinary for a three-hour service, I did think that a ham and cheese toastie just doesn't cut it for business class. Despite this I enjoyed the entree salad and the custard pudding dessert. Chilean wines were also offered, but I opted for orange juice instead. Overall, I thought that the dining experience felt more like premium economy rather than business.
Welcome drinks and mixed nuts
Inflight meal: Ham and cheese toastie
Cabin crew were generally pleasant but not particularly warm or communicative. On one occasion a crew member reached out to my backpack stored underneath the ottoman without any permission, which I felt was a little odd. It dawned upon me moments later he was trying to clear a used plastic bag from the compartment under my footrest. I think a longer flight in the future with LATAM would be needed to better evaluate its service and hospitality.
After approximately three hours, we arrived in Auckland International Airport safely. Despite the pilots' effort to make up time in the air, we arrived two hours later than scheduled. Thankfully business passengers were given priority to disembark from the aircraft, which gave us a head start to clear the arrivals immigration check on a crowded day.
LATAM 787 at Auckland International Airport
New LATAM business class (Source: LATAM)
The Points Finder Flight Rating: ★★★★☆☆
LATAM is the only South American carrier that operates flights to Australia. Using its modern fleet of 787 dreamliners, LATAM offers a pretty decent onboard experience for travellers. However, the current seat configuration has its upside and downside. It has excellent leg room but it lacks privacy when compared to the newer generation of business class products. As such, I look forward to experiencing LATAM's refurbished cabin in the near future, which will feature a similar seat configuration to Qantas' business suite. Although LATAM's catering and cabin service were somewhat lacklustre, it is a reasonable alternative over competing airliners across the Tasman offering recliner seats in narrow-body aircraft.
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