Bed over Europe on LAN 787 Dreamliner Madrid to Frankfurt
After many years of missing out I finally got to ride the LAN tag flight from Madrid to Frankfurt. Previously operated by the A340 aircraft, the route now offers their latest product on the 787 Dreamliner. This flight starts in Santiago, flying to Madrid before continuing to Frankfurt. By joining at Madrid, this called fifth freedom flights or tag flights lets me try out their 787 product before venturing down to South America in the coming months. These are becoming rarer these days but still valued by travellers who can try foreign carriers and access to long haul products on shorter sectors, sometimes at cheap prices. I previously discussed getting cheap LAN plated business class fares connecting on Air Nostrum. In prior years I have also flown tag flights in Europe on Qatar and undoubtably the best, Singapore Airlines First Class Munich to Manchester. So how would LAN compare?
On the Ground
I was transferring in from Melilla, the Spanish exclave in north Africa on Air Nostrum and had a few hours transit. I first visited the terminal 4/Schengen Iberia Dali lounge. One of the unique qualities of this LAN flight is it operates out of the non-Schengen terminal 4S. I took the train to the satellite terminal and had to pass through immigration, getting a weird and troubled immigration office. They don’t identify or differentiate that you’re only leaving the Schengen common migration area for only a few hours like domestic tag flights operating from international terminals in Australia. For business class or passengers with status, departing from T4S means accessing the better Iberian Velazquez lounge. I spent several hours in this lounge as flight was delayed. The incoming flight from Santiago was late by over an hour which may not be unusual. I have flown similar tag flights with LAN on the opposite side of the globe and these delays are a common factor. Between Auckland and Sydney it was not uncommon for them to cancel the tag flight entirely and rebook you onto their partner Qantas, possibly Emirates or in my case twice with Air New Zealand. This extra lounge time I spent eating another lunch which (desc)ended into ice cream, donuts and Cava.
Boarding for this sector is slow because all passengers deplane and re-board, which is not the case on all tag flights, e.g. Royal Jordanian in Bangkok. It mostly depends on whether the airport separates or mixes departures and arrivals. Fortunately for me the priority/business queue allowed immediate boarding.
Although the were two aerobridges, all boarding was done through door L2 which enters into the Dreamliner’s foyer entrance.
Like most carrier’s 787 seating configurations, this enters you into the middle of the business class cabin. Seated in the second row, I turned to the left.
LAN 787 Business Class Cabin
Previously I have flown LAN tag flights between Sydney and Auckland on their older product and found the hard product good but service lacking on a short sector. The LAN 787 business seating is at best standard, 2x2x2 seating where other carriers are moving to 1x2x1 where every business seat has aisle access. When comparing the Dreamliner on Japan Airlines to the older A340 on Finnair, the latter seating configuration hugely wins out, who cares about what type of aircraft it is? But best to judge it for what it is.
Impressions of the cabin and seat are mostly good. Colours aren’t crazy with the red-brown accents, cabin is quite open, particularly around the entrance. Limited privacy and working space however compared to the newest business class seat designs.
Screen is average, clear but far away. I didn’t use the entertainment system on this flight (I seldom do).
The seats are fully flat when reclined and have a moderate amount of storage. There is a small amount of storage by the side of your seat including for a bottle. The footwell provides a space for shoes or a bag, but not baggage during takeoff/landing.
Flight and Service
After some further delays we finally pushed back. Fortunately I had no further connections today but had to organise an alternate flight for the following day due to strike action at Germany airports.
Adjacent to this Dreamliner were two other LAN aircraft and TAM, the two South American carriers that have now combined into LATAM. Madrid is clearly their primary European hub but this is the only flight to continue on.
A bit of a long taxi before finally becoming airborne.
Flight was lightly loaded in business class for the short sector onto Frankfurt. Pre departure drinks had been offered and were again prior to the meal service.
Like most tag flights, catering is significantly reduced and one should limit their expectations. In my experience it is usually a set meal with no choices – Singapore First Class the exception. Well that wasn’t the exception here, with a light meal served. I was rather full after a second (third?) lunch in the lounge after the delay so nibbled.
The flight being around two hours, there is little time to properly relax but blankets were handed out. Staff were generally on the mark, sometimes you hear stories of general apathetic service on tag flights, but again maybe that is poor expectations of those who don’t fly long haul much. I’m not sure why but by the end of the flight one staff member had decided I spoke Spanish, another German so there was little communication going on.
One obvious point of difference with 787s is their larger cabin windows. This encourages some viewing.
An another good shot of the Alps, although not as good as waking up to them on the A380 to Paris.
Descent into Frankfurt was a little bumpy and then the long glide past the city.
I look forward to trying the LAN 787 again on a long haul route but for now this remains the second best way to get across Europe!
Downside to the tag flight is delays but also needing to pass back through passport control. There doesn’t seem to be any differentiation between those flying in from Chile or just from Spain here. The delay meant we arrived behind a Asiana 747 from Korea so immigration was crowded. Fortunately I was welcomed through without a wait, using my EU credentials.
At this stage I was somewhat tired, nearly forgot my luggage(!) and had to figure out an alternate flight for tomorrow. Due to the strike action my SAS flight to Oslo was cancelled, but the Lufthansa first class ticketing office saved me. Eventually I made my way to catch a train to the city centre for a brief overnight stay. Of course the first train departing was to Utrecht…