No storage, aging cabin: My 10 hours in LATAM business class on a Boeing 767

Mar 11, 2022

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LATAM Airlines has undergone many changes in the last several years. After filing for bankruptcy, exiting Oneworld and partnering with Delta Air Lines instead, the South American carrier is looking to bounce back after a period of dramatic change.

As a Delta frequent flyer, I was not only excited to try out a new (to me, at least) partner carrier, but also to visit a continent that had been mostly closed off to tourists until late last year. As LATAM is the largest airline in South America, I decided to give the carrier’s business class a try for the 10-hour trek from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) to Sāo Paulo-Guarulhos International Airport (GRU) in Brazil.

Here’s how it went.

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In This Post

Booking

I booked a round-trip ticket on LATAM from New York-JFK to Mendoza, Argentina (MDZ) — but with a connection in Sāo Paolo.

Airplane on tarmac.
(Photo by Stella Shon/The Points Guy)

Since my primary intention was to review LATAM’s business class, I booked the lie-flat seat for the longest leg and economy for the rest of the trip. In the end, this mixed-cabin itinerary came out to be under $2,000 round-trip.

I credited the itinerary to my Delta SkyMiles account, which earned me a healthy number of Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs), Medallion Qualification Dollars (MQDs) and redeemable SkyMiles. Plus, as a Platinum Medallion elite member, I earned 9 miles per dollar spent at least on my “Z” class fare, compared to 5 miles per dollar spent with no status. (Be warned that my itinerary was quite complicated, as pictured below).

Screenshot from Delta website.
(Screenshot from delta.com)

If you’re looking to use points and miles to book a similar ticket, Delta’s partner award rates aren’t necessarily favorable. Currently, you can book LATAM business class starting at 100,000 SkyMiles one-way (but just $5.60 in taxes and fees) between the U.S. and South America.

Screenshot from Delta website.
(Screenshot from delta.com)

If you’re going this route, you can top off your Delta SkyMiles balance by opening up a Delta credit card or by transferring your American Express Membership Rewards points to your SkyMiles account at a 1:1 ratio.

Interestingly, even as Alaska Airlines has joined the Oneworld alliance, it’s still possible to book LATAM award flights through Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan at the time of writing. However, LATAM award flights aren’t bookable online, so you’ll need to call Alaska Airlines Reservations (1-800-252-7522) to reserve your ticket.

Screenshot from Alaskan Airlines website.
(Screenshot from alaskaair.com)

At just 25,000 Alaska miles for economy and 45,000 Alaska miles for business, though, these are terrific rates for a one-way ticket — less than half what Delta is currently charging. However, Alaska’s access to award space doesn’t match up to Delta’s, so you might have an issue using your Mileage Plan miles. (That doesn’t mean it’s not worth trying, though.)

Related: Alaska Mileage Plan is making major changes

Ground experience

LATAM operates out of Terminal 4 at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, alongside other Delta partners like Aeromexico and Virgin Atlantic.

Check-in line at airport.
(Photo by Stella Shon/The Points Guy)

Check-in was easy to find in this light-filled terminal, as LATAM’s counters are located in the center of the action. There’s a clear line for Premium Access if you’re ticketed for premium cabins or hold LATAM elite status.

Check-in desks at airport.
(Photo by Stella Shon/The Points Guy)

I frequently fly out of Terminal 4, and it was unusually quiet in the normally chaotic concourse on this particular Thursday. Following LATAM’s guidance to arrive at the airport at least four hours before departure, I showed up at JFK around noon for my 4:35 p.m. departure — which also happened to be the first LATAM flight of the day.

Given how early I was, it made sense that there was nobody in line for premium access just yet, and only a handful of passengers waiting for economy check-in.

Check-in lines at airport.
(Photo by Stella Shon/The Points Guy)

LATAM gate agents were still setting up their stations, so I was advised that I would have to wait 15 minutes before I could receive my boarding pass. In the meantime, an airline employee checked and approved my documents needed to fly to my final destination, which included the following for Argentina:

By 12:30 p.m., I was cleared to fly and was issued my boarding pass. All things considered, my ticketing experience went smoothly and efficiently.

Passport and boarding pass.
(Photo by Stella Shon/The Points Guy)

This was a huge relief as I was actually denied boarding when I attempted to fly LATAM to Chile a few months back — and that time, the lines had wrapped around the check-in counters, even for premium access.

In sum, showing up to the airport over four hours early did me a lot of favors, as I made it through security in a few moments thanks to TSA PreCheck.

Boarding began one hour before departure, so I had a few hours at my disposal to check out the lounge options.

If you’ve ever traveled through Terminal 4 before, you’ll know that it’s a gargantuan place. Depending on where your gate is located, there are tons of lounges to choose from, and the concourse is about half a mile long.

LATAM premium-class passengers transiting through JFK have access to two airport lounges according to LATAM’s website: the Delta Sky Club near gate 31 and the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse located near gates A4 and A5.

Screenshot from LATAM website.
(Screenshot from latamairlines.com)

Interestingly, the LATAM website notes that the status of the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse is “closed,” although it officially reopened in mid-2021.

In the spirit of trying new things — and the desire to order off the incredible tapas-style menu I’ve heard rave reviews about — my first inclination was to visit the Virgin lounge.

Unfortunately, the check-in agent stated that I wasn’t allowed to enter the Virgin Clubhouse since “LATAM and Virgin don’t yet have an agreement.”

Note that if you carry The Platinum® Card from American Express, you can now access the Virgin Clubhouse along with the Amex Centurion Lounge at T4. And there’s no shortage of Priority Pass lounges either, as you can visit the Air India Maharaja Lounge or the Wingtips Lounge.

Instead, I decided to walk over to the Delta Sky Club, which was a 15-minute stroll to the other side of the terminal.

Delta Sky Club.
(Photo by Stella Shon/The Points Guy)

The Delta Sky Club ended up being a better choice in one specific way: It was closer to my gate (B27). Checking in was a breeze here, and I had no issues presenting my premium LATAM boarding pass as my golden ticket through the door.

Front desk at airport lounge.
(Photo by Stella Shon/The Points Guy)

New York-JFK’s Delta Sky Club is a whopping 27,000 square feet, and the buffet has returned with a mix of hot and cold selections — including these fresh pretzels with cheese dip.

Pretzels in airport lounge.
(Photo by Stella Shon/The Points Guy)

I opted for lighter choices, as I knew I would soon have dinner aboard my LATAM flight. I especially enjoyed the kale salad and artichoke hearts.

Food in airport lounge.
(Photo by Stella Shon/The Points Guy)

It was 65 degrees Fahrenheit outside — an unusually warm day for the middle of winter in New York City — but even so, the rooftop lounge was closed for the season. I picked the next best thing, which was the individual desks by the windows, each equipped with two sets of power outlets. They’re good for both solo travelers and aviation geeks, since the views of takeoffs and landings while you’re catching up on your emails are unbeatable.

Desk in airport lounge.
(Photo by Stella Shon/The Points Guy)

Overall, the Delta Sky Club was a nice, but rather run-of-the-mill experience. It was certainly nothing fancy, but it did the job for a decent ground experience for premium passengers.

LATAM business flyers used to have access to the American Airlines Flagship Lounge when the carrier was still a part of the Oneworld alliance, which was probably pretty similar to the Delta Sky Club experience. But I was slightly disappointed that I couldn’t enter the Virgin Atlantic lounge, which I’ve heard offers a higher caliber of service.

Another thing to consider is that the Delta Sky Club screens don’t show any live boarding information for LATAM flights. The agents were also unable to tell me if my flight has started to board, so I decided to leave the lounge about 15 minutes before the boarding process began to play it on the safe side.

LATAM gate at airport.
(Photo by Stella Shon/The Points Guy)

Boarding began promptly as stated — one hour before departure — and the gate agent initially set up two lines: premium boarding and special assistance.

LATAM gate at airport.
(Photo by Stella Shon/The Points Guy)

After families and wheelchair passengers, I was quickly on my way down the jet bridge and to my home for the next 10 hours: Seat 2A.

LATAM gate at airport.
(Photo by Stella Shon/The Points Guy)

Cabin and seat

In 2019, LATAM started to refresh its Boeing 767s and 777s with new interiors, including a layout that’s much more favorable, as the seats are arranged in a 1-2-1 configuration, giving all passengers direct aisle access.

However, the retrofit project is ongoing, so you’ll still find the old cabin in many of LATAM’s planes. My journey down to Sāo Paolo was going to be in the older, 2-2-2 setup.

Business class seats.
(Photo by Stella Shon/The Points Guy)

As I boarded the plane, I immediately noticed the red cloth seats, most of which looked quite worn. This particular 767 was almost a decade old, and the cabin was really starting to show its age. Plus, fabric seats are much harder to keep clean compared to wiping down leather seats after each turn.

Business class seats.
(Photo by Stella Shon/The Points Guy)

This particular LATAM premium cabin spanned from rows one through five, comprising 30 seats total. My flight happened to be completely full. In this configuration, unless you’re traveling with a companion, you’ll bump elbows with a stranger if you’re seated next to the windows.

Business class seats.
(Photo by Stella Shon/The Points Guy)

While I could have selected a seat in the middle of the cabin for immediate aisle access, I enjoyed having three large windows to peer out of throughout my flight. For me, having this window seat was worth stepping over my neighbor to head to the bathroom.

Business class seat.
(Photo by Stella Shon/The Points Guy)

There were three parts to the alotted bedding: a pillow, mattress pad, and a down comforter. The mattress pad had pull-on straps so that it was easy to assemble your bed in a matter of seconds.

Business class seat with bedding.
(Photo by Stella Shon/The Points Guy)

Back in economy, seats were laid out in a 2-3-2 configuration, which is standard for 767s. There was about 32 inches of legroom for each seat.

Economy class seating.
(Photo by Stella Shon/The Points Guy)

Another issue I had with the premium cabin (aside from the worn fabric seats) was the lack of personal storage. Next to the seatback screen, there was a small shared compartment that housed my Airpod Pros for the journey but it didn’t have room to fit much else.

Seat storage area.
(Photo by Stella Shon/The Points Guy)

There was enough room to store my shoes, but my other personal items had to be stowed before takeoff and landing.

Business class seats.
(Photo by Stella Shon/The Points Guy)

When the time came to stretch and relax, there was a leg rest that could be manually lowered; it measured about eight inches long. The footrest, however, felt small and uncomfortable since it had to be locked into place, so I just flipped it down and kept it there.

Airplane seat with leg rest extended.
(Photo by Stella Shon/The Points Guy)

The seat also felt quite narrow compared to other business-class cabins, at just 21 inches wide.

Airplane seat controls.
(Photo by Stella Shon/The Points Guy)

When fully in lie-flat mode, the seat measured about 73 inches in length, or just over 6 feet. I’m only 5 foot 3 inches tall, so this was plenty of room for me, but taller passengers will certainly feel a bit cramped.

Lie-flat seat.
(Photo by Stella Shon/The Points Guy)

Overall, there was not much going for LATAM’s old business-class seats. While I enjoyed the comfortable mattress pad and comforter, the cabin lacked style, privacy and storage.

Amenities and service

The flight attendants were the stars of the show. They quickly catered to every premium passenger’s needs since there were just 30 of us, and they immediately took our orders for dinner and breakfast — before takeoff. They also asked ahead of time if we wanted to be woken up for any drink or meal service. I appreciated the personalized attention to detail.

Flight attendant taking meal order.
(Photo by Stella Shon/The Points Guy)

The in-flight entertainment system felt antiquated thanks to its screens, which were relatively small (at just 15.5 inches) and old. But there were hundreds of movies and TV shows available to pass the time, including new hits like “Spencer” and “The Last Duel” that were just released last year.

Seatback display with map.
(Photo by Stella Shon/The Points Guy)

Unsurprisingly, the remote was scuffed up, but the controls all worked perfectly fine.

Scratched remote control.
(Photo by Stella Shon/The Points Guy)

Unfortunately, there was no Wi-Fi available on my flight, so passengers who were looking to get work done were out of luck. There was an adjustable reading lamp if you brought a book to pass the time instead. (I later flew on a LATAM A320 for my connection flight and it was equipped with speedy Wi-Fi for about $4 per hour.)

The headphones provided felt cheap when they were in their plastic packaging, and, upon removing the covering, one side of the set I was given was already broken. I requested a new pair, and they were your average quality, over-the-ear headphones.

Broken headphones.
(Photo by Stella Shon/The Points Guy)

Finally, the amenity kit also failed to impress. It was an awkwardly oversized black-and-white striped bag that was unbranded on the outside.

Inside, were all of the basics, including thin black socks, an eye mask and a dental kit. The L’Occitane face and hand products were nice additions, though.

Contents of amenity kit.
(Photo by Stella Shon/The Points Guy)

A pair of velvet-like slippers was tucked away in the seatback pocket. Unfortunately, there were no pajamas, welcome drinks or any specialized or unique amenities on this flight.

Complimentary slippers.
(Photo by Stella Shon/The Points Guy)

I was also frustrated that the power outlet (110V) and USB port were tucked away so far back in the armrest that they were hard to reach — even for someone with small hands.

Airplane seat power outlet.
(Photo by Stella Shon/The Points Guy)

Finally, the bathroom was identical to the economy lavatory. To my surprise, there were no higher-end toiletries to be found.

Airplane bathroom.
(Photo by Stella Shon/The Points Guy)

Related: The worst 5 business-class cabins in the sky today

Food and beverage

Upon first glance, the menu seemed to be disposable since you could fill out your own selections for breakfast and lunch. However, the flight attendants took our orders via pen and paper, so there was no need to fill out these menu cards.

The tray table folded out of the armrest. It was large enough and fit my 15-inch Macbook Pro.

A fold-out tray table.
(Photo by Stella Shon/The Points Guy)

Although there were multiple courses to choose from, the meal came all at once on a single tray, cafeteria-style. Dinner service began less than one hour after takeoff, and overall I felt that the meal felt a bit rushed — though, given the flight’s timing, that’s understandable since many passengers probably wanted to eat quickly then get to sleep.

I opted for the beef entree with mixed vegetables, the cheese plate and the chocolate mousse. The portion sizes were large. I washed down the main meal with a classic Argentinian Malbec before ending my dinner with the mousse (essentially just a dressed-up chocolate pudding), but I couldn’t finish the whole meal since it felt like way too much at once. I found the beef entree to be tough and heavy, with a sauce overwhelmed by butter.

A beef entree
(Photo by Stella Shon/The Points Guy)

I was awakened for breakfast about an hour before landing. But rather than receiving a breakfast-type meal we were given turkey sandwiches, Lay’s potato chips and a fruit bowl. The sandwich was on a ciabatta roll and was surprisingly tasty, but it was slathered in mayonnaise, which might be off-putting for some.

A sandwich
(Photo by Stella Shon/The Points Guy)

Overall, the meals were fine but forgettable. I did like the South American wine selection, though. It’s chosen by LATAM”s dedicated master sommelier and is something the airline prides itself on.

Bottom line

The 10-plus hour journey down to South America left a lot to be desired. Overall, I felt that the LATAM business class product felt dated and less-than-premium, especially being served the main meal on one tray. Service was good, but the only real draw of booking this particular cabin was for the lie-flat seat on an overnight journey.

That said, I’d be intrigued to test out a seat in LATAM’s new business-class cabin and see how the seat, amenities and service compare.

While LATAM is the largest carrier in South America, there are other options to choose from if you’re looking for a better business-class experience. From New York City, you have American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines that all fly nonstop to São Paulo — and these options may be worth exploring instead of LATAM’s old business-class seats.

Featured photo by Stella Shon for The Points Guy.

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