22,500 American Airlines miles was a hefty sum for the two-hour LAN Airlines 903 flight from Montevideo, Uruguay (MVD) to Santiago, Chile (SCL). Fortunately business class was the only option available, so Andrea and I locked in the seats 48 hours prior to our scheduled departure.
Had we known that we’d need the flight – Uruguay was an unexpected detour in our around-the-world adventure – a mere 10,000 American Airlines miles would have booked an economy seat. But it ended up being a great experience – here’s why.
- Flight: LAN Airlines 903
- Aircraft: Boeing 767-300
- Length: 1 hours, 57 minutes
- Route: Montevideo MVD to Santiago SCL
- Seat: Fully flat seat
- Seat Configuration: 2-2-2
- Entertainment: 110 movies, 42 TV shows
- Lounge: Aeropuertos VIP Club
- Miles Used: 22,500 American
- Grade: B+
Our LAN Airlines business class experience began in the security line at the Montevideo airport, as a professional, English-speaking young woman accompanied us to check-in, through a dedicated security line and then dropped us off at passport control. This saved us at least 20 minutes waiting, much more had the airport been crowded. After struggling through a week of broken Spanglish, this was a benefit we hadn't anticipated and is not typical of U.S. airlines.
From there we moved onto the Aeropuertos VIP Club – the only airline lounge of the relatively small airport. As I’ve learned over the years, airport lounges come in all different shapes and sizes and in Montevideo I wasn’t expecting anything too elegant.
I was wrong. The Aeropuertos VIP Club wasn’t the biggest lounge, but offered ample seating for the few passengers actually using it. There were also several open computers, tablets on request, full bar with food and even showers available – just a few of the services and amenities available.
Since we had an hour, I was able to explore many of the offered amenities and also interacted with the various staff members – both of which impressed thoroughly.
Note: The Aeropuertos VIP Club in Montevideo is not included with a Priority Pass membership. There is often a misunderstanding of this because the lounge in Punta del Este, Uruguay – that operates under the same name – is included with Priority Pass.
The Boeing 767-300 aircraft for LAN Airlines 903 is a surprisingly excellent plane – nice enough (i.e. pricey) that not a single other passenger was in business class with Andrea and I for the short flight (see picture at bottom of post). Santiago is the hub of LAN Airlines, which is likely why such a nice plane with fully flat beds is being utilized for a short-haul flight. But the flight attendant made it seem like this plane was uniform throughout their fleet, something I can't confirm (but seems likely).
The 2-2-2 seating format is also nicer than many older long-haul planes out there (including the American Airlines flight we flew into South America) – meaning no business class passenger has a middle seat. This is a borderline necessity these days, but surprising to see on a flight in South America.
Everything else about the experience was per usual for business class – a greeting and offer of drink upon arrival, a thorough description of the documents required to enter Chile, great food – the attendant even called the three course meal a “snack” at one point – and an excellent entertainment system with Bose headphones included. We were not given a travel kit, which was not all that surprising given the length of the flight. But it was one small example of LAN Airlines not being on par with some of the best business class experiences.
The Final Word
As I mentioned at the start, the 22,500 American Airlines miles is a decent amount for a two-hour flight, especially when you can redeem 25,000 for a round-trip economy flight from New York to San Francisco (12 hours of flight time – 6 times what we flew!). While I would recommend the LAN Airlines business class experience for a longer haul flight, it doesn’t make much sense for two hours from Montevideo to Santiago.
I say this with one caveat: if you have to be at the Montevideo (MVD) airport for a somewhat long period of time, then the business class seat may be worth the expedited security, lounge and more personalized overall experience. As always, the decision depends on your mileage wallet and travel schedule.