As promised, I spent the weekend putting together my photos and this trip report from our excellent Peru trip. If you’d like to see photos, I’ve posted them here. My fiancee is involved with Adventures by Disney, so they invited us to join them on a dress rehearsal of one of the guided trips. Needless to say, we jumped at the chance and we were lucky enough to get the Peru trip, our first choice. (And please go easy on me for the title of this post. That piece of cheesiness was the Disney theme for one of the days of the trip.)
I asked you guys to recommend how you would go about getting there, and the LAN nonstop won out. I’m certainly glad we went that way because it was really convenient. Service was ok at best, but we were on-time and it was easy. Disney put us on Star Peru for the flight from Lima to Cusco, and that was an interesting experience. Let’s get into the details.
April 27, 2008
LAN (Peru) #605 Lv Los Angeles (LAX) 150p Arr Lima (LIM) 1225a
LAX: Gate 108, Runway 24L, Dept ~On Time
LIM: Gate 14, Runway 15, Arr ~:15m Early
Aircraft: CC-CEB, Boeing 767-316ER, White Star, ~75% Full
Flight Time: 7h50m
It was a hot day in LA, but instead of going to the beach, we spent the morning packing. We arrived at LAX at noon for a 150p flight, and there was no line at the LAN counter at the Bradley terminal, despite the fact that there were two flights leaving within a half hour of each other. I haven’t flown out of the Bradley terminal in a few years, but I still get that same excitement I used to get as a kid. Flying out of Bradley always meant we were going somewhere exciting.
An agent took our names and entered them into her portable device when we entered the line, because, we were told, the airline wanted to make sure everyone was in the right place and they wanted to see how long it took to get to the front. It took us just a couple minutes, and we found an agent who was able to help us with everything we needed. Well, ok, we couldn’t get an upgrade to business, but the agent confirmed the flight wasn’t very full, and she gave us an exit row.
After wandering the shops for a few minutes, something that was to be a theme of this trip, we headed toward security. The line minders from the TSA were barking orders at people despite that fact that it was painfully obvious most people didn’t speak English very well if at all. At one point, a TSO yelled at an Asian couple for not keeping their boarding passes with them through security, and they had no idea what he was saying. He angrily held up the line until he could get a supervisor. It’s this kind of offensive behavior that gives tourists a bad impression of the US.
We got to the gate an hour before departure to find boarding beginning. We had to get on a bus for a remote gate at the west end of the airport, so they really started early. Upon finding our seats, we noticed the plane had been outfitted with the new AVOD system, and that made our day. We pushed back on time and slowly made the long trek to the runway for departure.
Once airborne, the captain said we’d have a nice ride, so he turned off the seatbelt sign. With the exception of a 15 minute period, it stayed that way most of the flight. The flight attendants came around and served drinks as well as lunch. I had the chicken and potatoes and the chicken wasn’t bad but the potatoes were dry and not good at all. (That’s saying something, because I LOVE potatoes.) Once finished, I sat back and started watching movies. The system was a good one, but I actually couldn’t find too many movies that interested me. So I watched TV, played games, etc. I think my favorite feature of the system was that you could pull up the map in the corner showing where you were while you were in any movie or TV show.
After lunch, we didn’t see the flight attendants again until a couple hours before arrival when they served a midnight snack. Around that time, we were tracking along the dark coast of South America and we began our descent an hour later. There were no lights around until we were fairly close to the ground. We landed after midnight and had the unpleasant task of waiting in a 45 minute immigration line before grabbing our bags and heading into town.
April 30, 2008
Star Peru #1117 Lv Lima (LIM) 930a Arr Cusco (CUZ) 1035a
LIM: Gate 5, Runway 15, Dept ~On Time
CUZ: Gate 3, Runway 28, Arr ~On Time
Aircraft: OB-1823, Boeing 737-2T2, Peruvian People, ~95% Full
Flight Time: ~1h
After a couple days in Lima, it was time to join the tour group. I had thought we were taking LAN over to Cusco, but when the coach pulled up at the airport, I was surprised to be handed a Star Peru boarding pass. Who?! I had never heard of them, so I started asking around.
Apparently, we were put on Star Peru because they make things much easier for tour groups. Disney was able to just give all our luggage to them, and they loaded it on the plane. Then they gave our group leaders a boarding pass for everyone and we didn’t have to wait in line once.
The Lima airport is very small and very easy to navigate. We went through domestic security and passed to a small holding room from where many domestic flights leave. That’s when I got my first glimpse of our nicely painted 737-200. According to Airfleets.net, this aircraft was delivered to Western Airlines at the end of 1982. Delta had the plane until 1995 when it was sent to Lithuanian Airlines. Star Peru picked it up in early 2006. Notice that Varig never had this plane. That’ll mean something in a second . . . .
We left the crowded waiting area to board our plane via air stairs. That’s always something that I love. Though the plane looked clean on the outside, it was a little scratched up on the inside. The interior didn’t look very old, but the old 737 moniker on the window shade didn’t exactly look new. Now that I know the airplane never flew with Varig, it seems very strange that each belt buckle had the Varig logo on it. They must have picked them up at a fire sale when that airline went down.
We took off to the South and turned toward the East for our flight to Cusco. The Andes start very close to the coast in Peru, so we were soon skimming the tops of tremendous mountains with an incredible view as far as the eye could see. The crew came through with drinks and a sandwich for everyone, and then soon enough it was time to descend.
Flying into Cusco is a bit tricky. The airport lies in a valley 11,000 feet above sea level. The mountains on the West are too high for a straight in approach, so you fly over the airport and do a quick descent as you spiral around from the East. Then you land on the runway right as you straighten out. This is all done by hand flying as there are no instrument systems. All flights land to the west and depart back toward the east. Flights also mostly operate in the morning because of the hot, high, and windy conditions. LAN now has an afternoon flight, but that’s a relatively new addition. During the rainy season, low clouds mean flights get scrubbed until it clears up. Fortunately we didn’t have any of those issues when we landed, and soon we were on our way.
Our time in Peru was fantastic. The scenery is something you must see in person, and the people were all extremely friendly. As I mentioned, if you’d like to see pictures from our trip, click here.
May 6, 2008
Star Peru #1118 Lv Cusco (CUZ) 1105a Arr Lima (LIM) 1210p
CUZ: Gate 3, Runway 10, Dept ~:30m Late
LIM: Gate 13, Runway 15, Arr ~:30m Late
Aircraft: OB-1823, Boeing 737-2T2, Peruvian People, ~67% Full
Flight Time: ~1h
Soon enough, it was time to head back home. We had a morning flight on May 6 to go back to Lima and then we had a redeye back to LAX. We were originally told our departure time was at 1055a, but when we received our boarding passes when we arrived at the airport around 10a, they said 1105a. Once again, we never saw our luggage, so we went straight through security. The Cusco airport is small but modern and functional with just a little holdroom for a handful of gates and a couple shops.
Our flight wasn’t even on the board yet when we got to the gate, and that made me a little nervous. There also were no Star Peru personnel around. LAN and Aerocondor flights came and went, but we were creeping closer to our departure time with no info. Finally, our flight popped up on the board saying 1135a. I’m assuming that was delayed from the original time and not just a new schedule about which we didn’t know.
The plane landed, and they turned it around pretty quickly. We had the same plane that we had on the way out, so I’m assuming they just run this one back and forth a couple times every morning.
It was getting toward noon, and it was heating up outside. We had a relatively light load for a short flight, so I figured there wouldn’t be any problems, but it was still going to take a while to get airborne. Sure enough, our takeoff roll lasted for a loooong time. It seemed like we used all 11,000 ft of that runway, and once we were airborne, we were slow to climb.
What made things worse was the pressurization system that had everyone’s ears popping a little. My fiancee had a head cold, and it didn’t take long for her head to start feeling like it had been stabbed with an ice pick (her words, not mine). Once at cruise, she was fortunately able to get it cleared out in time for the flight attendants to do their food and drink service.
I have a friend who collects safety cards, so I asked one of the flight attendants if I could take one. That’s not an easy thing to do since most rows had one card if that (on the way out we had none). But the flight attendant offered to get me a new one. When she returned, she had two, but asked if I would fill out a comment card about the service the crew had provided. She even gave me the names of the entire crew. Pretty smart, if you ask me. To be honest, the service was quite good, so I had no qualms about filling it out.
Shortly after, we were over the foothills of the Andes and we started our fighter pilot descent into Lima. You could tell this guy was having fun, because he was coming down at a pretty good clip. We also came in fast, and he ended up dropping the gear about 15 minutes before landing so he could slow us down rapidly. It was actually pretty fun.
Once on the ground, we taxied back to the gate and went into town for our afternoon farewell lunch. We had a hotel that night, but we only used it for a few hours until we had to return to the airport for our flight home.
May 7, 2008
LAN (Chile) #600 Lv Lima (LIM) 105a Arr Los Angeles (LAX) 740a
LIM: Gate 15, Runway 33, Dept ~On Time
LAX: Gate 105, Runway 25L, Arr ~:10m Early
Aircraft: CC-CQA, Airbus A340-313X, White Star, ~75% Full
Flight Time: 8h20m
Disney arranged for everyone to be picked up three hours prior to the departure of their flights. Ours left at 1240a, so we left at around 930p for the long and slow drive to the airport. We arrived at about 1015p and went to check in.
It took about 20 minutes in line before we reached the front. There are separate lines for the US flights because those require talking to an agent. All the other LAN flights can use the kiosks to check-in.
The agent gave us our boarding passes and I noticed that it was for a flight departing at 105a. Huh? That was the other flight; the LAN Chile flight (instead of LAN Peru). Well, the agent said that the second flight wasn’t operating that day. I think this was canceled long ago, but we didn’t quite get the message until I looked at the boarding pass.
The bad news? The flight left 25 minutes later than we expected, so that meant we had longer to wait. The good news? We would be on an A340-300 instead of a 767. I had only been on one A340 in my life before, and that was an A340-600 on South African from Cape Town to Jo’burg. So, this was not only my first A340-300, but it was also my first Airbus long haul trip. Cool. On top of that, the agent gave us the very first row of coach on the left side. The middle was occupied by another family on our trip, and the right was blocked off for crew rest, so it was a nice set up for us.
We waited in the restaurant and said bye to people on other flights until it was time for us to board. Once onboard, I noticed out the window that the runways were turned around and we would be able to depart to the north sending us directly home.
We took off and climbed at what seemed to be a very slow rate. It was slow enough that someone else asked me if it seemed we had been climbing very slowly. I pulled out the AVOD system (which isn’t as good as the new one on the 767, but it was adequate), and noticed that yes, we were taking our own sweet time getting up to altitude. Apparently it wasn’t an issue, because we continued on our merry way.
The flight attendants came by and dropped off some drinks before disappearing into the back for the next several hours. I was able to get about 4 to 5 hours of fitful sleep before waking up with the dawn as we passed over Mexico. The flight attendants came by with breakfast, but I wasn’t hungry at that point, so I passed.
As we passed over Mexicali, you could see the marine layer was pretty thick. We followed up the coast until we got near LA, made a few turns, plunged down into the clouds and landed. Fortunately, we were the only plane landing at Bradley at that time, so even after they made everyone wait on board for them to get a sick passenger off, we still made it through customs and immigration in less than 30 minutes.
I know I’ve already said it, but this was a spectacular trip. If you ever get the chance to go down to Peru, do not hesitate.