It was time to go home for Christmas after over a year away, and luckily LATAM Brasil had just restarted its Milan operation – it was the first route to be axed due to COVID.
I almost lost my flight, though; there was only one train from Siena that day that arrived in Malpensa in time, including three train changes, in Empoli, Florence and in Milan; the high-speed train from Florence to Milan got 30 minutes late and I lost the train to the airport. I had to wait another 30 minutes for the next one.
I had to run with two heavy luggages and – Murphy intensifies – one of my shoes that gave up the minute I stepped off the train.
Ultimately I arrived in the check-in area just in time. I was one of the last passengers to be checked in, and they even let me open my bag, find a new pair of shoes and change it there.
Boarding would start very soon, so I went through security (the entry was nearby at least), which was quite fast. What I don’t like in Malpensa is the long walk to the extra-Schengen gates, but that’s all right.
And there was our bird for that day: PT-MUC.
There was an enormous line for boarding – with the gate agents inspecting each passengers’ documents a second time -, so I could sit down and wait some more. Five more minutes and I was in line ready to board the 777.
Uniform Charlie is one of LATAM Brasil’s ten 777-300, all of which were delivered in the TAM years. As the largest aircraft in Brazil – and for that matter, in Latin America – it shines bright as LATAM’s flagship.
This ship specifically was delivered to TAM brand new in December 2008, according to Planespotters.net.
Remember that, in 2019, the airline invested millions of dollars in a retrofit of its Triple Seven fleet, showcasing a state-of-the-art Business cabin.
With that, you would expect the Economy cabin to be in line with the best products of the market… which, unfortunately, was not the case.
By the way, I was automatically assigned a middle seat and couldn’t get to change it on the website nor on the app – the page would always crash – and, since the flight was full, they couldn’t change it in the check-in counter.
So this was the view from my seat:
Awaiting for the passengers in our seats was a blanket and the headset, of which only one side worked.
The flight was really packed. I don’t know about Business class – which has 38 seats and which LATAM labels «Premium Business» – but Economy, which has 372 seats, including 50 «LATAM+», with a larger pitch, was completely full, with little to no seats free.
Despite the lenghty documents check upon boarding, the flight left relatively on time. Pushback was started around 12h20, about 15 minutes after scheduled departure.
I kinda like LATAM’s safety instrucions video.
It’s been the same since 2017 – you can watch it with English subtitles below.
With little traffic in Milan, taxi to the active runway didn’t take long (relatively), and at 12h45 LA8073 was airborne for that long journey across the Atlantic. That was my first flight in a 777-300 and I really liked how smooth the ride was. It was also quiet, even though my seat was by the engine.
The views from the window also didn’t disappoint. Luckily my seatmate was nice enough to let me snap some pictures.
While it wasn’t yet lunch time, I started to explore the entertainment system, labeled LATAM Play.
It’s really a shame and a missed opportunity that they didn’t update the system in Economy, but that’s the way it goes I guess.
The screen was not really responsive – there was no remote control – and looked really outdated, although the selection of shows was really good.
But the cabin feeling was good overall – you could hardly ever beat a 777 in this respect.
Soon the catering service started being distributed. It didn’t take long until my row was served, luckily, so they hadn’t yet ran out of meals.
To drink, the normal soft drinks choice, plus beer and white/red wine, so not a bad selection for Economy class.
Between pasta and chicken, I chose the chicken option, and my tray arrived like this.
At least the cutlery was not bad, albeit of plastic, so it didn’t break.
This is what the main course looked like (and I apologise for the bad photo), and it was absolutely tasteless, which is unfortunate as it looked good for airplane food.
I tried getting some sleep – I couldn’t – so I got another round of wine.
For situations like these, the seat setup helps. You don’t need to open the tray table if you’re just having a drink.
After the second wine was gone, I then went to the back of the cabin to stretch my legs. The cabin was dark as most windows were closed, and flight attendants seemed to enforce this.
The crew, by the way, was perhaps the best point of flying LATAM long-haul. In both flights (from and to Milan), they were really cool and attentive.
With that said, on the later half of this flight, my screen froze and I could not operate it anymore. When I asked the FA to reset it, she said she would do it, but as it happens… nothing happened; I didn’t hear from her afterwards and I don’t think the screen was resetted, as it didn’t turn off in any point.
So it was quite a boring flight, despite the excitement of being back home after so long.
But I give them the benefit of the doubt, as they seemed to be so attentive to everyone in both flights, apart from this small problem.
Back to the flight, since I was stretching my legs, I went to the lavatory, one of the many the Triple Seven has — and it was quite tight; not that it’s a bad thing, it looked like a lavatory you’d see in a low cost 737. Throughout the flight, it was kept organized.
Miraculously it happened that I managed to take a nap – quite a long one for that; I woke up some minutes before we were over the Fernando de Noronha archipelago.
Much to my surprise, this flight had two full courses – not a light one and a main course, as is usual, so I wouldn’t need to pay scam prices for dinner during my short layover in Guarulhos.
Here’s a confession, though: in the end I had a Cheddar McMelt sandwich at Guarulhos’ McDonald’s, since it’s a Brazilian exclusive and my favorite junk food meal in the entire world…
Anyway, the second meal service was composed of the same drinks as before, and to eat, chicken salad (cold) or pasta. I took the chicken option, which arrived like this.
Contrasting with the first meal, this one was spectacular. And it looked good too.
After being done, I mastered Angry Birds (despite the bad touchscreen) and then, when trying to open the flight map, the screen froze in the main menu, as I explained before.
So a couple more hours trying to rest and, as we approached São Paulo, we started our descent into Guarulhos International – a shaky one.
Uniform Charlie made a smooth landing in Brazil’s largest gateway at 20h23 local time – 23 minutes late; a long taxi to Terminal 3 succeeded, finishing my journey back to my country.
As nothing in Brazil is easy, even though my connection to Porto Alegre was in the same booking, I had to take my luggage and redispatch it. Though domestic flights leave from another terminal, airlines have their dedicated dispatch area post-customs, so in half an hour I had them sent to POA (though the experience was quite disappointing, as the check-in agent did not acknowledge me at any point. I was waiting in front of her and a colleague had to tell her that I was there…).
My flight left at 23h00 so I still had time to greet a friend I hadn’t seen in two years and to go through McDonald’s.
I also passed in front of this melancholic sight… Itapemirim’s check-in counters. The airline had gone bust two weeks prior to that.
When I got to the gate boarding was already in progress. I was so tired I only had the patience to tweet a logbook entry on my flight – but it was good to be back home.
LA4527 GRU-POA – A320 PR-MAK pic.twitter.com/OP86KY9bHu
— João ☕ (@joaointhesky) December 24, 2021
With Alitalia gone, it’s easy to say I’d have this flight anytime, as LATAM Brasil is the remaining nonstop player in the Italy-Brazil market.
Did they do a good job? I think so, although it bugs me why they didn’t take the retrofit opportunity to also completely refurbish the 777’s Economy class. I mean, they did add power outlets and standardized the seats’ design, but there is still some work to be done, as the entertainment system was quite outdated.
But apart from that, crew was really great (despite the screen resetting misunderstading) and the food was decent, though the first meal lacked some flavour.
It’s nice to compare these long-haul products as, when it’s down to price, you can have some idea on which airline to ultimately choose; to LATAM’s product, although I cannot wait to try other long-haul products in my Europe years, I definitely wouldn’t say «no».