Monday, July 21, 2008

New Flights LAN Toronto YYZ to Santiago Chile SCL

According to the GTAA (Greater Toronto Airport Authority) website, LAN (Chile) Airlines will start flights 5 days a week from Toronto (airport code YYZ) To Santiago de Chile (airport code SCL) on or about September 3, 2008. That could be good news -- I've flown LAN before, domestic flights, in Chile, and really enjoyed the service. Plus this new routing might be a viable alternative to Air Canada for the international portion of a trip to South America.

So I popped over to to have a look around. I checked for flights departing Toronto (YYZ) in mid-September and returning from Santiago (SCL) mid-October. Indeed, as the GTAA site states in its NEWS for July 17, the flights are (alas!) not non-stop; On the flight south, the stop is in New York City; and on the return flight, the stop and change is in Miami (MMI).

Flying via the USA is a whole other can of worms -- ask any traveler -- but I plowed ahead to check out fares anyway. And the odd thing is, each time I checked, the fare changed slightly, according to availability.

The above screenshot shows the fare in U.S.D. which is currently almost at par with the CAD. There is a currency converter to find the cost in other currencies. Then I headed over to Air Canada, with whom I'd flown to Chile a few years ago. At that time, I used my Aeroplan miles, and paid only the taxes, etc. I loved the flight (Air Canada is ever so lovely on international routes; the polar opposite of domestic routes).

The departure time was great, too, departing YYZ (Toronto) a few minutes before midnight, and heading non-stop to arrive in SCL (Santiago) just after 10 a.m the next day. With minimal time difference between EDT/EST and Chile time, this overnight Air Canada flight is one of the easiest longer-haul flights you can take. Board, eat , drink, put on sleep mask, recline seat, and snooze away the night!

Here's the screenshot of the fares on Air Canada aka the bad news . . .

As you might see, the cost is higher for Air Canada -- almost $400 more! Now that's a large chunk of change -- several nights hotel -- or a domestic flight. Now I have to justify spending $400 more for the convenience of flying non-stop, getting additional Aeroplan Miles and a shorter flight. Air Canada flying time to Santiago is 10.5 hours, and 11.15 hours returning from SCL to YYZ.

LAN, with the stop over, is a lot longer travel time: Southbound, it's 14.5 hours; northbound, it's 15.5 hours, so between 4 and 5 HOURS longer. Business travelers have an easier choice - pay more, get there faster. Leisure economy travelers (the rest of us) have a choice to make. How much will you pay for convenience?

When I went back to double check fares on LAN again, I received a lower fare; a note on the page said more availability since first checked.
Now the fare difference between AC and LAN made it even harder to choose.

Think I will go check my Air Miles balance and see what I can come up with! I hope to go to Chile, Argentina and Uruguay this winter, and since it will be the antipodean summer, I had best get booking flights pretty quick.

There is a reciprocity tax Chile charges Canadians, and others (US Included). Each payment is valid for 5 years, and I think mine has now expired. Last time, it cost me additional $55 payable on arrival in Chile. Now, the reciprocity tax seems to be $132 CAD for Canadians I cannot find the amount charged US citizens - will keep looking - it used to be $100 USD), and payable upon arrival by air by cash, credit card or travelers' cheques (checks). See for details.

ps February 2009 -- See this post about travel deals to Chile-Argentina tour.