Flight Review: Latam Airlines – Johannesburg to São Paulo

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Based in Chile, Latam is the largest airline in South America, with subsidiaries in Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay and Peru. It was founded by the merger of two airlines, LAN Chile and TAM. Latam filed for bankruptcy in 2020 due to problems arising from Covid. It is no longer part of OneWorld and is part-owned by Delta and Qatar Airways. This flight review is about one of Latam’s longest haul flights: from Johannesburg, South Africa to Sao Paulo, Brazil (no longer running).

LATAM JJ8163

Boeing 767-300

Johannesburg to Sao Paulo to Perth (JNB-GRU)

Seat: Economy

Duration: 15h

After a pretty flawless trip to Johannesburg in Virgin Upper Class, it was back to reality and an economy seat with Latam Airlines from Johannesburg OR Tambo (JNB) to Sāo Paolo International (GRU).

Sāo Paulo to Johannesburg: Latam Big Gamble

The first international route that Latam set up post-merger (from 2 October 2016 onwards) was from Sāo Paulo to Johannesburg. This route was important as it marked the first time a Latin-American carrier had linked Africa and South America.

I took this flight in April 2017 and, although the route has since been retired, my memory is that it was both popular and busy.

I booked this as part of a round the world ticket. Check out my 7 Secrets for booking Round the World tickets.

Cabin & Seats

This flight JJ8163 was a late night flight leaving at 11.50pm Johannesburg time and due to arrive into Brazil at 5am. I am more accustomed to westbound flights being daytime (e.g., Dublin to Los Angeles) than overnight. So the quality of the seat for sleep does matter.

The Latam product was pretty well worn as the picture shows. The business class seats (not shown) were similarly used, but I would have happily swapped for my economy seat. However, it’s not all bad in Economy. This flight had my preferred configuration of 2-4-2 and I had a window seat. It’s easier to get out to stretch your legs. Plus the comfort of the seat was pretty good.

I am 6′ tall (183cm) and had enough room to stretch out once the seat was reclined and managed a very respectable 5 hours of sleep.

The overhead storage was quite tight, given this was an international flight. However, my trusty Osprey Farpoint 40 litre fit like a charm!

In-flight Entertainment

The entertainment system is pretty modern and had plenty of options in English or with subtitles. I watched the brand-new (in 2017) show, Billions, and it kept me entertained.

If you look at the top right of the screen, you’ll see that the time to destination is shown at all times. I’m a bit of a map watcher on longer flights so I appreciated this.

Amenities

In Economy, there was not so much an amenity pack as a comfort pack.

This contained a comfy micro fleece blanket and a flat pillow.  I do travel with a more comfortable pillow. Find my latest one here.

Flight Review: Latam Airlines Food & Drink

The flight attendants did not hand about and dinner was served within an hour of take-off. There were two options: chicken or pasta. I imagined that pasta might make me sleepy and this version was a tortellini stuffed with a vegetarian cheesy mix and sauce. It won’t win awards.

However, the quinoa salad was a different story.  It was filled with charred sweetcorn and was a little crunchy.  Delicious! The red wine served in Economy was, well, an economy wine. Not pleasant.

Mapping

I’m not sure how you think of the relative position of Africa and South America on a map. Indeed the flatness of a 2D map often fails to capture those distances well. Either way, the Latam moving map shows Johannesburg and Sāo Paulo at a similar latitude. I did check and they were much closer than I’d imagined.

While settling into my seat and tucking my few in-flight possessions away, I realised that the carabiner on my Vapur water bottle was just big enough to clip on to the side of the table, or at least on the hinge part.  Win! That kept it on hand but not taking up room.

Latam Long-Haul – Overall Impression

I took this flight from South Africa to Brazil was it was the only transcontinental route and because Latam was part of OneWorld. I am more likely to use Latam again only within South America. The standard of product here was average but prices were also comparatively reasonable.

I thought the seat, amenities and food was absolutely fine. The only physical problem I had was the air conditioning. Wow! It was cold, even with a merino sweater, scarf and the provided blanket. I am not sure we will see Latam operate this kind of long-haul route again but with some minor tweaks, the service could be a challenger, particularly on less-served destinations.


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I'm Patrick, your Irish guide to the skies and beyond. With 58 countries visited, my journeys have taken me from busy economy to fabulous first-class.