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February 5, 2013 / oneworld82

A weekend in Santiago de Chile: DFW-SCL-DFW on American Airlines Business Class (763)

There are trips that are long planned and longed for. An example could be my upcoming trip to South Africa, or my already-in-the-making 2014 trip to Uganda, Rwanda, and – hopefully – Burundi and D.R. Congo. These are usually longer trips that either present logistical challenges (like everyone who has been in Central and Western/Eastern Africa can confirm) or planning challenges (due to lots of flying, short amount of time, etc.).

Then, there are trips that just happen on the spur of the moment. Like your unplanned weekend in Vegas, or your romantic escapade to Portofino or Monte Carlo. Those are usually short trips, that happen over a weekend, usually with a group of friends or with a beloved one.

This trip down to Chile belongs to neither categories.

A weekend in South America

A weekend in South America

First of all, it was almost entirely unplanned. A spur of the moment kind of thing. Second, even though on a short notice I did my best to gather as much information as possible about this new land I was about to visit. The fact is: I simply cannot go somewhere I do not know anything about (and without a Lonely Planet in hand). I simply feel like I am missing out if  I canot put into context what I am seeing. But that’s just me. I suffer from OCD after all… plus, going to Santiago  was something I had wanted to do for a while. Chile, for some reason, is always shunned in favor of other, more touristy destinations in South America (unless you consider Easter Island. Which I don’t count. It’s like saying that you’ve been to the USA if you’ve been to Hawaii, or to Ecuador if you’ve been to the Galapagos Islands, you know?). I wanted to find out by myself whether Santiago – and its neighboring area – deserved a shot or not.

So I decided to get an AA flight and to go down south for a weekend. Flying in business class. Not that I had high expectations of AA business class on a B763. But what the heck, how bad could it be? Furthermore, I wanted to try what is soon to become the “old” business class – hopefully the “new” business class will bring some much-needed glamour to American’s premier product.

But let’s focus on Chile for a second. As you may know, Chile is the only South American country to have been admitted to the OCSE. This is a big deal, because only the big boys (developed democracies with high income, basically) are invited to join this exclusive group. So this means that Chile – in just three post-Pinochet decades – has come a long way in terms of development; and I wanted to see myself how far had it gone.

Furthermore, the Maipo Valley – just a short ride south of Santiago – is one of the most prolific wine-producing regions of the World. This was another intriguing fact that pushed me down here.

Another thing that you may or may not know is that Nobel Prize winner Pablo Neruda – the acclaimed poet whose lyrics against the regime cost him prison and prosecution – was from Chile. Which fact – while seems to excite many people – left me mildly indifferent as 1. I have never read anything from Neruda and 2. I do not particularly enjoy reading poetry (too much of it in school. Trust me, the Italian school system makes every sane person hate poetry).

Chile is also notable for soccer. Not only it hosted the World Cup in 1962 (the one where Pele showcased to the World his ability), but also gave to the World some notable players like Diego “El Cholo” Simeone or – more recently – Alexis Sanchez, both of which enjoyed superstar status in their homeland and good fortunes playing in Europe.

But let’s start from the beginning.

The trip

It was another, ordinary Friday in Dallas. Or not. Because 70 degrees Fahrenait in January are mildly unusual even for North Texas. Of course, the weather tends to be unforeseeable this time of the year, and so the day turned for the cold around midday and I and all my colleagues were happily freezing (because we basically were in t-shirt) over lunch. Lesson learned. Anyways, after work I just grabbed dinner and after a beer (too many) I headed for the airport. Dallas airport – for the ones who don’t know – is rather huge. Like in Manhattan size. No kidding, it really is. But after all everything is huge in Texas. For some reason, it seems that the farther south you go the bigger things get. I have been living here just for a few months now, and everything is just so different from New York (and from Europe, of course). Take churches: Saint Peter in the Vatican City looks tiny compared to some of the Adventist churches they have here. And their neon signs… well… that would deserve a whole post.

Anyways, the excess of land means that you can park relatively close to the terminals at a relatively affordable price. Less than $10 a day isn’t bad these days, and it’s a good deal if you just wanna get away for the weekend.

International departures, at DFW, happens from Terminal D – the only part of the airport I consider decent. While this is no JetBlue terminal in New York or no Terminal 2 at SFO, it’s still a decent terminal. The other four active ones are – well – just dismal. Think La Guardia as a close example.

Anyways, I got to the gate 15 minutes prior to boarding. The flight had been delayed – like most flights that day – because of fog in the morning in Dallas. Instead of a 9.25p departure we would have a 10.05p one. No biggie… except that I was getting hungry. Thank God I had some nachos with my beers. And queso. And pickles. Ok, perhaps I should not have been hungry, but I was. Good thing, because I wanted to enjoy my meal on AA business class. Time to board came and the Chilean adventure started.

Gate D33

Gate D33

Flight AA945, DFW-SCL

Scheduled departure time (effective) 9.25p (10.05p) – Arrival time 10.05a (10.45a)

Boeing 767-300

Business Class, Seat 6H


The cabin was almost full, but I spotted some empty seats. Unfortunately, the one next to mine was taken, which was too bad as I (like everyone else, I guess) enjoy some degree of privacy when flying on a premium cabin. Unfortunately, American Airlines business class doesn’t offer the degree of privacy other business classes offer. At least, not this “old” one. While I do not prefer a 2x2x2 configuration, it can be made rather private with a simple screen in between seats (like Qantas does). Too bad nothing like that can be found here. My neighbor was an enologist from Concha Y Toro – what a coincidence! – but he wasn’t in the mood for a conversation. He wasn’t really in the mood for much, as he promptly fell asleep after dinner.


Amenity kit

The amenity kit (and slippers) were at my seat when I arrived. AA “old” amenity kits are basic but the mostly do the job (in the end, I only usually use the toothbrush and the lotions – Dermatologica, the brand used by American, is a good brand). Pillow and a comfy duvet were at the seat as well.

Seat 6H

Seat 6H

The seat loks a little narrow and old but – once you’re seated – it is rather comfortable. The new, upcoming business class seats look decidedly much better.

Back of seat 5H

Back of seat 5H

A pre-departure drink was offered, and I went for the champagne. This is Champagne Demilly de Baere Carte d’Or, which was acceptable (even though I like drier champagne). The only thing is that the pre-daprture drink is served in a micro plastic cup – not really classy nor executive if you ask me. Before departure the purser came by each seat, introduced herself, and took our dinner/breakfast orders.

Champagne. In a plastic cup. How classy

Champagne. In a plastic cup. How classy

Shortly after take off the flight attendants came by offering a Samsung Galaxy tablet. I like this concept – a smart way to make up for the lack of a personal in-flight entertainment system. The 763 business class seat has a sort of tray table on the back of the seat, which comes handy to place the tablet and watch movies. The selection of movies was, unfortunately, somewhat limited – a far cry from Cathay Pacific or even British Airways – but adequate nonetheless. I started watching “Arbitrage”, a Wall Street scandal-inspired movie featuring Richard Gere. Entertaining, but nothing memorable (all these movies depicting bankers as criminals are becoming a bit redundant. Now, in this movie, they even became assassins!).

Shortly after, the pre-dinner drink was offered together with the usual, tasty warm nuts. I have read that usually marinated cheese is offered together with/as a substitute of the nuts, but nothing of sort was offered here (nor was in the menu). I had a glass of the Chilean cabernet sauvignon on offering (Crucero, not bad) and by the time I was two-thirds through it dinner service started.

Ready for dinner

Ready for dinner

The FA assigned to our aisle was a robotic, 50-something Costa Rican man (a “Tico“) who was very efficient but very cold as well. He would’t crack a smile or even attempt a conversation – very much different from the purser on the other aisle. While I appreciate efficiency, his ways weren’t welcoming, and this is certainly a point on which AA can improve. Nevertheless, he was very attentive and professional on this flight. I say on this flight because I found the same crew on the way back – as I will tell later.

American Airlines has recently upgraded its menus and chinaware to a more modern look. I like it. Everything – from cutlery to plates – feels more contemporary. I just wish they stopped the cart service – so 1970s! Here’s the menu.




Shrimp escabeche with Peruvian purple potato salad


Seasonal greens with fresh vegetables, hearts of palm and candied pecans

Premium extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar

Assorted gourmet breads


Beef fillet

Served with a Boursin cheese crust, wilted spinach, balsamic grilled tomatoes and whipped potatoes

Pan-fried halibut

Accompanied by sundried tomatoes, oregano gremolata, lemon risotto, broccolini and tomato fennel saute’


Sweet potato red curry

Cold plate sampler

Mozzarella, artichocke hearts, serrano ham, roasted tomatoes and olive tapenade served with rosemary flat bread and breadsticks


Traditional ice cream sundae

Vanilla ice cream served with your choice of hot fudge, butterscotch or seasonal berry toppings, whipped cream and pecans

Gourmet cheese plate

An assortment of fine cheeses with garnishes

The appetizer was surely tasty and the shrimp fresh. The Peruvian potato salad was something different than the usual fare and its taste delicious.


Dinner setup




Bad lighting, I know…

The salad


The salad was fresh and crispy – just like I like it. I find funny how AA states that it uses “premium” olive oil… what does that even mean, without any further specification? Why making such a claim with? If the brand they use were really premium – and trust me, it wasn’t! – there would be no need to say in the menu that they use a “premium” brand. But that’s just my opinion.

Beverage cart

Beverage cart

After the starter, the main followed. Contrarily to my usual common sense that forbids me to order beef on a plane to avoid severe disappointments, I went for the beef. I wanted to give the airline a chance to impress me… or to fail me miserably.



The steak was… well, it was delicious. Unexpectedly so. Medium rare, just like it should be.

Yes, medium rare!

Yes, medium rare!

The meat was juicy and tender, and the side was just fabulous. Kudos to AA for a great entree up in the air.

Not too long after having finished the entree, the dessert followed.

Dessert cart

Dessert cart

Lured by the menu description and by my insatiable love for it, I opted for the cheese platter. Well, this was handsomely disappointing, as the “fine cheeses” were just your average cheddars (the ones you buy at Kroger, not the premium ones you buy at Whole Foods, just to be clear). Unfortunately, I forgot to ask the flight attendant for a glass of port wine to accompany the platter… not a big deal, as I still had plenty of red.

One thing that I was happy to see was how efficient and fast the service was. After all, this was a late evening dinner and many people just wanted to get some rest, and the crew did their best to be as efficient as possible. Right after the table was cleared, I extended my seat and prepared to catch some sleep. I found this lie flat seat more awkward in its angle than – let’s say – Qantas’; yet, while I couldn’t comfortably sleep on my side, I had no trouble in falling asleep almost right away face up.

Bed time. The leg rest would become more horizontal - I found that out after taking this picture.

Bed time. The leg rest would become more horizontal and aligned with the rest of the seat – I found that out after taking this picture.

I managed to catch some 4-and-half hours of sleep, and I was waken up only by the sound of the breakfast cart that started to deliver breakfast about 1h30m out of Santiago. I was still feeling full from the dinner (and the pre-dinner nachos!) so I opted for a healthy bowl of milk with cereals and yogurt with fresh fruit. As bread I chose a scone.


Breakfast breads

Fresh seasonal fruit


Asparagus and Prosciutto Omelette

Served with fire roasted peppers and potato cakes


With seasonal fruit and granola

Express breakfast

Served 45 minutes prior to landing to allow you to sleep as long as possible

Warm breakfast breads, seasonal fruit and your choice of beverage




Scone, fresh but not very fragrant

Cereals, sugary and tasty just like I want them

Cereals, sugary and tasty just like I want them

Fruit and yogurt

Fruit and yogurt

The size of the breakfast was more than enough to fill me up to explode. I liked the cereals a lot – sugary and sweet, just like Italians prefer them – and the fruit was fresh. The yogurt was pretty good as well. I wasn’t offered any drink (not even orange juice) which I found odd, and so I had to drink the water from the water bottle I was handed after dinner (I could have asked for one of course, but it seems odd that I wasn’t offered any). Coffee or tea were indeed served, and as I am – for some reason – a big fan of Java City coffee I enjoyed it (my coffee, that is) very much.

After urgently running to the restroom I folded my Samsung Galaxy and the flight attendants started to collect the in-flight entertainment systems from all the passengers. We prepared for landing and by 10.40am we were on Santiago’s tarmac. Immigration was pretty straightforward (EU citizens are exempt from the “reciprocity fee” US, Canadian, Australian citizens have to pay) and I caught a TransVip shuttle (around $10) to my hotel.


I stayed at a small, 3-star hotel (“Hotel Riviera”) located in the “Centro” of Santiago (the oldest part of town). The place was nothing special was at less than $60 per night I only wanted a clean and centrally-located room – and this place delivered both.

One of the main reasons why I was excited about coming to Santiago was the Maipo River Valley, a.k.a. one of the biggest wine-producing regions of the World… only a few kilometers south-east of Santiago! The biggest and most famous of all the wineries there is Concha Y Toro, maker of one of the best-selling wines in the World, “Casillero del Diablo”. Could I pass the chance to visit it? I think you already know the answer.

Entrance to Concha Y Toro Winery

Entrance to Concha Y Toro Winery (taken from bus)

This historic winery founded by Melchor Concha Y Toro various generations ago (and the estate still houses the beautiful villa he called home).

Not bad for a winemaker :)

Not bad for a winemaker 🙂

What’s most striking about this estate is its beauty, its perfectly-tended and landscaped gardens, and the sea of vines that extend for hectares around the property. This is, in fact, the second biggest winery in the World both in terms of extension and production. Almost every varietal is grown here, and strolling about the property on a nice summer day is simply delightful.







No winery tour is obviously complete without some good tasting…


From sauvignon blanc… cabernet sauvignon, Concha Y Toro has them all!

…to cabernet sauvignon, Concha Y Toro has them all!

A good chunk of the guided tour revolves around the history of the best-selling wine of the company, Casillero del Diablo, a fairly good cabernet sauvignon in my modest opinion. They way they put it is certainly… touristy… but having a look at the barriques and the wine storage rooms is certainly most interesting.

DSC_0574 DSC_0580 DSC_0576

One thing that wine does is making you happy. Couple that with a bunch of young and cheerful Brazilian tourists, and you have the recipe for a good night (and lots of pisco sours and mojitos). Barrio Bellavista is the place to be on a weekend night. This is the trendy heart of Santiago, where college students and young professionals come together to party. Patio Bellavista – a courtyard-style square with upscale eateries and bars – is a good place to do people watching and to have a pisco sour – or three or four.

Pisco Sour

Pisco Sour

For those of you who don’t know, pisco sour is probably the most beloved cocktail in Chile and Peru. A mixed drink made of pisco (a local distilled spirit made from pomace), lime juice, sugar syrup, bitters, and egg white, pisco sour is as refreshing as a warm summer night calls for. The fact that restaurants usually have 2×1 specials only make this drink more appealing.

But let’s go back to the city. Bellavista – so bustling at night – is quiet and relaxing during day time. Strolling around its tree-lined streets is a feast for the eyes, as the barrio is dotted by beautiful and colorful houses. Yet, this is a feature of all Santiago – Barrio Lastarria, Barrio Brasil, Barrio Concha y Toro –: quiet streets dotted by street art and interesting buildings, sometimes just contrasting with one another but because of this all the more interesting. To be honest, Santiago reminded me of Italian cities a lot. Like, in a “are-you-sure-I-am-in-Chile-and-not-in-Italy” way. Many of the buildings look like the modernist-functionalist condos you find in big cities like Turin or Milan, the sidewalks are like the ones you would find in any major European city (that is, tiled/landscaped or made of a dark concrete), and stores still have metal shuts on (very much like Europe’s until the late ’90s).

Barrio Centro is the natural sightseeing part of the city. Founded by Pedro de Valdivia in 1541, Santiago’s Centro is the historic alma of the city. The cathedral, Plaza de Armas, the Museum of Arte Precolombina (closed at the time of my visit) and the Mercado Central are all here, walking distance from each other (much shade in between streets, helpful on a sunny summer day!). The Mercado is less interesting than I thought, but I also happened to visit it during a Sunday morning when there is not much activity going on.




Typical Santiago architecture


I love this juxtaposition of ancient and modern…


Let’s make things fun!


El Mercado Central


It (probably) doesn’t get any fresher than this!

DSC_0611 DSC_0614

All around it, cheap eateries sell fresh fish dishes for around 5 dollars a person – a very good deal if you ask me. From Centro to Lastarria is a short, pleasurable walk that takes you through sleepy streets filled with interesting buildings and the occasional street art – such a nice change from the average Texan landscape. Locals stroll by and sit in nice cafes while enjoying their domingo, and you really get a sense of total relaxation on these streets. Nice cafes – perfect for cafe’ con leche and a croissant – dot the landscape and are perfect for chilling down while enjoying a good book.

Barrio Lastarria

Barrio Lastarria







Walk a little bit more and you eventually jump into Plaza Italia, a very nice park/square lined with a statue homage to the German community who migrated here.


Plaza Italia


Cross the river and you are in Bellavista, not only the nocturnal soul of the city but also a very interesting neighborhood where to walk about enjoying interesting houses and where to find a nice place to get a ice-cold cerveza Austral. La Chascona – Pablo Neruda famed residence – is here as well – just book in advance if interested in touring it. From here you can take the funicular (when open) or a bus to the crest of the Cerro… overlooking the city. The statue of the Virgin topping it looks pretty impressive from up close, and the sweeping view of Santiago is rather nice and discloses a city with a very modern business district in Los Altos and a still pretty large slum area on the outskirts. This hill is a real green lung for the city, and scores of locals come here to picnic, walk, or bike – not a bad work out if you consider how steep the road uphill is! I will let my pictures speak by themselves though.





Simply idyllic!









By the time I was done with all this I still had just time to check Barrio Brasil and Barrio Concha y Toro out – nice street art, quiet residential areas with nice parks and cobblestone streets where people watching is at its best – before heading out to the airport to catch my flight back.




Barrio Brasil



Flight AA940 SCL – DFW


Business Class, Seat 5G

10:50p – 6:05a+1

Santiago airport is quite modern and easy to navigate (to get to/from the airport, use a shuttle van or the cheap bus which connects with the subway at Pajaritos station). Check-in was fast and security checks smooth. Just the time to buy a bottle of Pisco at the duty-free store and get my last pisco sour of the trip at a bar, that the time to board arrived.

DSC_0521 DSC_0519 DSC_0522 DSC_0523 DSC_0524

The cabin was completely full, and the crew was the same of the inbound trip. The flight attendant in charge of my aisle was the same as well. He recognized me and – throughout the trip – he seemed pretty concerned of the fact I was taking pictures of everything… quite funny if you ask me, and annoying at the same time as he kept on asking questions to understand why I was doing it. Anyways…

I got some pre-departure champagne and waited for take-off. I won’t post pictures of the hard product as it was exactly as the one on the inbound flight. The purser came by and got orders for dinner (after introducing herself).

Once airborne, Samsung Galaxy tablets were handed out with the usual and always nice Bose headset. I opted to watch Hope Springs, a rather funny and entertaining comedy starring Susan Sarandon and Tommy Lee Jones. Pre-dinner nuts and drink were served shortly after, and I enjoyed a gin & tonic with the usual, good warm nuts. It’s amazing how such a simple thing like warm nuts never dies in popularity. They are just a great pre-dinner munch!




The menu tonight was as follow.

AA new menu

AA new menu



Smoked salmon carpaccio with wasabi



Mixed greens with garnishes

Premium extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar

Assorted gourmet breads




With a red wine sauce, green beans, grilled tomatoes and rice

Gemelli Pasta

With arugula cream sauce and sauteed mushrooms


Cream of corn

Cold plate sampler

A selection of cold cuts and fine cheeses



Traditional ice cream sundae

Vanilla ice cream served with your choice of hot fudge, dulce de leche or seasonal berry toppings, whipped creams and pecans

Gourmet Cheese Plate

An assortment of fine cheeses with garnishes



A selection of breakfast breads


Cheddar Cheese Omelette

Served with sauteed Lyonnaise potatoes, fire roasted peppers and smoked pork loin


With seasonal fruit and granola

Express Breakfast

 Served 45 minutes prior to landing to allow you to sleep as long as possible

Warm breakfast breads, seasonal fruit and your choice of beverage


The salmon carpaccio was actually quite pleasant.

Starter tray

Starter tray

Close up of the salmon carpaccio

Close up of the salmon carpaccio

I really like American’s new ware – modern and stylish; and so are the new menus: minimalist and to the point. I also like the note on the first page signed by Virasb Vahidi, AA CCO. By the way, the wine list (same on the inbound flight) was as follow:



Champagne Demilly de Baere Carte d’Or

White Wine

La Val Albarino

Casa Silva Sauvignon Gris

Red Wine

Crucero Cabernet Sauvignon

Rustenberg John X Merriman

Dessert Wine

Senhora de Convento Vintage Port


As main course I opted – once again – for the beef. This time the chateaubriand was ok. Tasty but definitely not as good as the steak out of Dallas. Well yes, if there’s something good in Texas that’s beef… 🙂






"Premium" olive oil

“Premium” olive oil

A good glass of Rustenberg John X Merriman

A good glass of Rustenberg John X Merriman


Given the poor experience with cheese on the inbound flight, I opted for the signature sundae this time. I wasn’t disappointed, as if there’s one thing American does well, well that’s sundae! I opted for dulce de leche as topping of choice and I was happy I did!



Dessert tray

Dessert tray

After dinner and after finishing the movie I reclined my bed and I caught almost 6 good hours of sleep. Once again, I feel that this angled beds are actually fine for sleeping. Of course, fully-flat beds are another thing, but I cannot complain.

My seat, 5G

My seat, 5G

I woke up at the sound of the breakfast tray serving passengers in front of me. As in the first flight, I opted for the fruit and yogurt as I was still full from the night meal. I won’t post any picture of breakfast because it was exactly the same as the one out of Dallas (the omelette was different though).

We landed in Dallas 30 minutes ahead of schedule and – as the border control opens at 6am – we had to sit inside the plane until we had green light from the customs agency. In no more than 20 minutes I was out of the airport on my way to my car and – finally – home.


So, how was my weekend? Fun. A lot of fun. Santiago is a city that deserves a weekend, but probably not much more than that. Chile is – of course – vast, and I can see myself coming back to explore more of this beautiful and welcoming country.

American Airlines International Business Class was – as well – a positive surprise. While the service has still some way to go in terms of friendliness, it is efficient and punctual. No request seems to be too much for the crew. The 767-300 seat – while old and outdated – is not a bad seat and it allowed me to sleep for most of the flight. The new menu and china look – and the new selection of wines – are winners as well, and I look forward to try the new First Class on the 773ER and its wine consultants.

A short but memorable trip indeed.



Leave a Comment
  1. whilehewasout / Feb 6 2013 4:47 am

    Wow this is a loooong short trip : ) I really love to fly but the longest trip I took was about 9 hours, I don’t know what I would do on a longer one! Beautiful pictures about the city : )

  2. Alex's Morales / Aug 25 2013 4:17 pm

    Is there a first class on that Dallas- Santiago flight & do you think it’s worth the up charge from business? Thx! Enjoyed your detailed report!

    • robertocusato / Aug 25 2013 9:19 pm

      Hi Alex,

      no First Class, only business as AA uses a 767 on that route. However, given AA first class I would never pay to upgrade to first with them – simply not worth the money/miles.

  3. anon / Aug 25 2013 7:34 pm

    Another great trip report Roberto!


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