My trip to Lima was better than I even anticipated. I mean, I knew it was going to be a great trip but was so interested to see how far the City has come since the horrible internal terrorist activity during the 80′s and 90′s which severely damaged the reputation of Lima and Peru. Well, I am happy to report that the Lima of today is a vibrant city that has most deservedly captured the title of culinary capital of the Americas. Lima is very much a city of stark contrasts particularly rich and poor but one thing that is unifying is the warm welcome and sense of pride that its inhabitants have.
To most people, Lima is a just a starting or stopping point before or after a visit to Machu Picchu. I had a feeling that the city had far more to offer so decided when planning a recent trip that I would spend more than a week in Lima – and let me tell you it was the absolute right thing to do.
As a Celiac with a severe shellfish allergy who doesn’t speak Spanish I was a bit concerned about how that would go when dining out but as you’ll soon read, I needn’t have worried about it as things went extremely well thank to just a little bit of planning.
So I thought I would start my report with the flights. People often ask about how I handle my dietary needs, particularly on long-haul flights. Well, being a private pilot, I am a bit of an aviation dork and have long had a love affair with all things aviation-related – particularly airlines. Yes, I am the person who made my mother fly with me to Honk Kong via Dubai (rather than a much quicker non-stop routing) so we could be on the first non-stop from New York to Dubai to try Emirates new service. And yes, it was well worth it.
The first part of this trip report is of course The Flights. I am warning you that this is a pretty comprehensive report on the flights as I am also sharing with some travel boards I frequent where like-minded travel enthusiasts congregate to read exactly these types of in-depth travelogues. So here we go…
I researched various options to Lima and landed on flying LAN Airlines to try their much raved about Premium Business Class service. We’d be flying New York (JFK) to Guayaquil to Lima and non-stop Lima back to New York. I also was very interested in sampling LAN’s gluten-free meal option. I of course do not travel without my gluten-free contingency pack which includes snacks or food items in case of delay or lack of gluten-free options while on the road. LAN’s flights depart late at night to arrive in Latin America early the next morning. LAN recently moved to JFK’s Terminal 8 (American Airlines) and the terminal was actually very busy when we arrived to check-in. LAN has two desks handling business class check-in and while not the fastest process, it was efficient and the agents very pleasant. When checking-in we were told that our flight was delayed but we could go on the non-stop to Lima leaving around the same time we were supposed to leave. I was not too hopeful though because when I made the reservations that flight was sold out – hence our one-stop itinerary. Sure enough, there were no business class seats available so we stayed on our original flight which was now two-hours delayed. Certainly not the end of the world but this would push departure time to around 1:30 a.m. Luckily the same aircraft was the aircraft for our connection so that too would be delayed allowing us to connect as planned. We were presented with invitations to the American Airlines Admirals Club along with two vouchers for $20 each to use at any of the terminal restaurants – though we had already has a lovely dinner prior to arrival so those went unused. The only strange thing was that the monitors confused our flight information with the Lima non-stop so our flight number and destination were correct with the Lima non-stop flight’s departure time (and hour before ours). Likely something to do with the terminal swap. This did not get resolved until shortly before boarding.
The Admirals Club was a pretty standard club that was quite busy but we received four top-shelf cocktail chits and settled in. There is food for purchase along with the standard club snacks and beverages. The lounge does have a good view of flight operations which I always enjoy – though at that hour they were not too frequent. The lounge was supposed to close at 11:30 p.m. but actually remained open until we were called to the gate for boarding which I thought was very nice.
767-300ER (with winglets)
Seats: 3J and 3L (Premium Business)
When we got to the gate we were warmly welcomed on-board by a smiling, impeccably dressed crew and took out seats. This LAN aircraft had only three rows of Premium Business in a 2-2-2 configuration and full lie flat seats. The flight attendant serving our side came over and introduced herself and offered champagne, juice, or the famous pisco sour cocktail along with warm nuts – guess what I had? The cocktail was delicious and really helped put you in the mood of your destination and was a very nice touch. We were then presented with menus and wine lists and Bvlgari amenity kits were also distributed. As we were already delayed passengers has the option to just sleep the entire was or enjoy the dinner service. I had to see what my gluten-free meal would be so opted to stay awake for a bit. I also confirmed as soon as I was settled that the meal was actually on-board – a very important tip I always stress to travelers. There is very little that can be done at 35,000 feet if your meal is not on-board so ask nicely once you settle in to confirm. I should also point out that my boarding pass also had my gluten-free meal noted on it which I have not seen before.
Boarding was swift and we were soon on our way to Guayaquil. Flight time would be a quick six hours and twenty minutes. Shortly after takeoff the attendants swung into action and hot towels were distributed. Meal order were taken prior to take off so were served extremely efficiently. Given the delay, a more abbreviated meal service was offered and that was actually most welcome. My gluten-free meal arrived and was actually not that bad. For some reason airline caterers love to make chicken, in some form or another, the gluten-free option.
A LAN representative was waiting and directing to the transit area or customs. The transit area has a quick security check with X-ray and walk through metal detector and we were the let out in the Duty Free Shop and made our way into the terminal. We went to the Diamond Club Lounge. I did find it strange that I had to go to the departure gate to get a lounge invitation but I guess since so many airlines use the lounge they have to track it somehow. Was not a big deal and we were soon enjoying a very nice hot breakfast with amazing fresh coffee. The lounge was really very nice with skylights replicating and outdoor area in one part. Service was excellent and we were soon called to the gate for boarding.
767-300ER (with winglets)
Seats: 2A and 2C (Premium Business)
The flight to Lima was empty in business class – just four of us in the fifteen seats so it felt a bit eerie but again, was warmly welcomed on-board and offered a pre-departure beverage. The attendant servicing our side of the aircraft introduced herself and we were soon on our way. The flight would only be about 2 hours so there would be a quick breakfast meal service. It consisted of fresh fruit, yogurt, assorted cheeses and meats, and a selection of warm breads (none were gluten-free) was offered.
Arrival in Lima was uneventful and we were through customs and immigration very quickly despite having our bags selected for X-ray before leaving the arrivals hall. You push a button and if it’s green off you go, red and you have to just go through one final check that took no time at all really. This was not the first country I have had to push a button in but when I saw the people in front of me all go green I knew I’d be making a pit stop. Upon exiting the arrivals hall we were immediately met by our driver and whisked to our hotel – about 45 minutes away.
Our departure from Lima was a non-stop flight that departed, you guessed it, after midnight. Having been warned that Lima airport can get a bit crazy we decided to leave for the airport at 8:00 p.m. and it took a good 45 minutes to an hour to get to the airport. Traffic in Lima is extremely congested and when we arrived at the airport we were glad we had given ourselves some extra time. Check-in was fast though I had to smile when the agent asked if one of us would be interested in downgrading as business was oversold – I should have found out was being offered but quite frankly was looking forward to a nice long sleep again – so we declined. Here’s a little tip: when flying internationally while you cannot typically print your boarding pass (because of security and immigration requirements) you can pre-check-in which on LAN is 48 hours in advance. So we had long been checked-in and the agent made a point of noting this. Lounge invitations were issued and we were on our way.
Security was busy but pretty well organized and we were through in no time. Immigration on the other hand took a bit longer and we were again glad that we given ourselves additional time. There is no premium cabin security or immigration at Lima and with most flights north departing around the same time it can get very busy – so give yourself plenty of time.
After immigration we hit the duty free shops for a few items (that are delivered to the jetway for claim prior to boarding) and then headed to the LAN lounge which is the SUMAQ FISA Investments Salon. The lounge was very busy but still had plenty of seating. There was a host of food items and beverages including a fresh squeezed orange juice machine and a staffed complimentary bar. The lounge had an outside courtyard seating area and quiet area with loungers.
767-300ER (with winglets)
Seats: 3A and 3C (Premium Business)
Boarding in Lima was pretty chaotic. The flight originates in Santiago, Chile and transit passengers had to deplane and then there was some confusion as they were re-boarded before the Lima passengers were. There was secondary screening for all passengers which was very quick and we were soon boarding after picking-up our duty-free purchases.
The consistent thing about the LAN crews is that they are extremely professional and seem to really enjoy their jobs (at least the crews we had). We were once again warmly greeted and took our seats. Welcome cocktails and nuts were once again offered, amenity kits distributed, along with breakfast menus. The first meal service would be a quick-service dinner (single tray presentation) and breakfast would be either a full breakfast (2 hours prior to landing) or fast breakfast service (45 minutes prior to landing). The full breakfast options were pretty much everything under the sun from omelets and hot options to cereals and fresh fruit. Best of all you could select anything that you wanted to customize it to you preferences. My first meal option was the gluten-free meal and was – you guessed it – chicken. It was not as good as the outbound chicken but the grilled vegetables with it were quite good as was the salad.
Shortly after dinner it was time for bed and I slept through until I was, as requested, awaken for my full breakfast. I opted for an omelet with fresh fruit and a cheese and meat platter. It was very good but I did have use my gluten-free skills to navigate because it was an à la carte menu and there was some confusion as to whether there was a separate gluten-free meal for the second service. Anyway, it was fine because I was able to pick a few simple items that I knew would work for me. Total flight time was 8 hours and 20 minutes.
LAN is definitely a world class airline and their Premium Business Class is a great hard product and service was extremely professional. On the ground they are good but somewhat inconsistent – not really a big deal but it would be nice if their ground service was more on par with their in-flight crew.
Part II: The Hotel is also ready for viewing. Unfortunately TripAdvisor didn’t publish all the photos I submitted but you definitely get a taste for the experience.
Part III: Dining Gluten-Free in Lima will give you a taste of this culinary capital of the Americas.