There are three major airlines in South America, one per alliance: Avianca, based in Columbia, is a member of Star Alliance; LATAM, based in Chile is a member of OneWorld (like British Airways), and Aerolineas Argentinas, based in Argentina, is a member of Sky Team. If flying across the South American continent, the likelihood is that the route will be served by either Avianca or LATAM due to their multiple regional hubs, whereas Aerolineas Argentinas operates most flights out of Buenos Aires. Here, we compare Avianca and LATAM business class on their Boeing 787 Dreamliners, which are used for both local and long-haul routes. You can read a review of each flight Avianca Business Class Review On B787 Dreamliner, LATAM Business Class review on the B787 Dreamliner, LATAM Business Class Review On the B787 Dreamliner and LATAM Business Class Review On Airbus A350.
Avianca business class in Bogota (the home airport) is an average business class lounge (5/10 rating). It offers a range of seating options but was very busy when we visited and difficult to find 2 seats together. Little hot food was on offer but there was a make your own salad bar and numerous complimentary drink options (including a range of alcohol). In comparison, the LATAM lounge in their home airport of Santiago was vastly superior (8/10 rating). A major plus for the LATAM experience was its check-in and lounge location – premium passengers check-in at a separate area of the airport, have a separate security and immigration channel, and the lounge is immediately afterward. The lounge feels more upmarket and has a good range of breakfast items, including pre-packed snacks to take away.
Cabin interior and design
Avianca’s 787 has a sleek, modern interior with crisp lines and a two-tone color palette of grey and navy. LATAM has a cozier interior with predominantly dark grey seating, but deep red ottomans and seat backs provide warmth to the cabin.
Cabin layout and seats
Both airlines offer fully lie-flat seats on the Dreamliner B787, and we found both seats very comfortable. Avianca has a 1-2-1 configuration with reverse herringbone seats, whereas LATAM has a 2-2-2 configuration with seats facing fully forward. As such, Avianca offers more privacy and would be better for single travelers and night flights. LATAM was our preferred option for day flights as a couple due to it being easier to maintain a conversation. You have to lean forward in your seat to see your neighbor in the Avianca layout.
The routes we flew with each airline were mid-haul at 5-6 hours, and both airlines offered pre-departure drinks and nuts, followed by a single meal service. The food provided by Avianca was acceptable – well prepared but bland, and the menu was uninspiring. In comparison, the meals we received on our LATAM flights were vastly superior, including an excellent breakfast with a very good omelet and interesting main courses for lunch (e.g., turkey stuffed with spiced dried fruit). Both airlines offered a good choice of local wines, but neither included champagne.
Both airlines offered a large, crisp screen for the IFE and had a wide range of films and TV programs available. Neither had noise-canceling headphones, but this is hardly a problem on the super-quiet Dreamliner.
Avianca offered a full amenity kit on the night flight we took from Bogota to Santiago, consisting of a black zip-up Tumi branded bag containing flight socks, eye mask, earplugs, tissues, a ball-point pen, dental kit, L’Occitane hand cream, and chap-stick. We only flew day flights with LATAM, who offered a more basic kit containing just flight socks, ear-plugs, eye mask, and ball-point pen.
For us, service is the most important factor after seat comfort, impacting the enjoyment of a flight. Of the multiple flights we took in April 2017, LATAM consistently provided much warmer and friendlier service than Avianca (based on 3 LATAM flights and 6 Avianca flights). This held true for the flight attendants, who smiled frequently and proactively tried to meet our needs (e.g., offering drink top-ups and blankets) to the captain, who asked whether we would like to see the flight deck prior to departure and took photos of us in the pilot’s seat! Avianca crew did the job but were much less hospitable.
The choice between Avianca and LATAM in South America can likely apply to their long-haul flights operated by B787 as well. Which airline is the better choice will partly depend on your preferences. If traveling alone, especially on a night flight, our preference would be Avianca due to the privacy offered by a 1-2-1 reverse herringbone seating. However, in all other situations, we would choose to book LATAM due to the superior dining and service.
You may be interested in my airline comparisons including Business Class on United vs. Delta vs. American Airlines, top 10 Best Business Class airlines for long-haul travel and the best airlines to travel to Europe in Business Class.
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