Airport Lounge Access + LAN International Business vs. Economy

This is part 13 of a series of posts devoted to our whirlwind tour of Peru & Chile.

  1. Less than $1,000 per person all-in for our 11-day tour in Peru & Chile
  2. How you can use <75,000 points to replicate our itinerary to visit Machu Picchu, Easter Island, and more
  3. How to prepare for altitude sickness in Machu Picchu & Lake Titicaca
  4. What to bring for your trip to Machu Picchu, Lake Titicaca, and/or Easter Island
  5. How many different sets of tickets do you have to buy for that one-day visit to Machu Picchu?
  6. How to Create Your Own Machu Picchu “Inka Trail” Experience in One Day
  7. Using the Tambo del Inka, a Starwood Luxury Collection Resort, as Your Base for Your Visit to Machu Picchu
  8. Tour Guide #1 – Sabino for Cusco, Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu, Peru
  9. Tour Guide #2 – Silvia for Puno, Lake Titicaca, Sillustani, Peru
  10. How We Did Lima, Peru in One Day
  11. Tour Guide #3 – Sergio for Easter Island, Chile
  12. Taking Advantage of an Airport Hotel for Our Walking Tour of Santiago, Chile
  13. Airport Lounge Access + LAN International Business vs. Economy
  14. Budgeting for Your Next Big Dream Vacation
  15. You Won’t Believe What Happened on Our Way Home!

Throughout the series, both TravelWhimsy and I briefly touched on the topic of airport lounges and LAN’s international business class product. I’d like to take this opportunity to share our experiences with the various lounges we used during the trip, and to also throw in my two cents on whether it was necessary to fly business class or not.

Airport Lounge Access Memberships

Some of you may know that when you sign up for the Chase Ink business card (including the fee-free Classic version) or some of the premium Chase hotel cards, you receive a complimentary LOUNGE CLUB membership that entitles you to two free visits a year to any of the listed airport lounges.

LOUNGE CLUB, owned by Priority Travel Group (which also owns Priority Pass), was a 2011 spin-off from Priority Pass to exclusively deal with financial institutions interested in offering airport lounge access memberships to their customers. That said, the American Express Platinum cardholders still get the Priority Pass Select membership that gives cardholders unlimited number of visits to listed lounges (excluding United Clubs in the US, effective October 1, 2011, due to the United/Continental merger).

Lima Airport Lounges (ALL Open 24 Hours Daily)

(1) “New” Lounge at the Domestic Terminal

Our pre-trip research indicated that there were only two lounges located at the international concourse of the Lima airport. We, however, discovered a small lounge in the domestic terminal that had been open for about a year. Had we known about this, we wouldn’t have had to wait 4 hours for mom at the airport Starbucks.

When we inquired about access to the lounge at the domestic terminal, the agent told us that only Priority Pass membership cards would be accepted (no LOUNGE Club cards). That lounge in the domestic area is now listed under both LOUNGE CLUB and Priority Pass, so hopefully you will be able to access it with your LOUNG CLUB card during your overnight connection in Lima.

(2) VIP Club Lounge & SUMAQ VIP Lounge

The two lounges share a main entrance (VIP Club nestled behind SUMAQ).

We were flying LAN’s business class for our red-eye flight from Lima to Easter Island, and our lounge invitation cards only allowed access to the VIP Club, not SUMAQ.

On the way home from Santiago to Los Angeles, we had to transit in Lima. We were flying economy for the entire leg, but our AA Platinum elite status allowed us to access SUMAQ, despite the fact that LAN and AA were in the same oneworld alliance.

I was expecting major differences between the two lounges, but really they were almost identical. Both offer identical food/snack/drink items and have this amazing machine that provides DIY-freshly-squeezed orange juice.

The only difference might be that SUMAQ has a shower room but VIP does not.

There were other airport lounges in Cusco, Juliaca, Santiago, but we did not have time to use them. For some reason, I had high expectations for lounges outside of the US, but after all, the oneworld lounge at Los Angeles’ Tom Bradley International Terminal still had the best food/drink offerings.

Is It Necessary to Fly Business?

I know this is a hotly debated topic in the frequent flyer community, but still would like to offer my honest opinion.

Out of the 10 segments we flew for the trip, 3 were in LAN’s premium business cabin. To me, the only segment that made a difference was the 5-hour red-eye flight from Lima to Easter Island, given how crazy our 30-hour itinerary was on the island. A lie-flat seat definitely helped improve the quality of sleep, and enabled us to hit the ground running without a hitch. The other 2 business segments were during the day, and my 6-foot-tall body would have been perfectly happy sitting in economy.

The novelty factor of “wine-and-dine” was not important or long-lasting to me personally. If I had to pick between flying in premium cabin and taking an extra parent with me on the trip, I’d pick the latter in a heartbeat.

The long-haul segment from Lima to LA passed relatively quickly, with TravelWhimsy on my side, Kindle in my hands, and the same LAN entertainment system offering lots of movies.

This is not to say that I won’t book any future travel in premium cabins any more. When we have limited time and need a good night of sleep on the plane, or when a premium class redemption costs less than or the same as an economy class redemption, I’d be happy to get the best mileage out of my miles. In fact, this entire South America trip was booked for that second reason.

 

Let me know what you think! I respond to all comments.

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  • I think the economy-premium debate largely stands on whether you are traveling alone, with significant other or family.
    Those travel along would prefer premium cabin redemption for sure. The saver award are very often very reasonable and provides excellent value. The comfort and extra privacy are also very neat.
    For those travelling with family, economy makes much more sense for many reason. It costs almost half a million of pts to travel international roundtrip for a family of four in premium cabin. This is just not what most can afford. Also, more importantly, it is hard to get premium saver awards for every one in the same flight/itinerary. Most family travelers would value travel together much higher than “wine-and-dine”.

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  • Vern

    I used my lounge club membership at the domestic lounge in Lima.  Was small but was interesting in that you order from a menu what “snack” you want.  I ordered a chicken sandwich and diet coke. 

  • MichaelP

    I stayed overnight in the domestic lounge using Priority Pass (from Amex Platinum) but they will take Lounge Club also.  It had 2 small mid size sofas.  The staff dim the lights by the sofas to help guests get some sleep.  The VIP Lounge in the international terminal was much larger.  Wasn’t sure if it was accessible with a domestic ticket – that would have been my choice to if that was possible.

    The staff incorrectly said my Priority Pass (from Amex Platinum) was valid for me and a guest, I told him it’s probably not but he insisted. It wasn’t – Amex charged me $27 for the guest but I later got it removed.

    • The staff at the domestic lounge must have been informed that Lounge Club is wholly owned by the company that owns Priority Pass. Thanks for sharing your experiences, MichaelP.