Flight Nightmare: JFK to Lima on LAN 531

Monday night served as the official beginning of my RTW trip. I had a final meal at home with my parents of roast chicken and broccoli, watched Jeopardy with my Dad for the last time until July, then was picked up by the car service to go to JFK airport for an 11:55 pm flight to Lima via LAN Chile. The northeast in March can experience some wonky snowstorms, and mother nature decided to send me off from New York with a slick ride to the airport. Luckily I did arrive safely and on time, but my travel troubles were just beginning.

At first LAN 531 was only delayed 45 minutes due to the snow. OK, fine. We board at 12:15 am, only to wait five solid hours on the tarmac without food or water or any information about the flight departure. Around 3 am we are told we are refueling at the gate, which made some sense in my half asleep mind but now makes absolutely no sense. We hadn’t gone anywhere, why would we need to refuel? Two more hours go by… we are told we can exit the plane to get breakfast, but to return in one hour for more information.

One hour goes by, we are told to get our stuff from the plane. It has suffered a mechanical failure. OK, things happen. So when are we getting another plane? They don’t know. They will know at… noon. If we have a plane. Yikes.

Now, as a healthy 27-year-old losing one day of my 10 month vacation, I wasn’t terribly upset about the situation beyond my general discomfort and confusion. But there were several passengers who were missing a day of work, another passenger missing her brother’s funeral, passengers who needed medical attention, infants and elderly people, dogs in the cargo hold, and so on. There were passengers requesting their checked luggage from the plane so that they could either go home or book another flight. LAN did not cooperate at all with these requests and gave no reason why the luggage couldn’t be removed.

Noon rolls around and they give us lunch vouchers to use in the airport and the news that there is a plane coming at 2 pm that can take us to Lima. It was certainly welcome news, but there was a healthy degree of skepticism among the passengers after 12 hours of being kept in the dark.

LAN then begins calling passengers to the gate to give them a a travel voucher for either a $600 credit on a future flight or $200 cash. Again, as someone who was only slightly inconvenienced, I was happy to take the cash. But to some passengers who had been seriously disrupted, the gesture can’t hardly make up for what was lost.

We did, finally, take off at about 2:45 on Tuesday afternoon and made it to Lima safely at around 11 pm, 14 hours after our scheduled arrival time. I got to Youth Hostel Malka via an arranged car pick up and was relieved to finally sink into a comfortable bed for a good night’s sleep.

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2 thoughts on “Flight Nightmare: JFK to Lima on LAN 531

    • Thanks for the comment! I’d thought about filing an official complaint, but decided I’d just rather put it past me. I’ll be following your trip on your blog – good luck!

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