Starting on January 5, 2011, LAN Airlines will begin service between Lima and Easter Island offering two flights a week on Wednesdays and Sundays. This comes as the drive for increased tourism continues on the tiny island, despite being opposed by many of the locals who actually live there.
Flights from Lima to Easter Island will save European and North American travelers up to three hours of travel time compared to the existing flights available by LAN from Santiago to Easter Island. The new route marks the first time that Easter Island will be connected to another country in South America besides Chile.
Up until now, the number of tourists visiting Rapa Nui has been restricted simply by the number of people that can fit on the plane: the little LAN Airbus A318-100 that lands at Isla de Pasqua airport from Santiago only holds 120 passengers and only flies between four and seven times a week, depending on the season.
The new routes will offer travelers the opportunity to visit multiple iconic South American tourist destinations in one trip via Lima including Cusco and Machu Picchu in Peru, Argentina’s Iguazu Falls, Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands, and the Patagonia region of Chile and Argentina including the towns of Punta Arenas, Ushuaia, El Calafate and Bariloche.
“LAN Airlines and its affiliates are offering passengers access to the most complete and integrated tourism network in South America, providing them with the opportunity and flexibility to explore more than one of the region’s wonders. With the addition of these new routes, visitors from around the world will have more options to make connections on LAN and its affiliates that will help support the region’s tourism development, while offering outstanding quality of service,” said Armando Valdivieso, CEO of LAN Airlines Passenger Division.
LAN Airlines will service the Lima to Easter Island route on modern Boeing 767-300s. The flight will be about five hours – much the same as from Santiago. This aircraft offers the airline’s Premium Business Class in addition to a recently renovated Economy class and apparently premium Business class, featuring full flat seats, 180-degree reclining seats. The Boeing 767-300 seats around 200, so a little more than the existing aircraft in use from Santiago.
The Isla de Pasqua airport at Rapa Nui will have no problem accommodating larger aircraft a sthe runway stretches almost the full width of the island. It was extended by NASA in 1984 in order to provide an emergency Space Shuttle landing site in the South Pacific.