LATAM is an airline that mainly flies to and from South America, so we hadn’t flown with them until we decided to visit Peru. One of the main reasons we chose LATAM was that I had British Airways miles that could be used to cover four tickets round trip from Los Angeles to Lima as well as four domestic round-trip flights. Our flight was a direct flight, which is always the best choice when traveling with autism.
Booking Latam Airlines
I booked our tickets online through the British Airways website in less than ten minutes for a total of 225K air miles and hardly any tax. Next, the airline’s customer service agent referred me to the Los Angeles office and was very helpful. A special thanks to Sharon and Mr. Caballero, the Passenger Service Supervisor at LAX!
After explaining that our son has autism and that he can’t wait in long lines and needs bulk seating on the aircraft, Mr. Caballero personally tagged our booking (four flights) with the accommodations and reassured me that everything was taken care of.
At the Airport and Boarding
On the day of the first flight, we arrived at LAX 3 ½ hours ahead of time in the event we encountered issues that might need to be resolved. As we approach the ticket counter, we saw very long lines.
I asked for special needs assistance staff, and my family was immediately helped by an agent instead of waiting in the long line.Everyone worked diligently to ensure that we not only were seated together but that we received the bulkhead seats.
LATAM does weigh carry-ons, and we were two pounds over the limit. The airline was incredibly gracious saying that they understood we carried medicines and special hypoallergenic bedding for our son, so they let us carry them without any penalty.
LATAM has an excellent organizational system that uses lines for every ten rows so that the boarding process has a flow and is not too crowded.
At the gate, we pre-boarded using a wheelchair and were able to board each time quickly. It took some time to not only to settle our son but to store our carry-ons in the small overhead bins so were grateful we could do it without delaying fellow passengers. We found the bins on the Boeing 767 and on their Airbus 319 we flew to Cusco from Lima able to hold a 21-inch suitcase each and a small bag comfortably.
As we passed by the Business Class (there is no First Class), we discovered that it was surprisingly small on the 767. There were 18 seats in all with the most legroom and pitch I’ve seen in a Business Class.
We flew the airline’s Economy Class.With the plane’s configuration of 2-3-2, as a family of four, we sat in row 12 and 13. My sons and I got the bulkhead seats while my husband sat behind us on the way to Lima and back. All in all, both rows had adequate leg space and the seat comfort was average although it was a bit annoying when people crossed over from side to side and bumped into us.
We were glad to find that pillows and blankets were provided for the red eye flight and there were outlets underneath the seats, to juice up our devices. There were also no air vents directly blowing on us which are always an issue for our son with autism that has sensory challenges.
A plethora of movies and television shows both in English and Spanish were offered on the entertainment system. The caveat for the bulkhead seating was that the television was built in and fixed in the bulk area in front of you. While the screens don’t fall during turbulence, they are a bit too small and far which makes watching a bit cumbersome.
The 319 Airbus doesn’t have any entertainment on board, which was OK as the flight was less than an hour and a half each way and we had packed tablets to watch our own movies. The seats on the Airbus were leather and much more comfortable than most economy seats we’ve sat in on other flights and airlines.
Meals and Amenities
The flight crew was helpful and attentive. They came around to check and make sure we were comfortable and had our needs met. They offered dinner meal choices of chicken with a salad and cake. Later the crew retired for several hours before returning with a light breakfast. We were disappointed to discover that they had no milk or apple juice for our kids and that coffee wasn’t going to be served due to turbulence.
When we continued our journey to Cusco on a domestic flight, we were surprised to discover that the company offered complimentary snack boxes and drinks (including alcohol), even in economy.
The bathrooms on both our long haul flight and domestic were kept clean and were continuously stocked with soap, hand lotions, even mouthwash.
Overall we had a great experience with LATAM that surprisingly showed a high and unexpected level of autism awareness and excellent customer service. We didn’t have to wait in any significant lines and were accommodated on and off the aircraft promptly.
Autism Travel Tips
When traveling LATAM with autism, make sure you call ahead and tag your reservation as special needs and ask for the necessary accommodations (wheelchair assistance) or special diets that your family members may need.
Packing a tablet and power cord may be helpful as there might not be adequate entertainment on some aircraft.
It is interesting to note that while LATAM does not claim to discriminate against passengers with disabilities, they are one of the few airlines who requires a muzzle for a service animal and they do have this additional statement on their website in regards to passengers with autism:
Passengers with autism who are accompanied by family or caregivers and who do not have a disruptive behavior do not require a medical certificate however if they travel alone, they will have to present a medical certificate.