Patagonia was always on our list of places to go, but since it is in the middle of nowhere (literally), it can be challenging to get there for a reasonable price.
We had 2 options:
- 33 hour bus ride
- 2.5 hour flight
One might think it is an obvious decision – save the time and fly, but for us it was a struggle. If we took the bus, we would be able to travel for $43 each. This cost would cover a night of lodging and would give us some contingency money for Patagonia. Flying, while easier, cost $255 each – 6x more money.
We went back and forth, eventually deciding that saving the money would be a better choice. When we tried to purchase our bus tickets online, we kept getting error messages. After some help from our Pucon hostel host, who called the bus company for us, we learned that only Chile and Argentina residents can purchase bus tickets online. This made our decision for us. Since there were only 4 seats left on the bus and we wouldn’t be able to purchase for another few days, they would be sold out. This left flying as our only option.
Buying Our Tickets
When we looked at flying we were presented with 2 different airlines that serviced the route – LAN, a legacy carrier and Sky Airlines, a discount airline. The pricing made our decision for us as the LAN flight was nearly double the cost at $400 per ticket.
We used the Sky Airlines website and easily purchased our tickets. When we first looked at flying, the tickets were $255 but when we went to purchase they had gone down to $195. This was a happy surprise for us as it was less than we had originally thought it would be.
Our hosts from our B&B in Puerto Varas tried to arrange a taxi to the airport for us, but when he was unavailable, they drove us to the airport themselves. When we arrived we noticed that the airport was extremely small and easy to navigate.
Check in was quick as we were pretty early for our flight so there was no line yet. After we had our tickets we headed to security. There were 2 lines and the woman pointed Andy towards 1 line and me towards the other, saying something in Spanish really fast. I assumed that there were different lines for men and women, but that wasn’t the case. Andy’s line moved super quick and my line was very slow. The women in front of me seemingly had never flown before and were trying to bring all sorts of weird items that were questionable to fly with.
Eventually we made it through security and grabbed a quick bite to eat before we headed to our gate. We thought it was strange that nobody was around our gate and spoke with another group of gringos that were nearby and packing up. They had found out that the gate had changed and we headed over to the new gate with them. We are fortunate that we found them as the gate’s TV which said what flight was boarding, said it was a LAN flight to Punta Arenas.
You could tell by looking at the plane that it was a discount airline. There was advertising not only on the paint of the plane, but also on the headrests, tray and even the seat belt buckles.
When we boarded the plane there were already quite a few people on it. The flight originated from Santiago, making a stop in Puerto Montt before continuing to Punta Arenas.
The ceiling seemed quite a bit taller than normal, I’m not sure if it was actually higher or was the result of good lighting. The aisle was a linoleum material which makes so much more sense than a carpet as it gets lots of traffic and is much easier to clean.
Our seats were the cheap seats and located towards the back of the plane. As we walked down the aisle, the leg room got less and less. By the time that we arrived at our row, I started laughing. I had never had so little leg room in my life. Andy had flown Spirit Airlines before and he said that even they gave more legroom than this. We sat down in our narrow seats where my hips, which are not large, filled the entire seat. I knew that it wasn’t going to be the most comfortable flight of my life, but it was short so I knew it would be fine.
We buckled our seat belts and were ready to go. As we took off, we heard quite a bit of rattling. I closed my eyes and told myself that it was a short flight, there were decent safety standards in Chile and everything would be alright.
The guy that was sitting next to me was not only relatively tall, but also a little large as well. He looked super uncomfortable being crammed into the same seats that we were. I felt awful for him when the woman who was sitting in front of him, who was just over 5’ tall reclined her seat for the entirety of the flight.
We had a beverage service on the plane which served room temperature drinks. It wasn’t the best beverage service that we had but we were happy to have some water to keep hydrated.
When we landed, Andy and I both had a small heart attack. Right before our wheels were going to hit the runway, a huge gust of wind came through and pushed the plane off course. The pilots were experienced and quickly remedied this but we were still reeling from the shock of the landing.
Even though Sky Airlines is a discount airline they don’t nickel and dime for things like baggage like other discount airlines. I really appreciated this as the price that we paid covered everything. The price was relatively reasonable since it is a very tourist heavy route which can charge more than a really local route.
Even though we considered taking the bus, I am happy that we ended up flying. The bus that we would have been on would have had semi-cama seats which only recline a little and are relatively narrow. We have become accustomed to cama seats which are wide, with the ability to recline quite far. We were so focused on the money that we didn’t even factor in that we would have essentially wasted a day of our trip traveling instead of being able to enjoy the city.
If you’re interested in paying the lowest cost for a flight and can put up with some discomfort, check out Sky Airlines. If the lack of legroom would bother you, there is quite a bit more legroom in the more premium seats towards the front of the plane. I’m not sure what the difference in price is, but I’m nearly certain that it is still cheaper than flying with LAN.