Santiago to Mendoza is just about 120 miles as the crow flies but there is one major hindrance – the Andes fold up to 22,838 feet, right in between those two cities. This increases driving time to almost 6 hours, so I chose to fly instead.
LATAM operates a number of services every day. Argentinians come to Chile for the lower-priced electronics and Chileans love to taste wine and explore the Argentine cities.
Santiago and Mendoza are both modern airports and, as usual in South America, everyone is treated to TSA Pre✓, which makes the long lines move quickly. However, immigration and the bag check past immigration can take a long time; it took me 3+ hours on both sides.
Both of my flights were almost completely full.
The planes take a surprisingly direct route where they gain altitude quickly and then steer directly for the Andes. The seat belt sign never comes off and there’s no onboard service during these flights.
The eastbound flights had some major bumps while going over the Andes foothills. The view quickly became spectacular, with snow-filled valleys that were seemingly right underneath us.
It’s just about 15 to 20 minutes and then you start your descent into the valley airports that have no snow at the beginning of fall.
Since flights are so short, they fall into the 4,500 Avios category for redemptions. But the best part is not the redemption valley, but the excitement of going over these massive mountains close up.