Airport review: Arturo Merino Benitez International Airport, Santiago, Chile

Airport review: Arturo Merino Benitez International Airport, Santiago Chile


BA250 to London Heathrow business


It's easy run about 1½ hours with motorways from Valparaiso on the coast. A free shuttle bus is required to get from the rental car drop off spot to the terminal always a nuisance and an indication that an airport's a bit bigger than you would like. From Santiago the airport is about 15 kilometers west of the center. Turbus runs buses every 15 minutes taking about 45 minutes and costing 1900 pesos. Or a taxi should cost about 15,000 to 20,000 pesos.


There is an awful lot of construction going on part of a plan for separate domestic and international terminals and a light rail connection to the Santiago Metro network. This should be ready in 2020. Amid the makeover work the existing terminal building looks like the handiwork of an architect inspired by generic sports stadiums of the last Thirty years. A lots of white painted bars some supportive some decorative disappear at all angles creating a big open space in the middle.


3 hours and 5 minutes before departure a big queue has gathered around the British Airways sign. When the check in desks eventually open they are still displaying Copa Airlines signs which adds a sprinkle of confusion to the unnecessarily long lines. There are self check in screens for many airlines but not British Airways LATAM or Qantas.


Passport control has lots of booths open and while the security queue takes a snaking form around roped off barriers there are not many people in it. All in all the security rigmarole is about as painless as it's ever going to be.


I really regret not investigating the two promising looking options I spotted near the check in desks when airside. There is an uninspiring semi circular food court full of Americanized fast food chains such as Ruby Tuesday and Johnny Rocket's. The best bet is a little further on at the wines of chile bar. This at least gives you the chance to try a few local drops with  charcuterie, empanadas plates and 6700 peso smoked salmon sandwiches.


The shopping is done better than the food beyond the duty free and designer brands such as Carolina HerreraMichael Kors there are a smattering of little stores selling locally-made goods. Snoop around and you can find woollen ponchos animal figurines carved from painted plates and lapiz lazuli copper pots.


There is a small children's climbing frame and slide by gate 12 with a book swap scheme nearby. Sadly the latter doesn't seem particularly effective there were no books to take on the empty shelves. Turn up to gate 15 at 3PM on Wednesday or Thursday and you can take part in a free yoga class.


Check your gate carefully the C gates are a fair old walk from the rest of the terminal so it's worth leaving an extra Fifteen minutes to get to them.


Chile's main hub and the likely 1st stop for Australians flying into South America falls a little between 2 stools. It's not really quite a mega airport full of showy facilities exhibitions and activity programs that can make it a destination in its own right. But it's also a level or 2 too big to be hassle free compact and a breeze to go through.



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