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Trip Report: A Short Domestic Hop with Peru’s SKY Airline
The domestic Peruvian market has changed a lot in the last three years. Throughout this time span, the market has seen the exit of local operators such as LC Peru and Peruvian Airlines who operated using aging Boeing 737 aircraft domestically.
Though they lacked transparency in their corporate image, both won a spot in a significantly concentrated market dominated by LATAM Peru, who offered more routes and frequencies than any other domestic carrier as well as newer A320 family aircraft, greater dispatch reliability and the structural support of being an international carrier.
2017 was a pivotal year that brought about a lot of change to the domestic Peruvian market. On one hand, the arrival of Irelandia aviation’s Viva Air into the country after successfully installing the low-cost model in neighboring Colombia, signaled a wave of change in the way Peruvians would travel.
On the other hand, LATAM responded to these changes by tweaking its short-haul offering across all its regional subsidiaries by unbounding fares and beginning to charge for baggage, food and beverages onboard along with seat selection. As the market changed with lower base fares and where the customer would tailor their travel experience to suit their own needs, the local operators failed to follow suit and adding to a list of internal complications both exited the market in 2018 and 2019 respectively.
As the Peruvian market saw the departure of two local operators, last year a new player came into sight: Chilean born carrier, SKY. The airline has been a successful operator flying domestically within Chile and then regionally with flights from Santiago to Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Lima and Montevideo.
Looking to diversify beyond the bases of the Chilean market, the carrier set up shop in Lima, Peru to where it flies to eleven domestic and two international destinations with a fleet of four brand new A320neos.
I recently had the chance to try their product on a domestic hop between the city of Arequipa in the south of Peru and the capital of Lima, covering a distance of approximately 1,000 kilometers and taking about 1 hour and 10 minutes.
SKY enables passengers to customize their travel experience to tailor their own needs and hence only purchase what they require. The carrier divides its fare structure into three groups: Zero, Plus and Full. The first one, allows passengers to fly and take a small backpack onboard, the second one includes a carry-on bag, hold luggage and seat selection, while the latter additionally includes name changes, priority boarding and seating.
I purchased a ‘zero’ fare and added carry-on allowance, priority boarding and a bulkhead seat, which came to USD $5, USD $5, and USD $12 respectively. While these prices are not bad, they are less attractive than what LATAM offers for domestic flights, where priority seating comes bounded with priority boarding at lower prices.
SKY flies to Arequipa four times per day, however, I can see the carrier is increasing frequencies as of February, offering greater flexibility for time sensitive flyers. I was on the last flight of the day departing Arequipa just before 9:30 p.m. and arriving into Lima minutes before 11 p.m.
Arequipa airport is small and functional with two jet bridges and two remote gates. It has a decent array of shopping and eating outlets along with a modest but nice lounge which accepts priority pass and offers paid pass options.
It’s no exception that LATAM is the big player in this airport, offering between 12 and 15 daily flights between Lima and Arequipa, pretty much every hour throughout the day, plus a couple of departures from Arequipa to Cuzco. SKY also serves the route four times a week, taking advantage of the high tourist traffic as both cities are part of Peru’s tourist circuit. Finally, the only international destination from Arequipa is Santiago in Chile, which is served by JetSmart twice a week.
Having arrived less than an hour before my flight I proceeded straight to clear security and pretty much straight onboard. I was impressed by SKY’s boarding process, which was very efficient, with doors closing twenty-five minutes ahead of our departure time.
SKY A320neos are configured with 186 seats in a standard 3-3 configuration.
Seats in the first three rows have extra legroom at around 33-34 inches while standard seats have 29-30 inches of pitch. Seats are ergonomically designed to maximize leg space and were pretty comfortable despite not having a recline function.
Seats feature headrests which is a nice touch and fast charging USB ports beneath the seat. On the seat pocket there was a simple buy onboard menu and an inflight magazine which was quite surprising. SKY does not offer Wi-Fi connectivity onboard its aircraft.
We sat on the taxiway for a good 20 minutes until the captain announced that due to heavy congestion around the Lima area, our takeoff was being held back by air traffic control. Despite this slight delay, we landed just a few minutes before schedule, once again reinforcing the importance of getting everyone onboard effectively to minimize and offset delays.
We had a smooth takeoff and swiftly made our way south. Up in the air, the crew was very proactive in starting the buy onboard service.
The buy onboard menu includes a series of sandwiches, sweet and savory snacks and a decent variety of non-alcoholic beers. On the alcoholic side there was only beer with two local beer options, however they were out of one when the crew took my order.
I bought a bundle deal including a cold drink and a savory snack for 10 Peruvian soles which is roughly around USD $3, which I thought was quite decent. To drink I had a beer and chose some ‘chifles’ to eat which are some Peruvian banana made chips.
The crew was very friendly throughout the flight, cheerfully greeting passangers upon boarding and taking the time to properly explain the buy onboard menu to passangers or just have a chat as they went through the cabin.
The forward toilet was of decent size and kept clean throughout the flight.
The rest of the flight was uneventful and went by in a jiffy. We had a smooth landing into Lima arriving at around 10 p.m., a few minutes before schedule.
We docked in a remote stand which was appreciated as an aviation geek, as it gave me a better opportunity to have a look at the aircraft. We were bussed to the terminal which took no more than a few minutes.
Lima airport is made up by one terminal split into a domestic and international wing. The airport operates way beyond capacity hosting more than 20 million passengers each year.
I was very pleased with SKY’s product and operating model. Its website is simple to use and very user intuitive and the fare options and add-ons are clearly stated upon purchase. Onboard the product is very solid and adds a friendly face to the carrier’s image as a low-cost carrier.
The seats were comfortable, the service was very friendly and the buy onboard options were pretty solid taking into account all of their domestic flights are less than two hours. I can only hope that the carrier’s bet on Peru is successful and that it is able to grow and expand internationally, being an alternative of choice for those in the country looking to fly on a budget.
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