Category: Aviation

GlobeTrotters on Twitter | Brett Snyder (The Cranky Flier)

GlobeTrotters on Twitter 2

The first bookmark in my aviation essential reading folder is CrankyFlier.com, and I’m certain to be one of the many enthusiasts who open the site every day to read new content (although on an average, a new article pops up on the site every second day).

Brett Snyder, the President and (as he likes to call himself) the Chief Airline Dork of Cranky Flier is the ‘been there, done that’ man of the aviation industry. Fascination with airplanes started at a very young age and by the age of 12, he had become a travel agent. His fascination with the industry only grew with job stints at USAir, America West, United and PriceGrabber.com.Brett Snyder - Cranky Flier on Air NZ

He’s been a full time blogger for few years now, along with his own air travel assistance service, known as Cranky Concierge, for which he has been named as a “Top Travel Specialist” by Conde Nast Traveler for multiple times now.

Brett has also won multiple awards for “The Cranky Flier”, and also writes for CNTraveler.com and Intuit Small Business Blog.

Before we begin our chat, bit of trivia about the name: Brett was given the name “Cranky Pants” by his friend and that stuck as CrankyFlier, as the name seemed neutral to Brett himself.

 

  • What makes you travel Brett?

Brett – Sadly most of my travel lately is about the process itself and not about being in a location.  That’s too bad, because the real motivation for travel should be what’s on the other end of the flight.  It’s almost always worth it, even though it is exhausting.

  • Do you enjoy the aviation/flying part more of your travels or the sightseeing in cities? Of all the flights that you may have taken, any particularly memorable experience you would like to share?

Brett – I enjoy both, but I don’t have a lot of sightseeing opportunities on my trips lately.  Regarding flights, I have had so many great experiences.  But I think if there’s one that stands out, it’s the time I had the pleasure of flying Concorde from London to New York.  That was just surreal. (Vishal’s note:  Must read related trip report of Concorde here).

  • I know that Boeing 747 is your favourite aircraft, what about your preferred airport and why? 

Brett – I don’t have a single airport or airline that I like best.  It’s different depending upon the situation.  For example, I love my hometown airport, Long Beach, but that’s because you can get through it very easily and the facility is excellent.  But it’s not where I’d want to spend a long connection.

  • And your Favorite airline will be?

Brett – For airlines, I might choose one airline to go in business class to Europe whereas a short hop to San Francisco might be something else.  I really don’t have a top choice.

  • What about your preferred city for a break?

Brett – I’d have to say London.  For whatever reason, I just love going there.  One of my favourite experiences there involved a visit to some friends on a surprisingly warm and sunny spring day.  We started up on Baker Street and wandered the streets until we ended up down in South Kensington for dinner.  We just wandered aimlessly for hours and took advantage of the city’s lack of an open container law.  I find that the best experiences are when I know someone locally.  It just changes the way you see a city.

  • Leaving aside Wi-Fi, which is being implemented by majority of airports, what other changes you want to see at the airports?

Brett – I would love to see more day rooms.  Fortunately, we’re seeing that happen more and more.

  • You run a successful website/business. What would you tell as advise to the average Joe, missing deep pockets but still harboring the will to travel the world?

Brett – There are great ways to travel the world without spending a ton of money.  In particular, if you can qualify for a credit card, you can earn a lot of miles and turn that into free travel around the world.  Or you can look for a job that requires a lot of travel.  Travel within regions can be very inexpensive, and you can always say in hostels to save money.  So the key is just funding the long haul travel.

  • Do you have a go-to guide before you travel?

Brett – I don’t have a go-to guide.  I use friends as much as possible, but for internet research I usually just start with Google and work my way around from there.

  • What role do you think social media/twitter has played in propagating Travel?

Brett – I think social media has helped bring experiences to people in real time.  It used to be you could watch a slideshow of someone’s trip after they returned.  Now you can live through it with them including photos, videos and more.  It can all be shared as it happens, so it makes it more real for people at home.

  • Finally, as this is GlobeTrotters on “Twitter”, your 3 favorite twitter user accounts?

Brett – three favourites?  Hmm, maybe @FakeUnitedJeff@NYCAviation,

and since you didn’t say it had to be travel-related, @Dbacks.  (Yep, I’m a big baseball fan.)

 

 

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GlobeTrotters on Twitter | Ben Schlappig (One Mile at a Time)

GlobeTrotters on Twitter 2

Let me start about Ben by saying that he has had top tier elite status with an airline since he was 14 years old. FOURTEEN. When I was 14 I had taken a grand total of four flights. With that out of the way, Let’s try to pick more of Ben’s brain.

I know Ben Schlappig as the guy behind Boarding Area’s “One Mile at a Time” blog. The purpose of the blog is to share his travel experiences (300,000 miles/year and 100+ hotel nights/year at that) and to stay abreast with the latest in travel industry. Besides his blogging prowess and his healthy obsession with collecting points, Ben is also a travel consultant and a writer.Ben Schlappig

Three years back Ben founded PointsPros.com, a travel consulting service to help regular folks utilize their miles for dream destinations. He has also served as a member of the TalkBoard, and has been quoted in New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today.

Excerpts from our chat:

  • I read that you overslept for your Computer science class, did guilty procrastination and emailed Randy Petersen to start your BoardingArea.com blog. I’m curious how a blog about Frequent flying and Aviation took birth from a computer science class?

Ben – For one, I am a huge aviation geek, and am fascinated with planes and travel in general. I love experiencing new products and new places, and typically find the experience to be more of an adventure than a hassle. I’ve been known to intentionally “fall” for scams overseas just to see what happens, and have spent hours in coffee shops and cafes soaking in the differences in culture.

  • As an #AVGeek, Do you enjoy the flying part of your travels more or the sightseeing in cities? Tell us about your most outstanding flying experience.

    A crayfish starter for the business folks on S...

    A crayfish starter for the business folks on Singapore Airlines. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ben – Both! I can’t emphasise enough how much I love airplanes. Seeing a new city is always fun as well, or just spending time enjoying the views. One of my favourite flights was the first time I flew with my now favourite flight attendant on a Singapore Airlines First Class flight from Singapore to Tokyo last April.  From the moment I stepped on board I was treated with a level of kindness and attention I’d never encountered in hundreds of thousands of miles of travel, and it was just an incredible experience. She and I are now good friends, which makes the outstanding service on that flight even more memorable.

  • I would hazard a guess that Singapore Airlines would be your favourite airline?

Ben – I am incredibly partial to Lufthansa’s First Class product, but for an overall favourite airline I’d have to say Singapore Airlines. Similarly, I’ve threatened to move to the Frankfurt First Class Terminal, though outside of that my favourite airport is probably Singapore Changi for all of its amenities.

  • I understand Taj Mahal is your favourite world heritage site, what would be your favourite city?

Ben – I love Hong Kong, and like to visit there every chance I get. The food is fantastic, the architecture is unique, and I find it to be such an approachable city – even for a short layover.

  • How do you think airports can become friendlier and easier for frequent flyers like yourself? Most of them are installing Wi-Fi, can they do something else too?

Ben – Well, the natural counterpart to Wi-Fi is a power outlet, and I think most frequent travellers can relate to sitting on the floor charging their electronics before the next flight. Besides that, as an aviation geek I love outdoor terraces/observation decks, which some airports seem to be adding.

  • I’m glad you mentioned observation decks/terraces as I personally think that’s the best thing an airport can do for its flyers. Schiphol Amsterdam straight away comes to mind with its wonderful and large terrace.

            Do you have any research quirks before your trips?

Ben – This is mildly embarrassing, but I do almost no research outside of checking the weather and finding the best way to get to the hotel from the airport. I also tend to work the majority of the time when I’m traveling, so prefer to talk to people on the ground when I arrive and find out what their favourite recommendations are for the short time I typically have for sightseeing.

  • What would you to tell an average person who wants to travel but is missing fat pockets?

Ben – Most people think travel is expensive, though with a bit of legwork it needn’t be. Having your finances in order is important, and can allow you to leverage your credit and other resources to obtain world-class travel, but I find people are generally surprised to hear how low the out-of-pocket costs can be for some amazing travel experiences. By taking advantage of the right credit cards and promotions, even luxury travel can be affordable for the majority of people.

  • What role do you think social media/twitter has played in propagating Award Travel and its awareness levels?

Ben – It’s had a huge impact! When I first started blogging social media wasn’t a key component, but now I find myself interacting with readers and sharing experiences via Twitter, which is awesome. I also think the access to airline and hotel representatives via Twitter can be hugely beneficial to travellers in general.

  • And in the spirit of “GlobeTrotters on Twitter”, tell us your three must follow twitter accounts?

Ben – I love @theflightdeal for keeping track of the best airfare

@johnnyjet for keeping up with the latest news in the industry (he does an especially good job retweeting top stores),

and @AmericanAir for the excellent customer service they provide via Twitter.

 

 

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GlobeTrotters on Twitter | Johnny Jet

GlobeTrotters on Twitter 2

From a man who couldn’t fly for his life to a man who basically flies for a living, John, or Johnny Jet as he is popularly known, has come a long way.

Johnny is a travel expert and editor-in-chief of the super popular travel information website, JohnnyJet.com. Johnny has visited over 60 countries, and is known to add a handful of new countries every year to his ever-growing list.

Johnny has frequently appeared in numerous publications including The LA Times, Outside Magazine, USA Today, and Travel and Leisure Magazine among others. He has made television appearances on CNN, Tech TV, Fox News, PBS, and various media outlets worldwide. In addition, Johnny frequently contributes articles to Frommers as well.

With a verified twitter account possessing over 45000 fans, Johnny Jet is a true “GlobeTrotter on Twitter”. Excerpts from our chat.

Johhny at the Taj

Johnny at the Taj

  • What’s so special about traveling, and air travel specifically?

Johnny – I’m just amazed with air travel and our ability to be able to do it for such reasonable prices. It’s really amazing the world we live in today.

  • And what’s your favorite part about air travel?

Johnny – I love to fly on new planes – especially inaugural flights because everyone is really friendly and bouncing around talking to each other. I’ve been lucky to do quite a few. Some of my favorites are:

Seattle to L.A. on Air New Zealand

Seattle to Dallas on American

Frankfurt to San Francisco on Lufthansa

Around the world on Singapore Airlines

  • Do you have a preferred airline?

Johnny – It all depends on the route but I really enjoyed my around the world flight on Jet Airways (video)

  • Tell us about your all-time favourite city? Any special moments associated with it?

Johnny – My favourite is New York City but I don’t have just one special moment.

  • Most modern airports these days have Wi-Fi, what other feature you would like to see them adopt?

Johnny – More electrical outlets, faster Wi-Fi and natural light.

  • Natural Light is a great suggestion. Makes the space looks bigger as well. What will you suggest to wannabe travellers out there who are afraid of expenses associated with traveling?

Johnny – Not having money is not a good excuse for not to travel. People either need to cut back on their daily habits like buying coffee or magazines and save that money. You can also travel for free. There are websites where you can sleep on people’s couches (couchsurfing.com). There are always good deals too. In our deals newsletter we’ve published deals like California to Brazil for under $300 RT. Or New York to Istanbul for under $400 R/T.

  • Wow! Those two deals sound incredible. I think I’m going to subscribe to your newsletter right away. But which website, guide book etc. you refer to during your travels?

Johnny – I price out my tickets using our JohnnyJet.com search engine. Then I usually ask my friends/followers on Facebook and Twitter what they recommend.

  • All right, that’s great info Johnny. Give us your 3 must follow twitter accounts please?

Johnny – Three best is tough but

@AirFareWatchDog (for airline deals),

@cjmcginnis (we co-host a weekly #TravelSkills Twitter chat),

@BreakingNews (for what’s going on in the world)

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GlobeTrotters on Twitter | Gary Leff

GlobeTrotters on Twitter 2

If you’re a frequent flyer, fond of tracking your air miles and points and generally follow the aviation community closely, you know Gary and you know him well.

And if by some twist of fate you don’t, let me make it easier for you.

Gary Leff is the co-founder of Milepoint.com, a popular online community for frequent flyers. Gary also manages Freddie awards and blogs frequently at View From the Wing. In fact, Gary’s blog was the first to exclusively focus on frequent travel and loyalty programs and he’s been leading the way for over 11 years now.

Not just that, Gary has also served as a moderator of Flyertalk.com from 2003 till the beginning of 2011 and was the senior founding moderator of Flyertalk’s member-elected TalkBoard. He’s been cited and profiled in New York Times, Conde Nast Traveler, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times and Washington post among others.

And in his “real day job”, He is the chief numbers guy for university research centers. Phew!!

Reading about him prior to our chat I chanced upon this. Read this and you will know why he is so revered within the aviation/frequent flyer community.

“Gary Leff is so proficient at the frequent-travel game that in 2008 he redeemed enough miles to fly first class with his wife from Washington, D.C., to Spain for dinner at the famous three-Michelin-starred El Bulli restaurant near Barcelona. After the meal, they turned around and flew home.”   (Via Executive Travel)

13000 kilometers for a Dinner, eh?

13000 kilometers for a Dinner, eh?

Yes, he flew across the pond. For a dinner. Excerpts from our chat:

  • What makes you travel? And why you love getting on planes?

Gary – It would take a really narrow focus or a lot of hubris to believe that wherever one is at a given time is the single greatest place in the world to be.  There’s so much out there in terms of diversity of experiences, creativity and achievement, food and spectacle.  We’re on the earth for such a short time, and experiencing as much as possible seems just so fundamentally…. human.

And I’ve had the great fortune to connect with people, I get on planes to reduce the distance and maintain that connectedness.  And to try new things, broaden my horizons.   My life is so much richer, so much more fulfilled because of travel.  An early morning flight or a groping at security can’t begin to detract from that.

  • No problems with early morning flights or groping certainly means you enjoy flying, if I hadn’t figured that one out yet. What has been the most unforgettable flying experience for you?

Gary – The destination will always be more interesting than flying, though flight itself is a tremendous achievement of humankind over nature and it’s certainly possible to enjoy getting there alongside being there.

I suppose my most memorable flight experience was circling New York airspace before I was a teenager, when the landing gear just wouldn’t go down. Until it did.  Truly, though, in all of my flights few have really been that memorable which is to say that nearly all have been marvels of human achievement.

  • Safe to say all that circling over New York airports is not always so pleasant. Which is your favorite airport and which airline is most impressive in terms of their first class/business class product?

Gary – There’s no question that the Singapore airport impresses me most.  The amenities there are unrivaled.  I like the Seoul airport, and though far from a favorite I think Bangkok is undervalued.  I can’t think of any major airports in Europe that I like (though the first class terminal in Frankfurt is my favorite *terminal*). Dallas is a really good experience overall, and Rick Bayless’ Tortas Frontera almost redeems O’Hare.

My favorite international airline is Cathay Pacific.  I love their first class product, it’s solid all around and I sleep better in their seat than anyone else’s.  Their long haul business class seat is fantastic as well.  My favorite domestic airline is American — overall good service, excellent treatment as a top tier elite, wireless internet across the mainline fleet, pretty good food, and a great new business class seat.  Award redemption for international first class is unrivaled.

  • Talking about award redemption, which is your favorite city to travel to?

Gary – My favorite city has to be Singapore, because it’s at once far away and accessible, and probably better for food at both the high and low end than anywhere else.  Little matches sitting out at the beach in the evening at the East Coast Lagoon Village hawker center, open air, enjoying great food and a walk along the water.

  • What about airports? Wi-Fi is becoming all too common. As a frequent traveler which other amenity you would like to see them incorporate within their premises?

Gary – Starbucks or similar (or higher!) quality coffee airside.  There’s no excuse not to have decent coffee available near the gate in a world where the TSA continues to prosecute the War on Water.

  • Do you consult any specific website before and while your traveling?

Gary – Milepoint.com – frequent flyer community, a friendly group of experienced travelers that are happy to share their advice and experiences.

  • What counsel would you give to the average Joe? She/he wants to travel but is scared about incurring heavy expenses while doing so.

Gary – Though it’s possible to travel frugally, and to cover much of the cost of travel with points, it isn’t free.  There’s nothing wrong with – and indeed tremendous virtue in — traveling on a tight budget.  But if you’re in significant debt, well I’d strongly suggest paying off credit cards before making discretionary travel spend decisions.  Don’t finance your travel on a credit card.  That’s not only good advice; it’s also a way to travel much more in the future. Your travel experiences will pay dividends, but don’t incur interest to have them.

  • That’s very well explained Gary. In the end, as this series is “GlobeTrotters on Twitter“, please tell us your 3 must follow twitter accounts?

Gary –  @GlobeTrotScott for the latest airline news

@onemileatatime for witty commentary about the travel experience

@boardingarea updates from all the best travel blogs in one place

 

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GlobeTrotters on Twitter | Shashank Nigam

GlobeTrotters on Twitter 2

If your wondering what all this is about, then you should probably go here before proceeding further.

For the first profile of my most ambitious blog series yet, I wanted to have someone who straddles the aviation, travel as well as digital marketing aspects together and really sets the benchmark for this initiative. Luckily enough for me I did not have to look around hard as Shashank kindly agreed to be featured as a “GlobeTrotter on Twitter”.

Shashank Nigam in Cockpit

Cockpit access tips, Shashank?

Shashank Nigam of course is much more than just that. He is the Founder/CEO of SimpliFlying, one of the world’s leading aviation marketing consultancies, which advises over 25 airlines. airports and even aircraft manufacturers on profitable customer engagement strategies. On top of that, SimpliFlying.com is one of the Top 2 blogs on aviation, and their Twitter handle (@simpliflying ) is also one of the Top 5 most influential on airlines.

Excerpts from my geek-out with him

  • Air Travel used to be a breeze back in the day but not anymore. What is your greatest motivation to travel?

Shashank – I love watching planes, being on planes, just being near them. And I realise that I, like many others, have jet-fuel running through my veins. I get excited each time I need to search for a new flight, go through the booking process, in anticipation of the flight itself. The joy of flying is greater than any hassles. And through all this, I’ve now been to 51 countries!

  • 51 countries is impressive indeed. But tell me do you enjoy the flying part of your travel more or the city sightseeing? Of all the thousands of flights that you may have taken, any particularly memorable experience you recount?

Shashank – I cherish the flying part of travel as much as sightseeing, and meeting people from different cultures. There are a few in-flight memories that have left an impact. My first flight – it was on an Aeroflot Illyushin in 1994, from Delhi to Singapore. Everyone was drinking, playing cards and I smelled like an ashtray when I stepped out. But my first flight, nevertheless. My first ultra-long haul flight was on Thai Airways, from Bangkok to New York, non-stop, over 17 hours! The first time I flew Business Class – it was on Cathay Pacific, from New York to Singapore, via Hong Kong. Loved the experience and service. The first time I flew the 787 Dreamliner, on a private invite-only flight at the Singapore Airshow was unforgettable. And as recently as last week, when I flew from Dar-e-salam to Zanzibar on a 17-seater, and the Captain was kind enough to let me sit in the cockpit, next to him for the full flight!

  • Which is your favourite airport and which is your favourite airline? and tell us why?

Shashank – Favourite airport has to be Singapore Changi Airport – there’s so much to do, and if you want to get out, you go from plane to taxi in 10 mins.

Favorite airline differs depending on the class. My favourite First Class experiences has been on Emirates – the Suites are very private and luxurious and you get treated like a king. Their lounges in Dubai are superb too. The best Business Class experience has been on Turkish Airlines, long haul – where you get your own butler in-flight, and their lounge in Istanbul is possibly the best Star Alliance lounge in the world. The best Economy Class is on Singapore Airlines – true value for the premium you pay. Among LCCs, I love Virgin America, jetBlue and Volaris, for treating us like real people and offering a differentiated service!

  • Alright, that makes me ask you your favourite aircraft?

Shashank – To look at – A340-600 – I think it’s the best looking aircraft out there. Beautiful silhouette. To fly, A380 – it’s the quietest and most comfortable aircraft I’ve flown.

  • Couldn’t agree more with you there. In fact A340 is my favourite aircraft as well. Pity its not as popular among airlines now. Which city you’re particularly fond of?

Shashank – Istanbul is my favourite city – the perfect mix of culture and modernity. Though, from an #avgeek perspective, I love London and Los Angeles, with the huge variety of aircraft flying low, throughout the day, prior to landing.

  • Leaving aside wifi, what would you like to see airports world over to adopt?

Shashank – “Quiet zones” will be welcome, where travellers with longer lay overs can just relax.

  • Which website, guide book etc. you consult before and while your traveling? What’s your research for a country/city like?

Shashank – I always check seatguru.com to select the best seat before I check-in, Tripadvisor is a must for the hotels and Hipmunk for flight bookings. Most of my research on a city is last minute – a tweet or Facebook message to friends before I take off ensures I have 2-3 solid recommendations of things to do in a city.

  • You run a successful consultancy and of course have jet-fuel running through your veins 😉 but what would you to tell the average guy who wants to travel but is afraid of the expenses associated with it?

Shashank – With the advent of LCCs, anyone can fly. So look out for those cheap deals and book a ticket. You might score one that’s cheaper than the train or the bus too. It’s never too late to fly!

  • and finally, what role do you think twitter has played in encouraging people to travel? Also, as this is “GlobeTrotters on Twitter”, your 3 favourite twitter user accounts?

Shashank – I love to meet my Twitter friends at airports while I’m in transit, or in the city that I’m visiting. Social media, especially Facebook and Pinterest are great for seeking inspiration on where to go next too!

My top 3 favourite Twitter users –

@ApexMary – she is the girlgeek of travel, who knows everything there is to know inside the cabin.

@airlinetrends/@capa_aviation keep me updated with the latest industry analysis.

And fellow avgeeks like @arun4, @airlinereporter and yourself (@vishal1mehra) are great company online!

Thanks Shashank, That’s little more than 3 but because you mentioned one certain Vishal Mehra, we would let that pass.

GlobeTrotters on Twitter | an Introduction

GlobeTrotters on Twitter 2

So I have wanted to do this for a while now.

My absolute love for Twitter, Travel and Aviation is well known and it was only a matter of time before I decided to bring it all together in one place.

The idea for “GlobeTrotters on Twitter” sparked to me where most of the ideas in the world are born, while sitting on the throne.

To put it simply, the plan is to connect with top travel experts and aviation geeks who are active on twitter and briefly talk about things, which excite them and all of us.

I have always been curious about some aspects of the business while flying and traveling, and I’m sure there are plenty of others like me thinking the same. I could not find a single place on the web, which would talk about those things, with all the people I would want to ask, leading me to starting this blog series.

The best news of them all? Every single superstar I got in touch with has been more than kind for this humble initiative. 70% of them have already sent in their response to my queries.  And the rest will roll in hopefully by the end of this week.

Simply Amazing.

I will start rolling out the first part of this series in a couple of days, and then a new post every 3-4 days, depending on my schedule.

To say I’m excited to do this would be an understatement. I hope you enjoy this as much as I have enjoyed putting this together over the past few weeks.

Hit me up if you have any feedback or queries. Till then, Happy geeking out! 🙂

Using Unconventional Methods to Build an Airline Brand

Using unconventional methods to build an airline brand

This article by P.R. Sanjai from Mint, talks about unconventional methods adopted by various airline bosses to market themselves and their airlines.

It features couple of perspectives from my side as well, but overall encapsulates well the enormous progress made by social media over the last couple of years.

Flying Iberia: Madrid Barajas Schengen Lounge Report

Madrid airport wavy ceiling

The earlier parts of this Report, where I wrote about Iberia’s domestic lounge in Barcelona is here, and where I documented my Trip report BCN-MAD-LIS, is here. Have a look at them for a thorough perspective. This is the third and final part of this piece.

I had intentionally chosen a long layover at Madrid Barajas, as explained in an earlier part of this series & straight away after disembarking I started exploring all the nooks & crannies of Madrid Terminal 4. Madrid is Spain’s busiest and biggest airport, and its wavy ceilings created quite a ripple in the airport world after opening in 2006. As I got done with my little terminal tour & a customary fridge magnet purchase from the duty free store, I proceeded to Iberia’s Business Class Dali Lounge.

Iberia’s lounges in Madrid are supposed to be better than the ones in Barcelona as Madrid is a bigger and a more important hub for Iberia. My first impressions after getting into the lounge confirmed those thoughts. The lounge was huge, as well as very impressive to say the least.

Iberia lounge madrid

Divided into 2 areas, it had large areas of comfortable seating which was soothing for the eyes to see & muscles to relax, once seated. The central area shown above had a spacecraft design to it, with little chairs, and fountains inside it along with a wide selection of reading material catering to spanish literate audience.

Iberia madrid lounge seating area

After relaxing for few minutes, I grabbed myself a beer and started exploring the lounge. There were reasonable options for food, including salads, pasta, sandwiches, wraps and sushi rolls. I would have ideally liked to see more hot food options as well but as this lounge serves Schengen area flights with usually small layovers, Iberia has decided to serve ‘to-go’ options.

Iberia madrid lounge - food and drink counter

There’s also a large choice area of alcoholic, non-alcoholic drinks and a café.

Iberia madrid lounge - counters cafe

Besides your typical coffee machine, the lounge served various pastries, croissants, cornflakes, milk and tea options. The lounge also had this much fancier version of the coffee machine, though I must admit I did not try it all.

Iberia madrid lounge - coffee machine

Not to forget, one of the biggest USPs of this lounge is a dedicated wine bar, which also hosts regular tasting sessions. During the evening of my travel, there was no such session unfortunately. But I was still able to lay my palate on couple of reds.

Iberia madrid lounge wine bar

Another impressive feature of this lounge is a dedicated quiet area in the back that had little beds for passengers opting to take a nap between their flights, along with a screen for entertainment.

Iberia madrid lounge - nap area

This obviously is a very useful addition and other airlines would do well to incorporate similar features in their lounge offerings. The business area had few computers, a printer and a fax machine. Again very useful for the road warrior, catering perfectly to the needs of the corporate crowd.

Iberia madrid business lounge - business area

And a TV lounge, which was largely unoccupied, barring one keen viewer. A very handy facility, underscoring the depth Iberia has gone to make this lounge a pleasant experience for all sorts of passengers.

Iberia madrid lounge - tv viewing area

One of the irksome bits of the lounge however was Wi-Fi. It was accessible only through 30 minute cards which the front desk gave with a smile, by the time I went for my 3rd card, the lady there offered to give me another one to save me the trouble of coming back which I graciously declined as my flight to Lisbon was due soon. This is something Iberia should definitely work on. Business passengers certainly won’t appreciate asking repeatedly for Internet access. As well as leaving their comfortable lounge chair to go all the way to the reception.

Overall, It was a very enjoyable experience at the lounge, and clearly one of the best that Iberia has to offer to its passengers. Iberia may be in deep financial mess but they haven’t spared any expense in making this lounge a comfortable experience for the traveler.

I must admit thoroughly relishing myself during these six odd total hours with Iberia minus few niggles. These six hours compromised of two lounge visits, in Madrid and Barcelona each, as well as two flights on Iberia’s A320, from Barcelona to Madrid and then from Madrid to Lisbon.

And all of this cost me 9000 avios and Rs. 5771. It’s a price I would pay happily for so many firsts every single time.

 

A slightly modified version of this piece is featured on Bangalore Aviation, a leading International website on Aviation News and Analysis.

Flying Iberia: Barcelona-Madrid-Lisbon Trip Report

This is the second part of the ongoing piece about Flying Iberia & experiencing it’s lounges in Barcelona and Madrid.

The first part detailed my experience at Iberia’s Domestic Business Lounge in Barcelona. In this piece I finally get some flying and report my experience of flying in Business class (my first time ever) with Iberia on two legs, Barcelona – Madrid and then after a layover of almost three hours, Madrid – Lisbon.

Iberia Airbus A320 -

Flight 1, IB2713

Barcelona El Prat – Madrid Barajas

Departure – 1850, on-time

Seat – 5F, Business Class

All Iberia domestic flights, flights to Europe, North Africa operate with the same configuration. In Europe, most airlines don’t have a separate cabin for business class passengers. Instead, they use a mobile curtain that is moved after each flight in order to separate both according to the number of passengers flying business class in each flight. This allows airlines to be more flexible, since an Economy class seat can be converted into a business class seat just by moving the curtain.

Iberia - domestic business class

My business class seat was an upgraded economy seat with increased seat pitch (34 inches, instead of 31 in economy) and an empty middle seat for increased comfort.

Iberia business class leg room

As I settled into my seat I was offered water and something to munch on, while the cabin was getting ready for our on-time departure to Madrid.

Iberia - Business class departure service

Our departure was smooth, and looking down at Barcelona I saw the beauty of the city once more albeit with an aerial view, bathed in sunshine.

Soon after reaching cruising height, a purser came over and asked for my choice of drink. As this was a short 1-hour flight, and it was early evening, there was no specific meal service. Looking through the magazine I chanced upon Iberia giving out Pizza at 36000 feet to its passengers, which I thought was pretty unique.

Iberia - pizza on board

I woke up while we were on our landing approach to Madrid Barajas and I never got my drink, and considering we were on approach, I did not bother reminding the crew of their slip-up. Humans tend to forget things and considering it was my first ever outing in semi business class, I was in good enough humour to forgive as well, but Iberia should take note of such slip-ups, which while minor, have large impact on passenger impression when they occur in the premium cabin.

Soon enough the landing gear was down and we landed in Madrid on time. Disembarkation was quick and I was off to explore Madrid’s famous wavy terminal and the flagship Iberia lounge.

Flight 2, IB3118

Madrid Barajas – Lisbon Portela International

Departure 2245, on-time

Seat 1A, Business Class

After spending considerable time at Madrid’s Terminal 4 & the Iberia Dali Lounge (Schengen area) I proceeded to the gate for the second part of my journey. This was going to be my first ever time sitting in 1A, that magical number in airline seating wanted by enthusiasts, which was automatically allotted to me by Iberia.

I boarded the aircraft to similar seating arrangement, but this time the curtains were drawn further from the second row itself, so there was just two rows of business class seats on this flight, and two out of the eight available seats remained unoccupied. Including the aisle seat in my row.

Flipping through Iberia’s magazine, I came across this print ad featuring the Taj Mahal and promoting Incredible India. Bought a big smile to my face. At least MoT babus are working somewhere.

Iberia flight incredible india magazine ad

The pre-departure service consisted of a drink and nuts. I chose to go for a tried and tested beer. I was also relieved to see that the cabin crew were well versed in English, just like the last flight.

Service on this flight was better, may be because it was a Schengen flight and I was surprised to find a full-blown dinner served during this short 1-hour hop to Lisbon.

Iberia domestic business class dinner meal

Service in Business class was taken care by the chief purser on both the flights. I finished my dessert but the fish & salad did not appeal to my taste buds.

As soon as I finished dinner we were descending to Lisbon & the beautiful city came in the view with bright lights & hills around it. The landing again was a smooth affair and within five minutes we were at the disembarkation point.

The only negative aspect of this flight was the exit through stairs and buses ferrying passengers to the main terminal. For a full service airline like Iberia, these are inexcusable points, which need to be taken care of in this day and age. Aerobridges are basic hygiene of air travel especially when you’re not traveling in a budget airline. I do remember seeing some empty aerobridge gates on our left before we parked at a remote bay.

The level of service on both flights was professional, yet missing that touch of warmth, which as Indians we expect and something which most of the Asian carriers do very well.

Will I fly Iberia again, may be in economy? Yes, if the price is cheaper or at-par with low cost carriers.

The third and the final part of this piece will highlight my report of Iberia’s flagship business class lounge at Madrid Airport (for Schengen passengers).

A slightly modified version of this piece is featured on Bangalore Aviation, a leading International website on Aviation.

 

 

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Flying Iberia – Barcelona El Prat (Domestic) Lounge Report

Iberia Airbus A320

This is the first part of my three-part report of the trip, focusing on the lounge experience at Barcelona’s El Prat International Airport. Keep in mind, that my first flight was Barcelona to Madrid, thus I’m able to document only the relevant domestic lounge for Iberia. 

Flying Iberia was supposed to be a flight of many firsts for me so when I was given an option between Vueling and Iberia, I chose Iberia gleefully to be my 32nd airline. This was part of my recent trip to Barcelona and an open jaw return from Lisbon, on Emirates. I have made some observations about Emirates and its varying consistency. You can read them here.

This was my first time flying Iberia, my first time flying to Madrid, my first time flying to Lisbon and of course, my first ever ride in Business Class.

I had few British Airways Avios Points to spare and as British Airways (BA) and Iberia (IB) are part of IAG, their miles are interchangeable on each other flights. So after speaking with a BA representative on phone and finding the same availability on their site, I was able to book BCN-MAD-LIS online, and in the process saving myself some phone booking fees as well. Just for reference sake, the same flights in Business Class were coming out at Rs 16,000, with economy at Rs 6,300 approximately.

I also chose to have a slightly longer layover at Madrid Barajas Airport, almost three hours, as it was my first time at that airport and I wanted some extra time to check out the terminal’s famous wavy ceilings and of course the flagship Iberia Sala Lounge.Reaching the Barcelona El Prat Airport two hours in advance, so I could check out the Business Class Lounge, had its advantages. There were no passengers in the premium check-in lane and I must admit feeling a little bit giddy with my first ever foray into it. The lady at the counter was nice enough to suggest that my mobile boarding pass may not be comfortable for everyone at the airport and offered me the old-school paper boarding passes. My baggage got tagged as priority for the first time ever and I could not avoid a smile seeing that.

The priority security line was quick and I was through in five minutes for my long walk to the “Puente Aereo” area, which literally means Air Bridge in Spanish. As the Madrid-Barcelona route is the second busiest route in Europe, there’s a separate section of the airport, which handles these shuttle flights. To cater to the high corporate demand, the lounge is nearby these gates.As I entered the lounge, my first impression was the lounge being relatively small but airy.

Iberia Barcelona Lounge

This was going to be my first flight in business class but I possess reasonable experience about Lounges, thanks to some kind airport/airline folks in the past, and credit card rewards.

The lounge had very few occupants. I decided to park myself at the far end of the lounge, looking out to roads connecting with the airport. Unfortunately this lounge had no direct view of the apron or the airplanes parked.

Iberia Barcelona Lounge -  looking out

The lounge however had a reasonable collection of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. They had a reasonable availability of juices, along with chocolate drinks and water on one end of shelf.

Iberia Barcelona Lounge - Drinks counter

Opposite that, the fridge contained aerated soft beverages, milk, water and beer.

Iberia Barcelona Lounge - fridge

The lounge also had a small bar area with choices of wines, spirits but the star attraction for me was of course local Spanish cava (Spanish sparkling wine). The bottle was dipped in ice-cold water for that perfect crisp taste.

Iberia Barcelona Lounge Cafe Bar

However, this lounge lacked severely in food options. The shelf next to the bar had few cabinets of breads, croissants and pastries, along with some ready-to-go munch options and I especially took liking to these potato crisps.

Iberia lounge BCN Snack

There was a nice little coffee and tea machine available as well, with a variety of flavor options, for those who were looking for a hot drink.

Iberia Barcelona Lounge Cafe

Unsurprisingly there was very little to read in English. All the newspapers were non-English, ditto for magazines. The only option in English was Iberia’s own magazine, which I decided to skip for that time.

Iberia Barcelona Lounge - magazine shelf

With 15 minutes to go until boarding, I decided to pour myself a glass of cava.

Iberia Barcelona Lounge - Cava

Free WI-Fi in the lounge enabled me to check on my emails and get some quick pending work done. Barcelona airport also offers free WI-Fi to travelers, but it’s limited to 15 minutes in a day, per device. After that it’s chargeable.Few minutes later sure enough my flight was called out and I proceeded to the nearby gate to embark on my first A320 for the evening.Stay tuned for the remaining two parts of this Iberian journey, including trip report and Iberia’s flagship Madrid Lounge report.

This piece is also published in Bangalore Aviation, one of the world’s leading aviation website.