In the last week of December 2014, I traveled to Colombo, Sri Lanka for business purposes. Naturally SriLankan became the airline of choice, my thirty third airline, more on that in the following trip reports. Once I completed my check-in formalities at the New Delhi Airport, Terminal 3, it was time to spend the next hour or so before boarding the aircraft. I had decided I would be using the Plaza Premium Lounge B before hand and thus made my way towards it, past the Duty Free area.
The entire airport was decked in festive spirit, complete with a massive Santa overlooking everyone and spreading cheer.
There are a total of 7 Plaza Premium Lounges at the Delhi Airport, spread across Terminal 1D & Terminal 3 (International & Domestic areas). T3 specifically has 2 Plaza Premium departure lounges for international travel. Lounge A is the smaller lounge of the two, located near the food court, and Lounge B is the bigger lounge with more facilities and a dedicated area.
One needs to take the lift up to Level 4 of the airport, where the Plaza Premium Lounge B is located. These lifts also take passengers to Lufthansa, Emirates & Singapore Lounges on Level 3, and the Eaton Transit Hotel on Level 5.
Depending on the which of the three lifts you take, you will have to turn left or right, once you reach Level 4. You will find the “infamous” T3 carpeting here as well 🙂
At the reception I was met by an efficient agent, who quickly checked me in after verifying my ICICI Sapphiro Jet Airways Visa card. This lounge is part of the Visa Lounge Access program, which earlier used to have Delhi Daredevils Bar at Terminal 3. I was also asked if I required the Wi-Fi password, which I turned down.
One can also get in to this lounge through a Priority Pass Membership (the standard derivative of which comes complimentary with most airline affiliated credit cards). For the uninitiated, Priority Pass is the largest independent airport lounge access program in the world, with over 700 locations in 123 countries. The greatest advantage of the program is that you don’t need to be flying with a specific airline or in a specific class to access these lounges.
There are three membership plans:
- Standard Membership: $99 annual fee, plus $27 for each lounge visit
- Standard Plus Membership: $249 annual fee with 10 free visits; additional visits are $27
- Prestige Membership: $399 annual fee with unlimited visits
At this point, I must also mention that this lounge is the contract lounge of choice for most international airlines out of Delhi Airport, and thus has been quite busy most of the times I have been there. As this visit was during an off-peak late afternoon hour, the lounge was fairly empty. Keep in mind, this is open 24 hours.
One thing this lounge is not short of, is comfortable seating. There are plenty of sofas, in the forward section of the lounge, as well at the back, near to the bar and food area. The Lounge also has a flight display board near the entrance.
Apart from comfortable sofas, there are also tall chairs by the bar side, next to the snack section.
The bar itself looks pretty stocked up, but for a beer lover like me is a big dud. The only beer they serve here is Kingfisher, although there is nothing wrong with Kingfisher, I would like to see at least one more option to be served.
The other side of the bar counter is the food section, having soups, mains, fruits, sandwiches and sweet options.
I was at the bar during late lunch hours and the staff was regularly filling up dishes. There were about 4 main options including chicken, mutton and vegetarian, accompanied by Rice.
The vegetarian options included Matar Paneer gravy (Peas & Cottage Cheese, cooked Indian spicy style), and Chinese Manchurian gravy, neither of which I tried.
Just behind the bar, there was a wooden cabinet stocked with water bottles, and a refrigerator next to it, which was stocked with aerated drinks.
To its right, a coffee/tea machine was placed, along with some cookies and tea flavours.
The juice dispenser was next, serving orange and apple juice.
Which was followed by a bread basket, containing 5 different varieties.
I was feeling slightly hungry, and wanted to have a quick meal before boarding so I got myself Chilly Chicken, on top of Rice. I gulped that down with a beer. I can’t say much about the dish except the fact that it was typical contract lounge food, devoid of any flavour, with a average chicken quality. Thank god for the beer.
After a while, I thought about trying a paneer sandwich, along with Shahi Tukda as a dessert. Wrong move, as the sandwich was filled with paneer (cottage cheese) only on the sides, with the insides completely empty. As far as Shahi Tukda is concerned, I would like to describe it in two words: Sweet Rubber.
The lounge had couple of magazine/newspaper racks with a variety of publications. As a magazine/newspaper aficionado, I was quiet impressed with that offering.
Just behind the bar side sofas, there is a small entryway which leads to restrooms, as well as couple of enclosed VIP Rooms, Massage & Shower Area
During my stay at the lounge, the masseur was unavailable. There were two massage sofas and two neck and shoulder massage chairs in the room.
The massage service is not complimentary, and is chargeable at the following rates:
|Deluxe Shower (with full amenities)||600|
|Shower with 30 minutes Seated Massage||1300|
|Massage and Beauty Service||INR|
|15 minutes Seated Massage (head, neck, shoulder and back)||500|
|30 minutes Seated Massage (head, neck, shoulder and back)||900|
|15 minutes Foot Reflexology||500|
|30 minutes Foot Reflexology||900|
There is also a business area, which features 4 Windows OS based laptops, and a Printer/Copier.
During my stay I found the staff to be attentive, polite and not overbearing, which is my preferable option. Ideally I’m not fond of lounge staff trying hard to please, after all, passengers are in the lounge to escape from the noise and find some down time.
To sum up, it is certainly a worthy alternative to sitting in a crowded and noisy terminal, and for Visa card holders, certainly a big upgrade from the environs of the Delhi Daredevils Bar at the ground floor. Would I pay $27 to gain access as a Priority Pass holder? I’m not sure. The food & drink selection have never enthused me too much and this lounge is certainly not in the category of Plaza Premium lounges at Hong Kong, Jamaica or London. However, if you hold an eligible Visa credit card, this lounge should be a no-brainer for you.
Have you been to the Premium Plaza Lounge B at New Delhi, Terminal 3, what you thought of its services?
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Our flight from Stockholm Arlanda to Istanbul was scheduled to depart at 1145 hrs, so after having breakfast we decided to check out of Hilton Slussen at 0800 hrs to have enough time to experience SAS’s Business Class Lounge at Arlanda Terminal 5.
Related Trip Posts: Tripping through Scandinavia: Introduction
My family got a taxi from the hotel, while I preferred to catch the nearby metro to Stockholm CityTerminalen. We were hopping on the FlygBussarna to Stockholm Arlanda and the City Terminal was the nearest stop from the hotel. There’s a coach every 10 minutes, with “Free Wi-Fi” – useless for those who don’t know swedish language or have a local phone number. I thought that was a big let down and defeated the whole purpose of Free Wi-Fi for travellers. The website says no login is required but I can assure you of its lie. Nonetheless, the journey was otherwise comfortable and the bus dropped us in front of Terminal 5 in about 45 minutes. I had bought my tickets via Viator at 10% discount.
We quickly found the Turkish Airlines counter, and fortunately, the business class counter was free, while the economy counters had about 20 odd waiting passengers. Advantage of flying with business class passengers, even though I was traveling in economy I guess. Though I found it strange that I had inserted my Jet Privilege number already while checking-in online, it was somehow not showing up at the counter. Overall it was a quick and courteous check-in for us and we were off to security.
Call it the Sunday morning effect, but even security at Arlanda was efficient and quick. There were no preferred lanes for business class passengers, and in spite of that we were done in 5 minutes flat. The security folks were respectful, like most of the people we encountered throughout our Scandinavian trip.
Arlanda Airport seemed to be pretty well functioning. I thought it had pretty much all essentials for travellers. Sure, it wasn’t the Changi or the HKIA of the world, but for a mid-tier European airport, it ticked pretty much all boxes in my book.
Including great tarmac views from urinals. This is much better than those stupid little screens you see where they play useless commercials or try to be funny.
We searched for over 10 minutes trying to find the signage for Lounge and ultimately had to ask one of the airport employees. The SAS Business Class Lounge is located pretty far for non-Schengen gates, and it was almost a 12 minute walk to reach the lounge.
The SAS Business Lounge is open from 0530 hrs to 2300 hrs, Monday-Friday and Sunday. The Lounge timings are 0530 hrs to 2030 hrs on Saturdays.
The Access for the lounge is open to passengers holding Star Alliance Gold Status with same day flight on an Alliance carrier. Also to, SAS Gold card members with SAS or partner airline flights and Business/First Class ticket holders travelling on a Star Alliance carrier flight. As we were flying Turkish, a Star Alliance Member, the lounge reception staff warmly welcomed us.
Before I veer off to other points about my lounge experience I want to highlight and acknowledge SAS staff at the entrance. Both the ladies at the front desk (silly me forgot to take note of their names) were as warm and friendly as it gets, and it looked like they genuinely loved their job and interacting with people. Not just us, I was able to notice their conversations with other passengers as well, and they were simply fabulous. So SAS thank you for choosing such great ambassadors in your lounge. Kudos. (SAS Folks, the easiest way you can identify them would be to see who worked the morning shift on 27th July 2014)
We entered the lounge around 0940 hrs and the staff was in the process of setting up food items. The selection wasn’t fully served till 1010 hrs. The first impression of the lounge is quite fancy, and modern with its furnishings and decor. On the immediate left, a big compartment of major world newspapers is available. Financial Times, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Daily Telegraph, along with Time Magazine was some of the major ones.
There are plenty of seating options across the lounge, with a mix of sofas, lounge chairs and bar stools.
There are more seating options in the back with convenient access to power ports, overlooking the arrivals section of the terminal.
There was a 40 inch television screen with local news on one side of the lounge. The breakfast cold buffet spread was middle-of-the-road in my book. Apart from a selection of breads, there was ham, condiments, biscuits, chips, greens and salad sauces.
For those interested, the lounge even had a menu on display, which displayed part of their selection.
The drinks selection was slightly better for me. Apart from tons of Carlsberg, the lounge offered Apple and Orange juice (which kept running out), selection of tea, local beers on tap, couple of red & white wines on tap, along with the Coca-Cola family of soft drinks.
The lounge also boasted of couple of coffee machines (which I never tried), one of them was dedicated to serving organic coffee.
There were total of 5 macintosh computers with working Internet connections in the open business area of the lounge, along with printer/copy and fax facilities, which I thought was a pretty reasonable arrangement for those who still value such facilities. Needless to say, the lounge had a working wi-fi connection for private use as well. In my roughly 45 minute usage, I found it had decent download speeds, enough for a traveller/executive on-the-go. Though far from optimal if you are looking to stream HD content.
One of the things, which stood out for me in the lounge was the small yet dedicated kids play area in the lounge. Apart from story books, it had plenty of soft toys to keep the little ones engaged. The walls also featured graffiti and drawings done by past occupants of the area, which I thought was a great touch. For families traveling together, play areas can be great comforting zones and I wish more airline and lounge operators incorporated it in their planning process.
The lounge also had another zone, to the left of the reception, which featured more seating options and similar food/drink items. There was another large 40 inch TV, which had the local news channel turned on. I did encounter a half-functioning beer fridge and a second newspaper/magazine stand. The beer selection consisted of Tuborg Green, Tuborg Gold and non-alocholic Carlsberg (???). I went with the safe option of Tuborg Green and chips 😉
The rear portion of this side of the lounge featured a more private, cordoned-off area, which I guessed could be designated as a quiet zone or a meeting area, depending on the occupants.
The lounge unfortunately had no tarmac area views, barring the entry area, which has partial and hindered views of the tarmac and the runway in the distance. I was able to snap a close-up picture of a LOT aircraft on our way out.
Overall I would rate the lounge good mainly due to three reasons:
1) Great staff
2) Plenty of seating/Kids play area
3) Decent Wi-Fi
Although I would like the Lounge to improve its cold buffet selection, may be adding a hot item could do the trick or maybe that’s just the hot-breakfast-loving-Indian in me talking. We left the lounge around 1040 hrs for our flight at 1145 hrs. I thought we would make it comfortably to the gate, alas I never knew what was in store for us next at the Passport Control.
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After a quick pit stop at the Turkish CIP Business Class Lounge, we headed to our gate. As is the case, when traveling with family, it was last call when we reached our gate, 504, to be bussed on to the aircraft. I picked up couple of English newspapers on the gate for my reading later on. Personally I won’t mind a remote stand boarding as it affords one the opportunity of checking out other aircraft on the tarmac.
Related Trip Posts: Tripping through Scandinavia: Introduction
Turkish Airlines 1913
Istanbul Ataturk (IST) – Zurich Kloten Airport (ZUR)
Saturday, July 12th
Departure: 1147 hrs (2 minutes late)
Arrival: 1340 hrs local time (on time)
Aircraft: Airbus A320-200
But traveling with family is a different ball game altogether. It’s hugely inconvenient and considering the fact it was merely 90 minutes of connection, surprising too.
The cabin crew welcomed us on-board cheerfully and as is the norm these days in Intra-Europe flying, the Business Class was the usual row of seats, with a blocked middle seat. I headed back to my seat in the Economy cabin. The first impressions of the leather-clad seat were positive. It had a comfortable width and enough legroom for a short haul flight.
We had the flexible seat configuration divider a row ahead of us, and none of the seats featured personal IFE. There was however a large overheard screen that had the moving map, along with some other entertainment programme in-between.
We started out push back from the gate at 1147 hrs, 2 minutes behind schedule. At this time, the entire cabin was served Turkish delight sweets. Can never get enough of that delicious savoury. On our way to the runway, I witnessed some interesting aircraft, ones I don’t see often in my part of the world.
There was an un-painted aircraft parked, which probably belonged to Turkish Airlines only
And of course plenty of Turkish Airlines aircraft, in proper livery.
After taxing for about 17 minutes, we were third in the takeoff line and soon we were zooming across the runway, and airborne exactly at 1205 hours. Istanbul always offers great views during ascent and this occasion was no different.
Our cabin crew got into action soon after take off and menus were distributed within 5 minutes. I thought that was a great touch by Turkish Airlines, considering it was a short haul, two and half hours flight. Earphones were also offered but I chose to skip them.
After another 20 minutes, meal service for this flight began. In my main selection, I went with Chicken Skewer with Arabic spice, along with sauteed leaf spinach and rice. Smoked Salmon and Vanilla Panna Cotta were the accompaniments, as well as hot bread. For my drink, I of course went with a can of Efes.
I must also point out that the cutlery which Turkish Airlines gives is this faux steel, which is not as down-market as plastic offered on many international airlines, and not proper steel cutlery as well. It is pretty reliable for stand-alone meals, without making an economy class passenger feel miserable about their food.
I started with warm bread and butter. Call it whatever you may wish but there is something special always about having hot bread with butter. It’s an unbeatable combination, which is always satisfying for the soul. I’m a simpleton like that. The salmon was also done well, where as I left the cheese and cracker combination untouched in the tray.
The catering for all Turkish Airlines flights is done by the renowned Austrian company Do & Co. My chicken and rice were lovely as well, with the right amount of spice and taste, but then…
I FOUND A STRAND OF HAIR IN MY RICE
To say I was mortified, would be putting it just right. After clicking this picture, I called one of the flight attendants and showed her my meal. She was profusely apologetic and took away my meal tray. The flight chef came over after few minutes, apologised and offered me lamb chops or anything else I wanted from business class menu. I politely refused and accepted their apologies. The head flight attendant also came by my seat and I requested her to have a word with their catering team later on. She nodded and promised to look into the matter.
There was of course Vanilla Panna Cotta and I gladly gobbled it up. For an in-flight dessert, it was quite well done. As I finished my dessert, one of the flight attendant brought me a platter of fruits, presumably for the hair-mess earlier.
It was insisted that I accept this small gesture and I accepted it after thanking her. Some industry folks I had a chat with later advised me to “make a big deal” out of the hair issue and write to the management but I was quite convinced it was a one-off issue which should be left to them to investigate and correct. I could see in the crew’s body language that they were genuinely apologetic about the goof-up and that was enough for me to let it go.
45 minutes before arrival, the cabin was offered a round of coffee/tea as well.
My favourite thing about landing at any of the swiss ports always is the heavenly views they bring just before landing.
We touched down smoothly on time at Zurich Kloten Airport and exited runway quickly to our gate, and I was glad to come across couple of beauties during this time.
Within 5 minutes of de-boarding the aircraft, we were in the Zurich AirportMetro, transferring on to the main terminal, and in the process of receiving kisses from Heidi, and Moos from Swiss cows. Scroll down for more info on that 😉
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You may want to read the introduction for this trip report, Tripping through Scandinavia.
We reached the Delhi Airport around 3:30 am, considering I was with my parents and did not want to rush them in the end. The economy counters had about 15-20 people waiting in queues whereas Business Class counters looked relatively empty. There were two counters and both of them had passenger’s checking-in. After about five minutes of wait we were attended at the counter. I requested the agent to credit our miles to JetPrivelege (Contributing to my target of next summer’s European holiday on award business class seats). Check-in process was smooth and we were all checked in to Zurich, through Istanbul. My folks were also handed their Plaza Premium lounge passes.
Security and Immigration took another 15 minutes, mainly because the Immigration officer decided to tell us the advantages of traveling to Andaman & Nicobar Islands over Switzerland for a holiday. I actually appreciated his passion for domestic tourism and promised him that we will certainly consider for the next family trip. I escorted my parents to the lounge upstairs and then came back down to the Delhi Daredevils Sports Bar. After all, where else would you get a full buffet meal and drinks for Rs.2? All thanks to my Visa Signature card.
Turkish Airlines 717
New Delhi (DEL) – Istanbul Ataturk (IST)
Saturday, July 12th
Departure: 0608 hrs (3 minutes late)
Arrival: 1003 hrs local time (22 minutes earlier)
Aircraft: Airbus A330-300
We arrived the boarding gate around 5:15 am and boarded the aircraft pretty soon after that. Turkish, English and Financial papers were placed on a cart just before aircraft entry and I picked couple of them. The cabin crew greeted us warmly, my parents were shown to the left and I turned right for economy “cattle” class. I was sitting in 6D, the very first bulkhead middle row.
There was plenty of leg space, but I was wishing for an empty next seat, which eventually turned out to be exactly that. I absolutely love the 2-4-2 seating configuration, especially if sitting next to the window seat. Even though I was in the middle row for this flight, I wasn’t complaining. The flight was 75-80% full in economy class. The view on the left looked something like this.
Besides the proximity to Lavatory and resulting commotion all the time, my other gripe with Bulkhead seats is placement of the IFE screen inside arm rests, which makes it inconvenient besides reducing the seat width slightly. I guess nobody has found a better solution yet so I’ll shut my rant now.
Our flight started pushing back from the gate at exactly 0600 hrs and we were up and away within the next 8 odd minutes. Climb was smooth and soon seat belts signs were off. I also got to know that Turkish Airlines CEO, Mr. Temel Kotil was on the flight. He was in New Delhi for Air India’s induction into Star Alliance the day before and was on his way back to Istanbul.
The first service was the delicious serving of Turkish Delight. Can one ever get enough of it?
The meal service started with pre-booked special requests. I had requested an Indian vegetarian meal for my parents and they weren’t impressed with their South Indian upma meal, as I got to know later. Economy passengers were given couple of menus for breakfast, which I thought was a nice touch by Turkish Airlines.
I went with Turkey and Kasar Cheese Toast along with “No.1 Mediterranean Beer” Efes. I loved the crunch of the Borek and thought it was well made. I pretty much skipped most of the other items as they just did not appeal to me.
There was a round of Coffee/Tea and I politely declined the offer. After the meal, I thought of getting some shut eye and was about to press the call button for an eye patch when the attendant handed me an amenity kit pouch.
It had a pair of socks, an eye patch and some ear plugs. Not bad, TK! I treated that, as a sign that even god wanted me to have some rest. How wrong did that turn out to be? After 40 minutes of battling with various sleeping positions I gave up and thought of visiting my parents in the front, make them feel guilty how their son was cringing in the back while they lay comfortably on their flat beds, etc. Expectedly, the seat was actually quite nice and had a foot rest just below the IFE screen, which doubled up nicely as a temporary settee. While they were telling me how uninspiring their economy class upma vegetarian dish was, I started noticing the upkeep of business class cabin.
The fabric of the seat was completely torn from the seat and there were other elements of the seat, which were asking for attention. For an airline, which prides itself as Europe’s Best Airline, this was mighty underwhelming. While going back to my seat I requested the cabin attendant to please serve some vegetarian snacks to my parents, as they were quite hungry. I must add that all cabin attendants during this flight were warm, efficient and looked keen to help out. I was promised that she would look after them well. Later on I was told by my parents that they were served vegetable samosas by the In-Flight chef, which were quite delicious.
About eighty minutes before arrival, the second service of the flight was started, where economy passengers were given a choice between a cheese sandwich or a cherry cake.
If your answer was both, I’m happy to tell you, you were absolutely correct. The sandwich was just above average but I was happy with the cherry cake. It was just the right amount of sweet and tangy for me. I gulped both of them down with a small glass of Apple juice. Other options in beverages included tomato juice, orange juice, regular and diet sodas.
At no point during this flight I bothered with the IFE screen, and taking it out of the armrest. An initial overview told me it had enough content for a 6 hour flight, though definitely not for a 8-10 hour route. Usually I’m happy with the Live Route Map, and the big screen on Bulkhead exactly in front of me kept me busy.
On our final approach to Istanbul Ataturk Airport, the captain activated the bottom fuselage camera and he was thoughtful enough to turn it to the nose camera for fantastic views as we descended on the runway.
The landing was smooth and after about 8 minutes of taxi we arrived at our gate. The first flight of my trip was comfortable and efficient. The cabin crew was nice (presence of CEO on the flight?) and the food options were reasonable for a medium haul flight. Now it was time for me to do a quick hop to the Turkish Lounge, before catching my connecting flight to Zurich in 100 minutes.
Have you flown with Turkish before to Istanbul? What has been your experience?
Related Trip Posts: Tripping through Scandinavia: Introduction
Rick Ingersoll, the founder of FrugalTravelGuy explains the mission of the blog quite simply as “helping regular folks see the world at prices one can afford”. And at that very moment I knew that I had to speak to this retired mortgage banker turned global frequent flyer and pick his brains.
Since founding the blog in 2007, Rick and his entire FTG team have helped out regular folks to travel the world upfront and in style. He has also authored a handbook aptly titled “The Frugal Guy Travel Handbook”. Rick and his wife Katy have been on two “Around the World” itineraries in either J (Business) or F (First) class, using points, miles or vouchers. He has collected over five million frequent flyer miles and currently has over 1.5 million of them. The Frugal Travel Guy blog has also been awarded the best budget travel blog over 3 years, in 2009, 2010 and 2011 by tripbase.com.
Excerpts from our chat:
- Rick, why do you travel?
Rick – The people. We have been blessed to visit over 60 countries and met amazing people. They have made our experiences and shared their world with us. Getting on planes is a requirement to see the world. As long as we have a comfortable seat and can safely get to our destination we’re happy to get on the plane.
- I know you enjoy and encourage people to travel in style, in the front of the aircraft. Any interesting instances while flying?
Rick – The journey is part of the experience, but our eye is on the prize at the end, the destination. Our memorable experiences have most always been at our destination. I’ve met several readers of the blog on at the airport or on a flight which is always fun. Meeting fellow travellers leads to great conversation. A few years ago I met Dave Winfield in an airport terminal and spoke about travel and our experiences. We’ve kept in touch; he’s a great guy.
- Do you have a favourite airport?
Rick – Hilton Head and Savannah are our current home airports. Easy in and easy out makes it a plus for us.
- Talking about airports, what addition/s you would like to see them adopt? (besides Wi-Fi)
Rick – More quiet spaces. Airport lounges are a fantastic place to relax but in places where there are none, quiet places to read are relaxing
- Do you have a preferred airline and a favourite aircraft?
Rick – The airline that gets me to my destination safely and comfortably. American has treated me well in the past few years, but I’ve flown just about all of them.
As far as favourite aircraft is concerned, as a big guy every bit of space helps. For those long haul flights any plane with a flat seat so I can sleep is a winner in my book
- Which is your destination of choice?
Rick – We love the island of Kauai. Perfect weather, beautiful scenery and wonderful people. I like to call it FTG west headquarters. Our time with family and friends that we’ve been able to share has been some of the best.
- This is going to be right up your alley. I know how much you love to help out folks with their travel, what advise would you give to all those who want to travel the world frugally?
Rick – Write down your goals and priorities, and make them tangible. Make sure you hit one of your goals within a year. If you have good credit, use that excess good credit to make it affordable. It has worked for us for years and anyone can do this.
- Which website, guide book etc. you refer before and while your traveling? What’s your study for a country/city like?
Rick – I talk to my friends and family that may know about the destination and always look through the forums on flyertalk. The US State department has a great site for information on foreign countries as well which I recommend
- What role do you think social media/twitter has played in propagating Travel?
Rick – I think it has done some fantastic things for customer service with almost immediate access to people empowered to help solve problems.
- And finally, as this is GlobeTrotters on Twitter, which are your three must follow accounts on twitter
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- GlobeTrotters on Twitter – an Introduction (vishal1mehra.com)
- GlobeTrotters on Twitter | Gary Leff (vishal1mehra.com)
- GlobeTrotters on Twitter | Brett Snyder (The Cranky Flier) (vishal1mehra.com)
- GlobeTrotters on Twitter | Shashank Nigam (vishal1mehra.com)
- GlobeTrotters on Twitter | Brian Kelly (The Points Guy) (vishal1mehra.com)
- GlobeTrotters on Twitter | Ben Schlappig (One Mile at a Time) (vishal1mehra.com)
- GlobeTrotters on Twitter | Johnny Jet (vishal1mehra.com)
- GlobeTrotters on Twitter – Devesh Agarwal (Bangalore Aviation) (vishal1mehra.com)
- GlobeTrotters on Twitter | Gary Arndt (Everything-Everywhere) (vishal1mehra.com)
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.
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.
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.
There’s also a large choice area of alcoholic, non-alcoholic drinks and a café.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 El Prat (Domestic) Lounge Review (vishal1mehra.com)
- Flying Iberia: Barcelona-Madrid-Lisbon Trip Report (vishal1mehra.com)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
Opposite that, the fridge contained aerated soft beverages, milk, water and beer.
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.
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.
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.
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.
With 15 minutes to go until boarding, I decided to pour myself a glass of 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.
Photo Courtesy : Airliners.net
With my last post, The Social Dutchman, I reached readers from 24 countries with inspiring feedback, providing me the urge to do better with my next. A benchmark was set for me & for over 2 weeks I thought about how to engage with more geeks like me, whether those are Social Media, Digital Marketing, Technology or in the case of this post, Aviation Geeks, or as they are called on twitter, #AVGeek.
There would have been other lists done before, maybe yes, then what value addition I bring to the table (& as a Digital Marketer, I get asked this question on daily basis) Well my simple answer is, I bring my own experience of being an ardent aviation reader for over 3 years to the table, during which I have been to over 120 aviation websites and blogs.
I have been fond of airplanes for as long as I remember, being in awe of pilots walking to their craft, clicking pictures with crappy cellphone cameras, reading every word of safety manuals in seat pocket, hell I probably was the biggest fan of Pan Am, the show which abc dropped, nerdy stuff like that but I delved more into the industry with the arrival of twitter, my favorite social network as I mentioned in the last post as well.
So this list compiles 7 of the best commercial aviation related web resources (listed alphabetically) that I know of, hopefully enthusiasts, from noob to pro level, all of them would find something they like. Your comments are welcome at the bottom of this post.
Although Airline Business is a monthly international magazine for senior airline management, it also has a blog on the flightglobal blog page, focusing on “a sideways look at the airline industry”.
13 other blogs jostle for attention on the same page, including the famous FlightBlogger. With such rich content & renowned contributors, Airline Business Blog has carved a loyal following for itself by providing unparalleled coverage on Airline News, Interviews, Infographics & well researched opinion pieces.
Max Kingsley-Jones article on Boeing’s 787 at this years Farnborough show has been 1 of my favorite off late, summing up the Blog for me by being precise, studied & descriptive.
Although Arun’s blog is full of marvelous information about aviation & his trip reports (Read this with a tissue: His report on last kingfisher international flight), this article, more so a plane spotter’s guide, as Arun explained me himself, has been “one of the best things I have ever done in my life”
Differentiating between an Airbus & a Boeing aircraft is one of the most important things for an enthusiast, a conversation starter & a handy way to show off among your friends, I can vouch for the last one.
Arun wanted to know more himself & realized there wasn’t any resource online suitable enough for him, so he wrote his own guide, took him 2 weeks but clearly it was well worth it & we can consume those 2 weeks of hard work, complete with explanatory pictures, in less than 40 minutes.
This is where I come when I need commentaries on issues pertaining to Asian aviation scene in large. Their location, Hong Kong, one of the world’s biggest aviation hubs, certainly helps in their coverage of stories.
Although Aspire Aviation is primary an aerospace consultancy business, their analysis section piques my interest with every visit, Daniel Tsang, the founder & chief analyst of the site told me he wanted to start a blog where he could express his views about industry developments & with time they added editors increasing the diversity offered.
Daniel also realized that Aspire could provide qualitative analysis for free, instead of hefty fees charged by others, as information cost fell significantly & they were in a unique position to provide Asian perspective to issues.
Since that day, without a shadow of a doubt, Bangalore Aviation has been my first stop for everything related to Indian Aviation news & analysis; turns out hundreds of thousands of other enthusiasts feel the same way.
Devesh, joined off late by Vinay Bhaskara, has this uncanny way of making the industry approachable for newbies, as well as make the pros feel at home, with their concise approach & detailed analysis. I, especially look forward to Airlines financial analysis, which Vinay undertakes for the site.
As Devesh mentioned during our interaction, Aviation has been in his blood since childhood, he has flown aircraft for 24 years himself & advised Ministry of Civil Aviation on BIAL airport, giving him an edge which very few can boast of in this beat.
I’m not at all surprised that Crankyflier.com usually figures in the top aviation blogs list everywhere, as Brett Snyder has been responsible for one of the world’s best online destination for people’s thrust (literally) for aviation industry.
My regular lunchtime reading aviation tweets usually have a link to a latest piece on cranky & I marvel at the ease with which the articles envelop the reader with excitement & information.
Brett calls himself the President & Chief Airline Dork for Cranky Flier LLC, & that dorkiness has been with him since he was a kid, like going to LAX to pick up airline timetables & birthday gifts which led to plane spotting. He has worked with airlines, travel companies & now consults on various projects, along with running a personal concierge service.
You should visit crankyflier for insights & happenings in American aviation industry, & checking up on Brett’s regular articles for Conde Nast Daily Traveler & other blogs.
Simpliflying is probably the world’s best combination of marketing & aviation for me. Shashank Nigam’s (CEO, SimpliFlying) quote during our discussion explains it best, “Our brand engagement with a can of Coke is about 10 minutes. With Starbucks, it’s about 2 hours. But with an airline, it’s anywhere from 2-24 hours. And that’s just within the cabin. So why do airlines keep applying the same marketing principles as Coke and Starbucks, despite seldom turning a profit?”
& That’s why we have Simpliflying today, right from explaining how weather problems are airline brand business, to key influencers making a difference, Shashank & his team have explained all this & more through easy to understand infographics, video content, presentations, interviews, webinars, articles & even an iPhone app.
I came across thepointsguy while I was preparing myself for a business trip to US & it has quickly become my go-to site for information on frequent flyer programs, credit card & hotel deals.
Although I would admit that the site is mainly focused on American readers, it still has some great resources for overall understanding about collection points, like The Beginners Guide, which has step-by-step instructions to become an addict.
For my travel, I was able to extract two important links concerning my hotel bookings, for example: I got to know how I could earn up to 5x air miles (in my case, it was KLM Flying Blue) by staying at Hyatt Reston, & another link helped me in deciding between going for Hotels.com free nights or Hotel Points offered at their sites. (I went with the latter of course).
During my communication with Brian Kelly’s office, the founder of the site, I was able to clearly see that unlike other similar sites, he disseminates information to his readers in a more intuitive, easy to understand & most importantly street smart way to work effectively with the system.
It has inspired me to travel one day in J class with a bag full of miles & points, instead of cash.
I would like to mention Live From A Lounge, hosted as part of Boarding Area, an India dedicated site for Credit Card, Airport Lounges, Hotel & Airline miles, run by AJ, I certainly enjoy reading his reports & he answers reader questions frequently as well.
Update: I have received an email from AJ, requesting for some additions to this summary :
LFAL is an India-dedicated site covering Indian aviation and hotels, focusing on how to travel smart and in style from India by making the best use of deals, miles, points and credit cards offered in India. Live From A Lounge frequently features in the Top 20 travel blogs worldwide as per Technorati, the global authority on blog rankings.
This Post is also featured on Bangalore Aviation, as a slightly altered Guest Post.