Tagged: Barcelona

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.

 

 

If you liked this post, why don’t you join many other amazing readers who have followed this blog to receive blog posts via email. No spamming guaranteed 🙂 

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.

The Varying Consistencies of Emirates (Flight Reviews)

This post was supposed to be your typical trip report until I heard Tim Clark (President, CEO) talk about future of Emirates and his view about airline alliances among many other things within that 30 minute podcast/interview on Emirates IFE (known as ICE) channel no #1500, the default start on the home screen.

Let me take you back to where this all began. I was flying from New Delhi to Barcelona in early May and during the DXB-BCN leg this post took a life of its own.

I was completely mesmerized by the sheer beauty of this Boeing 777-300, regal on the outside & luxurious on the inside. (Barring the bone crunching 3-4-3 seating arrangement of Emirates).

Emirates Boeing 777-300 IFE ICE

The IFE on this aircraft was state of the art in its truest sense and I can safely say the best IFE I have experienced till date on all 32 airlines I have flown in. The system is based on 3000i from Panasonic Avionics Corporation.

Even the handset had a small touch screen on it, and was capable of displaying information on its own without interrupting content on the main screen. We were served breakfast and lunch on this flight by a very efficient crew, both meals were good and above par.

EUREKA! EUREKA!

& It was during this flight I had my eureka moment. Hearing Tim Clark talk about Emirates future plans, their new destinations, that even with current network they are only half done & of course why Emirates is averse to joining any Airline Alliance.

The meat of his answer revolved around the fact that Emirates was averse to joining any alliance because alliances never helped an airline much, and Emirates feared that transferring your pax from one airline to the other may give them inconsistent experiences, completely opposite to their vision of seamless, comfortable and world-class hospitality that Emirates wants its customers to feel across their network & at their home in Dubai International Airport, Terminal 3.

Fair enough I thought & agreed with his thought process in my mind as I disembarked.

The LIS-DXB flight of this trip was also on a B773.

I had an Open-jaw ticket & was returning to Delhi via Lisbon. The security and immigration was pretty painless, but the walk to the flight gate, which was actually the last of the airport, was quite a walk. Dare I say, it would have dwarfed the walk at Delhi Airport’s T3.

After an efficient boarding process I moved to my seat to see the same world-class IFE greeting me & I remember thinking to myself, “consistently world class indeed”.

Emirates Boeing 777-300 IFE ICE

But the biggest surprise of the flight was when Cabin crew armed & cross checked doors and I was sitting next to 2 empty seats.

Emirates Boeing 777-300 vacant row of seats

Suddenly the Aviation Geek in me woke up & I stood up to have a look around the cabin to check for loads. It was a Saturday evening flight, with just about 50% occupancy in economy. The guy in the next middle row had all 4 seats for himself.

Emirates 777-300 handset display for avgeeks An AVGeek’s ideal handset display

As we rose up over the balmy and beautiful evening of Lisbon, I fired up ICE and got to hear Tim Clark again. I must admit I loved hearing him speak; his voice was like a gentle massage to my eardrums with a soothing accent. He had me completely sold on Emirates vision and their reasoning for it.

Our crew for the flight was nice and chatty, and the meal service for this flight served as Dinner, was yummy. I had my first Indian meal in 8 days & the chicken tikka masala did not disappoint at all.

Emirates Economy Class Meal

The crew also served drinks just before landing into DXB. Overall a flawless flight from Emirates.

AT DXB T3

But then we landed into DXB. We arrived slightly before time & I had 5 hours & 45 minutes left for my early morning connecting flight to New Delhi. Transfer and security was much better this time compared to my outward leg.

Here’s my take on Dubai International T3 after been there 6 times now. I find DXB as one of the world’s most boring airport/terminal. DXB sadly offers nothing for the traveler but shopping. I think that’s where it should take a cue from airports like Munich, Zurich, Amsterdam, Seoul and Changi. Shopping is just ONE part of the experience, not the ENTIRE experience. Being a hub airport for one of the largest airlines in the world should carry responsibilities with it & so far DXB T3 has failed on my watch in many aspects.

With my tired limbs & stressed mind I hopped on the train towards B Gates. I reach our scheduled gate only to hear an emirates employee shouting loudly that our flight is delayed by an hour and 30 minutes, with a gate change.

Later on an Emirates employee tells me all delays at the airport were due to unseasonal fog, which enveloped DXB in the morning & has had a knock on effect on flights throughout the day. Our aircraft was scheduled to arrive from Dammam & its arrival was delayed by 2 hours due to the same problem.

But there’s another dimension to this thought. As the disruptions have been on since morning, Emirates must have known about possible delays for our flight to DEL as well, then why it decided to inform passengers at the very last minute, at their boarding gate?

Also, from my point of view, If Emirates knew about this 2 hour delay much earlier, they could have even given me a hotel accommodation at DXB. Emirates has a policy of granting all economy passengers with a layover of more than 8 hours at DXB, a complimentary hotel stay. Needless to say I was physically exhausted after almost 15 hours of travel & would have loved some shuteye, even for couple of hours. My decision of not going to the Lounge at T1 came to haunt me.

I reach the new gate as per the re-scheduled departure time only to find that the gate has been changed again. So, I reach the 3rd gate of this journey & it finally seems to be the correct one. We start boarding 15 minutes after the re-scheduled departure time, and are already running late. Again. And there is no explanation from the airline staff as well. And to top it all of, we are transferred to buses. It seems our Airbus A330-200 has chosen to park remotely.

Emirates Airbus A330-200 to Delhi, boarding through stairs

Certainly not the world-class consistent experience that Tim Clark promised.

By the time I boarded my DXB-DEL flight, I had lost all sense of time, but it would be safe to say that the flight took off at least 2 hours and 15 minutes post-scheduled departure.

The boarding for this flight was completely mismanaged by the Emirates crew/ground staff. First and Business class passengers were requested to use the front staircase understandably but the entire economy class passengers were required to board the aircraft from the rear.

Even those with early economy seats were turned away from the front door to board from rear. Naturally that had many passengers agitated, as they had to carry their hand baggage from the back of the aircraft, almost to the front.

One of the few positives about the flight I immediately noticed was the 2-4-2 seating arrangement, with a window seat It seemed ideal for me. My luck continued with this flight as well as the seat next to me remained vacant.

But as I sat down, I immediately saw this staring back at me.

Emirates A330-200 Old IFE In flight entertainment

From the best to the worst, Emirates had provided me two extreme IFE options & the voice of Tim Clark talking about consistent world-class experience for passengers started ringing in my ears. You see having a mediocre IFE system is one thing, but this was the worst.

Just as we were all set for the taxi to runway, the captain informed us of another 20-minute delay. Apparently the control tower wanted us to wait, if we hadn’t waited enough already. Meanwhile I also took notice of one of the most uncomfortable seats I have been on in an aircraft (not as bad as my Ryan Air flight but close enough) with weird lower back support settings which made a thick uncomfortable cushion pop out & the seat itself was not the best.

Tim Clark & his voice came back to my mind & ears. Shouting.

We were served lunch on this flight & the butter chicken I opted for was very well prepared. The crew of the flight, barring the initial boarding process, was also very friendly and professional.

Did I mention that the IFE on this flight was almost repulsive & I never bothered to even use it once, preferring to read FT on Sunday, provided gratis by Emirates at the boarding gate.

Nothing else of much note in the flight as we had a smooth landing at Delhi and the captain apologized in the end for multiple delays.

One big question lords over my mind after these extreme experiences

Where is the consistent world class seamless (and other adjectives) experience that Emirates loves to boast about? This is not a one-off thing as Emirates operates this very A332 daily to Delhi? I haven’t documented my first flight, DEL-DXB in detail, again on A330-200, but if it wasn’t for catching up on sleep or a chatty co-passenger, I would have been horrified about that as well.

India is supposed to be Emirates biggest market, then why this huge inconsistency? Emirates flies more Indian passengers abroad than any other Indian carrier, Why the Indian passenger is almost taken for granted? Especially considering other global players like Lufthansa fly their top the line aircraft, the Boeing 747-8, to Indian cities.

And it’s just not me pointing out their inconsistencies; plenty of others are talking about it as well. Just that nobody else has devoted such detail to it.

I won’t be surprised if the more nimble (and smaller as of now) gulf carriers like Qatar Airways and Etihad Airways attract more Indian travelers to their much superior product in time to come. For Emirates, I only wish for a consistent passenger experience, only to live up to their own promise, which should be good enough for now.

Overall I would rate my 4 flights with Emirates as the following:

DEL-DXB – 6.5/10

DXB-BCN – 8.5/10

LIS-DXB – 9.5/10

DXB-DEL – 3.5/10

Nokia Lumia Dairy (Barcelona) Promo

So I was in Barcelona during the first week of May, for about 5 days. You know doing the usual normal things like Watching FC Barcelona play Betis live at Camp Nou, getting a private Camp Nou tour, Personalized Jerseys from FCB, VIP treatment at Camp Nou and of course meeting Barca players at their training academy.

Safe to say it was anything but Normal, all thanks to Nokia.

We also had a ESPN Star Sports TV crew with us, making a show of our time in Barcelona. The show is called Nokia Lumia Dairy, and I wanted to share the promo of the show with all of you.

The show has already aired once and will be airing once again on 2nd June, 2200hrs IST on Star Sports.

Hoping to get a digital copy of the show, so I can share with everyone my 30 minutes of fame 🙂 Cheers

 

FYI : I’m the guy giving a wow expression and diving in the end