Tagged: Madrid

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.