This series covers a two-week vacation to Europe that will feature stops in SOF, BEG, TIV, LIS, ARN, and ATH. For background and planning, please refer back to Part 1. As a reminder, the routing for this series is:
Part 1 – IAH-IAD [UA 373, Boeing B767-300ER, Economy] – Here Part 2 – IAD-MUC [UA 106, Boeing B767-400ER, Economy] – Here Part 3 – MUC-SOF [LH 1702, Airbus A321, Economy] – Here Part 4 – SOF-BEG [JU 123, Aérospatiale/Alenia ATR 72-200, Economy] – Here Part 5 – BEG-TIV [YM 201, Fokker F100, Economy] – Here Part 6 – TIV-BEG [YM 202, Fokker F100, Economy] – Here Part 7 – BEG-LHR [JU 380, Airbus A319, Business] – Here Part 8 – LHR-MAD [IB 3167, Airbus A330-300, Business] – You are here Part 9 – MAD-LIS [IB 3118, Airbus A321, Business] – Here Part 10 – LIS-LHR [BA 499, Airbus A320, Business] – Here Part 11 – LHR-ARN [BA 780, Boeing B767-300ER, Business] – Here Part 12 – ARN-BEG [JU 411, Airbus A319, Business] – Here Part 13 – BEG-ATH [JU 512, Airbus A319, Business] – Here Part 14 – ATH-IST [TK 1850, Boeing B737-900ER, Economy] – Here Part 15 – IST-ATH [TK 1843, Boeing B737-800, Economy] – Here Part 16 – ATH-FRA [A3 830, Airbus A321, Economy] – Here Part 17 – FRA-IAH [UA 47, Boeing B787-900, EconomyPlus] – Here
Sofia – Part 4 Kotor – Part 6 Belgrade – Part 7 Lisbon – Part 9 Sintra – Part 10 Stockholm – Part 12 Athens – Part 16
This report will cover the flight from LHR to MAD, which is a BA flight operated by IB. This route is the BA/IB hub connection and there are frequent flights almost hourly. I picked this flight in order to catch the IB A333 since most of these flights are on narrow-bodies. This flight was part of an AA award ticket.
I left off the last report as I was heading towards the Heathrow Express to transfer from Terminal 4 to Terminal 5. The Heathrow Express is crowded since it is free for terminal transfers. I think it is overpriced for trips into London, but the train is clean.
Exiting the train, I took the elevator up to the check-in level in Terminal 5. It is large and open, but very crowded since it handles all the BA flights.
It wasn’t clearly marked where the priority check-in area was, but I eventually found it on the far southern end of the terminal. Trying to use my AA info on the self-serve kiosk was a huge failure. AA and BA do not communicate well. I could never change my seats on BA’s website. I had to use QF’s website in order to assign my seats for these flights since AA and QF have good communications. The kiosk error messages prompted me to go to the service counter and I eventually found it. The agent was able to quickly override the system and check me in and tag my bag.
With boarding passes in hand, I head towards LHR’s crappy security. The South entrance (near priority check-in) is not as crowded as the North entrance. The practice they use where 4 people fill trays at the same time is absolutely retarded and can’t possible be more efficient than one person at a time. I think anyone that has had to sit there and wait >5 minutes for a gap on the conveyer belt understands what I’m talking about…
Eventually, I finally get dumped airside. Tons of shops line LHR’s Terminal 5, Concourse A.
This terminal was supposedly rated the “best in the world,” but it is disgustingly crowded. Looking at the FIDS, you understand why. They only announce gates (and concourses) for flights 50 minutes before departure so everyone is loitering in the same area waiting for the gate to be announced. My flight leaves at 18:30, so the FIDS states I won’t know the gate (and concourse) until 17:40.
The result of this policy is a completely crowded terminal with no free seating areas.
The BA Lounges aren’t much better. Reaching the BA Galleries North, there is a long line to enter. My boarding pass is eventually scanned I’m met with a lounge with no open seating areas.
Everyone’s favorite blue LED lights on the press.
The only open space I could find with some privacy was some computers in the corner.
The lunch offerings were out, so I was able to get a little bit of food to snack on while I worked on Part 1 of this series. Interesting observation, I was getting the coffee and I noticed a lady making tea while at the same time grabbing a handful of tea bags (~10-15) to stuff into her purse.
The lines for the bathrooms in the lounges were also long. I eventually got in. The bathrooms are weird since they look like an airplane lavatory and are individual use.
The only cool thing about the bathroom was the BOAC picture on the wall.
After 2 hours in the BA Galleries North, I walked over to the BA Galleries South. The entrance to the BA Galleries South.
This lounge wasn’t as crowded, but was still fairly full.
My second snack offering while I watched New Zealand upset India in cricket.
At 17:20, my flight still didn’t have a gate listed, but the FIDS stated it was departing from Concourse C so I left the lounge.
I took the one-way train to Concourse C. FYI, like some other airports, this is one-directional so don’t go to a different Concourse unless your plane is leaving from there. ICN comes to mind…
How do you “lose” a sandal at an airport? You wouldn’t notice this?
Walking around Concourse C, I see my beautiful ride down to MAD. Our IB A333 is in the old livery.
Even though my plane is sitting there, LHR still won’t declare the gate. Completely retarded.
I made a loop of Concourse C to do some spotting.
BA B789 getting its windshields squeegeed.
The seating areas in Concourse C.
So, I think LHR is the only airport in the world I have seen this in the bathrooms… I was speechless.
Finally, at 17:40 my gate was listed (no surprises since the plane was already sitting at C56).
British Airways, BA 522 Equipment: Airbus A330-300 [EC-LUK “Costa Rica”, delivered February 2013] Departure: 18:30 (ATD: 18:47) Arrival: 21:55 (ATA: 21:52) Flight time: 2:05
Right on time, boarding started up for my flight. I joined the queue for priority boarding.
There was press available at the end of the jetbridge.
Two FAs are there to check my boarding pass. They welcome me onboard and direct me through the galley and to the left. Entering the IB cabin for the first time. These seats are identical to the OZ seats.
The view down the aisle from my seat.
The empty side table with reading light.
Details of the antimacassar and upholstery.
The IFE controls, seat controls, and adjustable armrest.
Below the side table are the power/AV connections and a cup holder for water bottles.
The IFE was large and crisp.
Below the ottoman is a little pocket for the magazines. Marathon will be happy IB does not call it “literature.”
The in-flight magazines.
IB fleet and details of the A333. I never knew they had ATRs.
Below the tray table is the safety card, barf bag, and an old menu from a different flight (your experience may differ^^).
Safety card for this IB A333.
The FAs came through and handed out headphones.
Second interesting point, the gentleman across the aisle opened up his carry-on bag and pulled out 4 bags of chips from the BA Lounge and ate all 4 of the bags during the boarding/taxing process. Clearly few people read the signs not to remove food/drinks from the lounges.
The IFE is available immediately so you can start watching programs during boarding. The content wasn’t that great, but was the same as the long-haul offering. If this was a long-haul flight, I might be really concerned.
I opted for Top Chef Spain.
As we pushed back, the safety video played.
We backed up on time and were quickly aligning onto the runway.
Mood-lighting for take-off.
We lifted up over Terminal 4.
Crossing through the clouds where the sun was setting over the Atlantic.
Leveling off, the FAs came through the cabin and handed out vouchers for 4MB of free WiFi. For basic e-mail/messaging this a decent amount for a 2-hour flight.
The drink/meal carts soon followed. The FA asked me if I wanted pasta or chicken (very Y feeling). I asked for the pasta and a beer. My tray as delivered.
The salad was nothing special. There was a balsamic vinegar and olive oil dressing for it.
The pasta main. The pasta was pretty bad. The sauce was watery and tasteless. The vegetables were also tasteless. It was not a good meal and the pasta dish I got on UA in Y was infinitely better.
The cheese plate. It was about as good as it looks.
The mini 250-mL beer cans.
Packaged wet towel that was on the tray.
The packaged dessert. I didn’t even open it up so I can’t comment on the taste, but at least it was from “the heart of the hills.”
After that bland meal, my tray was cleared and the FA offered coffee/tea. I took coffee, which is served on this nice tray with a chocolate.
I made a quick trip to the bathroom, which was clean and still adorned with some long-haul touches like this flower and butterfly.
I spent the rest of the flight watching TV in a nice lounging position with the mood lighting.
While I was sitting there, the FA did propose another cup of coffee, which I accepted. The IB crew was not very friendly, they felt like they were just doing their jobs and nothing more.
Flying past Valladolid as we start our descent.
Our route tonight.
The only connecting flight was mine to LIS. I guess everyone else was terminating in MAD.
Even with a 22:00 arrival, we had some ATC delays and had to do one loop before continuing our approach into MAD.
We landed slightly early.
Taxing to T4S, I spotted IB A346s in new and old liveries.
We pulled into our gate.
Welcome to Madrid.
Deplaning, the FAs wished me a goodnight. MAD looks nice with the wood ceilings. However, with only 50 minutes for a connection and an endless 1 km walk to passport control, I didn’t have time to enjoy it.
Thankfully, both passport control and security were empty and I was quickly through.
Taking the train from T4S to T4.
Murals as I enter T4.
Upstairs, I head towards the H gates.
I’ll leave off this series here as I head towards my gate for my flight from MAD to LIS. Tune into the next report for the short hop from MAD to LIS and a bonus on Lisbon.
British Airways (North) Galleries Club - 5A
London - LHR
Madrid - MAD
My first time flying on IB metal and it didn't deviate too far from what it's reputation is. It was fairly unremarkable flight with a distant crew and a subpar meal. The only pros were getting an A333 on this LHR-MAD shuttle.
Cabin comfort: Wide-body aircraft with real J cabins on an intra-European route is always a treat. No pillow/blanket offered, but a clean and comfortable flat-bed seat on a 2-hour flight.
Crew: Not very engaging or present mid-flight. IB crews are not up to the level of the BA crews I've encountered.
Meal and catering: No PDB and no menu. The tray was pretty disappointing, UA's Y meals are better. The food was tasteless and a packaged dessert is very poor. The only nice part of the catering was the little coffee trays served with chocolates.
Entertainment: Standard seatback literature. The selection on IB is not great for English speakers, but for a flight of this length, it was more than enough (I'd criticize this more on a TATL). The free 4MB of WiFi is a nice gesture and enough data to check e-mails during the flight.
On-time performance: We left right on time and landed on time despite entering a holding pattern briefly before arriving into MAD.
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