Hello and welcome to the second segment in this new series of Flight-Reports,
Having just gotten back to DC from my annual birthday trip home to France (reports here and here ), I needed to cross the pond again as I had to be in Madrid for the week of 17 September. I had originally put together an itinerary that included one leg on the new Iberia A350, unfortunately it didn't work out in the end, which was disappointing as an AvGeek. Alas, the reports in this series won't be anything new, as I've reported all aircraft but one in the past. Still, it's always worth doing Flight-Reports, even on one's "shuttle"–in my case, that would be IAD-LHR on the British Airways B747-400.
After another lovely flight on the BA Queen, this report will cover a two-hour hop from London to Madrid in Iberia's intra-European Business class.
As I usually do when transiting at Heathrow with enough time, I went through the UK Border to get some fresh air landside. The automated passport control gates are very convenient for EU citizens as there is usually no wait. I'm still not sure what will happen with these after Brexit. Speaking of Brexit and the automated passport gates, Boris Johnson–Brexit hardliner and recently-resigned former Foreign Secretary–had been on my flight from Washington. We had deplaned at the same time and made our way to the arrivals area at about the same pace–he and his wife ended up at the passport gate next to me. As he was struggling with the the instructions for the passport gate, I could tell he was no longer accustomed to having to go through these formalities with the masses ^^
Once through I headed upstairs to the departure level at the far south end of the terminal.
There's a decent view from here, but not usually much action on the apron this far up.
After I'd gotten my fill of fresh air on this beautiful morning, I headed back inside to go through security to head to the lounge to have a shower.
There was no wait through the Fast Track queue at the South checkpoint and I was through in seconds. I immediately headed to the Elemis spa check-in and shower registration area.
No showers were available so I was given a pager and told the wait should be short as there were only a few people in front of me on the list.
In the meantime, I headed upstairs to the Galleries lounge to have a coffee.
I barely had time to finish my coffee before the pager began buzzing. So off I went back downstairs.
There are about a dozen shower suites, each with a sink and toilet. It's always nice to freshen up after a long-haul, especially a red-eye!
After a refreshing shower, I saw that my gate was showing in T5B so I headed to the underground train to the B gates.
As it was only a few minutes before boarding, and I once again I didn't have enough time to go to the T5B Galleries lounge, I headed straight to the gate.
Spotted my plane on the way…it was easy to see a Red and yellow tail in a sea of BA Union Jack tails.
A beautiful Queen in oneworld livery
And here we are at the gate. I really like the architecture of T5.
I arrived at the gate right as boarding was due to begin and was pleasantly surprised to see the gate area was not crowded.
There were separate queues for boarding groups 1, 2, and 3. On BA intra-European flights, or any flight without a First class cabin, Group 1 consists of Business class passengers and oneworld Emeralds. There were only 2 people waiting in the Group 1 queue ahead of me when I arrived.
Although the flight was operated by Iberia, the gate staff were British Airways. BA handle IB flights in LHR, much like IB staff handle BA flights in MAD.
The 744 in oneworld livery was pushing back into the alley as we waited to board.
Boarding began on time with pre-boarding. Announcements were made in English and Spanish.
My first impression of the cabin is that it is plain but clean.
BA's short/medium-haul seats are much nicer than IB's as they have adjustable headrests as well as a table between seats.
As is normal for intra-European business class, the middle seats are blocked, but lack a table like BA.
The legroom in the first row is decent–about the same, or a little better than BA. Seat pitch in other rows is 31 inches, barely better than BA's knee-crushing 30 in seat pitch.
As business class cabins on intra-European flights can be adjusted based on demand–it's literally just a matter of sliding a dividing curtain–it can be risky to pre-book seats too far back in the cabin.
At booking, I had originally booked 9A, an exit row seat with tons of legroom. Unfortunately, at some point the "curtain" was moved up to behind row 7 and my seat was moved to 3F, which I didn't find out until I checked in on the BA App 24 hours before the flight.
With a 31" seat pitch in non-bulkhead or exit rows, I went for row 1, which was fortunately available at check-in.
Also, bonus perk to being in row 1…just in case I forgot which cabin I was in, the bulkhead was there to remind me :-P
Boarding went quickly and we were able to push back a few minutes early.
Some planespotting as we taxied to the gate–always good things to see at LHR.
British Airways B747-400
Virgin Atlantic B787-9
During this off-peak time there was no wait for takeoff.
Crossing the M25
Nice views of Windsor Castle from the right side.
The English countryside
It was a beautiful day for flying with clears skies for the whole flight. With no IFE or WiFi, there wasn't a whole lot to do, luckily the IFE out the window was lovely.
If you're not a fan of aerial photos, scroll away by all means ^^
We reached the English Channel just east of Bournemouth and Christchurch.
Cliffs of Dorset County
The in-flight service began with a hot towel service as we reached the coast of Brittany
Who says it's always raining in Brittany!
It was impressive to see the whole western part of the peninsula, though there was a bit of haze.
Breakfast was served as we flew over Brittany
It was filling and tasty, but nothing terribly exciting. It was a shame that there were no options for breakfast.
The cabin crew, who were all male and very friendly, came through the cabin regularly to refill coffees and teas and offered additional croissants and breads. All members of the cabin screw spoke perfect English–one even spoke with an American accent. I figured he must have grown up in the US. I needed to practice my Spanish so I mostly interacted with the crew in Spanish; however, most of the passengers in the Business cabin were either American or British so most spoke English.
The Island of Groix off the southern coast of Brittany
After breakfast I had a short nap and woke up as we were reaching the northern Atlantic coast of Spain. The thin seats started to become a bit uncomfortable after sitting for over an hour.
Picos de Europa in the Cantabrian mountains of northern Spain
The town of Suances at the mouth of the Ría de San Martín de la Arena.
Northern Spain is very green…
…but it gets considerably drier and more desert-like the further into the interior you go.
The scenery almost reminds me of the U.S. desert southwest
Not sure what town this is, but it seems to be a decent size.
Colourful countryside near Madrid as we make our descent.
Short final into MAD
View of the Iberia hangars on landing.
Taxi wasn't too long as we made out way from Runway 32L past the T4 Satellite to the main T4 building.
The T4 Satellite building is mostly the domain of widebodies and long-haul flights.
We parked at the main T4 building with other Iberia and oneworld narrowbodies.
Last look at my seat on deplaning. As you can see the seats are thin.
Welcome to Madrid Barajas airport Terminal 4, one of the most beautifully designed terminals in the world.
As we arrived from the UK (i.e. outside the Schengen zone), we parked on the very end of the terminal dedicated to non-Schengen flights with a passport control in place. Being on the very end, it was a long walk to the baggage claim area. Surprisingly, despite taking my time to get to the baggage area, I still had to wait a half hour for my bags.
Priority tags only seem to work about half the time :-/
Thank you for reading and feel free to leave questions and comments below.
British Airways Terminal 5A Galleries Club (South)
London - LHR
Madrid - MAD
It was a pretty average flight in intra-European Business class. For those used to regional premium cabins with wider seats outside of Europe, the "Euro-Business" cabin can be disappointing as it's just Economy seats with an empty middle seat. The seats were hard and get a bit uncomfortable after 2 hours. I much prefer BA's Club Europe seats to these, especially as the BA seats have more padding and have adjustable headrests. Legroom in the bulkhead on IB was about the same as BA.
As far as the catering goes, It's hard to judge on a breakfast flight, since breakfast is never particularly exciting on planes, but the portions were generous and the taste was decent despite being plain. It was a shame not to have any options of dishes, though.
The crew were friendly and attentive and spoke perfect English.
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