Capt.Picard From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR: Posted (13 years 5 months 1 week 5 days 18 hours ago) and read 12374 times:
Hey ho folks.
Yesterday I had the pleasure of flying Iberia to Buenos Aires, on their A340. A fantastic experience. This ain't gonna be one of those supremo trip reports, mainly because I am now on holiday, and intend to avoid computers if at all possible.
19th June 2002
Sector length: 12 hours
A/c: Airbus 340-300 EC-HGV Maria Guerrera
Scheduled Departure: 1200 local
Scheduled Arrival: 1945
Ticket price: 264 pounds/444 euros
I had stayed with a friend in Madrid overnight (I flew down from London to avail myself of Iberia's super South American deals), and so we both made our way to the local subway station. I made my way to the main subway station in Madrid from where passengers can check-in for their Iberia or Spanair or Air Europa flights.
The time was 0900 when I checked in; basically, I was very early, and all Iberia check-in desks were free, so I simply walked up to a random desk. Check-in took perhaps 2 minutes. My single Antler case weighed 23 kilos, so just the max allowed for Y class-I had plenty of winter gear and clothing for Argentina-and the usual family presents!
I requested the very last window row of the Airbus 340, 36A. How full was the plane I asked? "So-so" replied the guy. He actually meant 95% empty.....
After getting my boarding card, and finally having got rid of that awfully heavy case, which had made me sweat profusely in Madrid's early morning summer heat, I walked downstairs again to catch the airport train to Barajas International. Takes about 15 minutes to get there.
When I arrived at Barajas airport, I headed naturally, for the wrong terminal. There are 3 of them at MAD. T3 is for Iberia shuttle flights to Barcelona, T2 and T1 I have forgotten about (I can't actually remember which one I used--I think it was T1....), but in any case I headed for T3 initially, just following the 'Iberia' signs.....
After having realised my stupid mistake, I walked across to the correct terminal, which appears to be reserved for all the International airlines as well as Iberia's intercontinental flights.
I just couldn't believe the sheer variety of airlines and flights being checked-in!! Wow, we had flights from all sorts of airlines-Delta had 2 flights, one to Atlanta and the other to JFK and SFO; American to Miami; US Airways to somewhere else; and Continental to EWR. Then we had Syrian Airways to Damascus and Aleppo, Finnair to HEL, BMI, BA, Easyjet to Luton, Swiss, Alitalia, Turkish, Olympic amongst others, all being checked-in; a very busy day.
I was just wondering around, checking everything out-I had plenty of time to kill you see. I walked over to the kiosk (before immigration) to have a peek at the papers. As the Times was carrying another scandal story on Ryanair and other low-cost airlines and perceived safety violations, I bought a copy to take with me airside.
Immigration was quick and easy, no hassles. Again, I did the usual round of duty-free shop browsing, and checking out all of the products I couldn't afford. I then walked along the various waiting/gate lounges, all graced with wondeful views of waiting a/c and ramp action. I decided to join those passengers waiting in their lounge to board AA 63 to MIA. I read the Ryanair scare stories with amused interest, then proceeded to catch up with the rest of the British news.
Once the AA pax had gone, I got up to look at the screens to find that IB 6845 was already boarding at gate 21. Goodness, time just flew by.
Gate 21 was adjacent a number of other gates, all for Iberia flights to South America....flights to Bogota and Lima were also boarding, and at the other end, we had an IB flight to Quito boarding.
It wasn't quite clear which gate was which. I joined what I presumed to be a long queue for IB 6845 to B.Aires. After 10 minutes, an old lady told me I was about to board the Iberia service to Lima. Oh dear. I quickly got the hell out of that line, and scratched my head, trying to find out what I had done wrong.
It later transpired that Gate 21 wasn't actually signposted....great. What's more, our flight was so ridiculously empty, that hardly anyone had gone through the gate.
I joined about 10-20 people in the queue to get our boarding cards checked-we then proceeded downstairs to a waiting bus-great, we were going to get a lovely ramp tour towards our remotely parked Airbus.
The Bogota flight was also being operated by an A340. Once all 20 people had decided to board the bus, we were off. We got a great tour of the ramp action at Barajas, on the way to our Airbus-saw an Aeromexico 767, Continental 777 being pushed-back, a Usairways 767, 2 Aerolineas Argentinas 747s, an Avianca 767, a Delta 767 and more Iberia a/c than you can imagine.
We finally swooped in under the wing of our A340, to board through door 2 on the left.
God, I love seeing such big planes from the tarmac. The engines are powered by CFMs- "the power of flight" was written on each engine. It looked a truly elegant aircraft, and the Iberia livery kind of suits it. Saw the first officer doing the rounds, checking the wheels etc. as we climbed up to the door.
Oops, I hate to do this, but I'm gonna have to continue tomorrow; I'm writing from a small telephone exchange, and I've run out of time for now. I'll come back tomorrow; stay tuned, because the flight was fantastic, and I have lots of stuff to report, from scenery to service!!
TO BE CONTINUED TOMORROW, ARGENTINE MORNING TIME!!!
Capt.Picard From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 3, posted (13 years 5 months 1 week 4 days 22 hours ago) and read 12085 times:
No worries, I'll do the AR trip report later, it's just that I don't have that much time at the moment.....
Anyways, I started to climb up the stairs to door 2 of this magnificent A340, "Maria Guerrera". We were greeted inside by the crew, and I observed a 2-4-2 configuration in Y. Well, I walked the walk all the way down the left side of the cabin to the very last seat, 36A.
It was like walking through a newly-delivered A340, with no pax inside; honestly, this was the emptiest longhaul flight I had ever taken! No surprise really, given the drastic socio-economic situation in Argentina.
Once sat down, I familiarised myself with the seat, and my exclusive window for the next 12 hours-wahey! It was a lovely summers day, and 36A afforded me a view of the outer section of the wing, the outboard No.1 engine, and the magnificent winglet. As I gazed in the distance, I saw a Syrian A320 on its merry way to r/w 36L. Next to us on the remote stand was another Iberia 742, Cervantes.
As I have already said, this flight was ridiculously empty. The entire row 36, from the seat next to me, to the opposite window, was just vacant! This was the same for a number of other rows in the Y cabin. No PTVs are fitted in Y on Iberia A340s; Iberia's inflight magazine, "Ronda" was utterly boring, although there were some interesting route facts to observe. EZE is IB's second longest sector, after Santiago de Chile, a 13+ hour flight. IB destinations in Africa include Tangier, Johannesburg, Malabo, Dakar, El Cairo and Tel Aviv.
"Night fever" was being played on the speakers as the doors were being closed; an excellent choice of music.
After a few moments, I could hear the engines slowly being started, before throttles were opened, and we began to roll forward directly from our remote stand as flaps were lowered-no push-back tow was required. The Iberia safety video was shown on pop-down screens suspended from the centre overhead bins. The video was mostly a cartoon accompanied by supermarket music-oh yes.
The taxi to runway 36L was a rather long one, but we passed along some of the terminal buildings along the way, so I caught sight of an LH A320, KL 738, Virgin Express 737, Macedonian Greek 737 and various Iberia aircraft, including 2 A320s Museo Nacional Guggenheim Bilbao and Cabañeros which later followed us to the runway. We also passed an IB 757 Brasil and 2 other A340s Concepcion Arenal and Concha Espina.
As we approached the holding point of r/w 36, we made a stop behind two solid yellow bars; an IB 757 was lining up, preparing to roll. The A320 Cabañeros held behind us. Once the 757 had become airborne, it was our turn to line up and hold for final clearance.
After a short while, throttles were opened slightly, engines spooled up, and the A340 edged forward; throttles were then opened fully, and the CFMs roared into response-we surged forward for the roll. The problem with sitting right at the back is the rather loud noise from the constant roar of those engines!!
After a roll of about 36 seconds, we slowly slid into the sky, to become airborne at 1221; the intial climb over the parched and dry landscape was slow and clumsy, as well as pretty shaky-probably due to the nasty wake turbulence from the 757 ahead; 3 staggered left turns soon followed, to head west, then south west. The temp was 28C, and cumulonimbus clouds (storm clouds) lay ahead; there soon followed a series of left and right turns as the city of Madrid passed below the left wing in the distance.
Initially, the storm clouds provided gentle to moderate turbulence as our climb continued, later becoming a little stronger, until it eventually lead to some strong up and down draughts which caused the overhead lockers to rattle quite a bit! The crew were constantly adjusting the heading, ostensibly to avoid the densest clouds.
The rough weather was eventually cleared, and we were soon enjoying smoother, sunnier flying conditions. The airshow had been screened during taxy at Barajas, but was now turned off, never to be shown again. Damn. Ronda magazine stated 12 audio channels were available on A340 flights, but only 5 were working on my flight-not that I cared that much though...
The routing? El commandante announced in Spanish and English that our route would basically be Madrid-Ciudad Real-Seville-Canaries-Cape Verde-Recife-Porto Alegre-Bahia-Sao Paulo-Buenos Aires.
The films really were awful-I didn't watch any of them. What I did, was to read a bit of the Economist, and my new book on the rise and fall of the British empire. The crew soon came down the aisles to shut all the windows-thereby giving the cabin the night-time effect. I welcomed this decision as 1) The sun was blinding, and I couldn't see anything 2) I wanted to catch some sleep too.
The crew were efficient, although perhaps not as courteous as I have experienced on BA, Virgin or Emirates. Newspapers were soon being distributed; I don't know if this is normal for Iberia Y class, perhaps there were no J pax at the front? I elected to read the Herald Tribune and the Financial Times.
Lunch soon followed, and there was a choice of Paella or Chicken and Rice. I asked for the former, but received the latter. Oh well, I was having a great time, so I wasn't going to complain. I elected to order some tonic water with my meal. The food was fine. Tea and coffee were served whilst we were still eating our meal. This isn't right. On BA flights, the meal is first cleared, THEN tea and coffee offered.
After the meals were cleared, the crew disappeared for the rest of the flight; there were absolutely no regular rounds of drinks, as I am used to seeing on other airlines. However, pax could walk to the rear and spacious galley, where crew were most happy to serve drinks and any snacks we might like, such as sandwiches.
After a few hours, I peeked out of the window to see our progress; the sun was still very bright, so it hurt my eyes; I did however manage to see that we were passing abeam of one of the Cape Verde islands-this island looked extremely dry and parched.
Well, after this, I moved to my bed in the centre row, and caught some zzzzz's for a few hours.................................................................................................................
We were flying over the mountainous north eastern region of Brazil when I had woken up again; at this point, the sun was beginning to fade a little, so I elected to leave the window open, and followed our progress along Brazil's east coast; even the city of Sao Paulo drifted past in the distance after a while; it was at this point that I caught site of a Bizjet, which passed below, and to the left of us in the opposite direction, later followed by an Iberia 747 lower down.
The sunset over southern Brazil as just BEAUTIFUL.....honestly, you really had to be there to witness the sheer beauty of the colours in the sky-shades of purple, orange, red and blue together with the stars, and the black silhouette of the A340 wing! What poetry!!
Once it had become dark on my left side, I moved seats to follow the continuing sunset on the right side, looking towards the west; here, the bright red of the sunset contrasted with the sharp shadow of the engines and wing..........incredible, and yes, I took photos!!
A light meal of sandwiches was served over Uruguay. We began our descent over southern Uruguay, then flew over the River Plate....soon the bright mass of lights of Buenos Aires illuminated the underside of our wing, to the left, and in the distance. Landing lights then came on.
Ezeiza airport is situated to the south of Bs As, so we continued our descent past the city. We actually held directly over the airport for a while, before being allowed to continue for our final approach. We made a number of rather steep 360 degreee turns, over the suburbs of Ezeiza, whilst all the while continuing to descend.
The approach, in the dark of night, was rather interesting. We came in on finals, approaching the runway at a slight angle. I could actually see the r/w ahead of us, at our 10 o'clock-somewhat rather scary!!
As we came in for the final approach, we swooped down low, making a left turn to align ourselves with the r/w, before quickly flaring. The runway was extremely poorly lit-I cannot understand how they could operate such a dimly lit runway legally! Seriously, it was as if the light covers were really dirty, or as if there was a power shortage at the airport.
The touch-down occured in 2 stages; first the centre gear, and that was very light. But as the main gear came down, we slammed on to the runway with considerable force, before reverse thrust was applied to the max.
During taxi to the terminal, we passed a Malaysia 744, a United 777, a Delta 767 and an American 767. We parked in between the AA and a Lanchile A320.
Overall, the flight had been an excellent one; Iberia's service is like that of Alitalia-ok, but plenty of room for improvement; crew were fine, but perhaps not as courteous as I have experienced on BA flights to Argentina.
I hope you enjoyed the report, I loved the flight!!
Astrojet From Germany, joined Aug 2000, 565 posts, RR: 2
Reply 4, posted (13 years 5 months 1 week 4 days 21 hours ago) and read 12048 times:
Great report, I flew LGW - EZE with a BA B-747-400 and also EZE - MAD with IB B-747-200 EC-DIA all the flights where full, I agree IB service is not bad, but BA service was better. Have a nice stay in Buenos Aires and don´t miss going to Aeroparque.
Capt.Picard From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 14, posted (13 years 5 months 1 week 1 day 22 hours ago) and read 11823 times:
Thanks for the replies.
The situation in Argentina is really for a different forum, but things here are going from bad to worse, and I can't see any solution to this country's problems, except to throw out the entire government and replace it with a European government, able and willing to take on some proper responsibility.
Other than this, I see two other occurences:
2) The country continues to be run by theives, whilst the people are reduced to extreme poverty.