Decided to do a day trip to Spain, taking in four sectors on three different carriers. My routing was MAN-BCN-MAD-ALC-MAN and here is my report.
14/2/04 ZB516 MAN to BCN
STD 0800 STA 1130
Arrived at MAN at 0600. It was very busy as this was the first day of the school holidays, but check-in for Monarch scheduled was very quick and in no time I had my boarding card. Security took about 10 minutes and then spent some time in the T1 departure lounge before boarding was called at about 0740.
The flight was scheduled on a 320 but operated with a 321 (not sure why). The aircraft was in the new livery and looked very clean and fresh, both inside and outside. The cabin crew were very welcoming and looked very smart in their fabulous uniforms (not at all like the scruffy stuff easyJet and bmiBaby make their crews wear). After an on-time departure from 24L the service commenced, which was very impressive. First, the drinks trolley came around, although at this time of day most people were opting for orange juice or water. There then followed a full breakfast service comprising scrambled eggs, sausage, baked beans and hash browns accompanied by a fresh fruit salad, blueberry muffin and tea or coffee. Another round of tea and coffee was made and finally hot towels to finish it all off. Very impressive!
IFE was shown on the standard drop down screens and consisted of three television programmes or a choice of audio channels. Headsets were complimentary. Very soon we were descending into a sunny Barcelona and shortly after landing were disembarking through an airbridge into the terminal. Passport control was a breeze and as I had no bags to collect I was soon in the arrivals hall looking for information on my next flight.
If you like the idea of cheap fares (this cost £38 including tax) and great in-flight service then try Monarch scheduled – you won’t be disappointed. My only criticism is that Monarch uses charter configured aircraft so seat pitch is appalling. But for just over two hours I could put up with it (and on the return leg I managed to get an exit row seat anyway!).
14/2/04 IB2609 BCN to MAD
STD 1440 STA 1540
Check-in was swift and for some reason I got an upgrade to business class, seated in 1A. The waiting area has large windows and terrific views of the airfield so I watched the airport’s activities until the flight was called at about 1425. Boarding was quick and the seat was the most comfortable business class short haul seat I have ever come across. The crew were smart, though professional rather than friendly. After departure service on this short flight consisted of ham and cheese with a couple of bread sticks and a drink from the bar (no tea or coffee).
Very soon we were descending towards MAD and after landing had quite a long taxi in to our stand. Disembarkation was quick and efficient (business class passengers being given priority) This was my first trip with Iberia and I have to say that I was impressed with them.
14/2/04 JK596 MAD to ALC
STD 1740 STA 1840
This was my first trip on Spanair. Unfortunately, JK doesn’t yet offer true internet booking so I had to go to the ticket desk to collect a paper ticket (you can reserve your flight on the internet but have to have your ticket sent to you or collect it at the airport). JK charges 12 Euros for this! Fortunately there was no queue at the ticket desk or the check-in desk so I very quickly had my boarding card. I did notice that self-service check-in machines are being installed so hopefully full e-ticketing will be available soon.
Security was swift and efficient and once through I went to the Spanair Executive lounge, using my bmi Star Alliance Gold card. The lounge was very nice with an adequate range of refreshments and nice big windows giving good views of the airfield.
Boarding was announced at 1710 and after a long walk to the gate I was on this very clean aircraft. The cabin crew were very smart and welcoming and I was soon in my seat, 10A. This was an exit row seat, so lots of leg room and even though the flight was about 80% full I had all three seats to myself! After take off came the ‘service’. I use the term loosely as this was without doubt the worst in-flight service I have ever encountered – passengers in economy were offered one segment of Toblerone (yes, one SEGMENT) and one boiled sweet before landing. Nothing else! Now I know that this was only a 40 minute flight, but BA and bmi manage to give you a sandwich and a cup of coffee so I don’t know why JK can’t. Anyway, it wasn’t too much of an inconvenience, more of a surprise from a Star Alliance carrier.
Landing was on time and as ALC is a small airport and all the terminal stands were occupied by mainly British charter aircraft, we went onto a remote stand and were bussed in. Only took a few minutes though and no great inconvenience.
14/2/04 ZB593 ALC to MAN
STD 2050 STA 2230
No queues at check-in or security even though there were quite a few flights leaving at about the same time as mine. The terminal at ALC is relatively small but has a good range of shops and eating areas and plenty of seating. Boarding was called at 2030 and was fairly quick as the flight was only about 50% full. For some reason (I never understand why check-in agents do this on half empty flights) I was allocated a seat next to two other people. Not at all comfortable, so a quick word with one of the cabin crew and I was moved up to an exit row with – wait for it – no one else sat next to me!
After take-off service commenced and was again very impressive. Drinks from the bar followed by a hot meal accompanied by a side salad, cheese and biscuits, lemon cheesecake and tea or coffee. Again, two rounds of tea and coffee were made and service was rounded off with hot towels.
IFE was again three television programmes, though this 321 looked rather older than the one I’d been on earlier in the day and the screens were fixed to the ceiling rather than being the drop-down type. However, I have to say that the picture was much clearer and easier to see than on the drop-down ones.
Landed 10 minutes ahead of schedule at a rather rain-swept MAN. Immigration and Customs were a breeze and I was soon in my car on my way home.
A great day trip which I would do again, though next time I might be tempted to do the BCN/MAD leg on a Spanair 717 or Air Europa 736. Hope you enjoyed it!