LHR-TFN Via CDG & MAD & IB Nightmare

Wed Feb 18, 2004 9:00 am

Sometimes you just know that a flight is going to be an experience. Other times, you are just surprised. Having flown on some 100 or so flights over the last 4 years, I have to say my experience on the Iberia flight from TFN to MAD on 16th Feb has to be the all time low point.

Before I am accused of getting having a go at Iberia, I should just point out that of these 113 flights I have taken since the turn of the millennium, over 60% of them are with Iberia, and I hold and Iberia Plus Silver card, and use them the majority of the time that I fly LHR-MAD. Now, as my girlfriend lives in Madrid, and spend most of my time in London and I am in the process of settling in Madrid for this reason and to start another business, I have to fly a lot between the two capitals.

For the valentine’s weekend, my girlfriend and I had decided to take a short break in Tenerife, just a couple of nights in fact. This would also give me the chance to fly one of Iberia’s B743 on the outward leg to TFN and a brand new A346 on the return, although in the end the latter did not appear. This trip involved flying a total of 5 flights in 4 days, in order to spend a couple of days in Madrid and connect with my girlfriend on the way out.

For a change, and in order to introduce a bit of variety into my travelling life, I decided to try some other routes to Madrid from Heathrow. This time I had booked to fly out and back to Madrid with AF. The outward leg was LHR-CDG-MAD and the return MAD-LYS-LHR. Unfortunately, I managed to book the return leg on the wrong day over the Internet (booking it the same day as the return from TFN in stead of the following day), and I was unable to change the ticket. It serves me right for booking at 3am when I should have been sleeping. So I purchased a one-way flight with BMI from MAD-LHR to get me back on the 17th. As I write this report, I am in fact sitting on G-MIDM somewhere between MAD and LHR at 34,000 feet. Looking out of the window now I can see us just passing over the north coast of Spain heading into the Bay of Biscay.

Leg 1 – Friday 13th Feb 2004. LHR-CDG – AF1371 – A320 – F-GFKE
As my office is 20 minutes drive from LHR in Slough, I am accustomed to leaving checking in a bit on the tight side. I arrived in Terminal 2 fifty-five minutes before departure. Being the Friday beginning half term of the schools in the UK, the airport was very busy indeed. On making my way to the AF check-in desk, there was a queue of about 20 people and two check-ins open. As sod’s law dictates, when you are really cutting it fine, it is the time that you are going to meet problems. I joined the shorter queue for those with hand luggage only, as I had nothing to check in. In spite of being second in the queue, the computer on the desk the check in attendant was using was not working and it was taking a long time to check in. As I got to the front of the queue and my turn and the girl was trying to log in to the booth alongside the one that was not working, some 40 minutes prior to the departure time, a passenger for the same flight was being told that the flight was closed as there were a lot of stand by passengers waiting. This was after a call 5 minutes previously for all passengers for this flight to go to the front of the queue (which I already was, but the passenger in front took 10 minutes to check in). I thought that I was not going to get on. Well, the check in attendant went off and was gone for 5 minutes with the supervisors further down, and hey presto, I was accepted on the flight and even given an upgrade. This was at least 5 minutes after the woman next to me was sent packing by rather an abrupt check-in attendant. Well, I have to say I was both relieved and happy at the upgrade.

Then I had to negotiate T2 security check, and arrive behind a group of about 100 school kids on their way to somewhere in Italy on an Alitalia flight. In other words, security was well busy. Of course, rushing to catch a plane that is shown as being already boarding, I was a bit anxious. Of course, today was the day that security decided they wanted a closer look at my luggage, not that I minded but it’s always happens to me when I am in a hurry. Well, to cut a long story short, I got the flight.

We took off on time, within reason, on the 09R and took off over London. I had seat 6B, which seemed to be a class between coach and business. We were served with a couple of nice canapés and a drink, which seemed to be more than the people in the row behind me got, behind the second curtain. We arrived a few minutes early in CDG, and the second phase of the journey began.

Leg 2 – Friday 13th Feb 2004. CDG-MAD – AF1700 – A320 – F-GJVG
On getting off the Heathrow flight and entering the Terminal 2F, I have to say how impressed I was with the magnificent terminal. It has to be the terminal I have been in that has impressed me the most. I soon negotiated my way through to the gate where my flight to MAD was to leave from, and spent some 20 minutes dozing. I had been assigned seat 27F, and on boarding, I took my seat and waited. The flight was about 50% full, so I had three rows to myself. I spread out my things and sat back to enjoy the flight. On take off, I had a good view of CDG and we turned through 180 degrees and flew back over Paris before turning towards the South and for Madrid. The food served was delicious, and enjoyed with a nice red wine.

We made MAD some 10 minutes ahead of time and I walked out of the baggage claim some 3 minutes before the due arrival time. Of course, my girlfriend hadn’t even left home to meet me, as she lives in the nearby barrio/neighbourhood of Las Rosas, which is adjacent to the airport. So, I wondered outside to wait for her and enjoyed the sun.

As soon as she arrived, we went to T2 to check in for the following morning’s flight to TFN – taking advantage of being able to check in up to 24 hours before any Iberia flight. We were assigned seats 27J & 27K. A guaranteed window seat.

Leg 3 – Saturday 14th Feb 2004. MAD-TFN – IB952 – B743 – TF-ATJ
Having checked in the previous day, we were able to stay in bed a little while longer, and arrived at MAD an hour before departure, and made our way though to the gate. Boarding consisted of being bussed round to the international terminal, where the a/c was positioned at an air bridge. It was one of 2 Iberia’s B743’s that seem to spend most of their time doing MAD-TFN first flight of the day. We were on the first bus to board and so got to our seats and got settled. To be honest, the interior looked as if it had seen better days. The skirting next to me was loose and I could see down inside the interior of the plane. I had to spend 5 minutes reassuring my girlfriend that it was still safe to fly with this skirting loose. We departed on time, and the flight was full. It was a really good value return trip, which cost only 80€. The flight was pretty uneventful and was the kind of standard that I have come to expect from Iberia. The only thing I noted was that the F/As all seemed to be older than usual. From what I understand, it is very difficult for Iberia to get rid of older attendants, due to the fact they have very good job protection, having once been civil servants prior to the airline’s privatisation. However, the service was not better or worse than I had expected.

The highlight was spotting Mt Teide, the highest point in Spain on approach to TFN. In the two years since I last was in TFN, they have opened a new terminal complete with air bridge. We went to Gate six, where we were disembarked. The terminal is a tremendous improvement over what was there previously.

Leg 4 – Monday 16th Feb 2004. TFN-MAD – IB951 – A343 – EC-HGV
After spend a pleasant long weekend in Puerto de la Cruz, it was time to travel back to Madrid on the last Iberia flight of the day. Having checked the week before on the Iberia online timetable, I had been expecting the a/c to be one of the new A346s. However, it turned out to be an A343. Having to rely on a transfer bus to get to the airport, we were too late to get a window seat, and ended up with a pair of central seats.

When boarding commenced, we were waiting on the air-bridge when the captain, F/O and a member of the cabin crew walked past us to board the plane. I though that to be a bit odd due as I always thought the flight crew spent quite some time doing pre-flight checks. Upon taking our seats, a non Spanish English speaking passenger asked if she could use the toilet. Once again, the cabin crew were not really that young. She was told that she could if it was really urgent and the F/A then turned to her colleague alongside her and referred to that passenger as “that creature” in Spanish. That had my girlfriend and I in stitches. It was from this point forward that my impression of Iberia started to tumble.

Sometime soon after take off, the cabin crew came around with the in-flight meal. It consisited of two very miserly sandwiches and a yogurt. I say that the sandwiches were miserly. They were laughable. I have now found out where all those people that used to make British Rail sandwiches have gone. You’d need to see the picture of my cheese sandwich to understand why. I was pissing myself laughing, so much so I had to take a picture to record the moment. The cheese sandwich was one piece of cheese, one small area of margarine on only one slice of bread, and two pieces of wholemeal bread.

From there, things began to get worse. As the flight progressed, the cabin crew seemed more interested in talking amongst themselves than doing their job. They cleared half the trays up but managed to leave my girlfriends tray and others for no reason other than they were not concentrating on what they were doing, rather having a social conversation. The tray was removed along with several others about half an hour later by the chief steward. In fact, for the last hour of the flight I didn’t see a single member of the cabin crew. They did not reappear from the rear galley until the landing gear was being lowered just before landing. THEY DID NOT EVEN DO A PRE LANDING CHECK OF THE CABIN TO MAKE SURE EVERYONE HAD BELTS ON AND SEATS UPRIGHT. What is Iberia doing giving this kind of service. Surely it is the job of the cabin crew to look after their passengers and to ensure their safety? Isn’t a pre-landing check of the passengers and cabin required by aviation law? It happens on every other flight I take. Well, I was just so staggered by the time I got off the plane at Barajas, that I couldn’t even bring myself to ask about this to the person in charge of the plane, that and that my girlfriend didn’t want to make a fuss and wanted to get home as it was already nearly midnight.

Leg 5 – Tuesday 17th Feb 2004. MAD-LHR – BD482 – A321 – G-MIDM
It was such a relief to be back on a decent flight after the previous night’s experience. The cabin crew were excellent, helping passengers with stowing baggage, talking to passengers, waving at kids, especially the male F/A that had the Scottish accent. The flight was uneventful in that it was good and relaxing. The only note of interest is that the a/c had a white, unpainted nose cone.

In summing up, I will be continuing to fly with Iberia as I find them to be good between LHR and MAD, however it is going to take a long time for me to believe what happened to me and the other passengers on flight IB951 on 16th Feb.
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RE: LHR-TFN Via CDG & MAD & IB Nightmare

Wed Feb 18, 2004 10:36 am

Sounds like IB is not very good. My aunt and uncle flew them ORD-MAD-ORD and wanted to sue the airline...(never did)  Smile

Good Report!

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RE: LHR-TFN Via CDG & MAD & IB Nightmare

Wed Feb 18, 2004 5:58 pm

I had similar experiences with IB. Also the seating arrangments on BA SUCKS Big time.
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RE: LHR-TFN Via CDG & MAD & IB Nightmare

Wed Feb 18, 2004 6:50 pm

Im flying on a Iberia flight operated by BA on the 13th August from LGW-BCN - I hope its not like that!

Simon -

RE: LHR-TFN Via CDG & MAD & IB Nightmare

Thu Feb 19, 2004 12:56 am


As I stated at the beginnning, I fly with Iberia a lot, and the service and food is generally no better or worse on the LHR-BCN or MAD. This was a high load domestic flight from TFN-MAD on an A340 and the cabin crews of the long-haul planes seem to be somewhat older and less attentive than the European destinations.

You should have no problems. I am just hoping mine was a one off - but they need to something about the catering facilities in Tenerife.

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RE: LHR-TFN Via CDG & MAD & IB Nightmare

Thu Feb 19, 2004 1:00 am

Damn your quick, I'm still writing my trip report and I got home on the 12th! Good trip report, I was disappointed with Iberia to this time, the only highlight of my trip was the A340! And I agree seeing Mt Teide on approach is brilliant, to bad there wasn't any snow!

A340 LoVeR! EC-GQK - LHR The Bussiest International Airport & 3rd Bussiest In The World!
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RE: LHR-TFN Via CDG & MAD & IB Nightmare

Thu Feb 19, 2004 2:37 am

I fly IB about 40+ times a year on the GVA-MAD-GVA route, and I've always find the cabin crew to be very courteous (and not only to me as a fellow LX f/a non-reving, but to all other pax as well).

However, they do have a serious cabin safety procedures problems. The safety briefing is not finished by the time we enter the runway, and the cabin crew have to rush through the cabin to re-stow the little TV monitors individually back into the ceiling (apparently a unique feature of the IB MD87's) while the tape keeps playing the demo during take-off. There was even a flight a couple of months ago where the crew totally forgot the safety demo, and played it midflight when they remembered.
Then there's often a ton of cabin bags in the emergency exit rows, and even children there sometimes (only able-bodied adults are allowed there).
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RE: LHR-TFN Via CDG & MAD & IB Nightmare

Thu Feb 19, 2004 5:03 am

Great report,open and honest.


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RE: LHR-TFN Via CDG & MAD & IB Nightmare

Fri Feb 20, 2004 9:55 pm

"creature", criatura in Spanish is an affective term !! So the FA was not bitching at all about the passenger who went to the toilet !!!

btw, IB has greatly downgraded their own catering -- it will dissappear as from 1st march for domestic and european legs, and as from June for canary islands flights.

RE: LHR-TFN Via CDG & MAD & IB Nightmare

Fri Feb 20, 2004 10:25 pm

Yeah, I know, I just had this arguement with my girlfriend and she explained it properly. Although my spanish is good, there are still things that are difficult to translate and understand (I understand that criatura is something affectionate you'd call a kid?). I'll take that back. However, the cabin crew were still poor, unattentive, dissappeared for an hour and did no pre-landing belt and seat check.

I'd rather pay for something decent than get something crap as far as the food goes.
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RE: LHR-TFN Via CDG & MAD & IB Nightmare

Mon Feb 23, 2004 1:09 am

I flew Biz class LHR-MAD return last year... can't say I noticed a lack of courtesy, but I certainly noticed a lack of safety awareness. Flight home didn't get any safety briefing at all (before or during flight) and there were bags and so on piled all over the place...

Not that I'm a nervous flier, but I do like it when airlines take these matters a little more seriously...

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Joined: Thu Jul 26, 2001 7:33 pm

RE: LHR-TFN Via CDG & MAD & IB Nightmare

Tue Feb 24, 2004 7:37 pm

Most of the times criatura would be used when talking about a small child, but in that context it means something as "the poor guy" used as a way of expressing affection. It is always friendly.
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RE: LHR-TFN Via CDG & MAD & IB Nightmare

Wed Feb 25, 2004 4:06 am

I flew Iberia last year: AMS-MAD-UIO-GYE-MAD-AMS on tourist class. I think on European flights they are good, with attentive f/a's. On their transatlantic flights it is a lot worse, with indeed an old(er) and uninterested cabin crew. But my experience was not that worse. In most of the times they are cheaper than KLM or Continental to Ecuador, so I fly them in may again...

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