Photo © Kevin Minter
No queue at check-in so had my boarding cards for both my MAN/MAD and MAD/BCN flights in no time. Similarly, no queues at security so before I knew it I was in the departure lounge. Very soon after the flight was called and boarding commenced almost immediately. Only about 20 people on this Air Nostrum operated flight so plenty of room and the seat next to me was free. This aircraft was fitted with very comfortable leather seats and there was plenty of legroom. The only drawback was those dreaded low windows! After a short take off run we were climbing steadily through the clouds and soon after the service began. I can honestly say that the service was the best I've ever experienced on a European flight. It consisted of;
A service of champagne
A hot meal (choice was fish or pasta), accompanied by a side salad, a warm bread roll and a drink from the bar
Tea and coffee
All this was served using china, glass and steel cutlery (except for the knife which was plastic - strange though because you would have thought a steel fork could do just as much damage). The two cabin crew were friendly and efficient throughout the flight, nothing seemingly too much trouble. Very soon we were landing in MAD and after a very long taxi we were on buses to the terminal. Once inside there were no delays and I made my way to Terminal 2 for my flight to BCN.
1 May 2004 MAD/BCN
Photo © Peter Meid
The flight was scheduled to depart at 6pm from gate E75. All seemed fine – there was even an MD87 at that gate, but at 5.45pm it was announced that the flight would be departing from gate E80. We all went over to that gate and then waited until 6.20pm (with absolutely no information) before boarding commenced. My first time on an MD87 and I have to say I was impressed with the seat comfort and legroom. The flight was completely full and I had a window seat in row 21, just a few rows in front of the engine. This aircraft is configured 3-2 whilst IB’s MD88s are configured 2-3. Anyone know why this is? Anyway, once on board we quickly left the gate and after a short taxi were taking off into clear, sunny skies. I would love to give you a service report at this point but those of you who have flown IB’s domestic flights will know that there isn’t any! Absolutely nothing, just a smile from the flight attendants. Interestingly, there was some IFE – this consisted of a comedy show, but as there was only a picture and no sound it was left very much to the imagination! The screens it was shown on were quite small and had to be released and stowed from the overhead panel manually by the cabin crew. The safety demonstration also used this system, though fortunately with sound. After 50 minutes we were touching down at BCN and as we were parked on a remote stand we had a short bus ride to the terminal. All in all a comfortable flight, though somewhat noisy being sat so near the engine.
1 May 2004 BCN/MAN
Photo © Stephen Fox
Two check-in desks were allocated for this flight but as one of the agents was receiving training just the one desk was actually being used. Not really a problem though as this flight would have fewer than 30 passengers. Even so, just my luck to get behind two people checking-in bicycles – it seemed to take forever for them to be dismantled (why do people wait until they’re actually at the check-in desk to do that?). Eventually received my boarding card and got the seat I had already reserved online (this really is a fabulous service offered by bmibaby). Security was quick and I was soon in the spacious and comfortable departure lounge. The flight was announced as having a one hour delay, so whiled away the time watching the comings and goings at BCN through the panoramic windows in the departure lounge. Once the flight was ready for boarding we were all quickly on and with such a light load I had an entire row to myself, with nobody in front or behind me. The captain apologised for the delay which was caused by problems with toilet servicing at MAN. The seats were comfortable enough with average leg room, but if the flight had been fuller I think it would have felt a little claustrophobic. Once airborne the service started – the standard LCC offering of drinks and snacks - and later in the flight a tax free service was offered (I purchased a set of three bmibaby fridge magnets!). About 45 minutes before arrival the crew announced another drinks service but this time if anyone wanted a drink they pressed their call button and the crew came to take their order. We were soon descending towards MAN and as we had had a tailwind all the way we arrived after just one hour and 45 minutes, only 15 minutes behind schedule. No queue at immigration and no customs officers on duty so in no time at all I was in my car and heading home.
Overall this was an enjoyable day trip, the highlight being the unexpectedly great service offered by Air Nostrum. The icing on the cake was that I had only paid £41, including taxes and charges, for the MAN/MAD/BCN flights. Must be the bargain of the year!