This was to be my 56th sector of 2004. As I have been travelling mostly BMI between LHR and MAD in C, this trip was a bit of a difference for me. I almost always fly in business nowadays, because I can afford it and because I need the flexibility to change flights. I was due to leave on Friday 12th on an IB B752, but due to work commitments, I phoned ServiIberia and book on flight IB7443 (BA458) one of the first morning flights. This was so I would be in Madrid in time to collect my car from the Long-Term Car Park and make it into Madrid to meet with a friend and go watch the Tottenham-Arsenal Derby – which was a midday kick off (come on you Gunners) in Kitty O’Shea’s, which is opposite the magnificent Palacio de Correos (Palace of Post - the main post office in Spain), in downtown Madrid.
However, first thing in the morning my sister phoned to say her waters had broken and my anticipated lift to Heathrow disappeared as the Grandma to be wanted to go to the hospital (I lodge with my folks in South Bucks when I am working in the UK now I moved to Spain). So, I had to find my own way to LHR. So, I got up, packed my bags in to my trusty old 1978 Triumph 2500S and drove to the office. I called for a taxi to meet me there. By the time I had parked in my assigned space on Goldfinger Avenue at Pinewood the taxi arrived and I was off to LHR.
My trusty steed - Triumph 2500S
On arriving at T2, I went to the IB ticket sales desk and as I had missed the BA fkight I booked on the next possible flight – which was IB3163 which left at 11:35. I selected seat 2A and went to check in. Again, one of the benefits of travelling in Business is that I didn’t have to join the large queue to check in at economy. There was no wait at the business counter and I was informed that the flight was running 50 minutes late already. Well, I already knew I would miss the big match so I called my friend in Madrid to let him know I wouldn’t make it and called my girlfriend to let her know she had more time to get ready – she needs lots of time!
On going through the quiet security point to access the departure lounge I thought to myself what a change it made not to be in the T1 chaos that occurs on a Saturday morning. I was through in a couple of minutes and decided to do some shopping. First stop was to get a new rolling cabin bag that could accommodate my laptop. A am getting tired of continually travelling with a heavy laptop bag, cabin bag and a heavy camera bag, I wanted something I could squeeze my laptop in. £130 later I emerged from the luggage shop with a nice black rolling bag which accommodated my large laptop inside and has space for other things or even the laptop back hanging off a hook. A big improvement on the Samsonite one I have just retired. I had to repack in the shop and show everyone in the shop my hoard of 24 Cadbury Flakes and 24 school English text books I was carrying for my girlfriend and 4 boxes of plain poppadums for the food cupboard – plus my canon 300D and Sigma 70-200EX. It all fitted in the back and the laptop case and laptop dangled on the hook on the back. Joy! – no more sore back.
I went to HMV and bought a couple of DVDs for the collection, the collector’s version of The Longest Day and series 5 of Red Dwarf. Now it was time to go and try out the Iberia Lounge – somewhere I had never been before in Heathrow.
I was warmly greeted in the lounge, and after showing my boarding pass and being reminded the flight was running late and the anticipated boarding time was 12:20, I grabbed a coke and settled down with a selection of newspapers to read. There is a tremendous view from the lounge. I didn’t take any pictures as I don’t like getting my camera out and disturbing other travellers, but I sat by the window, in the sun watching the arrivals on 27L, wondering how long it would take for our A321 to appear.
The lounge was nice. Plenty to read and nibble at and no shortage of drinks. Unfortunately, I had to drive upon arrival in Madrid, so I passed up the chance to help myself to a G&T or two. I had a wait of about an hour and a half, so after a while of reading the paper I decided to surf the net on my laptop. One of the things I like about Iberia lounges is the free hotspot – in other words I didn’t have to pay to connect. Extra points for Iberia for this.
After about an hour of browsing on a.net, I notice EC-IJN taxing past. I made the assumption the inbound flight had arrived (correctly too). I quickly checked my flightlog and was disappointed to see that I’d already flown on this particular aircraft twice in October 2003. It’s a shame as I have only flown on 5 IB A321 and I was hoping I’d get another – preferably one of the newer ones.
After that I carried on browsing on A.net and suddenly realised that the boarding time had arrived. I jumped up and went round to look at the screen, thinking I might have missed the call, being in my own little dream world. The flight was on last call, but the receptionist told me that we wouldn’t be called down from the lounge, which was next door to the departure gate, until it was ready for boarding. When we were called I simply went down, through the check and got straight on the a/c. No hanging about. I settled into my seat and awaited developments and boarding to finish, while looking out the window to see what was going on.
The came the nice surprise. The captain came on the intercom to welcome us and appolgise for the delay. The nice surprise is we had a female captain. I wasn’t aware there were any in Iberia. Anyway, she informed us that the delay was due to a tech problem before departure in Madrid of the incoming flight.
We taxied out to 27R and waited in turn for take off, leaving a few minutes later. We followed the normal route out over Southampton, across to the Contentin penisular (I always thing of the D-Day para drops when I fly over there) and down towards Nantes and then Bilbao over the Bay of Biscay. The flight was uneventful, smooth quiet at the front of the cabin.
The lunch menu appeared. It was the same as usual in C. A salad with some steak and a seafood roulade together with some roast vegetables, typical Spanish dressing of olive oil and vinegar and a raspberry desert and a small selection of cheese (a manchego and a soft cheese which I assume would be a goat’s cheese. I asked for a Tinto and was given a bottle of Beriona Rioja 2001, which is rather a nice Crianza -a vanilla aroma and fruity taste. I enjoyed it anyway. Top marks for the wine. The meal was fine, but very Spanish oriented. The Steak was miniscule (not even a mouthful) and I would have liked the choice of a dressing other than olive oil and vinegar – but it was edible and the roasted vegetables were delicious.
Lunch, Iberia Style
After lunch I was offered coffee and a drink. Unfortunately, they didn’t have my usual Spanish after lunch tipple of Pacharan, so I settled for just a coffee – especially as I had to collect my car on arrival.
I took some photos of Madrid as we flew over, including the airport. It was a clear day – so I always take the opportunity.
Photo © Andy Greenshields
North Madrid centred on the home of Real Madrid - el Estadio Santiago Bernabeu
South east Madrid centred on the home of Atletico Madrid - el Estadio Vincente Calderon
It became obvious we were not taking the usual route into MAD and were going very south of Madrid, so I wondered which runway we’d be landing on. Then I remembered that there has been weekend maintenance on 33L for some recent weekends, so we must be landing on the soon to be retired runway 36R. I was right, which was a shame as I wanted to get some photos of the cargo apron as we landed. We landed on the old runway, the first time I had since the new 36L was open a few years ago. Indeed, there was maintenance on 33L.
We parked on a remote stand and being a business passenger we had our own bus – nice – and soon arrived at arrivals. I was first through passport control and made my way to the exit.
Overall the service was good, but for me it is still not up to the standard of BA. The F/As do their job but you to get the kind of attention you do when you fly with BA – such as not letting your glass go dry. It was certainly not as good as the service I had in F with IB earlier this year when I flew MAD-MIA on the top deck of one of their B742.
Now comes the criticism of Barajas. The signing for the long-term parking was non existent and I ended up following a sign going in completely opposite direction and watched on shuttle bus go by. By the time I figured where it was and saw another sign another bus was coming and I managed to run across the road and flag it down. Obviously the bus stops have moved and not having used the long-term parking before I had no idea where I was meant to go and signs hadn’t been changed. I was the only one on the bus. On getting back to the car I found I had left the passenger window open – being in a right hand drive UK car I had to lower it to retrieve the ticket – so it had been open for 10 day. Fortunately, the car was under cover and nothing had been taken – so off I went to meet my girlfriend for another lunch at her parent’s house.
Later in the day I heard that I’d missed the most exciting North London Derby in years (4-5 victory for my team Arsenal) and that the excitement of the game had induced labour in my sister and I had become an uncle to Findlay James at 6pm. A good day all round. Today, I am off to Madrid to see Spain v England…. Come on England.