Please feel free to comment, criticize or just give it a thought. All welcome!
During the last three years I have been flying a lot and have always kept my flights under Onewrold livery when possible so by the end of last year I had earned enough miles to fly around for a while. My nephew was turning 18 at the end of August so I decided to give him a trip as a present: I let him choose between India and Argentina. Two countries I know quite well. He made his mind about living two winters in one year so South we went.
As early as January I booked the reward trips with Iberia, via MAD; even though it was quite early I had to get two separate flying dates for the outgoing flights. I flew there on Aug. 2nd; he one day later.
I called early to book seats and I noticed something really annoys me. As I have been flying quite frequently I am a current Gold Iberiaplus member, Oneworld Sapphire, and you are treated with a red carpet. I really dislike that because everyone deserves to be treated with respect as all pay, one way or the other, for our tickets so I see no point in paying so much attention to some customers while others are so disrespectfully dealt with.
A320 EC-IEG 'Costa Brava' Seat: 1A
A346 EC-IEJ 'Joaquin Rodrigo' (Spanish composer and guitarist) Seat: 6L
Gate 50 at BCN
Gate S63 at MAD
STD: 9.30 --(10.20)
SAT: 10.30 -- (11.25)
The American flights are sold as just one single flight from BCN although you have to change planes in MAD. So my 320 was stuffed with people flying to Mexico DF, New York, Buenos Aires, Quito... that is what Iberia calls Catalonia-America flights. Since BCN lost its non-stop connections to the Americas back in 2001 Iberia has opted for this idea of having planes going to the T4S in MAD, mostly non-Schengen flights, and going through customs and passport inspection in BCN. Luckily other companies have taken over this market and fly directly to some American destinations: Delta, Continental, US Airways, Aerolineas Argentinas, Avianca, American Airlines is starting next year. Singapore flies to SIN with a stop over in MXP... I think IB is losing an important market here. They have started Clickair, their low-cost, which may take many people from A to B but I doubt they get the big money from business travel. Anyway this is my last flight with them as I am moving to Star Alliance market well served in BCN with LH and LX, apart from JK.
Let's get down to the trip itself.
|Information on Argentina and reading material|
I arrived to the airport two hours prior to my flight although I had already checked online the night before and my boarding card came out with the much awaited SQ#1. I went directly to the Business class check-in counters where there was only one customer and two minutes later I said farewell to my bags and went with my brother to have a coffee. So big extra points for IB ground staff. I asked her if my nephew could check there although traveling in Y, but under my FF number, the day after. She asked me his name and checked him giving me his boarding card.
|My boarding pass showing the SQ#1|
The airport was quite full despite the early hour. Terminal B is the original terminal which has undergone several refurbishments and now operates all IB, BA, UX, JK, LH, XG, Vueling and several other companies flights mainly domestic and European ones. It shows its age and really cries out for the opening of the South terminal. BCN had slightly over 30,000,000 passengers last year.
To reach security upstairs there are a two escalators and two lifts, I recently read a report complaining about the lack of mechanical links to walk up. Maybe they were not working the day those people went to the airport.
I reached security, no big lines just five minutes and through the metal detector; Peeeeeeeeeee, I was asked politely to remove my shoes and throw them into the X-ray: that was it, I have never been aware that those shoes had metal inside although I have worn them several times in flights. Oh well. To the lounge. IB lounge is really crap in BCN, although it is quite big it only holds lots of drinks and to eat you are invited to nuts, cookies and some plastic covered muffins. Really not the best thing at 8.30 in the morning. The good point is that being August not many business travelers were around so the PC stations were empty and I spent my time writing emails and surfing the net while drinking lots of orange juice. At 9.15 my flight was called and there I went. I passed all the shops where you can get all the weekly shopping done. I really think BCN airport shops look really smart and well stuffed with lots of designers apparel. Lots of walking to the M5 gates, the non-Schengen flights past passport control. There I sat and waited for the queue to move along. While waiting, the Continental flight from EWR arrived and that B757 parked just next to our gate, some minutes later the Singapore Airlines B777 parked at the other side. God! How small those two planes looked next to that giant.
|Waiting at the gate in BCN|
No one on line, time to board; still some waiting at the bridge.
Late departure and late arrival which made me speed up my path in giant T4S. As soon as we took off we banked east, all flights now do it due to noise-environmental issues, over the sea, then west and up till we reached the first clouds and then was when the fun began. Quite a turbulence for August over the Iberian peninsula. Service was interrupted, and the man seating next to me started talking and telling me how scared he was. It turned out that he flights quite often and once suffered severe turbulence over Asia and since then he is really scared as soon as the plane starts shaking. I grabbed my jacket as it was the only thing in sight and kept talking until service was restarted.
Breakfast service: an omelet, some baked potatoes, some tomatoes which disintegrated in the oven, a piece of bread and a mini-croissant. Orange juice and coffee / tea aplenty. Not bad for such a short flight. Refills were constant during the breakfast service. The plane had the new Recaro seats, hard and comfortable. In the C-section the middle seat is left empty so you have more room to stretch your legs. Crew were attentive and supportive and did their job, safety presentation included, punctually and with enthusiasm. Yes I am flying IB, do not forget it.
|Breakfast after turbulence|
Clouds disappeared and the flight was smooth until we landed at MAD. We used the most northern runaway which I had never landed onto and leads directly to T4S which we went around and finally parked. Speed walk up the bridge, up the arrivals transfer corridor and long walk to the new security check. Long line as there was an El-Al flight from Tel-Aviv there and it seemed it had a lot of transferring passengers. By the time I reached security it was already some minutes past 12.00. Down the escalators and I looked for the gate where there was some people over the counter but no lines. I passed all the people and a gate agent, not very happy today, directed me to the bridge. It was a dual bridge and there was no signing, please IB put up some signs so people who don't usually fly know where to go.
|Waiting for me in MAD|
As I entered the plane on 1L door the cabin was already full. I took my seat next to a nice Argentinian girl who turned out to be a teacher and we had lots of talking on this 12 hours flight. She had been bumped into Business class as IB had overbooked their Eco section. She was at the end of her European holidays while I was starting mine. She gave good advice about where to eat in S. Telmo's district and best villages to visit in the NOA (North West Argentina) region where I was heading this year for holidays.
|General view of the cabin. Notice the screens showing the tail view. Impressive!|
Cabin looks and felt fresh and clean. I like this soft brown tones to decorate, I think they are quite warm. On time we left the door and headed for the runaway, all clearly shown on main screens thanks to the tail camera. Engines started roaring and after a long roll we took off. Slow climbing to the clear skies until reaching the 10,000 ft mark. I have recently read about the vultures getting on the way of climbing planes and even hitting three of them which made the planes go back after emptying the tanks. Today we did not hit any and off we went climbing at higher speed up to our cruising altitude 360FL. The captain came into speakers and informed us about the routing for today: Lisbon, Madeira, Fortaleza, Brasilia, Iguazú and Buenos Aires. That was it, no more announcements were made.
The purser also introduced herself over the speakers and gave the usual information: service, crew friendliness to inform people (?), duty free shopping... Later she came around giving out forms for shopping. Menus and amenity kids were distributed. The amenity kid has changed since I last flew this route. It contains all sorts of items you may need in flight: toothbrush and toothpaste ,socks, earplugs, comb, perfume, moisturizer.... Nothing of the other world although I quite better like the new design, much more compact.
Before take off we had been offered drinks: a glass of cava is the best way to start any flight, isn't it? Then came the second one with saffron flavored nuts before lunch was served two hours into the flight.
Food on IB Business plus has recently received a bonus in the last years with menus created by chef Sergi Arola, among the best cooks in Spain with two Michelin stars; and it really shows; food is great. I would just add a little bit more.
|Menu for today|
Toast and virgin olive oil
Tuna in pickle with green salad virgin olive oil and Sherry vinegar
|Starter... really tasty!|
Stewed quails with mushrooms
Grilled turbot boulangère potatoes with 'piquillo' red pepper
Mixed grilled fresh vegetables
|Main course. A little more quantity would be nice.|
Assortment of Spanish cheeses with fig jam
Chocolate and vanilla cake, created by Paco Torreblanca
Strawberry and mango ice creams
Colombian coffee, teas and spirits
Wines from IB cellars are excellent, from the finest Spanish wineries.
Well fed and well drunk it was about time to go over the IFE. A typical AVOD with your choice of films, music, games and maps. Watched a movie, tried to sleep on the slightly angled seat which was totally impossible, not because of the seat, which is really comfortable and extra wide, but because of my poor sleeping abilities on planes. I never sleep more than 2 hours whether the seat is fully flat, as on BA, or not reclining at all. So I will not blame IB on that.
Bad marks: Again service is the weakest point of this company. I had a jacket with me and hang it on the seat hanger in front of me. Not a single flight attendant paid attention to it and took it to hang it on the closet. I told the purser, when she came around with shopping forms, about that but it was useless, no one showed up. During the service no smiles at all, food was delivered promptly and efficiently, but I like it better when they take orders for main courses instead of bringing a full tray with the three choices. Once service finished bottles of water were distributed and the bar service commenced in the rear. I would suggest they remove dust from the shelves once in a while because it is quite pitiful to see it on the glass shelves when you get there to get some sandwiches, cookies or fresh fruit. Another thing why do they keep sandwiches and cookies wrapped on a plastic foil tray? It looks quite cheap and unpleasant to tear it off every time you want to have one. As usual crew disappeared behind the curtains in the galley and they only reappeared for a snack service two hours before landing when approaching Iguazu.
Cream of cheese
Fresh fruit bowl
Colombian coffee and herbal teas
|Really filling pre-landing snack|
Really nice and again real cutlery accompanied the service.
Toilets are a different story. They look really cheap and not business class at all. Very different from the ones I have seen on pictures in different reports from Asian carriers. I thought about taking a picture but forget it. I was quite ashamed and did not want to show it to you fellow a.netters.
Soon the lights of Buenos Aires could be seen and accompanied us until we landed. God! This is a huge capital. I like this flight as it arrives in the early evening and allows you to see the city in full splendour. I remembered my first trip to it and how much I have it admired ever since.
We landed right on time and parked on the gate in no time at all. Argentinian winter hit you on the face when reaching the bridge. Really cold temperatures after leaving behind the heat of Mediterranean summer, which was by the way, at least in BCN, one the less hot ones in the last years, unlike Eastern Europe.
One curious thing; I have noticed that some Latin American countries allow you to buy duty free items when arriving. I have seen this in Argentina and Panama. Is it common in other countries as well?
All in all my experiences with IB would be ranked with a 6/10 with a really important advice on service if they want to rank among the world's finest airlines. I always have the feeling when flying IB that they are doing you a favor when servicing you. Just some more smiles and nice comments would really hit it.
If you are not tired and have read until here you may as well read the following comments on LAN-Argentina, Aerolineas Argentinas and the trip back to BCN in the coming days.
|True 'porteño' spirit!|