The reason for this trip was that I'd hadn't flown enough sectors this year to retain status with Qantas (and the OW alliance) and I hastly arranged this one day trip in order to keep my status for another year.
Flight 1 - 30 Aug 08
LHR - MAD
A very early start, was up and out the door by 5am on a unseasonal balmy London morning. Made my way to Paddington Station for the Heathrow Express out to LHR. Took a look at the departure boards at Paddington and noticed that the Heathrow Connect was ready to leave so I jumped on that instead (and had the whole train carriage to myself all the way out to Heathrow).
(An empty Heathrow Connect carriage)
Here's a tip, if you're travelling in the early hours (pre 5.30am) or on Sunday where the Heathrow Connect only stops at Ealing Broadway and Hayes, the Heathrow Express does not overtake the HC so you'll actually get there faster (and for less than 1/2 the price!)
Anyway, made it to Heathrow Central and hiked to Terminal 2. Check in at T2 was a buzz of activity as the morning European flights (LH, AF, AZ and IB) all had flights leaving around the same time. Check in at the Business Class counter at IB was extremely quiet, compared to the queue for Y passengers. Was checked in and checked through on all my sectors for the day in under a minute.
(IB J Class and Y Class Check-in Counters)
Ventured into the IB Lounge and was very disappointed by its offerings. It was extremely quiet and apart from a few stale croissants and some pre packaged mini muffins there was very little else. Even the coffee from deplorable. Did the local frequent flyer know better than to waste their time with the IB Lounge? Wanted to check some email but both computer terminals were out of order. Even the toilets were out of order at the lounge. Is 6.30am too early for a drink I was thinking to myself?
(IB Lounge @ LHR)
Made my way down to the departure gate and on board the A321 bound for MAD. The J class seats on board IB's European flights were a let down. In fact, the seat is essentially the same as the Y class seat, no wider, no additonal features, not even a differnt colour. The only benefit is that they're more spaced out and that as their campaign says 'the middle seat is always left unoccupied'. Oh, I was offered a small pillow for additonal comfort.
(IB J and Y Class seats, can you tell the difference???)
Breakfast was served fairly promptly. After the disappointed of the lounge and the seat it was pleasing that breakfast was quite tasty, albeit simple. Breakfast consisted of:
- mushroom omelette
- cold meats & cheese
- pain au chocolat
- fruit salad
Service from the IB crew was average, not too many smiles were given out but they were efficient, meal trays were dished out and taken away far too quickly. I think it was, the more the quickly they finish their job then the more quickly they get to do nothing.
Landed late in MAD and had a very short connection time to my next flight. The flight landed at Terminal 4 but my connecting flight was from 4S. IB to its credit arranged buses to meet the flight to transport the connecting passengers to Terminal 4S. Despite the flight crew mentioning the flights departing from 4S and that those passengers should stay on board the flight in order to deplane from the rear (and onto the buses), some passengers still thought it was in their best interests to get off the plane only to turn back and re-board a few minutes later.
There were approximately 100 connecting passengers and somehow we all managed to fit on 1 bus and we were bussed over to Terminal 4S, it was good to get a glimpse of the underground road network beneath the airport, quite amazing. By the time I arrived at 4S I was already late for boarding. But lo and behold in true Spanish style IB were suffering some delays that day and that my flight wasn't even ready to board. No time however to check out the IB Lounge at MAD.
Flight 2 - 30 Aug 08
MAD - BCN
Chaos at the boarding gate. Due to the cancellation of the previous (and following) MAD-BCN flight there were a few irate passengers who couldn't get on this flight. Flight was full although there were 2 spare seats in J class, which were not taken by the stranded passengers but rather IB Crew! Seemed a tad unfair if you ask me.
Push back and I was bound for Barcelona. Fairly uneventful flight and relatively short. Lunch was served and I must say, what a disappointment. A sandwich, a drink and a piece of chocolate. Something that is served by BA or QF on any given flight in Y class! Yes, I know that IB has buy on board for its Y class but to dish up a sandwich (with not much filling) that's really pushing it.
(Terminal 4S, IB A321 & Lunch on board IB)
Arrived at BCN and it was a nice bright sunny day where I had a good 4 hours before my next flight. Took some time to explore every nook and cranny of the airport and retreated to the IB Lounge when it all got a bit too much.
IB Lounge at BCN was extremely quiet. I think during my time there a total of 6 people were in the lounge. It was an interesting hearing boarding announcements and not seeing anyone move.
Food was limited but there was a wide selection of beverages. Only 2 computer terminals were available for use, although I think free wi-fi was available (but I could be wrong).
(BCN Aiport & IB Lounge @ BCN)
Got bored and decided to do some shopping in the terminal. Finally time came to venture to my boarding gate, which was at the other end of the terminal. I was however greeted by some more scenes of chaos, this time at passport control at BCN. With all desks staffed it was still a slow process but by this stage I was used to the Spanish way of doing things.
(Passport control @ BCN)
Flight 3 - 30 Aug 08
BCN - LGW
Final flight for the day and by this stage I was getting a bit over flying but was happy to be on board a BA flight. It was serviced by a 737-400 and it was good to see a proper Business Class product. Albeit the aircraft and the Club Europe seats were aging a bit it was still very comfortable.
(BA 737-400 & BA Club Europe Seat)
The cabin was serviced by a more senior member of the BA staff. She was very friendly and professional, a tad slow which made the service feel rushed.
A long taxi to the departure runway gave me an opportunity to have a good look of the new terminal being built at BCN.
(BCN New Terminal)
Drinks service commenced promptly after take off and dinner followed after that. Dinner was very tasty however one criticism of the service. The passenger beside me wanted a non alcoholic drink with her meal. The FA made the point that she had to go back to the galley for that (a whole 3 steps) and that she would get back the passenger. Even though she did make numerous trips back to the galley she returned with no drink for the passenger next to me nor other passengers who had wanted non alcoholic drinks. It wasn't till after the passenger next to me had finished her meal that her juice finally arrived. I think she had her priorities wrong.
Apart from that, the experience was definitely enjoyable and a good way to end my day.
Touch down Gatwick and after a long day I was back on home soil. So after 4 airports, 3 flights, 2 airlines in 1 day I was exhausted and looking forward to bed.
(Coming into Gatwick & Touchdown @ Gatwick North Terminal)
Hope you all enjoyed my TR.