This is part three of a series documenting my Memorial Day weekend trip to Sitges, outside of Barcelona. You can read an overview of the trip here.
Iberia Flt. 800 Madrid to Barcelona (MAD-BCN) – Puente Aereo (Air Shuttle)
Airbus 321 (A321) , Business Class
Sch. Dep. 8:00AM Sch. Arr. 9:15AM
Act. Dep. 8:45AM Act. Arr. 9:42AM
My flight from Boston landed in Madrid-Barajas’s Terminal 4S, the satellite to Iberia’s main terminal, Terminal 4. It was a long walk to immigration, which I cleared quickly, before heading to the platform for the people mover to Terminal 4. I just caught a train and was in T4 by 6:40am – 50 minutes before boarding of my next flight. I figured that would probably be enough time, but I wanted to take a shower at the lounge, so I’d have to see. There was security upon getting to T4, and I somehow triggered secondary screening for both my body and my bag.
I made it to Iberia’s Dali Lounge, though, at around 6:55am, and at check-in asked the agent about using a shower. One was immediately available, and I exchanged my boarding pass for a key to one of the shower rooms. The room was fairly small, though modern, with a stall shower, toilet, and sink. The room reeked of ammonia, but I guess it was a sign of cleanliness? In addition to a small shampoo and body wish, there was a package of towels, branded by Melia Hotels, the Spanish conglomerate. I showered quickly (and left a t-shirt behind), but it definitely hit the spot.
I headed into the lounge with one thing on my mind: coffee. Unfortunately, the lounge disappointed on that front. The lounge is divided into two large open rooms on either side of the check-in desk. One side has more dining table seating, and the other has high-top bar seating. Both also have more traditional lounge seating, and off the one to the left there is a computer area.
On both sides, the breakfast set-up was the same, with a small buffet in the same small area as a one-cup-at-a-time coffee machine. There was some cereal and yogurt, and a heavily picked-over tray of pastries. It really didn’t make sense for breakfast, as there were super long lines, while about 2/3 of the food area had no one at it – the self-serve bar area, and a refrigerator case with soft and hard single serve drinks. The food was worse than most Priority Pass lounges, and there just wasn’t enough coffee. I know Europeans pretend to be above brewed coffee, but it would totally be smart to have some dispensers of brewed coffee in the morning.
I was only able to get one cup of coffee, but I did also get a split of Cava (not very good) and OJ. Not the best Cava, but, hey, had to make up for the lack of bubbly on the flight. Then it was off to the gate area to board, which took surprisingly long, downstairs, through a large mall.
Iberia recently relaunched its Puente Aereo/Air Shuttle/Pont Aeri service for flights between Barcelona and Madrid. This was a special service they used to have before the high-speed rail connecting the cities. With the relaunch, Iberia reinstituted some of the same features it used to have, including the ability to buy open tickets, and dedicated check-in and security facilities. It also brought IAG-owned/BCN-hubbed LCC Vueling into the fold, and coordinated schedules, making for a combined 26 flights a weekday in each direction. The service on the Iberia and Vueling operated flights differs, though. You can buy “non-shuttle” tickets on the same flight, which don’t include some of the changeability benefits, but I think you can still access the special check-in and security area. The flight numbers have all been changed to just be the time the flight launched, hence my 8am flight was IB 800.
By the time I got to the gate, the flight was already boarding in the priority line, and there was heavy rain. I was surprised how many people were on the priority line, but (1) as the 8am shuttle, there were a lot of business people who must have had status, and (2) it seemed a lot of people on the priority line were not in the right line and were turned away from boarding. When I boarded, I saw that nearly all of those who had boarded before me were in coach, as I was only the third person in the business class cabin.
The plane was an A321 with a fairly new interior, including new slim-line leather seats. The adjustable cabin had been set up with five rows of businesses, each with the middle seat blocked as with standard Euro business class. The seats were totally fine for the short flight.
The forward cabin ended up being a total of 13 passengers, nearly all businesspeople, plus several folks deadheading, including two very chatty women who changed into flight attendant uniforms for Level, IAG’s new long-haul LCC in the lav during the flight, and a pilot from Volotea, a competitor Spanish LCC.
Boarding was very slow, taking over 30 minutes. There was no service in the meantime, and we didn’t push back from the gate until 8:06am. The taxi seemed to be taking a very long time and about 8:25am the captain made an announcement that there would be a 20 to 30-minute delay. I dozed a bit and then around 8:45am we were finally in the air.
About 15 minutes into the flight, the flight attendants emerged and started the breakfast service. It was a lot more substantial than the breakfast on my transatlantic flight, with an omelet served with two cherry tomatoes, a pastry, fruit, and a roll. The eggs were pretty good, and the service was fairly warm and friendly, with multiple coffee refills. Given that the whole flight was only an hour, it was impressive how much service was accomplished.
At BCN, the gate we landed at was in a special area of T1 that is dedicated to the Shuttle. I passed the special dedicated check-in and security areas which were pretty dead. There is a separate taxi area, and there’s direct access to the parking garage. Unfortunately, if you are taking public transportation like, I was, you have a bit of a walk to the main part of Terminal 1.
I’ll try and bang out the rest of posts about this trip in the next few days, but I’ll be heading to Iceland in about a week, so stay tuned for that too!