Old Aug 17, 14, 9:51 am
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Madrid workshop and then some more flying to LHR and then....

Thank Heavens for smokers!

Up at 06:00 hrs, and after ablutions I quickly check my overnight emails, not much to look at there, other than an automated reminder to get my expenses submitted. One thing about modern business email life is that we also get "spam" mail internally: charity sponsorship round robins, networking events for working parents or young graduates, pleas from schools to do mock interviews, giveaway theatre tickets and the like. I get probably a dozen such missives every day.

I'm down at breakfast around 06:45, and my opinion of this Hilton has gone upwards. The breakfast range isn't as wide as UK ones, but has a strong local character to it, with jamón ibérico and serrano, two full sized tortillas sliced up, one plain, the other with spinach, galletas. And, er, churros covered in hot chocolate. I give that a wide berth at this hour of the morning. This photo was taken from the 4th floor looking down on the breakfast area, with the tables neatly lined up, and the food at the top of the photo.

Then I return to the room, part pack, and clean my teeth(!), but I don't need to check out just yet since we have a workshop in the hotel.

Now a workshop has evolved to mean a meeting with multiple sessions in it, and implies a bit of two way reaction between the presenter and the audience. There are 10 of us at the meeting, 5 Spaniards, 3 Portuguese, 1 from Gibraltar and me - I am chairing the morning session and not attending the afternoon session. Now we all totally into diversity training so I best pass the next observation without comment: For the 08:00 start, only one Spaniard has made it on time, and he jokes that is only because he is from the Canary Islands. The Portuguese contingent don't think it's a joke. I go through the safety rules of the meeting, always the first topic, and the Spanish girls all come in, either looking like impossibly glamorous models or having stepped out of some Pedro Almodóvar car crash. So the safety rules get a second hearing. My presentation is on first, the meeting is in English, one of the Spanish ladies hisses in my ear that this was at the insistence of the Portuguese participants, who all speak vastly better Spanish than me. As soon as I finish several hands go up requesting a smoke break, so off they all go, except for the grizzled older guy from the Canary Islands, who I know to be a virtual chain smoker. Why aren't you going outside, I ask? "You see those skinny girls, they don't really smoke, it's just breakfast for them, but they never buy their own cigarettes and I get fed up of them stealing mine".

Flight back to London

The morning session ends and I return to my room, collect my bag, and get to reception at midday. Now I had allowed 30 minutes for the bus ride, 15 minutes for getting through security to the Sala Dalí Iberia lounge in T4 in preparation for my next flight. Then 15 minutes contingency, so an hour in all. So what happens? The shuttle bus leaves the hotel at 12:05 and I'm in Sala Dalí by 12:25! The shuttle went straight to T4, again I was the only passenger, and I was the only person in Acceso VIP Fast Track. Had I known, I would not have wanted to spend so long in the lounge, but anyway. Sala Dalí is the weaker of the two Iberia lounges, Sala Velázquez in T4S, the satellite terminal - used by BA metal - is much better, but I'm not schlepping over there.

IB3172 - Madrid MAD T4 to London Heathrow T5- 19 Aug 2014
Airbus 321 – EC-JNI
1 captain, 1 co-pilot, 5 crew, senior cabin crew member:

Scheduled departure 14:40 CET
Actual departure: 14:41 - push back
Scheduled arrival: 16:10 BST
Actual arrival: 16:10 - doors open
Time needed to clear Acceso VIP Fast Track security at MAD T4: 87 seconds (includes pat down).

Iberia’s departures leave from the end of zone H. This is right at the end of the building, the opposite end from the domestic gates I used yesterday. There is a passport control for the non Schengen flights to the UK and Ireland. Boarding at gate H8 (also known as 372) started at 14:09 for a 14:40 flight, with priority boarding enforced. However it was not much of an advantage since we were left to wait on the airbridge until the aircraft was ready, and I didn’t get to sit down until 14:18. It would have been far better to have boarded last. Doors closed at 14:37, pushback was at 14:41, and we were airborne at 14:52.

There were seven rows for Business Class, so 28 seats with the middle seat blocked. and 10 passengers. The rest of the A321 was fairly full, most of the middle seats were used. Row 1 was empty apart from me. Service was fairly swift when airborne, pillows were handed out first then menus.
Starters: Dried fruit with a touch of fennel.

Main courses: Veal burger with a foie and truffle sauce served with paprika and artichoke, spiced potatoes (al pimentón). Alternatively: Fresh cheese and apple stuffed pasta in a creamy piquillo pepper and thyme sauce.
Desserts: Smoked cheese from Pría, and raspberry sponge cake

I went for the veal and though not quite as flavoursome as the menu suggested it was certainly very edible. Having had breakfast at 7 am I was ready for this late lunch. The service was correct rather than friendly but the crew were approachable. The purser clearly ruled the roost, he had a certain charisma about him.

I got through some more work on the laptop after lunch, as well as drafting this update. Approach into London was a bit bumpy, sunshine and clouds, but we arrive onto gate A21 at 16:08

BA1336 - London Heathrow T5 to Newcastle - 19 Aug 2014
Airbus 319 G-EUOD
1 Captain, 1 Senior First Officer (flying), 2 Pursers and 2 other cabin crew. SCCM: Purser.

Scheduled departure 18:30 CET
Actual departure: - 18:52 push back
Scheduled arrival: 19:40 BST
Actual arrival: - 19:55 doors open
Time needed to clear Fast Track security at LHR T5 South: 5 minutes 42 seconds.

It's another poor day at UK Flight Connections so I go out via e-passports, landside and up to South Security. The reason being that though there are no fewer than 4 UKBF on UK connections, all of them have been sucked into problem cases, leaving a growing queue. It's not entirely clear cut for me to swap to the main e-passport queue since that's longer than normal, though in the end I decide to do that and itonly takes 5 minutes to clear. Still I'm in CCR at 16:29 so I can't complain too much. And in the CCR, Ann has something to cheer me up:

After a bowl of pea soup, I head for the gate. Of course one unadvertised benefit of those with stratospheric CIVs is the ability to select which gate your aircraft departs from so naturally I select A19, which is the most handy for CCR, even if the less frequent flyers have a whinge at it being too far from the pub. I arrive at the gate at 18:08, and boarding starts a few minutes later.

All goes well, until we get to the departure time of 18:30 and the Turn Round Manager has an extended discussion on the flight deck. The captain then explains that some late arriving passengers have failed the iris confirmation at the gate (mandatory for domestic passengers and relates to immigration controls) and they are sorting it out. That's all the details I get, but when the 3 female passengers finally board it is completely obvious that there are Geordies, I could probably accurately place their home to within 2 miles from accent alone. I'm guessing they had a load of holiday luggage sitting in the hold so it's not as easy as getting the passengers offloaded. Never mind, we push back 22 minutes late.

Not much to report other than that the purser had a fat finger moment and we got this version of the safety moment:

The other purser finds this very amusing, and later on, when handed my cup of tea I thank him by say "danke schön". Without hesitating he replies "bitte schön". I'm first off to leave so naturally I say my auf Wiedersehen and hit the road for home. I'm back for 20:45, so still day light on these Northern hills.

Last edited by corporate-wage-slave; Aug 19, 14 at 4:16 pm
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