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A MAD Tier Point Run - BA Y & IB J inc LHR T3 Lounge Reviews

A MAD Tier Point Run - BA Y & IB J inc LHR T3 Lounge Reviews

Old Dec 18, 09, 7:05 pm
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Arrow A MAD Tier Point Run - BA Y & IB J inc LHR T3 Lounge Reviews

Please note that all photos are copyright by the Fotki image hosting service.

Introduction

The time had come for another tier point run, as I was only 40 tier points away from retaining BA Silver status (oneworld Sapphire) for the next year. Given that 40 tier points is earned on one shorthaul business class leg, I did the sensible thing and booked one way in economy to minimise cost - the first time I have travelled in economy since 2004! I was quite keen to sample the relatively new BA Galleries lounge in T3 at Heathrow, as well as the other oneworld lounges in T3, and so it was necessary for me to choose one of the BA codeshares that operate from T3 (given that the majority of BA flights operate from T5). Due to cost and flight timings, Madrid was chosen as the destination of this TP run. Unfortunately, I couldn't book BA on the return flight, so Iberia had to suffice - my first time flying with this airline. I chose to fly outbound in economy and return in business, in order to avoid the increased government tax when flying from the UK in a premium class and also due to the fact that Iberia don't offer complimentary catering in shorthaul economy, unlike BA.

This trip report will largely concentrate on the T3 departure experience, but will naturally provide an overview of the onboard services offered by BA and IB too.

Pre-Departure

I had pre-selected seat 26A at booking on the 757 outbound to take advantage of the exit row legroom, but 3 days before the flight, the front of Euro Traveller (economy) became unblocked and I managed to select 6A - the first row behind Club Europe (business), which retains the CE configuration of a wider seat and the middle seat free. Unfortunately, BA decided to turn the whole of the first cabin of the 757 into CE a couple of days before departure, and so I was moved by the system to the first row of ET, seat 11A, a bulkhead seat. I was quite happy with this as it meant I would be served first and off first as well, presuming that Door 2L would be used. 24 hours before the flight, I checked in online for the outbound flight, but not the return as the BA system wouldn't let me due to the flight being on IB. I had pre-selected seat 1A on the IB A321 for my return flight at the time of booking, and I was pleased to note that this hadn't changed at all in the run up to the flight.

Outbound

The day of the TP run had arrived, and I was up at 06:30 in order to leave my apartment at 07:30, arriving at Heathrow by 08:30 thanks to a quick bus, a tube and the Heathrow Express (HEx), on which I had managed to score a complimentary First Class upgrade thanks to a BA promotional code. The First Class carriage was less than half full, with the rest of the passengers comprising lone businessmen. The ticket inspector was none to friendly, but I waived that aside and sat back in the comfortable seat for the 15 minute journey. The HEx was slightly late into Heathrow Central (but only by around 5 minutes) due to a faulty train on the track ahead, and the driver apologised for any inconvenience.


HEx First Class carriage overview


First Class on the HEx

Within 5 minutes of arriving at the station I had emerged onto the forecourt of T3, now modernised and looking rather smart.


Modernised T3 forecourt

The whole of the check-in area has been completely renovated with T5-style decoration, and much of the rest of the terminal has also been or is undergoing renovations. I walked outside to Zone G, avoiding the busy masses inside at the other check-in zones. The oneworld moves at LHR have recently been completed, and now all oneworld airlines that serve LHR are located in T3, apart from BA, with the majority of flights at T5 (excluding the codeshares with Qantas, Finnair and Iberia and a few other BA flights which still use the old 757s eg. Vienna). BA and Finnair use Zone G for check-in at T3, as well as Qantas for their premium passengers. There are several common-use self check-in machines, as well as the traditional desks. The is a BA/QF First check-in area in the left hand corner, segregated from the main check-in zone by wood-effect screens, much like those that used to be in place at T1 Zone R and T4 Zone E when BA had a presence at those terminals. Behind the screens are a couple of small seating areas, an attempt at recreating the First check-in zone in T5. I printed my boarding pass (BP) at one of the vacant self-service machines after confirming seat 11A and, with hand baggage only, ascended to the departures level via the escalator.


T3 check-in Zone G


BA & QF First check-in area in Zone G, as seen from the escalator to departures

On the departures level, I emerged into a long corridor the length of T3 check-in below, and walked halfway along until I came across the entrance to security. There is a Fast Track entrance to the right of the vast main security checkpoint, and I was waved through without comment after showing my BP and Silver card. Not all airlines' frequent flyers can use T3 Fast Track when travelling in economy, but I believe BA have paid BAA to allow their own top tier Executive Club flyers to use it, and quite right too! There was quite a queue, so it was hardly living up to its name, but this gave me the chance to people watch which I always enjoy, and I was in no particular hurry having arrived around 5.5 hours before my flight! There was another eligibility check where a pleasant woman greeted me and checked my BP and Silver card again, noting something down on a sheet of paper. Once the other side of the thick metal door (which had a rather impressive sign on it stating that I was entering a restricted area), I could see that the Fast Track queue only snaked a few times around the barriers, unlike the very extensive queues coming from the other direction. The T3 security area is truly vast! Despite having plenty of time to prepare, people still stopped and took an age to get ready for security once they'd reached the front of the queue which held up the proceedings further. I was pleasantly surprised to see one BAA security chap directing Fast Track passengers over to one of the main scanners before the non-Fast Track passengers, which helped to speed the Fast Track line a little. In the end, it was only around 10 minutes before I was done with the security formalities (with no need to remove shoes), and through the passport control check. I emerged into the great shopping mall that essentially comprises the whole of T3 departures, but successfully managed to navigate through to the other side in one piece without being accosted by any World Duty Free 'pouncers' or being drawn to spend 10 on a bar of Toblerone that I don't need or want.
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Old Dec 18, 09, 7:06 pm
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My first port of call was the new BA Galleries lounge complex, situated in Lounge Zone F, taking up the space previously occupied by the United lounges (who now operate from T1, along with many other Star Alliance airlines). The BA Galleries complex can be found up a corridor off from the main gate area, past the entrance to the Japan Airlines and Servisair lounges. I walked through the automatic blue doors (although shockingly one was broken already!) and into the reception area, with Galleries First off to the left, the Elemis Travel Spa next to it and Galleries Club straight ahead. The exit from the reception area is to the right as you walk in. At the Galleries Club entrance, my BP and Silver card were scanned/swiped and I was welcomed into the lounge with a warning that announcements aren't made and to keep an eye on the screens. As you enter the lounge, there is an awkward shaped corridor with comfy chairs, tables and telephones along both walls, with washrooms off to the left. Straight ahead is Guest Services, and behind that is the main lounge, comprised of three 'rooms'. The first is the eating area (rather white and clinical looking, with no windows), the second is the coffee area, Kids' Zone and Work & Entertainment Zone, and the third 'room' is the Silver Bar. Both of these last two 'rooms' have windows on the left hand side looking out towards the Scandinavian Airlines gates and, in the distance across the southern runway, T4. At the very end of the lounge are some more washrooms. Showers are provided in the Elemis area in the reception. I was pretty underwhelmed by the lounge to be honest - decoration is virtually identical to the Club lounges in T5, but the effect is somewhat diminished by the low ceilings of T3 and odd shape of the lounge (long and narrow). The entrance area to the Club lounge is particularly strange, but I suppose BA did the best they could with the space they had.


BA Galleries lounge complex reception area (seen from the exit)


Eating area in the Galleries Club lounge


Club Kitchen


Looking into the second 'room' from the eating area


Coffee area


Coffee area


Secondary bar opposite the Coffee House


Looking towards the Work & Entertainment Zone


Looking across the W&E Zone to the Coffee House


Work & Entertainment Zone


Silver Bar in the final 'room'


Silver Bar


Silver Bar


Silver Bar


Silver Bar


Relaxation area behind the Silver Bar


Cathay 747 pushing back viewed from the lounge...


...off to HKG


Great view of the 747

Last edited by Genius1; Dec 18, 09 at 7:21 pm
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Old Dec 18, 09, 7:07 pm
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Male washroom


View upon exiting the washroom area into the entrance/exit corridor


View leaving the lounge

I spent a good couple of hours in the lounge, utilising the complimentary wifi and indulging in the pretty comprehensive catering selection - the lunch offering was particularly good (I enjoyed the chicken curry), although the breakfast selection is not wonderful (just the usual hot rolls and continental items). The staff were friendly, and seemed to be quite on-the-ball when it came to clearing away empties. At one point two staff members did stand for rather a long time in the Silver Bar area and chatted away to each other. With me being the only person in that 'room', it was pretty annoying, but not as annoying as when a group of business people (one man and three women) entered and started jabbering away to the lounge at large. Thankfully half of the group went off to do some shopping, leaving the two remaining people to sip their coffees which quietened things down considerably. How busy the lounge was fluctuated throughout my time there, but at no point was it completely packed (although I can imagine that during the evenings the lounge may get fairly busy due to the close-together Australian departures). The washrooms passed the cleanliness test, and I was pleased to note that proper tiles have been used in the T3 lounges as opposed to the strange lino-type stuff in the T5 lounges. However, the ventilation system in the washrooms left a little to be desired, as each individual toilet smelt strongly of aviation fuel. I left the lounge briefly to top up my phone in WHSmith and upon returning to the lounge, was confronted with the entrance taped off and a BA staffer and signs advising passengers to proceed around to the exit to enter the lounge - the broken blue door was being fixed!

I paid a visit to the American Airlines Admirals Club (located behind and below the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse down a dismal corridor in Lounge Zone H), which has recently reopened after being renovated (the Flagship first class lounge is still closed under renovations). I was welcomed in without any problems by a friendly lounge guardian and once again advised to check the screens for my flight as BA flights weren't announced. The lounge was truly awful - not quite to the extent of the Lufthansa Business lounge in Frankfurt, but pretty near that level. The only saving graces were the standard of cleanliness and friendliness of the staff - both of which were excellent. The food selection was poor and the decoration dismal - I walked in and actually thought that the lounge was still temporary, before realising that it is in fact the finished Admirals Club concept!


Entrance to the VS Clubhouse


AA Admirals Club


AA Admirals Club

Also on my lounge to-do list was the Cathay Pacific (CX) Business Class lounge, located in Lounge Zone A, hidden away from the main lounge area up some stairs in the far right of the retail area. The rather frosty receptionist initially didn't want to let me into the lounge, but after a little gentle and ever-so-polite reminder of the oneworld rules, she welcomed me into the business class side to the left of the reception ('Hmm... Travelling to Madrid.... BA Silver.... Yes, of course you are welcome to use the lounge, but we won't announce your flight, so you'll have to keep an eye on the screens'). The First Class lounge is to the right, behind a locked door which the receptionist can automatically open and close. Well, I was very impressed with the CX lounge. Fantastically tasteful decor, well designed, a lovely ambiance, good selection of food and drink and pleasant staff combined to make the lounge a very pleasant space to while away a few hours. This lounge is also comprised of three 'rooms' along a 'corridor' - an eating area with washrooms on the left, a TV/relaxation area with a business centre on the left and finally a quiet sitting area at the far end. Complimentary wifi is provided. This lounge, for me, has the edge over the BA lounge, despite having no view - somehow, this adds to the intimacy of the lounge atmosphere. The lounge was not particularly busy, despite a flight to HKG departing soon, and once that flight was called for boarding, only a handful of people remained. Upon exiting the lounge, I thanked the frosty lady who was quite taken aback when I informed her that I liked her lounge better than the BA lounge!


Self explanatory!


Entrance to the CX First and Business Class lounge


Overview of the CX Business Class lounge, looking towards reception and the First Class lounge at the end


Overview of the CX Business Class lounge, looking towards reception and the First Class lounge at the end


CX Business Class lounge - first 'room'


Bar in the first 'room'


CX Business Class lounge - middle 'room'


Quiet reading area


Quiet reading area


Male washroom
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Old Dec 18, 09, 7:08 pm
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Lastly, I made my way back to Lounge Zone F as boarding time approached, and climbed the stairs to the Japan Airlines (JAL) lounge. JAL will shortly be closing their First Class and Sakura (business class) lounges and utilising the BA Galleries lounges, which I do think is a shame, because although the decoration is very old fashioned and the lounge has a distinct smell of stale smoke about it, the staff are extremely friendly and the standard of cleanliness is brilliant. After being welcomed by the two friendly Japanese receptionists, I was directed to the right to the business class side and found I had the whole lounge to myself. The food selection was pretty minimal (although there was some sushi in a mini-fridge if that takes your fancy), but the drinks selection was quite substantial and the hot chocolate was particularly tasty. The only major letdown for me was the lack of complimentary wifi. As this lounge is located directly above the BA lounge, the view is the same only slightly higher. The washrooms were immaculate (as the rest of the lounge was).


Japan Airlines Sakura lounge


Overview of the lounge


Lounge overview take two


Lounge overview take three


View of the SAS gates from the JAL lounge


Bar


Drinks selection


Sushi!


Immaculate JAL male washrooms

Around 15 minutes before scheduled boarding I made my way to Gate 24 - the infamous bussing gate at T3. BA use Gate 24 for all of their shorthaul departures from T3, as airbridge space isn't available (and probably too costly). I was pleased to see that most of the piers at T3 have been renovated with new ceilings, lighting and flooring which is a vast improvement over what was there only two years ago (which was my last visit to T3 airside). Gate 24 has recently been renovated too with a brand new building housing the four (or maybe five?) bussing gate lounges. At Gate 24a there were only a couple of other people waiting to have their BPs and passports checked before being allowed into the gate lounge, and soon I was seated close to the door. BA have a newspaper stand with complimentary newspapers for all passengers, similar to what they have at the top of the airbridges in T5A.


One of the bussing ports at Gate 24

Around ten minutes later, one of the BA staff members came over from the sanctuary of their desk and opened up the door in the slowest manner possible, at which point the moderately busy gate area's occupants rose simultaneously from their seats and converged on the exit to the waiting two buses. No priority boarding was announced - in fact, no boarding announcement was made at all! Thankfully the bus wasn't crammed completely full as it usually is, and we were shortly on our way to our awaiting 757 at a T3 remote stand. After a short delay while the fuel tanker was disconnected, the driver opened the doors and thanked us, wishing us a pleasant flight.

Date: December 2009
Route: London Heathrow [LHR] (T3) - Madrid Barajas [MAD] (T4S)
Flight: BA460
Aircraft: B757-236
Registration: G-CPES
First Flight/Delivered: 1998/1998
Seat/Class: 11A/Euro Traveller

Boarding was via open stairs to Door 2L, giving a great view of the massive Rolls Royce engine on this 757. I was welcomed (none too enthusiastically, although I was called 'Sir') onboard by a male member of the cabin crew (whom I didn't see for the rest of the flight, so I presumed he was the CSD and was working the CE cabin). Turning right, I settled into the first row of ET, placing my laptop bag and jacket in the tiny overhead locker (which was half full of crew (non-emergency) stuff). The rest of the passengers from the first bus trickled further back down the aircraft, with one passenger in 11C and one in 11D, despite OLCI informing me that the whole of the front of ET was occupied (including middle seats). Luckily, even once the rammed second bus had unloaded its contents of passengers, ET was still looking very empty (load was less than 25% across the two ET cabins), and soon the door was closed and the manual safety demonstration was performed. This 757 was clearly showing its age - stained wall and bulkhead panels, dirty carpets, worn and torn leather seat covers and a completely broken headrest at my seat. I found the legroom at the bulkhead to be a little restrictive, probably a little more so than in Row 1 on the Airbus aircraft, but the seat was just as comfortable (save for the wonky headrest). The legroom and seat width were perfectly reasonable for a short European hop, and I do like being in the bulkhead row to avoid any nasty recliners! Several welcome announcements were made, including one by Captain John, who informed us that flight time would be around two hours at a cruise altitude of 39,000 feet.


Boarding BA460


Overview of the first ET cabin of G-CPES during boarding


Legroom in 11A


Overview of the bulkhead Row 11


Rolls Royce engine on this 757

We left the stand a few minutes early with the safety demonstration being completed on our taxi out to runway 27L. The cabin crew only just managed to strap themselves into their jump seats before the famous Boeing dings were heard and were experiencing one of those famously sporty 757 takeoffs (a rolling takeoff at that!).

Shortly after the seatbelt signs had been switched off, I could hear noises emanating from the galley ahead of me at Doors 2LR, but it was a good 20 minutes or so before the crew emerged with a trolley, dishing out the complimentary drinks and cookies. BA have recently made dramatic cuts to shorthaul economy class catering, removing the all-day deli boxes from all except Band 3B and Band 4 flights. As MAD is a Band 3A flight, only one cookie is offered in ET for the duration of the scheduled 2h15 flight. I took a black coffee and the offered cookie. After getting over my shock at being presented with my coffee in a flimsy cardboard cup and no plate or serviette to put my cookie on (oh, how I longed for Club Europe at that moment!), I actually enjoyed the rather delicious cookie! As I had eaten in the lounge and fully expecting the (non-)catering that was provided, the lack of substantial food didn't bother me too much, but I would be mildly annoyed if I didn't have lounge access that 'proper' food is no longer provided, given that BA are supposedly a full service airline.


'Catering' BA Euro Traveller style


Cruise

Throughout the rest of the flight, the cabin crew were largely absent (but then again, they didn't actually have anything official to do). From what I did experience of them, they were by far not the best crew in BA's bag - in fact, I would say they were sub-standard for BA. No second drinks run was offered (although I'm not even sure whether a 'good' crew would do one in ET on a two hour flight). During the flight I made some notes for this trip report on my MacBook and listened to some music, whilst enjoying the ample recline of the seat (but not before I'd checked behind to make sure that 12A was empty!). The tray table (in the armrest due to the bulkhead) was not particularly large or sturdy, which made typing my notes quite difficult. A visit to one of the mid-cabin lavatories revealed the horribly small old-fashioned fittings of older Boeing aircraft, and the smell was quite potent the further back I went. I was glad at this point that I hadn't stayed in Row 26, as although legroom looked superb, there is no curtain between the bulkhead and the two lavatories, leading to queues interrupting the flight for those seated there. As the flight neared descent, duty free was offered (but take-up was minimal, if at all). At this point I noticed that the cabin wall was extremely cold, something which I've not noticed to that degree on other aircraft before.


Top of descent


Another bulkhead overview, this time during descent

Last edited by Genius1; Dec 18, 09 at 7:22 pm
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Old Dec 18, 09, 7:08 pm
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Descent began at around 16:05 London time, and before long the seatbelt signs were on and landing announcements made. We had some great views of the landscape around Madrid as we came into land around the city, landing a few minutes ahead of schedule, as the Captain proudly informed us. We docked at one of the T4S airbridge-equipped gates, with our closest neighbour an Iberia A340-600. The airbridge was connected to Door 2L, but it seemed to take an age to get the door open for some reason. Once the door was finally open, there was no attempt at holding back the ET passengers whilst the few CE passengers (all businessmen it seemed) disembarked. In fact, the crew in the galley by Doors 2LR stood chatting amongst themselves and barely said thank you at all in response to many passengers' parting words. Walking along the glass-sided airbridge, there was a good view of the cockpit of our 757 and the flight crew, but unfortunately I didn't get a picture as that would have entailed holding up the rest of the aircraft's passengers, something which I'm sure they wouldn't have thanked me for!


Arriving at MAD T4S


Our next door neighbour, an Iberia A340-600

It seemed to take an age to trek over to the main T4 building after having our passports checked in T4S (baggage reclaim is in the main T4 building). Transit between the two buildings is via an automated driver-less train, much akin to the one in T5, although the distance between buildings is far greater at MAD. I followed the knowledgeable-looking Silver bag-tagged passenger who had been sitting in 11D, as he seemed to know where he was going, and if it hadn't been for him I think I may have got lost a few times, as the signage was a little lacking. Eventually, however, I managed to ascend to the Departures level of T4 (the structure is similar to T5 at LHR), with around two hours to spare before my departure back to the UK.


Ascending to Departures in MAD T4
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Old Dec 18, 09, 7:09 pm
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Inbound

The check-in hall of MAD's T4 is rather impressive - in fact, the whole terminal is. I quickly located the Business check-in area, centrally located in the main T4 building. I walked up to a free Business Class desk and handed over my printed BA itinerary and passport, which the check-in agent consulted for a minute or so before printing my boarding pass for me. After he realised I was a little ignorant of the Spanish language, he asked whether I had any hold baggage, and directed me over to the security checkpoint.


Business Plus (longhaul) and Business Class (shorthaul) check-in

The central security area was not busy at all, and with no sign of an apparent Fast Track lane, I joined the shortest queue and proceeded to pack my stuff into the trays provided. Sensibly, the trays are provided well in advance of the actual security check, which seemed to lead to less time waiting to go through the scanners. There was a bit of confusion when a security agent started gabbling away at me in Spanish, but I realised he was directing me to put my laptop in a separate tray, which I did and was then through without incident (and without removal of shoes). I noticed that the security agents were opening everyone's laptops up and looking at the screen and keyboard presumably to check that the laptop was indeed a laptop. Once the other side of the scanners, I picked up my trays and carried them over to one of the tables to unpack and redress. This completed, I walked forwards and initially took the lift down to the gate level, before realising that the Iberia VIP Dali lounge is actually located on the same level opposite security, so had to take the lift back up and walk across to the lounge.


Dali lounge entrance signage


Entrance to the Dali lounge

The Dali lounge is one of three Iberia VIP lounges at T4 - the other two (Velazquez and Goya) are located in T4S, used by longhaul flights and non-Schengen airlines. Arriving in the reception area, I was politely greeted and informed that no gate had yet been allocated for my flight, so to check the screens. The Dali lounge is on an open-air mezzanine level to the rest of the terminal, and is arranged both sides of the central reception area. The lounge has a modern theme, and feels relatively exclusive, although this feel is diminished somewhat by the open air nature of the design and the resulting noise. Food and beverage availability is adequate, and during my hour or so in the lounge I noticed some salads and sandwiches being put out. The lounge features ample seating areas, a bar, eating area, business centre, relaxation area and (shockingly) a smoking 'room' which is actually open-air, leading to one half of the lounge stinking of smoke, something which I don't feel is acceptable in this day and age. The staff seemed very pro-active in clearing away any used plates and glasses, and the lounge was very clean (although the washrooms could have done with a freshen up). Overall, the lounge is certainly adequate, but nothing special and severely let down by the smoking situation.


Dali lounge


Dali lounge


Dali lounge


Dali lounge


Dali lounge


Male washrooms


Male washrooms


Impressive T4 architecture seen from the lounge


Loving the curvy roof

As the departure time of IB3178 was approaching and a gate was now showing as allocated, I made my way downstairs and strolled along the gate area to Gate H18, hovering by the entrance to the passport check desk. Quickly I realised that there was no aircraft at the gate yet, and so sat down for what turned out to be quite a lengthly wait, as the aircraft arrived, passengers disembarked (into the departures area due to no segregation of arriving passengers at MAD) and the aircraft was cleaned and readied for its next flight.


Quite spectacular gate area


View of our aircraft before boarding

The turnaround was super fast, and within 15 minutes a variety of unintelligible announcements were made, but nobody converged on the airbridge entrance, so I presumed that boarding had not been announced! By this time a very lengthy queue had formed at the entrance, but I stayed put at the front to the side of the main queue hoping for some form of priority boarding! Thankfully (and quite rightly) an announcement was subsequently made for Business Class passengers and oneworld Emerald and Sapphire members to make their way forward, and I was the first down the airbridge after having my BP and passport checked, just behind one of the gate agents. The gate agent held me back at the second 'arm' of the airbridge due to the aircraft still being refueled, and during the ensuing 5 minutes we had a chat about T4's similar design to LHR T5's. After the efficient and friendly gate agent had profusely apologised for the delay, she let us on down to the aircraft, where I was greeted and directed to my seat in the first row of this A321.
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Old Dec 18, 09, 7:10 pm
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Date: December 2009
Route: Madrid Barajas [MAD] (T4) - London Heathrow [LHR] (T3)
Flight: IB3178
Aircraft: A321-211
Registration: EC-HUI
First Flight/Delivered: 1999/2001
Seat/Class: 1A/Business Class

Despite being just a year younger than the 757 I had travelled on outbound, this A321 was looking very smart inside with new slimline seats, and everything appeared very clean (despite the short turnaround of the aircraft). Iberia's shorthaul aircraft are configured in the standard 3-3 economy class seating layout, with the middle seat blocked. The only differentiation in the hard product for business class is a curtain divider and 'Business Class' headrest covers for each pair of available seats. This flight was 100% full in both classes (and business took up a good 15 rows or so!). Despite this, every middle seat remained unoccupied in business, and (perhaps due to being in the front row) I felt every passenger was made to feel welcome. Shortly, a manual safety demonstration was performed (with recorded voiceover) as we taxied out to the runway, passing an Iberia A320 looking very odd in oneworld colours. During the taxi, one of the flight attendants rolled a newspaper trolley through the front cabin, offering a pretty comprehensive selection of Spanish and English newspapers and magazines. Due to the late arrival of the aircraft and relatively long boarding process, we were around 15 minutes late taking off into the night sky, which once again was performed without stopping at the runway threshold. The crew once again only just found their seats in time, after having struggled to stow all of the newspapers in one of the overhead bins.


Nicely reassuring


Legroom in Row 1 onboard IB's A321


Sturdy tray table. What a riveting picture.


Menu for IB3178


Beverage service


Well-presented dinner service


Embarking on dessert


Coffee

Once the seatbelt signs had been extinguished, the crew were up quickly with menus and shortly came around with trolleys asking whether passengers would like the meat (veal) or fish (grilled sea bass) option. I went with the fish, which was presented on a tray along with a salad, two choices of dressing, small cheese plate and desert. Hot rolls were offered, along with drinks. Overall, I thought the meal service was presented well, although removing the film from the dessert and cheese plate would have made it look a little better. Quality was also good - not outstanding by any means, but certainly better than some airplane food! The crew were, throughout the flight, professional and efficient (but not exactly friendly). One additional drinks run was offered after the meal (tea or coffee) - the coffee was presented very well. The crew passed through the cabin a couple more times during the flight, checking that passengers were OK. Clearance of the trays was performed quickly, and before long descent had begun and the crew were preparing the cabin for landing.


Bulkhead Row 1 view on descent

We landed onto 27L within 5 minutes of our scheduled arrival time having made up some time en route, and were on stand at one of the T3 airbridge-equipped gates within 10 minutes of landing. The door was opened promptly, and, after thanking the crew, I was amongst the first off the aircraft and on the lengthy walk to the immigration hall at T3.


On the way to immigration at T3

I was first to arrive at the UK Border, and was pleased to see that the entire hall was empty of passengers. I was through the UK channel within a few seconds and, around 15 minutes after landing, was once again nestled in a comfortable HEx First Class seat being whisked back to Central London.


Heathrow Central HEx platform

Conclusion

I was impressed by the T3 departure experience at LHR, although it can never compare to T5's almost effortless design. I would suggest that the CX lounge is preferable to the BA lounge if you want some peace and quiet in a more refined atmosphere, but BA is the winner when it comes to a view and a comprehensive food choice. BA's Euro Traveller service leaves a little to be desired (on the catering front), but on a reasonably empty flight such as mine none of my economy class fears were realised! Club Europe will still be worth it for me for the increased tier points, improved catering and that certain feeling of exclusivity (yes, I know, I'm a snob!). I was impressed by T4 at MAD, although the IB lounges are not exactly 'flagship'. Having only before done Band 1 Club Europe flights on BA, I can't really offer a true comparison of their service to IB's, but from what I experienced I would say that IB have the edge with catering, but BA win with their wider seats and generally more friendly crew.

Until next time, happy travels! Comments and questions are gladly received and answered.
Genius1 is offline  
Old Dec 18, 09, 7:59 pm
  #8  
 
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Bravo... a nicely written and comprehensive TR!

I sampled the T-3 OW lounges at the end of November and agree with your conclusions... The JL lounge was somewhat bleak and there were just two of us present, but it was very tranquil. Its a shame that they will be closing. For the record, I was able to pick-up the WiFi signal from the BA lounge below... The BA First lounge is quite elegant and the food is very nice. Especially with the JL lounge closing, I imagine it can get very crowded when BA, IB, AY, QF, and JL flights converge (plus all of us other OW elites sneaking in!!) The CX lounge has always been my favorite of the T-3 lounges for its peacefulness and the good noodles! I would note that the CX first class lounge is much smaller than the business side. I was there just before one of the HKG flights departed and it was absolutely packed.

I've not been to the Admirals Club for several years... and based on your photos, probably won't return.

I would also add that I too really like the architecture of T4/T4S in Madrid!


Thanks for putting together a great TR!

-- Bill
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Old Dec 18, 09, 8:27 pm
  #9  
 
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Great TR! Thanks for posting.
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Old Dec 19, 09, 12:19 am
  #10  
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Thanks for the TR Genius1.

The IB catering looks quite decent.
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Old Dec 19, 09, 1:07 am
  #11  
 
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Nice report Genuis1

The IB catering really looks quite decent. It certainly seems to be better than the offering I was fed on BA from HEL.
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Old Dec 19, 09, 1:28 am
  #12  
 
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Genius1 I applaud you yet again for a thoroughly informative and entertaining TR. I impressed that you managed to visit all of the Oneworld lounges in T3!
What did you think of the BA lounge? I thought that it was a bit dull and lacked the buzz of the T5 lounges, but more on that in my forthcoming TR.

Thanks again.
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Old Dec 19, 09, 1:33 am
  #13  
 
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Nice report. A couple of points if I may.

My understanding is that at a terminal which is only Schengen PAX there is no requirement to seperate arriving and departing PAX.

You were lucky with the IB Dali lounge. Most times that I have been there it is heaving and you have to fight for a seat. Also being "inside" T4 and in the roof area I find it relatively claustraphobic compared to Velasquez in T4S which has a wall of glass looking over the runway and the hills to the east of Barajas.

Although the CE menu shows you a starter and a main course, actually IB serve the two on the one plate! I must be old fashioned but I prefer them on seperate plates.

Good piccies!
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Old Dec 19, 09, 2:49 am
  #14  
 
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Genius1 well done for visiting and all those lounges and then writing it up so comprehensively! I'm surprised how good the Iberia J class food service looked. And I thought the Iberia lounge at MAD looked good too.

I have already had the privilege of visiting the CX lounge, and am looking forward to my first visit to the BA lounge in T3 next week.
flyingbee is offline  
Old Dec 19, 09, 3:00 am
  #15  
 
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Thanks for a great TR, especially the detailed lounge pictures!
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