Date: 19. June 2016.
Flight time: 55 minutes.
Seat: 1D, aisle seat on the starboard side.
I spend Sunday morning enjoying an expansive and leisurely breakfast first, followed by a lazy swim around the pool, which I have all to myself at this time of day.
GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
Check-out is a noon. I still have a few hours to kill before I have to be back at the airport. So I decide to go up into the mountains to San Salvador near Felanitx, a monastery perched high up on a hill slightly more than 500 metres above sea level. The road leading up to San Salvador has a gradient of more than 6%, which makes it a popular excursion for cyclist.
The view from the top is simply amazing and there is a constant breeze, which makes a welcome change from the heat below. There is also a café that is worth mentioning. Perhaps not necessarily because of the food and drinks – which are okay – but because of the rather breath taking view you have in the loo (No, that is not a sexual innuendo).
From San Salvador it will take you roughly fifty minutes in good traffic to reach the airport.
Location: Upper level of the terminal.
Facilities: Web check-in. Check-in at the airport is only possible at the counter. There are no self-service machines.
Counters: 52 to 68.
By the time I reach the airport and drop off the car, it is just gone 15h15, so I have a bit more than two hours before departure. There are two open counters and one them is a dedicated check-in line for what Iberia calls ‘Priority’ passengers. There is one person ahead of me in the priority line and a short queue of passengers waiting in the normal Economy Class queue. The guy at the head of that queue informs me that ‘no, you wait, my turn’. He then goes on to elaborate how unfair it is of me to jump the queue when he has been waiting there for an eternity (two minutes…). I start explaining that it is fair because I am quite willing to pay to avoid the queues at check-in or at security. But then I figure my Spanish is about as awful as his English and just let him go first.
From check-in I head one floor up to security. There is a fast track available for Iberia’s priority passengers, so the process is fairly swift and painless. From there I head for the lounge.
Location: Near gate D88 on the D concourse.
Type of Lounge: Sala VIP Formentor – contractor lounge operated by AENA – the airport authority.
Facilities: Newspapers and magazines. Toilets are available in the lounge but there are no showers.
Catering: The usual selection of hot and cold drinks. There is also a small selection of Spanish snacks.
Internet: Wifi is available, the password can be obtained at reception.
The lounge is surprisingly large. It is also rather empty, which can be expected I guess, given that Palma is mostly a leisure destination and most of the operators are either low-cost carriers or charter airlines.
Priority Boarding: Well, kind of…
I think this is the first time I really get the full on low-cost experience. What complete and utter chaos. My boarding pass tells me that boarding will start at 17:05 for a 17:35 departure. But the departure screens shows boarding as starting at 16h50 from gate D88. Only when I get there, the flight shown is a Vueling flight to Barcelona and the aircraft parked outside belongs to SWISS.
Eventually, after more or less all passengers on the flight to Madrid go and check with the gate agent, an announcement is made to inform us that the flight will be departing from gate D90. So we all move over that way. I get the impression some people think they better hurry before the plane leaves without them. Only when we get to D90, the flight showing up there is the Lufthansa evening service to Frankfurt.
Eventually, the gate agents manage to catch up and are none the wiser about our departure gate. But then we look outside and see an Iberia Express pulling up on the stand at D90 so we all figure this will probably be right.
As soon as the airbridge is connected to the aircraft, boarding for the flight to Madrid begins. In my innocence I start to wonder if perhaps the flight has arrived empty. Of course not. The entrance to the airbridge is closed off and the passengers from the inbound service have only just started disembarking. Actually it is rather funny to see the faces of some of the arriving passengers, clearly they are not expecting the whole of the return flight to be waiting for them as a welcoming committee as they step off the plane.
And then, as soon as the last of the arriving passengers has stepped off the airbridge and into the terminal, boarding for the return flight begins. Is this what a cow feels like on its way to the slaughter house?
Configuration: 2 + 2 in Business Class, with the middle seat left empty.
Seat: Iberia has a total of 38 Airbus A 320s, 19 of which are operated under the Iberia Express brand. The Iberia Express models have a seating capacity of 177. There are three rows of Business Class with a total of twelve seats, nine of which are occupied on this flight.
Pitch: 31 to 28 inches. The seating pitch starts at 31 inches on the first row and then gradually decreases to 28 inches towards the back.
Width: 17 inches.
Audio and Video: Wifi inflight entertainment, which works rather well actually.
The first thing that strikes me as I take in my surroundings, is the design and colouring of the wall panelling, which looks vaguely familiar and certainly feels like a blast from the past. It takes me a moment but eventually I get there. This is the same scheme Swissair had in the cabin of its aircraft, with faded pink shades of swish. What I do not know, is if this aircraft previously flew with Swissair, or if what Swissair had was a standard design that could be ordered with the aircraft off the shelf from Airbus.
Other than that, seating looks like your bog standard slimline Recaro seat. But at least they do give you pillows in Business Class…
The crew on the flight are not overly friendly, but they are okay. I am assuming there are four crew on the aircraft, although I only ever see the same two, and they are obviously totally stressed out. They are trying to work as fast as possible to get the passengers settled quickly. But all they really achieve is to completely stress out themselves and the passengers.
Welcome drink: No.
Towel before the meal: No. But you get one after the meal, and with good reason.
Pre-meal drink: Freshly squeezed orange juice.
Delivery: Tray service.
Type of meal: Snack.
- A plate with a piece of cheese, pata negra and a pastry filled with tuna.
- Sparkling water.
Before take-off the crew’s only interaction with the passengers is to ask if they would like a paper. That’s it. But then after take-off the mad rush begins. There are only nine passenger in the forward cabin. But with a flight time of only 55 minutes to Madrid, the crew are obviously nervous about starting the service as soon as possible. Once the seatbelt sign goes off, the crew pass through the cabin with glasses of freshly squeezed orange juice. So far so good.
But then one of the crew comes to remove my glass and asks me ‘would you like a drink’ – and I am left wondering what that was supposed to be that she has just cleared away? Much to my surprise though, it turns out that a small snack is offered, even on such a short leg, and what she means is: what shall I be drinking with the meal?
When the plate arrives, I am rather pleasantly surprised. Of course it is just a small snack, but this will do nicely until we get to Madrid. If only. If only I knew how I am supposed to eat this without cutlery. Even now, as I write this, I am not sure if the passengers are really meant to eat the food with their fingers or if the crew forgot. At least they have the decency to distribute packed refreshing towels after the meal for you to clean your hands.
Our arrival into Madrid is fairly unspectacular and only a bit bumpy. All Iberia and OneWorld flight arrive and depart in the spectacular Terminal 4. As I make my way to the baggage claim I keep stopping the marvel at the ceiling.
In Madrid I will be staying at the Hilton Airport. There is a free shuttle bus to the hotel, which serves all terminals. At Terminal 4 you need to go up one floor and then across a walkway to reach the platforms from where all the busses leave.