Air Nostrum, Business Class – CRJ-1000: Madrid to Basel

Airline: Iberia
Aircraft: Bombardier CRJ-1000, operated by Air Nostrum
From: Madrid Barajas
To: Basel Mulhouse
Departure: 10h16
Flight time: 2 hours 13 minutes
3F, window seat

Getting to the Airport

The 7 Islas Hotel is located just off the Gran Via in the centre of Madrid. I exit the hotel just after 7h00 in the morning and walk five minutes to Tribunal metro station.

From there I take the metro line 10 to Nuevos Ministerios, which is two stops away. And then from there I catch the metro line 8 to Terminal 4. The metro service starts at 06hoo in the morning, with trains running every eight minutes.


At Terminal 4 I take the lift three floors up from the metro station to departures on level 2. Iberia Business Class counters are located on rows 780 to 799.

There is a dedicated security checkpoint for Business Class passengers, which is completely segregated from the other passengers and very efficient.

The Lounge

The Iberia Business Class lounge is hard to miss as you exit from security. The lounge is enormous and offers a wide range of seating options. It‘s a very nice looking lounge. As for food options though, it‘s a bit of a let down and only has very limited choices.


Terminal 4 is huge, and recently the airport authority was given planning permission to expand this already vast facility. My flight is boarding from gate K95, at the north end of the terminal, which is equivalent to Amsterdam’s Fokker farm.

The Cabin

I must say, I really dislike the Bombardier CRJ1000, because it’s such a badly designed aircraft and from the passenger’s perspective, it’s just narrow, tight and unpleasant.

On the starboard side there is a row one, right behind the lavatory. On the port side though, row 2 is the bulkhead row. According to the seat map when I checked in, there’s one person on row 1, two on row 2 – one on either side – and one person – that would be me – on row three on the starboard side.

Just before the doors close, a middle aged gentleman and his son appear from behind the cabin divider and park themselves on 3A and 3C and I have the sneaking suspicion the shouldn’t actually be sitting there. The doors close and the crew go through their routine duties, with the passenger address and then the safety briefing.

The Crew

Unfortunately, for messrs father and son, the flight attendant notices something’s amisss and checks the flight manifest to figure out what it is. Of course it doesn’t take very long for her to realise that there are two passengers too many sitting in the Business Class section.

Sometimes the stupidity of humanity can be interesting to watch. If perhaps also a tad pathetic at times. The flight attendant asks the father what his assigned seat number is, to which he replies that he doesn’t know. So she then asks to see his boarding pass, only to find he should have been seated on row 16. When she explains this to him, he tells her he knows but suffers from an acute case of claustrophobia, which is of course made worse by sitting on row 16 and having to look all the way down this long metal tube.

But the flight attendant obviously has been doing this for a while, so she very sweetly explains just how bad she feels for him, and that he will have to move nonetheless once the seatbelt sign is turned off after take-off. So there you have it kids, don’t lie. It doesn’t pay off. You only end up looking like a dick in front of your son, at an age when he already thinks you’re nothing short of embarrssing anyway.

We take off towards the north. I’ll say this though about the CRJ1000: when you’re sitting up front, it really is very quiet and there’s something quite poetic climbing out of the vast expanse of the flat landscape around Madrid.

The Meal

No sooner has the seat belt sign been turned off, the crew are released to start their service, which begins with a glass of orange juice, followed by an unscented hot towel. One of the cabin crew comes through the cabin asking what we’d like for brunch. There is a choice between a melted cheese and ham sandwich and a tortilla.

The tray is served with the hot meal, a bowl of fruit and the cutlery on it. My first impression is that the tray looks very empty. But then the crew come though the cabin with warm bread and shortly after make a second round offering croissants and chocolate doughnuts.

The hot meal consists of a warm tortilla, spinach, pumpkin and a sausage.

To drink with the meal I ask for a coffee and some sparkling water. I’m surprised when the cabin crew brings me a half-litre bottle and leaves it there for me.


I spend the rest of the flight reading with the warm glow of the morning sun on my face. Eventually we make our approach into Basel from the south. But the clouds are very low today, so that we’re already more or less past the city before we actually break through the cloud.

Our flight comes to an end on the non-Schengen side of the terminal. However, we are then bussed to the other side, which is also non-Schengen but for flights arriving from countries which would actually be in the Schengen area if France so much as respect the Schengen agreement. Every time I pass through Basel, they’ve thought up something new to make the process even more convoluted and complicated…

At least the airport isn’t too busy, so there’s next to no queue for immigration and my suitcase arrives quickly.

I now have three days in the office before I’ll be gone for a while… stay tuned.

Air Nostrum, Business Class – Bombardier CRJ1000: Madrid to Casablanca



It’s Wednesday morning and we’re running a day late, which means we’re going to miss the start of the user group meeting in Mohammedia. On a positive note though, it’s an absolutely gorgeous day here in Madrid.

We take the Hilton airport shuttle at 08h00, which get us to terminal 4 around ten minutes later.



There is a separate check-in area for Business Class passengers. The nice thing about Madrid’s terminal 4 is that no matter what time of day you come here, there never seems to be anyone there. And today is no different.


There is a dedicated fast track for security for Business Class passengers.

The Lounge

As our flight is operating to a non-Schengen country, the flight will be departing from the satellite terminal, which can only be reached as a passenger by airside metro. The journey across will take a little more than five minutes.


The entrance to the lounge is literally in the middle of the duty free shop, which as good a place as any I guess.


I think the only thing one can criticise about this lounge is that it has no toilets and showers. Other than that though, I think this is really one of the nicest lounges I’ve ever been to. Of course it helps that, like the rest of the terminal, the place is more or less deserted. But even so, the lounge has a very elegant, understated look and feel and the light filtering in through the blinds casts some nice shadows across the otherwise bright space.


The food and drinks options are also very good and the way everything is presented is simple but nice.



We leave the lounge about ten minutes before boarding should be begin. But by the time we reach the gate just a few minutes later, the status of the flight is already ‘gate closing’. We head through the gate and then downstairs to where a bus is waiting to bring us to our aircraft. And then we wait.

At this point I should perhaps comment that I’ve never been on a flight with Iberia which did not include Spaniards bitching about the sad state of their national airline. It seems to be a bit of a national sport and I’m not even quite sure why. And this flight is no different. All of a sudden, a young man steps outside and starts complaining to the bus driver about how scandalous it is to keep us waiting in such a tight bus (this guy has obviously never experienced rush hour on the Central line…).

In any case, eventually we drive off and a short while later our bus pulls up in front of our aircraft for today’s flight, a Bombardier CRJ1000 of Air Nostrum.


The Cabin

I have already commented a few times that I really, really do not like the CRJ series of aircraft. I find them very cramped and uncomfortable. But fortunately, this aircraft has some decent seats with a good enough amount of padding to be comfortable.

The seating configuration is 2 + 2 throughout, even in Business Class. Initially, I’m sitting next to the wiry R., who has managed to snag the window. But once boarding is completed, the cabin attendant himself comes to point out to me that I may shift to the other side of the aisle, where both seats are still empty.


The Crew

The cabin crew consists of a young male and a young female flight attendant. The male is really good at his job. He’s personable and tries to anticipate any wishes his passengers may have. The young lady is okay, but I think she might improve if she were less focussed on looking pretty.

While we’re still on the ground the crew pass through the cabin with a good selection of Spanish and international newspapers and distribute pre-packed scented towels.


The Meal

I think the meal service on Air Nostrum is probably better than the one you get on Iberia. The breakfast consists of a bowl of fruit, gazpacho soup and a choice of either toast with olive oil and cheese or a ham and cheese quiche. The crew also pass through the cabin twice with the breadbasket.

For the main dish I go with the toast and cheese, which is simple but nice. My first choice from the breadbasket is a nice big croissant. The second time they pass through the cabin, I have the other pastry, which is filled with some sort of vanilla cream and is also excellent.


Shortly after the trays have been removed, the strait of Gibraltar comes into view. And I must say, it really is quite a sight to behold. It also makes you realise just how close Europe really is to Africa.


We cross into Africa and I’m surprised by how lush and green everything looks! I must admit I was kind of expecting desert all the way… Eventually we start our descent, flying over vast stretches of farmland.



Eventually we land in Casablanca more or less on time. The airport is fairly busy and as a result, it takes us a whole hour of queueing at passport control before we are finally allowed into the country. You need to complete an embarkation card to enter, but nobody will bother to tell you that in advance and the signposting is non-existent.

Air France, Economy Class – CRJ1000 / A 319: To the lavender fields of Provence


A while back Air France came up with the bright idea of setting up secondary, low-cost hubs in Toulouse and Marseille. Among the newly opened routes was Marseille to Basel, where I live. I’ve always wanted to visit the Provence region of France, so once the flights were released for sale, I booked myself on a flight from Basel to Marseille in the evening of Friday, 29. June 2012. The return would be the next evening, on Saturday, 30. June 2012. This gave me nearly 24 hours to drive out of the city to see if I could find the famous lavender fields of Provence, which are in bloom in June.

And then along came Air France and made a dog’s breakfast of the whole thing. Quite a while after I had booked the flights, I received a mail from Air France informing me that due to the bad performance of the route, the Saturday flight had been cancelled. I would need to be rebooked. The easiest thing of course, would have been to rebook me for the flight the next evening, Sunday, 01. July 2012. But private affairs required me to be back in Basel on Sunday morning, so instead of taking the direct service, I opted for a 06h15 departure from Marseille to Roissy and then on to Basel. That would get me into Basel at 09h45. 06h15 is very early and yes, transferring in Roissy is not my idea of fun either. But it cannot be helped.

Then a while later I needed to be in Dubai for a week, until 28. June 2012. I subsequently booked flights with Oman Air to get me from Zürich via Muscat to Dubai and back. The Oman Air flight back to Zürich would be on Friday, 29. June 2012 and would arrive back in Zürich at 18h40. This gave me enough time to get back to Basel, grab my rucksack and head for Basel airport for the flight to Marseille at 23h00.

And then along came Air France and made a dog’s breakfast of the whole thing. After I had booked the trip to Oman, I received another mail from Air France informing me that the flight from Basel to Marseille had been rescheduled and would now already be leaving at 20h00. There was no way I would make it from Zürich by that time. And so it came that the outbound flight had to be changed as well. Eventually I was rebooked to leave Basel at 10h00 on Saturday, 30. June 2012. I would fly to Marseille via Orly.

But one must look at the positive side. At least this meant that I would be flying on the Britair CRK to Orly.


Date: 30. June 2012
From: Basel
To: Paris Orly
Airline: Brit Air for Air France
Aircraft: Bombardier Canadair Regonal Jet CRJ-1000
Economy Class
Seat: 1A

Getting to the Airport

The journey begins, yet again, outside the main railway station in Basel. It is here that I catch the line 50 to the airport.


The airport is looking good. Following the completion of the exterior, the interior has now also been revamped.


This here is actually what used to be the oldest part of the original construction from the 1970s.


I cross over into the French side. I’ve already done OLCI, so I head upstairs for security.



The French side of the departure lounge is empty.


At around 09h30, my bird finally makes an appearance. This will be my first trip with the CRK!



A short while later, boarding is called. The load on today’s flight is rather light and boarding is quickly completed.


The Cabin

Platinum members get seats at the front of the plane, hence I am on 1A. There are about 8 empty rows in between me and the rest of the passengers. The cabin on this bird is in mint condition and has that lovely crisp new plane smell about it. I suspect it hasn’t been in service very long.


The cabin crew make a quick welcome announcement in French and English and then we’re off.


Take-off is to the south towards Switzerland and Basel. After take-off we do a steep right turn and set course for Paris.


The Crew

Once the seat belt sign goes off, the curtains close and the crew start to prepare for the service. The cabin crew on this flight consists of two very chirpy and friendly French young ladies. Perhaps it’s the weather, perhaps it’s the light load or perhaps a combination of both but they appear to be in a really good mood.


The Meal

For the meal I have a cup of hot chocolate and sweet biscuits. The flight attendant tells me that the hot chocolate is made with water. But If I add two creamers I won’t be able to tell the difference. I try and must admit, not bad at all.


The weather en route is overcast.



On the approach the weather clears up. But alas I am sitting on the wrong side to be able to see the city.


We arrive in Orly on time and taxi past a huge variety of different airlines and aircraft types. A short and pleasant flight comes to an end.


Transfer in Paris Orly

Domestic flights arrive and depart from Orly Ouest. The terminal is quite old and evidently not geared for transfer passengers. This means that although I’m on an intra-Schengen flight, I will still have to go through security again. There is a separate area for SkyPriority passengers to check-in, but alas no fast track through security.


The Lounge

Even so, once I’m through security I still have enough time to visit ‘Le Salon Air France’. Air France operates a shuttle, called ‘La Navette’, to a number of French cities. These flights all leave from the same area in Hall 2 and the lounge is only available to these flights. The lounge is not very well stocked and not exactly fancy. But it gets the job done and it offers some excellent views of the apron.


Date: 30. June 2012
Paris Orly
Air France
Airbus A319
Economy Class
10D, aisle


Boarding is called a few minutes late. It’s an orderly affair and Air France take their boarding by seat rows very seriously.


Originally I’m on 10E, the middle seat on the emergency exit. Fortunately the guy on the aisle recognises some pal of his just as the doors close and decides to move. I shift across to the aisle seat, leaving the middle seat empty for the rest of the flight.

The Cabin

The cabin on this aircraft has a very modern and spacious feel to it. The seats are not exactly comfy but sufficient for a short flight of only one hour.


The Crew

Service on this flight is pretty much the same as on the previous flight. The crew are friendly and chatty.

The Meal

The meal on this flight is as frugal as that on the previous one too. This appears to be the standard on Air France domestic flights. I have a Perrier and more of the biscuits.



The approach takes us over water and eventually a set of large salt pans. It’s quite spectacular.


After we land we taxi past a huge fleet of fire protection aircraft.


I deplane and head outside. It’s a nice day but very hot. But it still feels nice. Just like a summer holiday. As for Air France, I don’t think I’ll ever be a fan. But I must say, these two flights were not bad – not bad at all.


The Provence region of France is very beautiful and offers some quite dramatic landscapes. Softly rolling lush green hills will suddenly give way to ragged cliffs with quaint little villages perched dangerously on the promontory. The lavender season, when the flowers are in bloom, is relatively short. I think I was quite lucky in that everything was still in full bloom when I visited.

I think I shall have to return some day and maybe spend some more time here.