➔ British Airways Club Europe, Airbus A321NEO, LHR-MAD
➔ Iberia Express A321, Business Class, MAD-PMI
➔ Melia Palma Marina
➔ Palma: City Guide
➔ Iberia Express A321, Business Class, PMI-MAD
➔ British Airways Airbus A321NEO, Club Europe, MAD-LHR
Finally, another trip report!
After 131 days on the ground, it was time to take to the skies again. What would await me though? I was in no doubt that things would be very different compared to when I last set foot on a plane back in March 2020.
Initially, I anticipated that my first flight post lockdown would be a UK domestic route. However, upon seeing that Spain would be opening its borders from 1st July, I decided to take a punt on that instead. At the time of booking, the UK was set to introduce a 14 day quarantine period from early June 2020. I decided to gamble that it wouldn’t be in place come the end of July, when this trip was due to take place. However, I booked a hotel with an easy cancellation policy just in case…
As my British Airways Executive Club year reset in April, and there was no word on any status extensions being offered (at the time), the usual trick of flying via Madrid in either British Airways Club Europe or Iberia Business Class proved to give the most bang for the buck with regards to Tier Points. Obviously, I hadn’t earned any for the first quarter of my year, so time to get going in that regard!
Booking was made through British Airways. The early morning departure to Madrid would be the first flight on this ticket, followed by a pair of Iberia Express flights over to Palma and back. I would then take the tried and tested Boeing 777 flight back from Madrid after a weekend on the island. At least that was the initial plan…
The Day Of Departure
Despite seeing some horror stories about huge queues the week before, things weren’t too bad this morning. Although it was a little busier than I had expected.
Once into the lounge, this was where the biggest differences were. First off, you’re greeted with a hand sanitising station.
Next up, the buffet is gone. Instead, you order via an online portal which is accessed via a QR code.
This was actually an improvement I found… other than the options were somewhat static. Usually I’d have poached eggs and two sausages. But at least the lounge is open.
Also gone for the time being is the terrace – an area where I had grown fond of previously. However, there was now a decent open area towards the entrance of the lounge which did the trick.
All of the self serve areas have now been converted into manned areas. Anything you want must be ordered within the app.
With the exception of water.
As newspapers have now been done away with, I made my way off a little earlier than needed in order to get one. Although this proved to be easier said than done. I eventually found a branch open however.
As my flight would be departing from T5B, this meant taking the train over to the satellite. However, as I had missed one by a few seconds, I used the walkway instead.
London Heathrow – Madrid
Airbus A321neo G-NEOW
When it came to boarding, it was done from rear to front – meaning I was the last on board. The boarding process itself was more than a little confusing. There were three flights adjacent to each other, all boarding by row number and the announcements were all taking place at the same time. It was quite amusing to stand back and observe for once if I’m honest!
I was more than happy to wait for my row to be called, however it seemed that the staff gave up somewhat. So I joined the end of the queue when it became apparent that I was one of the last waiting.
Upon reaching the front door, everyone was handed a small package containing hand sanitiser and an antibacterial wipe.
Once the doors were closed, a rather lengthy speech was given, mostly detailing what we (should) all know by now. If you have a temperature, get off. Wash your hands. Wear a mask. And so on.
Pushback came a few minutes adrift of schedule. Due to the reduced air traffic, this wasn’t a huge deal though. We were straight out to the runway and lifted off around 15 minutes later.
After departure, the usual announcements were made. Followed by a number of others regarding health and safety. To the point where the CSM made an apology for continually bothering us with them!
The onboard service has changed massively since the airline ramped up operations again. If you’re in economy, you’re a winner. Gone is the buy on board, and in comes a snack pack. If you’re up front however, you lose out somewhat.
Gone is the full cooked breakfast. In comes a lunch box. This was handed out not too long after departure. There was either a vegetarian option, which consisted of a cheese croissant. Or a meat option that featured a ham and cheese croissant.
I have to say, it was very tasty and as I’d eaten in the lounge, something light was all that I needed.
Upon clearing up, the purser practically insisted that I had another champagne – although I had to decline. Forcibly! Always a sign of a good crew if you ask me.
A little later in the flight, I ordered some coffee. This arrived along with some biscuits. I’ve always found this a bit hit and miss on BA. Half the time you get biscuits, half you don’t. Again, I put it down to the crew.
The main difference between the A321neo and the A321ceo from a passenger perspective is the lack of centre tables in Club Europe. I’m led to believe this is caused by the under seat power taking up the space where the table would normally fold down into. Although as the older A320 series are being refitted, they are having power points installed too, yet retain the centre tables. So who knows.
Descent started a little earlier than anticipated. Around 40 minutes prior to arrival as opposed to the usual 30. Maybe we would arrive a little early? Not that it made that much difference to me. I had nearly 5 hours to connect, which was maybe a little too long to wait around in the airport… but not really long enough for a meaningful visit to Madrid.
Upon arrival it was announced that everyone should stay seated until their row was called to disembark. The Club Europe cabin was first to leave. As I was the first off, I was the first to arrive at passport control. I figured that this would be where they took the contact tracing QR code that I had filled in online. Nope.
It was pretty much business as usual as far as that was concerned. So where did they take this info? As I made my way through the terminal, it became clear that they wanted everyone to head downstairs into the baggage claim area… but I didn’t need to do this?
I tried to ask what I actually needed to do, but things were a little lost in translation. I played on the safe side and headed downstairs anyway. This meant an unneeded second trip through security, but as I had so long to connect and I was the only person there, this wasn’t a great hardship. They even let me keep hold of the two bottles of water I’d taken from the lounge at Heathrow.
Overall a very good British Airways Club Europe experience. The crew were great given their current circumstances.
I initially had some reservations about the onboard service – but as it happened, what was offered was very tasty. Combined with eating in the lounge beforehand, it was just the right amount I thought.
And the A321neo – well, as has been well documented, it’s much the same as the previous generation but the centre tables in club Europe are missed!