My Thoughts on Domestic Air Travel in Spain

by on March 13, 2011 · 13 comments

in Travel Industry, Travel Technology, Trip Reports, TSA

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

I’ve been in Spain for the past couple days and while this  isn’t my first time,  I have to say I’m pretty impressed with their style of travel. The facilities at  at Madrid’s new Terminal 4 and at Barcelona, were stunning. Spacious and well-designed with lots of nice shops and restaurants. In both airports, there were  well-dressed airport representatives directing people and answering any questions. It was a stark contrast to most over-crowded and dumpy US airports.

Some other things I really liked:
1) Flying Spanair, the kiosks actually printed your luggage tag, so you could do it yourself – pretty nifty.
2) The airlines seem to be further ahead than their US counterparts on technology. Lots of people use mobile boarding passes, which can also be a bad thing, which I’ll point out below.
3) Boarding is regimented and the gate agents actually enforce priority boarding. I saw someone try to board with a coworker who had elite status and he was promptly denied entrance. When he tried to cut in the front of the line, the agent sternly told him to go to the back of the line.
4) Carry-on luggage was STRICTLY enforced. See below, because I actually dislike how over the top strict it was. But, in general, I do like how they handle oversize carry-ons before people board, which made the boarding process on the plane much more enjoyable and there were no gate-checked bags due to lack of overhead storage.
5) Security was a breeze and you don’t have to take your shoes off (I know this is the case in almost every country besides the US, but it’s still a fun novelty)
6) Our friends picked us up at Madrid airport and they were allowed to wait curbside at the departures level without harrassment from security officials. It was nice to get off a long flight and have your friends there, since my Verizon iPhone did not work in Spain, which I knew about, but was hoping otherwise.
7) I was quite flattered by my boarding pass. Apparently I’m a big deal in Spain…

The things I didn’t like:
1) Mobile boarding passes are not efficient. I saw numerous gate agents and security officials struggling to get them to scan. While it only added 10 seconds to the process, multiply that by a lot of people and you have a pretty serious impact on your departure time.
2) My partner’s Tumi rollerboard, which has never been denied in the US, was checked (for free) at the gate and tagged to baggage claim, which added on a solid 30 minutes since his bag was one of the last to come out. My bag, which is a Tumi T-Tech 19″ (I think) which has never been an issue anywhere in the world, barely fit in the cardboard cutout. While I think its smart to police carry-ons at the gate, this added time to boarding, because my bag wasn’t checked until my boarding pass was swiped.
3) I’m not sure if these were isolated incidents, but people clapped upon landing each flight (and once on takeoff). Not the biggest deal in the world, but I found it to be kind of weird. I know this happens in the US sometimes (especially on flights to Orlando), but I found it peculiar that it happened on two intra-Spain 40 minute flights that were mostly business travelers.
4) No free beverage service. Granted it was only a 40 minute flight, but bottled water was Euro 2.50!
5) They board in two zones – first the rear of the aircraft and then the front. A la Southwest, people lined up 45 minutes prior to boarding, which perplexed me since there was assigned seating and overhead space was carefully controlled. It was gate lice central!

Overall, technology and following the rules were the theme of the trip, but I have to say both flights were delayed 20 minutes due to extended boarding, so I’m not sure if they have it down 100%. If there’s anything that I’m envious of, it’s their facilities. I’ll post more photos once I’m back stateside tomorrow.

To come: My review of AA 757 Business Class, Review of Le Meridien Barcelona Junior Suite, Review of Westin Palace Madrid Junior Suite with Balcony and my thoughts on Madrid in general. I absolutely love this city – everything from the people, food, and overall culture. I’m going to miss my daily siestas!

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Previous post:

Next post:

  • Miles

    Just a few days ago AA installed a self-serve luggage-tag printer at the Austin airport. Reportedly, it’s their first test of the technology.

    Applause upon landing is something I’ve experienced numerous times in Europe.

    IMHO, if two people (typically, wife and husband) are flying together and one has priority boarding and the other doesn’t, they should be permitted to board together with the higher priority group.

  • rich (arizona)

    The clapping thing seems to be fairly prevalent in Europe. I haven’t flown much (Europe wise) in the last 12 yrs but previously that scenario was common. I agree it is weird. It seems as if people are surprised that you actually landed safely. It is like applauding a doctor for performing a routine procedure as oppose to doing something rare.

  • Lori

    I have been living in Europe for almost 3 years and I have to say I have experienced clapping on some flights, however mainly in Italy and not in Spain. Also after a very turbulent or bad flight it´s happenend. Guess its a Europe thing!

  • Jon

    I’ll be taking the Spanair flight MAD-BCN in May. Thanks for all the tips!

  • narikin

    I think you have the luggage thing the wrong way around. It is correct that Euro airlines enforce internationally agreed policies properly, and bad that US ones don’t. I see people in the US coming on with stuff that is completely against the rules, selfish and unacceptable from a security standpoint, huge roller bags with attached garment bags etc.. but no airline says anything as they dont wish to offend or lose custom. weird and dangerous.

  • The Points Guy

    @Narikin- I didn’t say I disliked how they enforced luggage- I just thought that it was poorly implemented and slowed boarding down. I 100% agree that some sort of policy should be enforced in the US, because it is crazy to see how much crap people are allowed to drag on planes.

  • Raoul

    I live in Madrid and usually fly twice a week from MAD. Just a few comments on the parts you disliked.

    About the things you like:

    4. Hand-luggage policy enforcements depends a lot on the airlines, the low-cost one are (sometimes extremely) strict whereas full-price ones are not usually very strict.

    And about the things you disliked:

    1. I use the mobile boarding pass a lot in MAD (for IB and LH) and usually works very well, maybe they had some problems on that day.

    3. Clapping on landing is very unusual in Europe unless you fly one the low-fares airlines (Easyjet, Ryanair, Vueling, etc) which carry a lot of people that do not usually fly a lot. Actually if you flew MAD-BCN, the flights nowadays are used mainly by the price-conscious travellers. Most business travellers seems to prefer the high-speed (and expensive) train service.

    5. The queuing even though you have an assigned seat seems to a particular Spanish habit … doesn’t happen the same way in the rest of Europe.

  • InfoMofo

    They also do the clapping thing in Central and South America. It seems really morbid actually.

    I think the one time I experienced that in the US, it was on a Southwest flight landing in Las Vegas- so the applause could have been for a host of reasons.

  • JohnnieD

    Can I assume this flight had to do with the deal? 70 euro discount on package?? If so, I booked the same trip in late April with my wife–Spannair charged my credit card for the air (92e) but I still have not had any discount from expedia (like I did with the 300 .ca deal and the $300 Gr Bahama deal)) on my cc statement. Should I compalin and to whom???

  • Pingback: Review: American Airlines Transatlantic 757 Business Class JFK-MAD | The Points Guy()

  • Guido

    The clapping this seems weird now but back in the 70′s and 80′s I remember every flight I ever took ended in clapping. It’s like an ovation at a play. The pilot did a good job, give him a round of applause. I think its a shame that its not more prevelent.

  • Adam

    I was in Barcelona and Madrid airports and completely agree with you about the design of the airports. They were both spacious and had a modern feel to them.

    One bit about the boarding thing, I did also notice that people lined up exceptionally early to board even though the seats were pre-assigned. However, I was traveling with my dad (who has AA Gold status and I don’t) and I was able to have the same in-airport perks that he did. Though come to think of it, I tried to board in front of him and I was told that I had to wait in line until the agent saw my dad’s boarding pass and allowed me to go through with him. That was in the Madrid airport, boarding the AA flight to DFW.

  • Pingback: Star Alliance Carrier Spanair Ceases Operations | The Points Guy()

Print This Page