After spending about an hour in the fantastic Iberia Sala VIP Velazquez Lounge, I decided to head for the gate and spend some time wandering one of my favorite airports. Although Madrid (MAD) airport is massive and can take forever to traverse, I personally think it is one of the better airports in the world. Unfortunately, after my flight to London (LHR), I certainly could not say that British Airways is one of the better airlines in the world.
As I mentioned before, I opted to redeem American Airlines miles for my return trip, mainly because I have a lot of them and because I was able to find a routing through London with low taxes and fees that allowed me to review the flagship American Airlines 777-300ER. For this redemption, I redeemed 57,500 AAdvantage miles for a business class ticket. The taxes and fees were somewhat reasonable at ~$176 and were high due to multiple European connections (so I could review more products) and flying through London. Overall, I was pretty happy with the redemption value on this ticket.
Introduction – Europe On A Whim
Review – United 737-800 BusinessFirst – RSW-IAH
Review – KLM Crown Lounge – IAH
Review – United 767-300 BusinessFirst – IAH-EWR
Review – Lufthansa Senator Lounge – EWR
Review – Austrian Airlines 767-300 Business Class – EWR-VIE
Review – Sky Lounge (Non-Schengen) – VIE
Review – Sky Lounge (Schengen) – VIE
Review – Austrian Airlines Lounge – VIE
Review – Austrian Airlines A320 Business Class – VIE-DUS
Review – Holiday Inn Express Dusseldorf
Review – Element Amsterdam
Review – KLM Royal Crown Lounge – AMS
Review – Air France A318 Premier Class – AMS-CDG
Review – Air France Salon Lounge – CDG
Review – Air France A320 Premier Class – CDG-LIS
Review – Intercontinental Lisbon
Review – ANA Lounge – LIS
Review – Iberia A320 Business Class – LIS-MAD
Review – Iberia Sala VIP Velazquez Lounge – MAD
Review – British Airways 767-300 Business Class – MAD-LHR
Review – British Airways Galleries Lounge – Terminal 3 LHR
Review – No. 1 Lounge – Terminal 3 LHR
Review – Swissport Lounge – Terminal 3 LHR
Review – American Airlines Admirals Club – Terminal 3 LHR
Review – American Airlines 777-300ER (77W) Business Class – LHR-DFW
I was actually fairly excited about this flight as it has been years since I had flown on a British Airways flight. While British Airways used to be one of the crown jewel airlines of the sky, they have worked hard over the past 15 years or so to completely destroy that reputation. They are now largely considered a mediocre airline at best, and that is before you factor in their unusually high taxes, fees and surcharges for award tickets. While I had low expectations going in, I still like reviewing new products and revisiting airlines I have not flown in a while to see if anything has changed. Unfortunately, nothing had changed since my last British Airways flight and I was reminded of why I always steer clear of the airline.
British Airways 457
Madrid (MAD) to London-Heathrow (LHR)
Depart: 10:50 AM
Arrive: 12:15 PM
Duration: 2 hours, 25 minutes
Aircraft: Boeing 767-300
As I mentioned earlier, Madrid (MAD) airport is one of my personal favorite airports. I love the design and the architecture and, for me, the massive size of the airport never makes it feel super crowded.
But the massive size also has its drawbacks as traversing this airport can take you a long time. It took me about 10 minutes to get from the Iberia Lounge to my departure gate, though I was taking my time so I could take in the scenery. By the time I arrived at the gate, people were already lining up and crowding the entrance.
I took the opportunity to swing over and grab a quick picture of the 767-300 that would be taking me to London as it is a bit unusual to find a widebody aircraft on an intra-European route.
While there was already a long queue for economy class, there was no one in the Fast Track line, which is what British Airways uses for OneWorld elite and business class passengers. Even though I was on a business class ticket, my OneWorld Sapphire status would have allowed me to board through the Fast Track line even if I was on an economy class ticket.
While boarding was scheduled for 10:20 AM, they actually started boarding around 10:10 AM. Waiting at the gate in a wheelchair was a sweet as could be disabled woman. While airlines will normally allow those requiring additional assistance extra time to board, in this case they scanned her boarding pass and then immediately called for business class passengers. That resulted in a jam up of people on the jet bridge and in the cabin. Waiting on the jet bridge though was a selection of newspapers and magazines for the flight, which I always appreciate.
We boarded through door 2L and I turned left to make my way into the business class cabin. While this was a dual aisle widebody aircraft, British Airways still uses their usual economy class style seats in the business class cabin. Since the cabin is in a 2-3-2 configuration, that meant that those seated on the window rows were crammed in just like those in economy with no middle seat to block off.
British Airways’ business class (or Club World as they call it) features an abysmal 30 inches of seat pitch and 17 inches of seat width, which is tight for even the average sized traveler.
Since I am 6’5″, I assigned myself seat 2F, which was a middle row seat that offered a blocked middle seat. Needless to say, the seat was TIGHT for me and I spent most of the flight trying to re-position myself to get comfortable. This especially became true when the lady in front of me reclined her seat about 5 minutes after takeoff.
Another thing I found annoying was that despite this being a widebody aircraft, the overhead bins were surprisingly small. So much so that I had difficulty storing my 22″ roller bag in the bins on either side of the aircraft.
As I had selected a seat in the middle row, there was a blocked off center section which was smaller than your typical economy seat.
Business class seats also featured small drink tables, though there were no pre-departure beverages offered on this flight.
Overall, if you are able to secure a bulkhead seat on this aircraft, I would definitely recommend it. Also keep in mind that the seats recline at a strange angle so if you have broad shoulders like I do, you will find that the blocked middle seat will push one shoulder out making it extremely uncomfortable for sleeping.
As seems to be common these days, there were no individual air nozzles and the cabin itself was pretty warm during boarding. Although no one needed a blanket or pillow as the cabin was warm, I did not see any on offer, nor did I ever see any of the flight attendants pass either out during the flight.
We had an on time departure and after a quick taxi, we were airborne. About 20 minutes after takeoff, service for the flight began with drinks and the meal served from a cart. Despite being in the second row, I did not end up getting my drink or meal until about 45 minutes after takeoff. Why you ask? Well because the lady seated in front of me asked what cheeses were on her plate and the flight attendant working my aisle then spent ~20 minutes running around trying to find out what they were. And in case you were wondering, none of the flight attendants knew what cheeses were on the plate.
When the cart eventually reached me, I was presented a tray with a selection of sliced meats, cheeses and sliced fruit. I was also offered bread from the bread basket, though when I selected my piece it was darn near frozen still. When I asked for a different piece, I was informed that the oven was not working and that they were all like that. You think they would have at least let you know before selecting it?
I was not super hungry, but wanted to get some pictures. What I quickly realized was with the seat in front of me reclined and my tray table down, I could not sit with my feet flat on the floor. That made an already uncomfortable and cramped seat even more uncomfortable and cramped.
On the whole, the meal was forgettable at best, though at least the fruit was not completely dried out. It took another 5 minutes before the flight attendant came back to take my drink order. When I inquired if they had amaretto, the flight attendant said she didn’t know and would find out. Not wanting to wait another 20 minutes while she ran through the cabin asking everyone, I just ordered a screwdriver instead. British Airways offers 100 proof Smirnoff vodka on their flights, which I am guessing is so you will get drunk enough to completely forget the dismal service and horrid seating.
As the cabin was only half full, service was completed fairly quickly after they passed my row. Instead of walking around and clearing trays, the flight attendants spent the next 20 minutes in the galley gabbing. After 20 minutes of no flight attendants coming around to clear trays or offer drink refills, I got up and delivered my own try to the galley so I get somewhat comfortable. After doing so, I heard one of the flight attendants say:
Twas a bit rude, no?
But she was right. Me doing her job for her was quite rude of me. What was I thinking?! Now look, I understand that the flight attendants are first and foremost there for my safety. But for 3 flight attendants to completely ignore the cabin for nearly a half hour on a short haul flight is just downright unacceptable. When your flight attendants make domestic US carriers look like top shelf offerings, you know you are doing something wrong.
After busing my own tray, I used the lavatory and upon returning to my seat, a different flight attendant was standing in the aisle chatting with a passenger. She looked up at me, acknowledged me standing in the aisle trying to get by, and then went back to talking to the passenger. I waited for a minute thinking maybe this was the tail end of a conversation, but when it became clear that it was not, I kindly said “excuse me” to the flight attendant to try and pass by. That resulted in getting the 1 minute hand sign from her. At that point, I was ready to go postal on someone as there is a base line level of common courtesy that I expect from flight attendants.
Not surprisingly, drink refills were offered to passengers around me, but never to me. I had to specifically flag down a flight attendant for a drink refill. I always go out of my way to be nice to flight attendants, say please, thank you, etc., so I don’t think this was a case of me being a jerk to the flight attendants (and I will admit when I am one). I think this was a case of British Airways truly being an awful airline.
Thankfully at that point we had started our descent into London, though it was a somewhat bumpy ride in. We landed early and after about 10 minutes of taxiing, arrived at our gate. As deplaning was being done through door 2L again, I figured the flight attendants would block the economy aisles and allow the business class passengers to deplane first as most airlines do. However, unsurprisingly at that point, that was not the case which resulted in passengers from economy pushing their way past the business class passengers that were trying to join the queue. I think this was one of the rare moments when I was extremely grateful to have gotten off of a plane!
Keep sucking British Airways – it is what you do best. Overall, I was pretty disappointed with both the hard and soft product on this British Airways flight. The seat pitch is downright atrocious, especially for a wide body aircraft like the 767 and the service was among the worst I have had anywhere in the world (and definitely the worst I had on this particular trip). Add to that the fact that the meal was mediocre at best and it becomes pretty clear why I avoid British Airways at all costs.
What are your thoughts on the British Airways 767 Business Class product?
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