After arriving in Madrid and clearing the first round of passport control, I made my way to T4-HJK. For those unfamiliar with Madrid-Barajas, T4 is divided into two concourses, a main terminal and a satellite terminal. The airport uses a series of letter codes which can be confusing at first, but once you figure them out, it’s no big deal.
My American flight landed in T4-MRSU, which is the satellite building. The RSU gates are the Non-Schengen space, so a transfer to T4-HJK is required if the connecting flight is intra-Spain or follows the Schengen agreement. Even though the airport can be slightly confusing at first glance, there is a ton of signage, which is more than adequate. As long as you know your gate, you can follow the signs and have no problem. There are even lines on the floor that literally lead you from escalators to trains to gates, et cetera.
The only problem is the airport’s size. It’s not really a problem, but a consideration. From the time I stepped off AA94, it took me about 35 minutes to get airside at T4-HJK .. this included initial passport control, a 5 minute underground train ride (like the AirTrain at IAD) and going through security again. Finally, I arrived in T4-HJK.
After security, you are dumped into the common area of T4-HJK, which is basically duty free. There are many duty free shops and several restaurants and cafes. It’s a nice area, and at barely 7:00 am, you can imagine that it was basically empty aside from a handful of business travelers and others who had arrived on overnight long-hauls.
This is where I kind of have problems. Many European airports aren’t like the US, where you can head to your gate six hours ahead of time if you want and just camp out until boarding. In MAD, gates don’t get posted until 90 minutes or so before departure, which left me with a lot of time to kill. But oh well. I ended up sitting down at a cafe and had my first Spanish pastry.
At around 8:15 am, my gate was posted and I headed over to the H concourse of the terminal.
The architecture at MAD is absolutely stunning. It is a beautiful airport, and I highly recommend it for transit.
Third Leg // Madrid-Barajas(MAD) – Alicante (ALC) on VY9829 / IB 5329 A320 EC-KJD
Today I was flying Vueling (pronounced like swelling), which operates flights for Iberia, which is a Oneworld partner along with American. After just two flights, they are one of my favorite airlines. Think Virgin America – colorful, young, hip – but there was a certain degree of elegance that came along with it. Even though they are an extreme LCC and employee Ryanair-like duty free and F&B sales onboard, Vueling F/As are much less obnoxious than Ryanair ever was.
About 30 minutes before departure, organized boarding began by row numbers. I was seated in an emergency exit row, which left me with a lot of legroom.
Onboard, I was greeted with a “Buenos dias,” and proceeded to find my seat. The safety demo was done manually (completely in Spanish), but for that I have my six years of Spanish to thank.
I didn’t take many pictures, because I basically fell asleep as soon as we took off. Takeoff was powerful, and we leveled off at about 20,000 feet for the 221-mile hop to the Mediterranean coast.
There was a BOB-type food and beverage service offered, but for an hour flight I declined paying EUR5 for anything. After an uneventful flight, we landed early at Alicante. I made my way landside, and was on my way into Alicante.