How does BA’s service to Madrid measure up, almost five years on from its £5bn merger with Spanish carrier Iberia? Director put it to the LHR to MAD flight to the test
It isn’t the declining bottom line or a loss of national pride, but the name British Airways no longer appears on FTSE indices. Instead, you’ll find the more prosaic IAG (International Airlines Group), thanks, of course, to BA’s £5bn merger with Spanish flagship Iberia in January 2011, turning it into the sixth-largest airline company in the world – some 408 aircraft, carrying 57 million passengers.
After an initially bumpy ride – IAG’s strike-hit Spanish unit incurred a near-€1bn (£705m) loss in 2012 – the company engineered Iberia’s turnaround, posting profits of £850m last August.
Prior to 2011, BA only flew to three Latin American destinations, but the merger has opened up countries such as Guatemala, Ecuador and Uruguay – not to mention African destinations Angola and Equatorial Guinea – for the first time.
“The flight connections to Latin America from Spain are excellent,” says Rentokil Initial España’s Roberto Sánchez, who regularly travels to the region for business. “You arrive in places like São Paulo or Santiago on overnight flights, meaning you can start work straight away.”
But how did Director fare on BA’s two-hour hop to Madrid?
The baggage tag may say ‘MAD’ but there’s nothing frenzied about Terminal 5 check-in, save for a wildly remonstrating passenger who’s outraged that he can’t take his two bottles of whisky onto the flight. The time taken from luggage check-in to post-security refastening of our belt took a mere three minutes. 10/10
The busy Friday afternoon flight was delayed by 20 minutes thanks to a late-arriving aeroplane which needed “catering and a clean”. BA allowed priority passengers to board, but the scheduled 15.40 flight didn’t take off until 16.29. 6/10
Upon sinking into the Euro Traveller seats, Director at first couldn’t find High Life magazine, before realising the seat backs on BA’s A320 have two pockets, including an iPad and magazine-friendly top pouch. Communal drop-down screens charted the route’s minutiae, right down to Bay of Biscay shipwrecks. 9/10
Displaying a liveliness befitting our destination, flight attendants cheerfully delivered ham and piccalilli rolls or carrot and aubergine chickpea raita salads. Some passengers also set up a makeshift ‘Bloody Mary Bar’ in the galley. 10/10
We almost made up for the Heathrow delay, landing just 17 minutes late. Despite the delights of Richard Rogers’ squiggly architecture, Barajas airport’s Terminal 4 is a nightmare to negotiate, being one of the world’s largest terminals. Endless escalators and glass bridges stand between passenger and baggage carousel. 7/10
LHR to MAD Verdict
Despite the complications of a Friday afternoon Heathrow take-off, BA managed to provide a smooth and (dare we say it) fun flight. 42/50
British Airways flight BA 462, Heathrow to Madrid
There are 17 daily flights on British Airways from London’s Heathrow and City airports. Iberia Express flies from Gatwick and Manchester with flights from Birmingham starting in March 2016. Prices start at £39 one-way.