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Spanish Shilling

Some stories and experiences after a lifetime spent in Spain

Madrid's Barajas Airport
Thursday, December 7, 2023 @ 3:14 AM

My own experience of galloping through the Madrid airport with my wheelie-suitcase last week, with eighty minutes to disembark at the international end of the huge installation, go through immigration (as a non-EU foreigner), take the underground train-link, the security inspection and then the race through the garish duty-free corridor and onward for the local flight at the other - furthest - end just in time to join the back of the queue as they boarded the Almería flight, makes me anything other than a fan of that dreadful airport. 

It seems that I’m not the only one: From El Español here: ‘How the Aeropuerto Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas is no longer the best airport in Europe in just one year: it has dropped 30 places’. 

I remember the first time I landed in Barajas, back in the sixties. I had arrived on a flight from London on a BEA Comet. The airport was - of course - much smaller then, and certainly friendlier. They had a free cinema to while away the time before one's next flight. I shouldn't be surprised to learn that more than a few travelers, enveloped in the comforting arms of Disney, consequently missed their connection to Rio.

Those who didn't fancy the cinema could sit on a sofa rather than a functional metal bench, sturdily designed with arm rests to stop one from stretching out for a time-consuming zizz. Not many of us carry a book any more, and one can only stare at a mobile phone for a limited period. No wonder we untidily lie on the floor with our suitcase for a head-rest. 

They even had large paintings on the walls in those times to lull away our anxiety.

The bar was cheaper too - with prices only twice what they should have been. And you paid the waiter, not a machine. 

Security didn't exist, beyond the odd bored-looking cop. Now, and this happens in all airports, we must waddle through a metal detector while holding up our trousers: our diminutive suitcase pitifully opened by some creature with rubber gloves asking what's in this lead-lined box? It's me teef mister. 

As for flying with a proper suitcase which can hold more than a single change of clothes, well they charge extra these days don't they? 

But times change, and airports grow as they must cater to evermore clients. The Barajas airport now handles some 50,600,000 passengers every year besides me, and probably couldn't care less how happy or otherwise their customers may feel.  

So, here I am. The plane has stopped and the seat-belt light is off. Everyone has stood up, stretching after the cramped nine-hour flight and now they are now taking their cases down from the overhead lockers and standing around in that narrow walk-way looking impatient. 

Naturally, I'm at the way-back of the airplane - and there's just one hour and twenty minutes to go before my connecting flight.

Like 1


jhna said:
Sunday, December 10, 2023 @ 8:59 AM

I'm not sure that this is terribly fair; show me an airport that doesn't have a duty-free. Living in Madrid and being in the fortunate position of being able to travel regularly (we use the airport at least four or five times a year), I concede that knowing where to park, have coffee, the best toilets, and water fountains does give me an advantage. I wouldn't say that Barajas is any worse, and probably better than many airports that I've used before. For what it's worth, my favourite airport is ... Birmingham UK! There I've said it.

Astronautilus said:
Sunday, December 10, 2023 @ 2:24 PM

I have flown 14 times this year... in Spain, UK, Switzerland, Argentina and Brazil. I'm reconciled to lengthy queues for check-in, security, passport control, at the gate, even restaurants and bars. I'm used to hassled, discourteous staff, poor information about flights, expensive shops, and overpriced dining.

But I have to say, my experiences at Barajas in the last two weeks placed the airport up there with the best! Less crowding, plenty of check-in staff, affordable dining, etc.

OTOH, we've had some pretty awful experiences to measure against!

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