I just flew LATAM‘s Boeing 787 Dreamliner flight from Madrid to Frankfurt. At the time of writing this was available at the bargain price of €85 (£74) one way, which makes it a pretty viable and interesting way to tier point run.
It was actually only my 2nd time flying a Dreamliner, my first time being an overnight United Airlines flight for my previous job from Houston to London where I slept the whole way. So this time I wanted to get a proper feel.
I arrived at Madrid from an Iberia economy class flight from Porto. Given that I had woken up at 5am and I don't really function before 8am, I was incredibly dazed all the way through to arriving at Madrid.
I was having a bit of a blonde moment because I was expecting to fly from Terminal 4 given it is a Oneworld flight and intra-Schengen. My boarding pass which I had printed at home the day before had actually said Terminal 1 so I knew I needed to check the connections board when I got off the flight.
So imagine my confusion when I saw Terminal 4S, the satellite part of Terminal 4 which serves non-Schengen flights. But it quickly dawned on me that it was non-Schengen because the aircraft was arriving from Santiago de Chile, and hence passengers and cargo had not yet cleared Schengen customs.
And because some passengers would not be getting off at Madrid, the same plane arrives at the non-Schengen area of Frankfurt airport.
Madrid (MAD) – Frankfurt (FRA)
Scheduled Departure: 15:00 (Actual 15:15)
Scheduled Arrival: 17:40 (Actual 17:13)
Scheduled Duration: 2hr 40min (Actual 1hr 58min)
Seat: 4A, Business class
I could see my plane from the Iberia Velázquez Business Class Lounge at Terminal 4S, so I left at around 14:10 for the short walk to gate S27. It took about 2 mins with boarding starting only a few minutes later at 14:15.
Business class and elite status customers were boarding from Gate S27 while economy and non-elite were boarding from Gate S28, even though there was no need because only one jet-bridge was connected to the plane.
On board though I finally got to step on board. Entry to the aircraft was behind row 5, so business class passengers turned left.
The cabin was nice and bright, aided by the strong direct sunlight coming from the south.
I had seat 4A to myself, thought the cabin was 2/3 full. I was swiftly offered some sparkling white wine (not champagne) and a small portion nuts.
The air vents directly overhead did leave much to be desired, though that's being incredibly nit-picky. Germaphobes beware!
All seats came with blankets, even those which were not occupied, presumably to save a bit of time when turning the plane around at Frankfurt.
All seats have individual LED lights with flexible snake arms so that you can direct them in any direction you want.
Under the arm rest of each side, in a small cove beside your hip is a multi-shape power socket rated at 110V @ 60Hz and a USB socket. I did not have any way to test the current of the USB socket but it was really slow to charge my iPhone, if I had to guess, I'd say… 250milliAmps? Maybe an avionics technician or engineer can confirm for me.
In the same area each seat had headphones. The remote control for the in-flight entertainment is also located here.
As you may have worked out by now, this is a lie-flat seat. In its fully reclined position the back support was slightly less than 180 degrees, as confirmed by the spirit level in my iPhone. It was absolutely fine though because the plane's slightly upward flying angle meant your back and head were actually horizontal in-flight.
This particular seat's upholstery had worn through at the lower leg support though, as you can just about make out from the photo below.
Each seat's position control also featured a ‘rolling massage' feature which is denoted by the two blue wavy lines above the M+ button.
In-flight service and meal
One thing that caught my attention during my flight was that all announcements were in Spanish, and the literature including the safety card was bi-lingual Spanish and Portuguese. I don't remember any part of the flight announcements being in English or German which could be an issue if someone needed to sit at an emergency exit and had to have the mandatory briefing and confirmation.
Being a short flight the preparations for meal service started the moment the seat belt sign was turned off.
There was a funny situation as the first pass for drinks came through. As ethnically I do not fit into the ‘standard' Chilean, Spanish or German appearances there was some visible indecision in which language to use for me. Up until now I was quite clearly responsive in both Spanish and English, which caused an interesting situation where the two ladies serving drinks were speaking to me in different languages at the same time without realising between them.
There wasn't a choice of main dish for passengers, and I had not selected a special meal in advance, so the photo below was what was given by default. An air stewardess also came round to offer bread from a basket.
The main course was a chilled dish consisting of 4 cajun-seasoned grilled prawns with their shells off. There was also a small salad with blanched almond flasks and a couple of slices of brie.
The flavour of the cajun (or whatever it was!) was quite superficial and did not penetrate as deep into the prawns as I would have hoped. The colour of the dipping mayonnaise gave me the impression that was flavoured in some way, although the flavour of the prawn masked the mayonnaise's flavour so I could not really tell what it was meant to be.
But it was still pretty nice.
A small bottle of extra virgin olive oil mixed with balsamic vinegar and a small knob of butter which was the correct temperature for spreading. A nice touch because most other airlines serve butter so cold that it is like a brick! There was a small piece of Lindt chocolate too.
I poured the whole bottle of salad dressing in although I regretted it towards the end as it was a bit too much. My prawns were almost swimming away!
A few pieces of fruit on offer too.
Another air stewardess came round to offer drinks, so I asked her to recommend me a wine which was this 2017 Chilean Sauvignon Blanc. It was a little on the medium to light-bodied side and moderately dry. Perhaps a little more body would have been perfect to complement the prawns.
The rest of the flight
After my meal I spent another 10 minutes staring out of the window and then enjoying playing with the electric blinds to prepare to nap for the rest of the way.
I put the seat into full recline sleep. I must have been very tired because the next thing I knew I was gently woken up by the air stewardess saying that we were descending into Frankfurt and preparing to land. Later did I find out that our flight time was about 40 minutes shorter than schedule (we took off late but arrived early) so I would love to have napped a bit longer.
Descending into Frankfurt
Even though it's a short flight I got to sample a rare wide-bodied business class route within Europe at knock down prices. In a previous post I was questioning the value of business class on these short flights but in this case I think it was fully justified given the lie-flat seating. The staff were friendly and attentive all the way through the flight, offering drinks every now and then.
If I had to choose again I would probably have gone for a red wine instead of the sauvignon blanc, or perhaps a spirit and mixer combination, though I did not really have any way of knowing how the wine would be, unless I had trained myself in oenology. If this were my only flight of the day I would have wanted a bit more food too.
But for an interesting day out and a cheap tier point run in style, this can be a really good way to go.