BACKGROUND Air Europa, Spain’s second largest airline after Iberia, entered the UK market as a scheduled full-service carrier in March this year. The twice daily flight from London Gatwick to Madrid Barajas International is the airline’s only UK service. It is normally served by a 122-seat Embraer 195 but load factors have improved in recent weeks making it necessary for Air Europa to use the larger 183-seat B737-800, as on this occasion.
CHECK-IN I arrived at London Gatwick’s South Terminal at 0825 to check-in with plenty of time for the UX1014 flight departing at 1025. I was met at desk E by Air Europa’s dedicated airport representative who is available to all Club Business passengers and tasked with making sure everything runs smoothly. The business class check-in queue was non-existent and with hand luggage only I quickly moved on to security.
BOARDING The main security queue at Gatwick South is always long but the Air Europa representative checked the lesser used upper level security and found it much shorter. By 0900 I was through security and in the Servisair airport lounge which is available to Air Europa’s business class passengers. The lounge has a free bar, small meeting room and wifi internet access. I left the lounge at 0940 and made my way to gate 33 which was about a five minute walk away. As we arrived at the gate after most other passengers had boarded, I was in my seat within five minutes of joining the queue.
THE SEAT On the B737-800 Air Europa’s business class seats are configured 3-3 in three row, with the middle seat not sold giving a maximum of 12 passengers. The armrests on the middle seat are angled inwards to support an extra table – this also has the effect of making my seat seem slightly roomier. The seats in business are roomy and the rows are spaced far enough apart for me to fit my legs under the seat in front.
WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE? I sat in seat 3A by the window on the left side of the aircraft. There was very little to differentiate the business class seats themselves, but the rows at the front had a better view of the video screens that showed music videos and adverts. Of course sitting in the first row would mean getting off the plane ahead of everyone else, plus it’s a slightly closer to the toilet.
THE FLIGHT The flight took off 20 minutes behind schedule but in that time newspapers were offered, albeit in Spanish only, plus a choice of water or orange juice. Immediately after takeoff freshening wipes and snacks were handed out, soon followed by orders for drinks. Half an hour into the flight a light lunch was served which consisted of a Spanish omelette with ham, asparagus and a cherry tomato. A modest selection of cheese went down well with two warm brown rolls, all finished off by a small piece of sponge cake. Air Europa-branded boiled sweets were handed out prior to our descent.
ARRIVAL The flight landed at Madrid Barajas at 1335 local time, slightly ahead of schedule despite the late departure. I was soon off the plane and it only took a few minutes to walk from the plane to Terminal 1’s passport control, where the queue was short thanks to the number of booths open. With no luggage to collect I was through to arrivals within 25 minutes of landing.
VERDICT The only fault with this flight was a slightly late departure. Note that the larger business class seats are only available on the B737-800 which is not always used on this route. However, the flight is excellent value when compared to other full-service airlines serving the route.
PRICE A mid-week return in October bought through Air Europa’s website starts from £250.70.