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Most domestic and intra-European flying is done on smaller aircraft such as the Boeing 737 or the Airbus A319/320 series. These planes are single-aisle and usually seat around 120 passengers. However, there are a few examples of routes in Europe which are operated by larger ‘wide-bodied’ jets with two aisles, capable of carrying more people and more freight.
This summer, I had a few days away with my Mum where we tried three intra-European wide-bodied jets in a row.
Jet 1 – London Heathrow-Madrid
The plane was an Iberia A340-300 – more often found flying long haul than intra-Europe.
I understand that it is used daily on this rotation because it can carry more freight on this key link. Either way, it mean that we have a very comfortable flight. The cabin was a little shabby, definitely showing signs of wear and tear, but the main feeling was how spacious it was.
There was at least a meter from my knees to the seat in front, which made a change from the previous flight in Club Europe on British Airways from Dublin.
I was a bit disappointed with how long it took for the crew to start the service – it must have been an hour into the, already 90 minute delayed, flight. When it did come, it was fast and efficient. I would have liked to have had a drinks run first, and then the meal, but these are small things. I opted for the pasta, a kind of macaroni cheese, which came with the same salad, manchego and toffee pudding that was on my last Iberia Business flight. It was tasty enough, and I wasn’t complaining.
Sooner that we realised, the descent had started. At this point I had my case on the floor in front of and my laptop out to charge my phone – I thought that I would be told to put them away, but I only put it away as we were taxiing into stand.
Jet 2 – Madrid-Frankfurt / Frankfurt-Madrid
This is a slightly odd route in that it forms part of a longer journey. The flight starts in Santiago, Chile, and stops in Madrid before continuing on to Frankfurt. The aircraft used is a new Boeing 787-900 Dreamliner, so this is a great opportunity for people to fly on one which is normally reserved for long haul routes.
We started with great views of the plane right outside the lounge.
Boarding was efficient and we settled into our seats. The configuration is 2-2-2 all side by side, similar to Emirates and the Iberia A340. This plane was much newer and in a different league in terms of hard product.
Pre take off drinks were offered, with mood lighting at take-off. I fiddled with all the seat gadgetry, and have come to the conclusion that it is a very comfortable lie flat bed.
An afternoon snack was served of foie gras salad, and apple pie. Not so keen on the foie gras, but the pie was very acceptable, along with a crisp Chilean Sauvignon Blanc. The blueness of the photo above is from the window shades and the mood lighting – I dont remember feeling that it was that blue!
Jet 3 – Madrid-London Heathrow
The Boeing 767 was the final of our wide-bodied triptych and, to be honest, the poor relation. On board it has a 2-2-2 layout of the older-style seats which are not lie-flat.
The middle pair has the mini seat in the middle, giving more elbow storage room, but the outer seats (A/B J/K) are pairs such that you don’t get the extra space from the ’empty middle seat’ afforded to a normal Club Europe seat. There is definitely a much more cramped feeling on this aircraft that the last three we had flown.
Like the Iberia A340, the BA767 is operated to provide added cargo capacity between Madrid and London. On our flight, this delayed the departure due to the late-loading of some pallets. We therefore missed our slot and at one point the app was showing a delay of over 2 hours. Thankfully, as the Captain was explaining the situation, this was reduced to an hour.
Service on board was good. During the delay, we were offered water or juice. Once airborne, the usual snack was offered. I had pre-ordered the vegetarian option but the guy in the seat in front had already claimed it. I am not sure if he had ordered it or if I was just unlucky. The Cabin Service Director was very apologetic and came back later in the flight with the iPad to make a note to ensure that it didn’t happen again. I just picked out the meat and ate the cheese and bread which was fine.
The bottom line
Of all the flights, my favourite was definitely the Dreamliner. There was so much space, the seat was comfortable and the experience was much more like long haul; pre-departure drink and nuts, in-flight entertainment and a lie-flat seat. The aircraft was clean and I definitely felt fresher stepping off than compared to the 767 or the A340, thanks to the lower cabin pressure.
There are other examples of the long-haul planes on short-haul routes, like the Finnair A350 from Heathrow to Helsinki that I would like to try as they certainly beat the run of the mill short-haul planes! Even if you are not that interested in planes, it is good to have a bit of knowledge about these quirks in the schedule; it doesn’t cost any more to get on one of these wide-bodied jets but the service and comfort in Business is significant!