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Introduction: The Long Way To Spain
Review: Avianca 787 Business Class Los Angeles To Bogota
Review: Avianca Diamond Lounge Bogota Airport
Review: Avianca 787 Business Class Bogota To Madrid
Review: Marriott Madrid Airport Auditorium Hotel
Review: Sala VIP Cibeles Terminal 1 Madrid Airport
Review: Aeromexico 787 Business Class Madrid To Mexico City
Review: Aeromexico Lounge Mexico City Airport
Review: Amex Centurion Lounge Mexico City Airport
Review: Aeromexico 787 Business Class Mexico City To Los Angeles
I took the shuttle from the Marriott to the airport at around 7PM, well ahead of my 11:25PM flight to Mexico City. My Aeromexico flight was departing from Terminal 1, which is the first time I’ve used anything but Terminal 4 when departing the airport. I have a love-hate relationship with Terminal 4. It’s gorgeous, but so impractically designed, so you’ll do more walking in that terminal than just about anywhere else.
By comparison I was shocked to find that Terminal 1 was a dump. It looked like your average budget European airport terminal badly in need of a refresh.
I glanced at the check-in monitor to see where Aeromexico check-in was located. As it turns out it wasn’t open yet, and Korean Air was still using the counter which Aeromexico would later use.
Fortunately I had a mobile boarding pass, so I headed straight to security. Madrid Airport does a great job with fast track security, as they have a dedicated channel. It’s not just a partitioned off area of the main checkpoint, but a separate one altogether. There were no other passengers there, so I was through security within about a minute.
The terminal was no less depressing past security. I followed the signage towards the B Concourse, where my departure gate was located.
I went through passport control there, and then followed the signage towards the contract lounge used by all the airlines in the terminal.
That lounge is Sala VIP Cibeles, which is located behind passport control, near gates B26-B29. I took the stairs up a level.
Given how drab the terminal was, I had really low expectations of the lounge. That’s especially true since it was a contract lounge, which typically aren’t known for their quality.
Well, I was extremely pleasantly surprised by this lounge.
At the entrance I presented my mobile boarding pass, which seemed to throw off the agent, who I don’t think had seen one of those in a while. Within a moment I was admitted, however.
I should note that this is also a Priority Pass lounge. As a reminder, the following US credit cards offer Priority Pass memberships, and are a better value than paying for a membership outright, in my opinion:
|Card||# Of Guests Who Get Free Access||Authorized User Access||Cost To Add Authorized User|
|The Platinum Card® from American Express||2||Yes||$175 For Up To 3 People, $175 For Each Additional Person Beyond That|
|The Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN||2||Yes||$300 Per Person|
|Citi Prestige® Card||2 Guests Or Immediate Family Members||Yes||$50 Per Person|
|The Ritz-Carlton Rewards® Credit Card||Unlimited Guests||Yes||$0|
|Chase Sapphire Reserve℠ Card||Unlimited Guests||Yes||$75 Per Person|
To say that the design of the lounge doesn’t match the rest of the terminal would be the understatement of the year. This lounge was bright, airy, and spacious.
The lounge consisted of one large room with lots of partitioned off zones, to add a bit more privacy.
Along the center walkway of the lounge were high-top tables with seats.
Along the windows was a more traditional lounging area, with outlets at just about every seat.
Then in the far right corner of the lounge were dining tables, along with more high-top seating.
Next to that was a business center with lots of office chairs.
Then in the far corner were comfortable lounge chairs with great tarmac views.
I could spot the Aeromexico 787 which would be taking me to Mexico City, given that it had already arrived a couple of hours prior.
Then in a far corner of the lounge was a TV room.
There was also a relaxation room.
The lounge had a terrace as well, a concept which I love and wish we’d see at more lounges. It seemed to be used almost exclusively by smokers, though I sat out there for a while as well.
Back near the entrance was a rack with a variety of newspapers and magazines.
The lounge had two main buffet areas. There was one along the center walkway of the lounge.
For a contract lounge the selection was quite good.
They had yogurt, all kinds of sandwiches, soft drinks, etc. I’d note that the sandwiches actually looked quite appetizing, though I try to avoid eating pork (not for religious/health reasons, but just because I think pigs are cute). Just about everything in this lounge (and perhaps in Spain in general) has pork, unfortunately.
The lounge also had several types of pastries and croissants, a couple of pasta dishes, and a couple of types of salad.
There were also potato chips and nut mix.
There was a decent self serve liquor selection, including gin (I’d expect no less, given Madrid’s awesome gin & tonic culture).
As mentioned above, there was a second buffet area, which was located near the dining tables.
This area had the self serve wine selection.
It also had a proper Nespresso machine, which I loved, given how crappy lounge coffee can otherwise be.
This buffet had more pastries, as well as packaged cookies and other snacks.
This buffet also had more of the same yogurt and sandwiches.
I worked for a couple of hours, and eventually decided to take a shower. The lounge has spacious shower rooms, which are sometimes rare in contract lounges.
After getting caught up on quite a bit of work I headed down to the departure gate at around 10:10PM, more than an hour before departure (I wanted to walk around for a bit anyway, since I had been sitting for so long).
I eventually arrived at gate B25, which was still fairly empty. As I arrived, the captain showed up (he looked like he was about 20 years past the mandatory retirement age) with his wife, or at least I think that’s who she was.
I can understand Spanish reasonably well (but I speak it poorly), so if I understood things correctly:
- The gate agent confirmed his female companion was flying as a passenger
- He said she was, and asked if she could get a business class seat
- The gate agent said business class was full
- The captain was shocked, and said “no no no no no;” the look on the lady’s face when she realized she’d be flying economy was even more horrifying
Stay tuned for more of that saga in the next installment. 😉
Finally at around 10:50PM boarding started, just 35 minutes before departure.
Madrid Airport Terminal 1 Lounge bottom line
I don’t remember the last time I’ve been this pleasantly surprised by a lounge. That’s not to say it’s the nicest lounge I’ve ever been to, but rather that I had really low expectations after entering the outdated terminal, and ended up thinking it was physically one of the nicest contract lounges I’ve been to. It was bright, airy, modern, spacious, and functional. For a contract lounge, what more can you ask for?