Review: Sala VIP Cibeles Terminal 1 Madrid Airport

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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.

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Madrid Airport Terminal 1 exterior

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.

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Madrid Airport Terminal 1 check-in

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.

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Madrid Airport Terminal 1 check-in

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.

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Madrid Airport Terminal 1 airside

I went through passport control there, and then followed the signage towards the contract lounge used by all the airlines in the terminal.

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Madrid Airport Terminal 1 airside

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Madrid Airport Terminal 1 airside

That lounge is Sala VIP Cibeles, which is located behind passport control, near gates B26-B29. I took the stairs up a level.

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Madrid Airport Terminal 1 lounge stairs

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.

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Madrid Airport Cibeles VIP Lounge entrance

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:

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Madrid Airport Cibeles VIP Lounge entryway

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.

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Madrid Airport Cibeles VIP Lounge seating

Along the windows was a more traditional lounging area, with outlets at just about every seat.

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Madrid Airport Cibeles VIP Lounge seating

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Madrid Airport Cibeles VIP Lounge seating

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Madrid Airport Cibeles VIP Lounge seating

Then in the far right corner of the lounge were dining tables, along with more high-top seating.

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Madrid Airport Cibeles VIP Lounge seating

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Madrid Airport Cibeles VIP Lounge seating

Next to that was a business center with lots of office chairs.

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Madrid Airport Cibeles VIP Lounge business center

Then in the far corner were comfortable lounge chairs with great tarmac views.

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Madrid Airport Cibeles VIP Lounge seating

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Madrid Airport tarmac view from Cibeles VIP Lounge

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.

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Aeromexico 787 from lounge

Then in a far corner of the lounge was a TV room.

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Madrid Airport Cibeles VIP Lounge TV room

There was also a relaxation room.

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Madrid Airport Cibeles VIP Lounge relaxation area

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.

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Madrid Airport Cibeles VIP Lounge terrace

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Madrid Airport Cibeles VIP Lounge terrace

Back near the entrance was a rack with a variety of newspapers and magazines.

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Madrid Airport Cibeles VIP Lounge newspapers

The lounge had two main buffet areas. There was one along the center walkway of the lounge.

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Madrid Airport Terminal 1 Lounge buffet

For a contract lounge the selection was quite good.

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Madrid Airport Terminal 1 Lounge buffet

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.

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Madrid Airport Terminal 1 Lounge food & drink selection

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Madrid Airport Terminal 1 Lounge food selection

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Madrid Airport Terminal 1 Lounge drink selection

The lounge also had several types of pastries and croissants, a couple of pasta dishes, and a couple of types of salad.

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Madrid Airport Terminal 1 Lounge food selection

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Madrid Airport Terminal 1 Lounge food selection

There were also potato chips and nut mix.

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Madrid Airport Terminal 1 Lounge food selection

There was a decent self serve liquor selection, including gin (I’d expect no less, given Madrid’s awesome gin & tonic culture).

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Madrid Airport Terminal 1 Lounge liquor selection

As mentioned above, there was a second buffet area, which was located near the dining tables.

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Madrid Airport Terminal 1 Lounge food selection

This area had the self serve wine selection.

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Madrid Airport Terminal 1 Lounge wine selection

It also had a proper Nespresso machine, which I loved, given how crappy lounge coffee can otherwise be.

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Madrid Airport Terminal 1 Lounge Nespresso machine

This buffet had more pastries, as well as packaged cookies and other snacks.

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Madrid Airport Terminal 1 Lounge food selection

This buffet also had more of the same yogurt and sandwiches.

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Madrid Airport Terminal 1 Lounge food & drink selection

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.

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Madrid Airport Terminal 1 Lounge shower room

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Madrid Airport Terminal 1 Lounge shower room

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Madrid Airport Terminal 1 Lounge shower room

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).

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Madrid Airport Terminal 1

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Madrid Airport Terminal 1

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. 😉

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Aeromexico departure gate Madrid Airport

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?

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Comments

  1. Just out of curiosity but if you leave the hotel at 7PM for a 11:25PM flight unless you didn’t have time to take a shower at the hotel why do you need another shower at the airport? It might be just me but I would avoid having to take a shower in place where many others use unless it is extremely necessary (like after a long flight and before a new connection).

  2. @ Pafunco — I had checked out of the hotel at noon, and had showered at 8AM that morning. So I figured I might as well shower again, since I wouldn’t get another shower before getting to LA.

  3. Why do they refer to it as the VIP lounge? From recollection of my parents’ diplomatic experiences, the VIP lounges are usually rather remotely located and quite intimate… Other than the choice of name, the lounge looks pretty cool..

  4. yeah, that’s the old terminal at MAD. Before T4 opened that was all there was. It was VERY fun then, as you can imagine.

    I like T4. distances can be long, but moving sidewalks move you along quickly and it’s perfectly set up for a hub operation, which is what it is.

  5. Wow! The lounge indeed went through m-a-s-s-i-v-e renovation. I’ve been there last time in 2014 when departing to IST on Turkish. The lounge was even more dump than the rest of the terminal 1. Really it was so outdated, tastelessly decorated and simply awful.

    It’s indeed a nice one. The only what hasn’t changed is food. On pics it looks similar to what they had back in 2014. Can’t say I consider it any other than very bad selection.

    Anyway I think Iberia lounge in terminal 4S is better, in terms of food IB is of course better. Never noticed that T4 is poorly planned, great terminal and I love it since the day it opened.

    Kent,
    It’s cultural for Spain. They always call airport lounges VIP and all priority services for biz class are also called VIP. Priority Security Check is Acesso VIP and so on.

  6. Lucky_Ben
    Excellent review! Excellent pictures. Thank you.
    Great to shower and relax before a flight.
    How do lounges make money? Have you addressed this topic before?
    I got PP access through Citi Prestige Card, so at no cost (thanks to your blog).
    I usually have no time in MAD to do anything.

  7. I was there this past Sunday and was also pleasantly surprised! The wifi was steady and functional. The food at breakfast time (9am – 11am) was similar. They had fruit cups instead of the pasta salad.

  8. Hi
    I am considering using this lounge on my return flight to Edinburgh, in August.
    Can you tell me if use of the shower is free, or if there is a charge?
    Many thanks
    Dave

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