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by Luigi Vallero
Route: Madrid (IATA: MAD/ICAO: LEMD) to Tenerife Norte (TFN/GCXO)
Aircraft: McDonnell Douglas MD-82
Departure time: 1330
Arrival time: 1715
Passenger: Luigi Vallero
PHOTOS: LUIGI VALLERO
At the Terminal 2 domestic check-in area many desks were open and no lines were to be found. A smiling and very friendly lady processed my boarding pass in a matter of seconds, fulfilling my request for a window seat. Although I still had plenty of time before departure, I preferred to proceed immediately through security, which at Madrid, as at many other European airports, can be a very lengthy process these days. Along the way, a look at the airport monitors indicated a gate change, which prompted a detour. When I reached D64, the MD-82 (EC-HHF, aptly named Sunward), was already being serviced for this long (2hr 45min) domestic sector.
Boarding announcements were made at 1313 and by 1325 the 100 or so passengers were seated in an immaculate and smart cabin. This featured a cool white and dark blue ‘Scandinavian-style’ décor, attributable to the airline origins as a Mediterranean offshoot of SAS. During boarding, a selection of Spanish newspapers was available at a stand placed in the boarding bridge. Passengers were professionally greeted on board by an all-female crew wearing the airline’s classy dark blue uniform.
Pushback was six minutes behind schedule, probably because of ATC although no reason was given, and after a 13-minute taxi we were airborne at 1349. We soon established a southwesterly course across the cloud-covered Iberian peninsular toward the Atlantic archipelago of the Canary Islands [Islas Canarias].
Five minutes after takeoff, the FAs offered wool blankets and pillows to make the trip more comfortable. A nice touch, one now uncommon on European airways let alone a domestic service.
Food and drinks were available for purchase, but at reasonable prices. For example, the hot ‘day’s special’ was €7 ($10), including a warm bread roll and a drink. Unfortunately, the meal’s popularity made it unavailable by the time the crew reached my row. I therefore chose a Spanish ham sandwich with ciabatta-style bread, complete with a donut and a Coke, for the same price. A small bottle of olive oil was offered for the tasty sandwich, and—without asking—the Coke was delivered with ice and lemon.
After some 2hr 30min, candies were distributed and we began a gradual descent to Los Rodeos Airport, encountering moderate turbulence in the overcast. Weather conditions continued to deteriorate and the final approach was exceptionally bumpy in heavy rain. Visibility deteriorated rapidly to well below company minima, causing an overshoot that caused some apprehension with many passengers. Immediately afterward, a very apologetic captain explained over the PA what had happened and informed us that we were now proceeding to our alternate airport of Tenerife Sur (Reina Sofia).
We touched down at TFS/GCTS 15 minutes later, blocking in at 1603, only to be greeted by torrential rains and gusty winds. Before leaving the aircraft we were informed that we would not be abandoned and buses would be arranged to take us to TFN. These were available within 45 minutes, despite the short notice.
Despite the inconvenience of the diversion—not the airline’s fault, of course—this was a very pleasant flight performed by a professional cabin and cockpit crew, supported by great ground staff. Spanair provides good value for money and deserves to be a member of the Star Alliance.
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