On a November press trip to Spain, JAX FAX participated in nearly a dozen hotel inspections of various classifications, including the Sheraton Madrid Mirasierra, the Madrid Marriott AC Santo Mauro, Only You, the ME by Melia and the Westin Palace -- all of which can be recommended in their particular category. We stayed at the Petit Palace, a small hotel in an upscale area in central Madrid.
With such a large inventory of accommodations in many areas of the capital, it is suggested that travel agents rely on a U.S. tour operator specializing in Spain (Madrid) to be assured that the hotel accommodations and the sightseeing (local tours) are coordinated for the clients’ benefit.
Traveling by Rail
The “Bullet Trains” of Spain serve 5 major cities. American tourists and business travelers were introduced to high speed (bullet) trains in September 1981, when France began service between several of its metropolitan centers. These ultra-fast trains now cover eight countries in continental Europe and England.
Our group experienced the expanded network of bullet trains now serving Madrid and the four major metropolitan destinations of Seville, Malaga, Barcelona, and Cordoba.
Spain’s high speed rail system is called AVE, which is part of the Spanish rail organization, RENFE. Both first class and tourist accommodations are offered on all AVE trains. The trains operate on new tracks built specifically to handle these state-of-the-art bullet trains.
Our excursion from Madrid to Cuenca, a unique medieval town on the AVE route to Barcelona was previously a 2 hour-and-40 minute journey via regular train service. Our AVE train completed the outbound trip from Madrid in only 58 minutes, at speeds of up to 174 miles per hour. Each AVE passenger coach displays the train’s speed en route.
The AVE high speed trains have resulted in a 50% reduction in domestic air travel within Spain. For example, it takes less time to travel from Madrid to Barcelona (city center to city center) via AVE than to fly between the two cities, considering the time spent getting to and from the airports.
American visitors to Spain and Europe can take advantage of a number of Eurail discount passes linked to countries visited and days of travel. For example, the France-Spain pass, good for 4 travel days anywhere in France or Spain, is valid for two months. Cost per person First Class is $429. Second Class is $366.
Travel agents can purchase all Eurail passes from Rail Europe at www.raileurope.com. The website also provides complete fare information, route maps and all data required to book clients anywhere on the 18 country Rail Europe network, representing 35 different rail systems.
Major Upgrades for IBERIA’S Business Class
Not to be outdone by any of its numerous competitors in the transatlantic market, Iberia Airlines has introduced Business Plus, featuring extra wide seats that unfold into flat beds (over six feet in length), more comfort and privacy, mood-lighting and direct access to the aisle from each seat.
For entertainment, Business Plus passengers enjoy individual 15.4” touch TV screens, including 50 films, 80 TV series and documentaries, 200 musical options plus 3D games.
Iberia is promoting its Business Plus dining service as “the best restaurant in the air” with menus designed by four of the most famous Spanish chefs, each holding two Michelin stars. The wine list, featuring Spanish wines, is changed every three months.
Business Plus is now offered on all Airbus A330 Flights to/from Madrid, New York, Miami, and Chicago. Wi-fi and GSM texting capability (SMS and data) through personal devices is currently being installed.
Iberia is a privately held airline (since 2001) and in 2011 merged with British Airways, making the IAG the world’s sixth largest airline. Iberia’s jet fleet consists of 42 short and medium haul aircraft, 25 long haul jets plus 54 additional jets operated by affiliated companies. The airline’s giant maintenance base in Madrid also services aircraft for some 100 customers including other airlines.Iberia is one of the 13 airlines partnering with the One World group. Visit www.Iberia.com