Wallpaper magazine has given the new airport terminal at Barajas an award for the best new airport. I went through the new terminal a few weeks ago and I agree that it’s the most beautiful airport I have ever seen.
However it is also one of the most dysfunctional and one of the worst experiences for a traveller. You have to walk literally for miles and you have no proper directions telling you where to go.
Let me tell you the story of my flight out of the new terminal a few weeks ago. It was a Saturday afternoon, and the airport was not busy. The taxi left me at the terminal, at the first available stopping space. When I got inside the terminal, I checked the displays and it turned out that I had to walk to the other end of the terminal to check in. (The displays were laid out in a very non-standard way.) That was a walk of about 500 meters (it’s easy to judge distance, because the terminal’s beautiful bamboo arches is held up on pillars which are spaced about ten metres from each other). When I checked in, about 70 minutes before the flight, the attendant wasn’t able to direct me to the exact gate, but was able to tell me that I needed to take the shuttle train to the other terminal. So I had to walk a further 300 meters or so to go through security and get to the three flights of escalators down to the basement of the airport, where I waited for the train. Along the way I had been able to find out my gate number from the screens, but there were no screens on the platform itself, which was extremely odd. The train ride is a couple of kilometres, and takes 5 or 8 minutes. When I arrived, I had to go back up a few flights of escalators and follow some confusing signs to my gate. There were shops along the way, but I didn’t even look at any of them because I had no idea how far I would have to walk to my gate. I started walking, rechecking the gate along the way. There were some travelators which made the walk a little easier, but the distance was around 400 metres. Unfortunately, when I got to my gate, the flight was going to Bahrain, not Dublin – I had misread the confusing display screens. So I had to make my way back about 200 meters to get my plane. The boarding area was a mess too. There weren’t enough seats to hold all the people who were supposed to be getting on the plane. There wasn’t any queuing system for boarding the plane. The boarding procedure was far too slow – the two staff on duty were only able to check documentation for around 10 people per minute, so it took too long to get people on board.
When I was on the plane, I heard a person sitting nearby say that they had left a bag behind at the security check and only remembered about it after they had boarded the shuttle train. They were unable to return to the security check to collect it in the time available.
The new Terminal 4 at Madrid is a triumph of sculpture, but architecture it ain’t. There is little thought about the airports function as a system, and still less for the unfortunate passengers who have to hike to their planes. As it stands, this building is only barely fit for the purpose for which it was built. It will come under serious strain as the number of passengers grows to 50,000 or 100,000 per day.
A lot of the problems can be remedied though. Decent signage, both fixed and electronic in the terminal and on the approach roads would mean that everyone would at least get to where they were supposed to be without having to backtrack. Relocating the security checks might help too.
Other problems will eventually call for serious reengineering. The arrangement of having the shuttle train stations in the basements is going to cause a lot of trouble as the terminal gets busier and might require a rethink.
The trend in the airline industry is to eliminate the check-in at the airport in favour of online check-in. If this happens, then the enormous check-in hall will be left largely unused and will have to be repurposed.
Despite all this, the new terminal is still a triumph. It is undoubtedly beautiful and is a pleasant place to be. But now the managers and designers of the airport need to go back and think about the experience of passengers in their wonderful creation. Then Madrid, even with its flaws will truly be one of the great airports of the planet.
It’s stupid to write a kind of “airport report” after only 1 departure .
Because of that you have only write innacuracies .
“I had misread the confusing display screens”
That’s YOUR personal problem … . The displays are located almost at floor level to become more readable for the mayority of travellers .. except you.
“…The train ride is a couple of kilometres, and takes 5 or 8 minutes”
Incorrect once again . It’s less than 4 minutes , half the 8 you post … .
“…A lot of the problems can be remedied though. Decent signage, both fixed and electronic in the terminal and on the approach roads would mean that everyone would at least get to where they were supposed to be without having to backtrack”
You are blind . Didn’t you saw the numerous signpost on MAD ?
You can see it here :
Man .. it’s YOUR problem not MAD’s problem .
“…It will come under serious strain as the number of passengers grows to 50,000 or 100,000 per day.”
Once again no fucki** idea .
Madrid Terminal 4 ALREADY moves between “50,000 or 100,000 ” daily !!!.
Madrid moved 42 Millions passengers in 2005 and this year will move around 46 Millions …
28 Millions in Terminal 4 alone .That’s 75,000 passengers on an average day … with peaks of near 100,000 pax in Terminal 4 .
MAD airport as a hole move more than 100,000 passengers daily .
Please , inform yourself before posting in the internet .
Because of people like you the internet has become an UNRELIABLE source of information.
“The boarding area was a mess too”
I remind you that the boarding process is an operation carried out by the airline ,not the airport .
“…I needed to take the shuttle train to the other terminal”
Madrid Terminla 4 was designed as 2 buildings. T4 for domestics and Schengen flights and T4S for international NON-Schengen flights .
Have you informed yourserlf if Ireland or the UK have signed the Schengen treaty ?
They don’t , and because of that the flights to UK/Ireland were operated from T4S , as well as the flights from/to America, Asia , etc.
In any case despite the UK/Ireland refusing to sign the Schengen treaty , the flights to UK/Ireland are been moved to T4 in order to avoid you from taking the underground shuttle train . So from now on , there wil be no need to take the train for you .
“However it is also one of the most dysfunctional and one of the worst experiences for a traveller”
Sorry but you have no idea . Since Iberia moved to T4 , the airport punctuality has raise to a range between 80-90% DAILY .
Check historic records for MAD in http://www.flightstats.com
T4 was disigned with FUNCTIONLITY on mind, because of that the linear design, etc…
Man , write about things you understand .
Everything I say, I stand over. This is what I saw. If you want to invite me back to MAD to see the improvements, feel free to do so.
Good signage is not just a matter of having lots of signage. Too much signage can be as bad as not having enough. As it happens, there was no signage whatsoever outside the airport to guide your taxi to the right check-in area.
Display screens: I am referring to the display screens that show the gate number. They were laid out in a strange and confusing way. This may have changed since.
The train ride does indeed take 5 or 8 minutes. You have to wait between zero and two minutes for it to arrive, and it takes around 30 seconds to board and to alight. At least it did the day I was there.
Aer Lingus does not have its own ground staff at Madrid. It does not control the boarding. Neither the ground services company nor the airport can be blamed for not putting in enough seats.
It is not my fault that Ireland has not signed the Schengen treaty. Anyway, my main complaint is the walking distances and ascents/descents rather than the train ride itself.
They definitely weren’t doing 50,000 people per day the day I was there. I talked to other people who had been in it when it was really busy, and they said it was crazy. I didn’t report that above because that’s not what I saw myself. I’m just glad I wasn’t there on a 100,000-person day.
There has been an improvement in airline operations, sure but this is nothing to do with the design of the airport. This is only because there are now enough gates to meet the traffic. Any airport design with 38 gates would have brought much the same benefit. Despite the massive investment, the improvement in efficiency for the airlines and the undoubtedly pretty arches hasn’t been matched by an improvement in comfort and care for the passenger.
Obviously, it’s spilt milk nowbut why couldn’t Aena, Rogers et al. have terminated the train on the middle or top floors instead of in the basements?
I am definitely not in a minority of one here as you are making out. There are other people out there on the Internet who agree with me:
“there was no signage whatsoever outside the airport to guide your taxi to the right check-in area.”
There are no “right” check-in area ,there is only one and it’s universal .
“…people who had been in it when it was really busy, and they said it was crazy.”
They were refering to the initial disruption normal in the few weeks of functioning of a new terminal not to congestion.
Almost every mayor airport terminal in the world suffered from very SERIOUS failures inmediatly after inaguration , been the most notables Hong Kong new airport and Denver International .
In that regard MAD T4 has been probably the most succesfull big terminal inaguration on the world.
“Aer Lingus does not have its own ground staff at Madrid. It does not control the boarding.”
You are wrong . Every airline’s FA control de boarding process.
“They definitely weren’t doing 50,000 people per day the day I was there…”
But .. why do you post “informations” or “data” on the internet WITHOUT corroborating it ?
in the frontpage of AENA’s website
there is a link ot it’s statistics page
That evidently you didn’t visited to inform yourself of how many passengers move MAD or the companies that uses T4 at MAD.
This are the total monthly for MAD from january 2006 to July 2006.
February is the month with less passenger of the year , with 3.097.995 passenger , that’s more than 110,000 passengers/day in the weakest month .
In July 2006 , with 4.224.661 more than 135,000 passengers used MAD every day on average , with peaks of more than 160,000 .
Madrid barajas is the 4rd busiest airport in Europe after surpassing Amsterdam this 2006.
T4 is used mainly by IBERIA , and this are the monthly passenger for IBERIA alone at T4 from january to July 2006.
In the weakest day of february IBERIA ALONE move more than 50,000 passenger daily . But T4 is used by lots of other companies like British Airways , Vueling , Finnair , etc, etc.
In any case never below 70,000 passenger daily at MAD T4 in February.
Since opening around a 75% of passenger of MAD used MAD T4 and the remaining 25-30% use the T1-2-3.
That means that in July from the 4.224.661 , around 3,000,000 used T4 , that’s around 100,000 DAILY passenger for T4 ALONE in July.
Why if the internet put at your disposition the data you prefered NOT to using it ?
“…There has been an improvement in airline operations, sure but this is nothing to do with the design of the airport”
Don’t you realize that you are only demostrating your ignorance about airport design … and flooding the internet with “noise” ?
The linear design of MAD T4 IMPROVES plane rotations , punctuality and efficiency .
Also the runaway layaout is unique and exceptional and helps to the extremly high efficiency of Madrid Barajas.
Today MAD T4 is the most modern , efficient and BETTER designed airport in the world.
“I’m just glad I wasn’t there on a 100,000-person day. ”
The terminal it’s so HUGE that you wouldn’t notice the diference .
The terminal is operating without any kind of congestion , not even at peak summer days.
It’s one of the airports with fewer delays in Europe ( once passed the first weeks of natural disruptions )
Only to note to you .. on an average day London Heathrow archieve a 40-60 % punctuality …. Charles DeGaulle in Paris around 60-75 % …. Frankfurt around 65-80% …. while Amsterdam and Madrid Barajas archieve regurarly between 80-95% punctuality .
For your information Madrid Barajas moves the same number of passenger in 2006 than Amsterdam Schiphol , around 46 Millions each.
“Obviously, it’s spilt milk nowbut why couldn’t Aena, Rogers et al. have terminated the train on the middle or top floors instead of in the basements? ”
You are wrong again .. Richard Rogers had a MINOR role in MAD T4 .
The principal architect was Vidal and Lamela from Lamela Estudios, Madrid.
Richard rogers team joined later .
The departure floor is the 6th floor of MAD T4 .
Don’t you realize that what you state it’s ridicule .
In any case from now on UK/Ireland operations are in the process of been moved to T4 from T4S.
“I am definitely not in a minority of one here as you are making out. There are other people out there on the Internet who agree with me:
The link you provide is a very well know “public relations agency” for airlines called Skytrax
Skytrax provides “public image campaings” to the airlines and airport that contract Skytrax.
The “passengers comments” that appears in that page have been demostrated as fake in the past ,very probably wrote by the skytrax personnel.
They are only a part of the Skytrax work.
Those “passenger comments” have no credibility in the airline industry .. but aparently fool some casual internet surfers like you.
” Everything I say, I stand over. This is what I saw.If you want to invite me back to MAD to see the improvements, feel free to do so. ”
There is no need.
Ryanair is going to inagurate a flight between Dublin and Madrid Barajas in February , they probably will grant a lot of almost free ticket because the inaguration of the new route.
The check-in area is absolutely massive. I’m sure you can tell me how big it is. I know it is massive, because I had to walk with my luggage from one end to the other to check in, because the taxi left me at the wrong end.
Aer Lingus does not do the ground handling at Madrid. It is handled by a local company. The staff handling the boarding on the day I observed the activities were not even wearing Aer Lingus uniforms. As I understand it, AENA has a role in appointing these as I understand it, and they board the planes in accordanc with a standard operating procedure for the whole airport. In general, it is highly unusual for airlines to be allowed to provide their own queueing systems or extra seats. Perhaps you could explain this in detail.
You still have not proven to me that on the day I flew, that there were more than 50,000 people going through that terminal. I suppose it is possible that there were, and there happened to be a lull at that time of the day. But the airport was very quiet and most of the check-in desks were closed.
Can you let me know where the specific Skytrax comments I pointed to are demonstrated as fake, as you allege they are.
The statistics you quote about efficiency are not really relevant to my point. They relate to airline operations, not passenger comfort and travel times.
How come you go around accusing me and Skytrax of providing unreliable or false information when you do not even disclose your surname and who you work for and what your relationship to the project is?
And just because you type something in block capitals doesn’t make it true.
I’m with you – I have just returned from madrid this weekend via the new T4 (or was it T4S ??) and frankly beautiful building it may be biut pleasant travelling experience it wasn’t – having travelled to Madrid many times I was well used to the trek from arrivals to the Metro in T” to get into the city but this time i was faced with a very long walk, numerous ecalators to get to the trains (no information given by Aer lingus or anyone else about this new system, then once in T4 had to get the bus to T2 and then do the walk to the metro – on the way back we dispensed with all that hassle (so we thought) and took a taxi – it was then I realised just how massive and far out the new terminal is – the taxi driver didn’t even seem entirley sure where to go – I too had to walk from one end of the terminal to the other to check in but because we were early and there are no seats (why? – airport full of people but no seats?? is this because it would spoil the spacious linear look of the place to have people cluttering it up?)we were forced to go and sit in the cafe (and therefore spend cash).
having finally checked in, we were then greeted with a 23 min trip to gate U (thats the official time on the signs) – having spent an hour at check in (and no Aer Lingus did not have their own staff that day either funnily enough – it was Iberia that did all the checking in)the prospect of up to half an hour to get to as yet unknown gate made me feel quite cross to be honest – by the end of it I was so hacked of with the whole thing that I couldn’t even bring myself to shop in the Shopping zone (also because the only cash machine had “technical problems”)and thats saying something for me I can tell you.
many people on the flight had clearly never been in this terminal before and were lamenting to their loved ones about the trek to the gate -it was a sight I’m sure to see all these poor souls wandering around bemused about where they were supposed to go and how to get there!
Yes the buidling looks fantastic, yes Rogers is a great architect but in this case a serious dose of style over substance. It was not a pleasant experience and certainly for me tainted the end of what had otherwise been a fantasic trip to Spain.
It might only be my opinion on one flight but it would seriously make me reconsider travelling to madrid again – i just wonder if Aer lingus drew the short straw. oh and by the way – Richard rogers firm has just won a very esteemed architecture award for their “minor role” in this building – maybe he could spend the 20K on some seats for the poor punters who are stuck in it.
Please help me, since you know everything about Madrid airport and all of its perfection.
My bag has been lost there for 14 days by Aer Lingus.
( Swissport handles the baggage for Aer LIngus although a lot of the staff believe that Iberia is in charge).
Please, can you recommend anything or find it for me? I will give you my first born child.