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To be honest, I hadn’t heard of Air Europa before I started looking for flights from Tel Aviv to Madrid. There are a few nonstop flights connecting these two cities, including flights on El Al, Iberia and as I found out, Air Europa. We chose Air Europa because of the more convenient flight time and the reasonable price. I paid $274.61 for one way ticket that included a checked bag and a seat selection. If you have Chase Sapphire Reserve, this will be covered by the annual $300 travel credit.
I was traveling with my mom and this was our first time flying on Air Europa, Spain’s third largest airline, and we didn’t know what to expect. We thought the flight was a good value, and I wouldn’t hesitate to fly on Air Europa again, as long as I can secure an exit row seat.
Air Europa: Obscure But Useful
Air Europa is a SkyTeam member airline and has been for over a decade. The Madrid-based airline is among the smaller members of the alliance but offers reliable service between Spain, the U.S., Europe, and select points in the Middle East. They also often offer an abundance of lie-flat business class seats on long-haul flights available for miles bookings. However, be patient if you’re using miles to book since many agents, like Delta’s, haven’t even heard of the airline before. If using miles, this is an instance where using a service like Juicy Miles makes a lot ton of sense.
Checking In For Our Air Europa Flight
One of the reasons I booked the flight was the convenient departure time of 9:30am. However, a few weeks after I booked the tickets, the airline changed the departure time to 8:00am. The security at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport might take a while, so we were there before 6:00am.
However, I was pleasantly surprised to find the airport in general, and the check-in counters for Air Europa’s flights, uncrowded. Air Europa’s check in is located on the first floor of a newly built wing of the main terminal (Terminal 3), near the arrivals area. At the moment, the structure looks semi-permanent, so something will probably change again in the future.
Before getting to the check in counter, you’ll encounter the first layer of Ben Gurion’s tight security. Often the lines are long and it takes a while but, surprisingly, on this morning there were only a few people in line. The security agents will ask some questions about who packed your bags, where you are traveling, etc. After a brief conversation, they’ll place a white bar-code sticker on the back of the passport. You’ll need to scan it later on, so don’t remove or tamper with it.
We checked in online the day before (you can actually check in 48 hours before the flight) so we just had to drop off our bags. There’s no separate counter or line for bag drop, but there was only one family in front of us, so it didn’t take long at all.
Air Europa is part of Skyteam, but I couldn’t add my Delta frequent flyer number online. The website in general is definitely not the easiest to use. The agent was able to add it to my profile, but because of fare class restrictions, I didn’t earn any Delta miles for this flight.
Security at Ben Gurion Airport
After check in, we took the elevator to the third floor and I found that a couple of things changed since I last flown out of Tel Aviv. There’s now a set of automatic security gates where you need to scan the white sticker that the first security agent put on the back of your passport. After you scan the sticker, proceed to the security checkpoint with the metal detectors and the bags’ x-ray. No need to remove shoes, but they did ask me take off my watch.
In Israel, you can bring water or any other liquid through security. I had a bottle of water with me, because I knew I’d have to pay for bottled water on my flight.
The passport control is after security and there are no more border agents sitting in booths checking passports. Passengers can now scan the passport’s picture page at another set of automatic gates. This is a big improvement, everything goes so much faster. I wish more airports adopted this, it’s so easy, convenient and fast!
Side Note: For anyone worried about going to Israel and then visiting Arab countries, Israel doesn’t stamp passports on arrival or departure.
We then headed to the Priority Pass accessible restaurant and lounge prior to the flight. Our reviews of those Priority Pass venues can be found here.
Boarding Our Air Europa Flight
Boarding started right on time, 45 minutes before departure. Unlike some other low cost carriers, nobody checked the weight or size of our carry-ons. I just had a shoulder, weekender type of bag, but I had seen other passengers board with standard wheeled bags.
The flight wasn’t completely full, so everyone boarded quickly and we were on our way 10 minutes ahead of schedule. Air Europa flies the single aisle Boeing 737-800 aircraft on this route with three seats on each side of the aisle. I prefer an aisle seat, and when traveling with someone, I always book two aisle seats across from each other. Surprisingly, there were two empty seats on my mom’s side of the aisle so I moved there and we had the row to ourselves.
Cabin and Seats Onboard
When I booked our tickets, I chose the package that included a checked bag and a seat selection, so I got us exit row seats. I am sure the main reason I enjoyed this five hour flight was because I was sitting in the exit row, in what Air Europa calls XL seat. I am only 5’4″, so there was more than enough leg room for me in row 15. Two very tall gentleman were seated across the aisle from me and I can tell they were very comfortable too.
There’s a business class on this aircraft but it didn’t look very impressive, and I’d never spend extra to sit there. It was your typical European business class-style seat with a blocked middle seat.
I didn’t mind, however, paying a little extra for the spacious exit row seats on this long-ish economy flight. I’ve done the same thing on four hour Tel Aviv to Copenhagen trip on Norwegian last year, and was also very happy with the extra leg room. I think it’s a good compromise when you are flying economy on a low cost carrier, but still want to be comfortable.
This was an older aircraft and there’s no inflight entertainment. There were no screens in the seat backs and no outlets. So bring your own entertainment and backup battery packs, especially if traveling with kids.
There were two lavatories in the main cabi,n and there were always a few people waiting in line. I was glad we were in row 15 and not in the back of the plane by the lavatories.
Service and Crew On Air Europa
There were three flight attendants working in the main cabin and they were friendly and efficient.
About 45 minutes after takeoff, the flight attendants came through the cabin with food for purchase. There was no charge for water, but everything else cost extra. They offered hot and cold drinks, standard selection of sandwiches and small snacks. The prices range from 2.20 euro for a bottle of water to 8 euro for a set of cold cuts and breadsticks. There was also alcohol for purchase (beer, wine etc.), between 3.5 euro to 5.50 euro.
About 2.5-3 hours into the flight there was another drinks service. However, this time there was no free water, only food and drinks for purchase. I am so glad I had the bottle of water I brought from home.
Arriving at Madrid Barajas Airport
Madrid’s airport is quite big. We had checked bags, so we headed to the baggage claim which was a good distance from our arrival gate. Fortunately, we didn’t have to wait for bag for long. We spent no more than 20 minutes in the baggage claim area.
After we got the bags, we headed outside to catch a cab to our Airbnb. Our host offered to book us a private car for 35 euro but the taxi costs 30 euro (flat rate), so we went with this option. There’s also an airport bus and train to the center of Madrid, but because we had bags we decided to just grab a cab. The price difference for two people isn’t huge and it’s definitely a more convenient option. Surprisingly, there was no line for cabs. The cab ride to the city center took about 45 minutes.
Even though this was an older, very basic aircraft, I didn’t mind the five hour flight from Tel Aviv to Madrid. The price was reasonable and because I sat in the exit row I was quite comfortable and was even able to do some work on my laptop. I am glad I brought my own water and snacks on board, that definitely helped to pass the time.
Madrid is a beautiful city with so much to offer. I’ve last visited Madrid almost 20 years ago and I loved exploring it again and enjoying beautiful architecture, amazing food and great shopping.
Overall, Air Europa was a pleasant surprise and better than most low-cost carriers. It doesn’t hold a candle to the full-service airlines but for a flight of this length and for the price we paid, I didn’t mind at all.