Get me from Madrid to Lisbon
June 11, 2008 6:23 PM   Subscribe

At the Madrid airport, will I be able to get off an international flight coming from North America and then make it on to another flight - different airline, going to Lisbon - in just under two hours (1 hr 50 min to be exact)?

If I can't make that transfer then I'll probably have to end up taking a train or bus from Madrid to Lisbon or Porto.

These are both budget airlines so I'm weary of delays, but I'd really like to get to Lisbon as quickly as possible without having to stay in Madrid for a short time and then take a really long, not very much cheaper or even more expensive bus or train ride. Any help... much appreciated. Thanks!
posted by scribbler to Travel & Transportation (8 answers total)
i think you -could- do it, but the madrid airport is enormous, and you could end up a 25-minute walk from your connecting gate. so if your flight is late getting in, you could really be in trouble.

also, we had to go through security again when we made our connecting flight to another city in spain, but we didn't have to go through customs (in fact, we flew into an airport with such lack security, we NEVER went through customs, but that's another story). i doubt you'd have to clear customs to catch a connecting flight to another country as long as you don't leave the airport. but security, you might.

is there any way you can catch a later connecting flight? that might be your best option.
posted by thinkingwoman at 6:41 PM on June 11, 2008

It's hard to say. If you are taking an overnight fllght, getting into Madrid in the early morning, you might be ok. Those flights tend to come in early. But of course you never know.

I would say that if your connecting flight is in a different terminal, you are cutting things close. There's a bus service between them and it's fairly frequent, but the European budget airlines terminal at Barajas is a bit of a nightmare and it can take a while to find the right gate. I think thinkingwoman is right--try and catch a later flight. Why rush if you don't have to.
posted by Morpeth at 7:10 PM on June 11, 2008

As long as your flight into Madrid lands on time or close, of course you can. Barajas is not that big and hard to navigate in my opinion. Whether your flight will land on time or not isn't something any of us could know though.

Good luck!
posted by infinityjinx at 7:13 PM on June 11, 2008

Response by poster: Hmm. Yeah, the problem is I'm pretty much limited to the one flight - there are others, but the price increase makes it somewhat unrealistic. If it helps, I'm coming in on Air Transat and the other flight is on Easy Jet.
posted by scribbler at 7:14 PM on June 11, 2008

Best answer: Well, here's what you'd have to do:

- land at the appointed time - this is the time stated on your ticket, by the way, not the time you get off the plane!
- taxi to a gate
- doors open
- shuffle off plane
- run to, then go through Schengen zone immigration - could be fast if everyone else on your flight is an EU citizen and you're the only person in the non-EU line, could be slow if your plane is full of non-EU citizens
- get your bags, if you've got any
- go out through customs
- find the next check in area and check in (unless you've checked in online and printed out your boarding pass at home!)/drop bags
- go through security, but not immigration or customs (see Schengen note above)
- find gate
- board

I'm not saying it's impossible, but, uh, yeah, it's really tight. One screw-up - a late departure from home, a big queue of planes waiting to take off from home, circling the airport for some reason - and you'd be sort of out of luck. If you run, and have no checked baggage, and if your flight is leaving from the same building (no trains, buses, etc. to connect), then you might make it.

The best bet might be to try to get a later flight, but if you've already booked a ticket, perhaps if you post your flights and times, we can give you more info - for instance, if you're landing at a terminal near or far from where your next flight leaves from. The people at FlyerTalk can also help - check in the forums for Spain, or for Iberia (the biggest airline at Madrid's airport). It's free to join and post a question.

Also, note that in the event that you're delayed or if your flight is cancelled, if your flight to the EU is on an EU-member-state-flagged carrier, you're entitled to more rights than you would be if you flew over on a non-EU carrier. Details.

On preview: Air Transat and EasyJet both use Terminal 1. You might actually make it! EasyJet allows online check-in and home printing of boarding passes. There's a map of the terminal on the airport's website.
posted by mdonley at 7:46 PM on June 11, 2008

Barajas is big. Coming from the US you will land at T4 and will most likely have to get to one of the other terminals which is far away and a maze of twisty passages and trains to get to. You can make it if the flights are on time and you hurry as much as possible. Compared to getting on a train though, a flight is your best, quickest option to get to Portugal.
posted by JJ86 at 6:12 AM on June 12, 2008

My wife and I just had a HORRIBLE connecting experience in Madrid last month, and would have missed our flight if it hadn't been delayed. It is a huge airport. If you're running flat out, though, you'll do much better than the signs that say worrying things like "Termine U: 22 minutes" suggest. (Also, the train between terminals runs only every 10 minutes or so. This was a shock since we're used to Atlanta, where the train runs every 60 seconds or less.) Still, it was very tight.

We didn't have boarding passes for our second flight, although our bags had been checked through, and in our confusion we ended up in external baggage claim when we got off the taxi from the plane, and missed our opportunity to go straight through passport control and check in at the transfer desk.

So we had to go to the big check-in terminal, like you might have to do (altough I defer to the folks who know the airport better on that point). Realizing our mistake, we pressed anyone who would talk to us to expedite us through the check in procedure, but one thing they pointed out several times is that check-in for lots of flights closes an hour before the flight, so even if we had the time to physically move through the lines and get through security and get to the gate, we might not be allowed to check in if we were even a couple minutes late. Since you're changing airlines, that seems like a problem you might have to deal with.

I think it's irresponsible of services like Orbitz to sell you tickets like that without providing any guidance about whether it's actually possible at all to make a connection like that. I don't mean to be a downer, but I think your plan is pretty risky.
posted by rustcellar at 8:01 AM on June 12, 2008

Ooh, one more suggestion: Air Transat allows you to pay a little extra to sit where you like on the flight - if you can get to the first few rows of economy, that's a few hundred people less that you'd have to run past to get to immigration.

You can call them (1-877-TRANSAT), explain your dilemma, and see if they'll let you specify a specific seat number near the front; I imagine the airline knows at least what aircraft they'll offer on your flight, (perhaps it's on your ticket/itinerary?) so the layout should be apparent to the person you speak to.
posted by mdonley at 10:13 AM on June 12, 2008

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