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All flights from the U.S. and other overseas countries arrive at Madrid's international airport, Barajas, which lies 15km (9 miles) east of the center. It's usually best to allow half an hour to get from the center to the airport. For flight information, ring tel. 90-235-35-70.

Main Flight Operators form America

 The national carrier of Spain, Iberia Airlines (tel. 800/772-4642; www.iberia.com), offers more routes to and within Spain than any other airline, with nonstop service to Madrid from both New York and Miami. From Miami, Iberia takes off for at least eight destinations in Mexico and Central America, and in cooperation with its air partner, Ladeco (an airline based in Chile), to dozens of destinations throughout South America as well. Iberia also flies from Los Angeles to Madrid, with a brief stop in Miami, and offers services to Madrid through Montréal two and three times a week, depending on the season. Also available are attractive rates on fly/drive programs within Iberia and Europe.

Iberia's fares are lowest if you reserve an APEX (advance-purchase excursion) ticket at least 21 days in advance, schedule your return 7 to 30 days after your departure, and leave and return between Monday and Thursday. Fares, which are subject to change, are lower during off season. Most transatlantic flights are on carefully maintained 747s and DC-10s, and in-flight services reflect Spanish traditions, values, and cuisine.

American Airlines (tel. 800/433-7300; www.aa.com) offers daily nonstop service to Madrid from its massive hub in Miami, with excellent connections from there to the rest of the airline's impressive North and South American network.

Delta (tel. 800/241-4141; www.delta.com) maintains daily nonstop service from Atlanta (centerpiece of its worldwide network) to Madrid. Delta's Dream Vacation department maintains access to fly/drive programs, land packages, and escorted bus tours through the Iberian Peninsula.

Since 1991, United Airlines (tel. 800/241-6522; www.ual.com) has flown passengers nonstop every day to Madrid from Washington. United also offers fly/drive programs and escorted motor coach tours. At the time of writing, Continental Airlines (tel. 800/231-0856; www.continental.com) had just finalized a merger with United. They currently offer six or seven nonstop flights per week, depending on the season, to Madrid from Newark, New Jersey, an airport many New York residents prefer.

US Airways (tel. 800/428-4322; www.usairways.com) offers daily nonstop service between Philadelphia and Madrid. US Airways offers connections to Philadelphia from more than 50 cities throughout the United States, Canada, and The Bahamas.

Main Flight Operators from the United Kingdom

The two major carriers that fly between the United Kingdom and Spain are British Airways (BA; tel. 0845/773-3377, or 020/8759-5511 in London; www.british-airways.com) and Iberia (tel. 020/7830-0011 in London). In spite of the frequency of their routes, however, I suspect most vacationing Brits fly charter (see "Tips for British Travelers").

More than a dozen daily flights, on either BA or Iberia, depart from London's Heathrow and Gatwick airports. The Midlands are served by flights from Manchester and Birmingham, two major airports that can also be used by Scots flying to Spain. Approximately seven flights a day go between London and Madrid (trip time: 2-2 1/2 hr.). The best air deals on scheduled flights from the United Kingdom are those requiring a Saturday-night stopover.

Low-cost flights are now provided from a variety of British cities to Madrid by easyJet. No tickets are issued and no specific seats allocated (though families with children do have priority). All bookings are made online. Check www.easyjet.com.

Ryanair also operates bargain-priced flights from London Stansted to Valladolid (55 min. away by high-speed train, and 2 1/2 hr. by bus, from Madrid). Check www.ryanair.com.

Europass: A Cost-Cutting Technique

A noteworthy cost-cutting option is Iberia's Europass. Available only to passengers who simultaneously arrange for transatlantic passage on Iberia and a minimum of two additional flights, it allows passage on any flight within Iberia's European or Mediterranean dominion for $250 for the first two flights and $133 for each additional flight. This is especially attractive for passengers wishing to combine trips to Spain with, for example, visits to such far-flung destinations as Cairo, Tel Aviv, Istanbul, Moscow, and Munich. For details, ask Iberia's phone representative. Iberia's main Spain-based competitor is Air Europa (tel. 888/238-7672; www.air-europa.es), which offers nonstop service from New York's JFK Airport to Madrid, with continuing service to major cities within Spain. Fares are competitive.

Tips for British Travelers

A regular fare from the United Kingdom to Spain is extremely high, so savvy Brits usually call a travel agent for a deal -- either a charter flight or some special air-travel promotion. These so-called deals are almost always available, due to great interest in Spain as a tourist destination. Another way to keep costs down is an APEX (advance-purchase excursion) ticket. Alternatively, a PEX (public excursion fare) ticket offers a discount without the strict booking restrictions. You might also ask the airlines about a Eurobudget ticket, which has restrictions or length-of-stay requirements.

British periodicals are always full of classified advertisements touting "slashed" fares to Spain. Good sources include the London-based magazine Time Out, the daily travel section of London's Evening Standard, and the Sunday edition of almost any newspaper.

Most vacationing Brits looking for air-flight bargains go charter. Delays can be frequent (some as long as 2 days and nights), and departures are often at inconvenient hours. Booking conditions can also be severe, and one must read the fine print carefully and deal only with a reputable travel agent. Stays rarely last a month, and booking must sometimes be made at least a month in advance, although a 2-week period is sometimes possible.

Charter flights leave from some British regional airports for Madrid airports. Figure on saving approximately 10% to 15% off regularly scheduled flight tickets. Recommended companies include Trailfinders (tel. 020/7937-5400 in London; www.trailfinders.com) and Avro Tours (tel. 020/8715-0000 in London).

In London, many bucket shops around Victoria Station and Earls Court offer low fares. Make sure the company you deal with is a member of the IATA, ABTA, or ATOL. These umbrella organizations will help you out if anything goes wrong.

CEEFAX, a British television information service included on many home and hotel TVs, runs details of package holidays and flights to Europe and beyond. Just switch to your CEEFAX channel to find a menu of listings that includes travel information.

Also check out those easyJet and Ryanair flights mentioned above in "Main Flight Operators from the United Kingdom."

Getting into Town from Barajas Airport

By Metro (Subway) -- The most convenient way to reach the center of Madrid from Barajas airport is by metro line 8 (pink on the metro map), which departs from terminals 2 and 4. A one-way ticket costs the usual single fare of 1€ plus an airport travel supplement of 1€. The line operates daily from 6am to 1:30am.

Trains connect with the Nuevos Ministerios business area of Madrid, north of the center and about 12 minutes from the airport. From here is access to two other metro lines, 10 bus routes, and a number of commuter train (cercanías) lines. Facilities at Nuevos Ministerios also include 34 check-in counters for departing flights, such as those on Iberia. It's possible to check your luggage and receive boarding passes up to 24 hours in advance, except for the popular Madrid/Barcelona air shuttle.

By Bus -- The no. 200 bus service from terminals 1, 2, and 3, and number 204 from terminal 4, each connect the airport with the Avenida de America metro and bus terminal close to the city center, stopping en route at subway stations 4, 6, 7, and 9. The fare is 3.50€ one-way, and buses depart every 10 to 15 minutes 'round the clock (apart from a 2-hr. gap btw. 2-4am) to or from the airport. An alternative route from all terminals to the Avenida de America station is by red no. 101 bus, which stops en route at the Canillejas metro station (line 5), east of the center.

By Taxi -- The ride to and from Barajas Airport carries a 6€ surcharge, and there is a 3€ supplement from railway stations. In addition, there is a 2€ supplement on Sunday and holidays, plus a 2€ supplement at night (after 11pm). Other extra charges can include a fee for each suitcase the driver handles. It's customary to tip at least 10% of the fare. Expect to pay 25€ to 30€ and up, plus surcharges.

By Shuttle -- Instead of a regular taxi, you can take an AeroCITY shuttle service (tel. 91-571-50-47), transporting you in an air-conditioned minivan to your doorstep in Madrid. This service is sometimes less expensive than a regular taxi, depending on the number of people traveling in the vehicle at one time. Service is 24 hours daily.

By Car -- To get into the center of the city from Barajas, head south along the Autovia M-13, which runs past the airport as far as the A-2 highway. Turn right (west) and continue along the A-2 as far as the Avenida de America junction. Continue along this same road, which crosses the northern edge of the Salamanca district, as far as Calle Príncipe de Vergara. Turn left and continue till you reach Calle Alcalá at the point where it runs alongside Parque del Retiro. Turn right here and Calle Alcalá leads you straight to Puerta del Sol, in the heart of Madrid in a matter of minutes.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.