Madrid-Barajas airport is a busy, bustling and somewhat confusing airport; you would do well to book assistance ahead of your journey.
Over 49.8 million passengers passed through its doors in 2010 and it is very popular with both leisure and business travellers. The airport has four terminals. Terminals 1, 2 and 3 are adjacent to each other, with Terminal 4 (served primarily by Spain’s national carrier, Iberia) positioned approximately 4 km away.
Because the airport is usually very busy, the transit buses to and from the aircraft can be crowded and uncomfortable. The airport has been criticised for its poor and confusing signage and the steep escalators, which can be somewhat difficult to negotiate.
The toilets themselves (besides being quite scruffy on the whole) are not easily negotiable for the less than able bodied, though they are built to accommodate wheelchairs.
There are insufficient seating arrangements both inside and outside the terminals, something to bear in mind if you end up having to face a long wait and especially if your condition does not take kindly to excessive heat. In fact, the terminal interiors themselves are equally stuffy and hot.
Negotiating security can also be trying; the security lines are divided between Schengen and non-Schengen countries, adding to the queuing time, and can contribute to the stress of travel. Passengers are also made to carry plastic trays and trolleys all the way to the conveyor and up to security, which is an almost impossible undertaking for disabled passengers to negotiate without help. Therefore, you would be far better served being escorted through by a passenger service assistant.
This can be arranged in several ways through the AENA Information service, which offers airport assistance to passengers with reduced mobility. Either call them directly on 902 402 704, if you are in Spain, or +34 91 3321 10 00 from everywhere else, to advise them of your requirements at least 48 hours before your journey.
Despite the aforementioned challenges, the special services department manage to do a decent and efficient job in getting you where you need to go. On arrival at the airport, you will be asked to make your way to one of the dedicated meeting points, from where you will then use the intercom to alert the airline agent of your arrival. You will then be collected and escorted to check-in.
You will be supported and accompanied all the way from check-in to security and, finally, to boarding, all of which will be done efficiently and will normally be trouble-free. Just don’t expect a smile from your assisting agent, nor much conversation. For an international airport, such as Madrid-Barajas is, the language skills of its staff are left very wanting!