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Oh!!! American Airlines - Madrid Airport

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First I'll vent then ask my questions.

In October (2011) I booked tickets using air miles to Marseilles with a transfer in Barcelona. Yesterday I decided to call (tickets booked over the phone so seat assignment had to be as well) and get seat assignments. A recording informed me that there was a cancellation on my flight (Iberia). Nice of them to inform me.

When I spoke with the ticket agent she said that our flight had been cancelled. Her position was that she trying to do me a favor as one option would be to merely refund our payments. THANKS!!!!

She was able to place us on another flight thru Madrid but there's a 8 hour layover and we arrive in MRS at 6:30PM instead of 1PM.
= = = = = =
Ok. Now that I vented I have a few questions.

We've been to Madrid once before about 9-10 years ago. Rather than stay at the airport all day it might be nice to wander around Madrid for a few hours. I'm guessing we should have at least 4 hours in the city out of 8 hours between flights. Correct?

Our luggage will be checked right thru but is it possible to check carry-ons at the airport?

I've read some other threads on going to and from the airport but they're confusing and there seems to be many options. Train, Bus, metro, etc.

We wouldn't be going to a specific hotel or place. Maybe Sol and/or Plaza Mayor area.

What are the current choices? Thanks.

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