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I was excited to finally sample Iberia’s longhaul business class product. I flew American’s business class between New York and Madrid just a few months ago, so was curious to compare the two products, since I’d be sampling them both on the same route. Iberia is also the last transatlantic oneworld airline I’ve yet to review — I’ve already reviewed airberlin, American Airlines, British Airways, and Finnair transatlantic business class.
New York (JFK) – Madrid (MAD)
Saturday, February 13
Arrive: 6:40AM (+1 day)
Seat: 5L (Business Class)
I boarded through the forward door, where the head purser pointed me towards the right aisle upon presenting my boarding pass. Iberia’s A340-600s have one massive business class cabin, given the large area between the first and second doors of the plane.
Iberia’s business class cabin consists of a total of 46 seats, spread across 12 rows in a 1-2-1 configuration (the first row doesn’t have two seats in the center row due to the location of the galley).
Iberia’s business class seats are staggered, and specifically the Solstys-style staggered seats. That’s to say that the seats are positioned differently in alternating rows. These are the same seats offered on airberlin, Alitalia, Etihad, etc.
For the window seats, one row has seats closer to the window, while the next row has seats closer to the aisle.
The reason for this staggering is that the ottomans for seats are located next to the seats in front of them.
I assigned myself seat 5L, which is one of the “true” window seats. On Iberia’s A340-600, the “true” business class window seats are the odd numbered ones, so those are the ones I recommend selecting.
Since the seat is so close to the window, most of the seat’s functions are to the left, closer to the aisle.
That’s where the entertainment and seat controls are located.
The seat controls were easy to use, and had several pre-set functions you could select from, in addition to being able to control individual aspects of the seats.
Iberia business class seat controls
Then to the left of the seat in front of the controls was a small storage unit, perfect for glasses, a wallet, a camera, etc. Below that was the power port.
To the left of seat was another storage unit, perfect for headphones or a book.
There was also a reading light in this area.
The reason I prefer this type of staggered seat to the Vantage-style seats on Austrian, Brussels, Delta, Swiss, etc., is because the area for your feet isn’t nearly as restrictive. There’s not just a “cubby,” but rather you have an ottoman where you can extend your feet vertically as much as you’d like.
Underneath the ottoman there’s storage for shoes or a small bag.
Then the tray table folds out from the seat in front of you, and can be released using a clip. Unlike the other style of staggered seats, the tray table in this type of seat is really easy to use.
A pillow & blanket were waiting at my seat during boarding. While the blanket was fine, the pillow was extremely thin. I know that’s common in Europe, though personally it’s not my preference on a plane, especially if I only have one pillow.
Also waiting at my seat were headphones, which were Iberia branded. They weren’t especially comfortable, though also weren’t the worst business class headphones I’ve had.
For reference, the aisle seats in this configuration simply have their ottoman along the aisle. The downside of these seats, in my opinion, is that you have virtually no privacy — you almost feel like you’re sitting in the aisle.
The center seats are also staggered. In odd numbered rows the two center seats are closest to the aisle, so you can’t even talk to the person seated in the other center seat.
Meanwhile in even numbered rows they have what are called “honeymoon seats,” where you’re seated really closely to the person next to you. This is great if you’re traveling with someone you really like, but otherwise I imagine it would be really awkward to end up in one of these seats next to a stranger.
The flight attendants came through the cabin with amenity kits at 5:25PM, a full 25 minutes after boarding began. I guess I can’t blame them, given that the entire plane was boarded through the forward door, so the aisle was quite busy during boarding. The amenity kits were in a soft-sided purple pouch.
The kit itself had a decent number of amenities, including socks, a shoe bag, earplugs, a toothbrush & toothpaste, a comb, and a shoehorn. Then there were a variety of amenities from L’Occitane, including hand cream, lip balm, shea butter, and a refreshing cloth.
A few minutes later the cabin crew came around with pre-departure beverages, consisting of the choice between water and orange juice. There were no options with alcohol. I was offered another refreshing towel with the drink.
I was also offered the menu and wine list for the flight, along with two other unique things.
There was basically the equivalent of a “do not disturb” sign, which you could hang on the knob of your tray table if you didn’t want to be disturbed.
There was also a duty free catalogue which was available exclusively to business class passengers, apparently.
At 5:35PM the door closed, with the business class cabin about two thirds full. Of the 30 (or so) business class passengers, I’d say only about five or six were American, with the balance being mostly Spanish.
At this point the head purser came on the PA to welcome us aboard on behalf of herself, Captain Jorge, and the rest of the crew. She informed us of our flight time of a very short 5hr55min — you’ve gotta love the jet stream this time of year (or not, if you’re trying to get some sleep).
At 5:40PM we began our pushback, where I had a nice view of the British Airways 747 parked next to us. At this point the safety video was screened.
We taxied out to runway 31L as the sun began to set. As an aviation geek, there’s nothing quite like a sunset as you’re taxiing around JFK Airport.
We made it to our departure runway at 6:05PM, and after a Lufthansa A340 took off, we were directed to taxi into position and hold.
Moments later we rocketed off thanks to the strong engines of the A340-600, leaving behind some beautiful city lights.
Less than 10 minutes after takeoff the seatbelt sign was turned off, despite some light turbulence on the initial climb out.
A couple of minutes later Captain Jorge came on the PA to add his welcome aboard. He was extremely professional, and provided one of the most detailed announcements I’ve heard in English, despite his grasp of the language not being all that great. He informed us that we had a 160km per hour tailwind, and that we had a takeoff weight of 290 tons and would have a landing weight of 242 tons, thanks to the 56,000 liters of fuel we’d burn inflight.
He further explained that we’d progressively be climbing higher throughout the flight in order to maximize fuel efficiency and airspeed, and to not be alarmed if the engines get louder during the night as we climb.
I took the opportunity to head to the lavatory to change into something more comfortable. The business class cabin has three lavatories — two behind the cabin, and one in front. So naturally I went to the ones in the back, so I could get a good cabin picture from the rear. 😉
The lavatories featured an interesting floor pattern, though aside from that were unremarkable. They were on the small side and didn’t seem to be in especially good condition.
They did have a cute floral-style art arrangement, though.
Upon returning to my seat the head purser made her way around the cabin to welcome each passenger aboard and also take orders for the main course. She was very nice and seemed to take pride in the service, telling me that I should let her know if I needed anything from “her” crew.
She also handed out “free” wifi vouchers for business class, which is a lovely touch. Unfortunately the free internet vouchers were for 4MB of free wifi.
Iberia free internet voucher
Iberia free internet voucher
Four megabytes. For those of you who are like me, and aren’t really tech savvy, let me give a comparison. Calling 4MB of wifi “free wifi” is the equivalent of calling a free sample at Costco a “free meal.” By the time I connected and loaded my email once I had used my 4MB allotment.
Iberia’s wifi is provided by OnAir, and the pricing is obscene. Charging $20 for 22MB of data is ridiculous. I value wifi immensely, but even I didn’t find that to be worthwhile.
For context, Etihad and Lufthansa charge ~$20 for free wifi for 24 hours. On a typical longhaul flight I might use 200-400MB of data (depending in how long the flight is), so under this system that would cost me hundreds of dollars. No thanks.
Previously Singapore Airlines had the most expensive wifi of any airline I’ve flown, but Iberia’s wifi is even more expensive.
At this point I browsed the entertainment selection, starting with the airshow. Iberia uses the same airshow interface as many airlines, including most recently (for me) Air India.
I also browsed the entertainment selection. I was impressed by the selection, and especially impressed by the responsiveness of the entertainment system. As soon as I pushed a button the next page loaded, without the usual lag. Iberia also has no ads before their entertainment selection plays, which is nice. While the selection itself wasn’t the best in the world, it exceeded my expectations.
I decided to watch an episode of Modern Family which I don’t think I’ve seen before, surprisingly enough.
About 40 minutes after takeoff the crew began the meal service.
The menu read as follows:
The coffee & tea menu read as follows:
The liquor list read as follows:
And the wine list read as follows:
Service began with distributing hot towels. While the towels themselves felt quite cheap, they were served on nice plates.
Then the crew came through the cabin with a drink trolley. I ordered a glass of champagne, which was possibly the least generous pour I’ve ever been offered. On top of that I was offered my choice between olives or mixed nuts — I asked if I could have both, which the flight attendant agreed to.
After the flight attendants finished their drink service they came through the aisle to clear drinks. Rather than offering drink refills they just cleared the glasses, which seemed a bit odd.
About 15 minutes later the crew rolled out a cart with the starters. This consisted of a tray with an appetizer, soup, and cheese.
The starter consisted of salmon and some sort of pasta salad, and was surprisingly tasty.
The veal consomme was very nice as well.
And then there was also a cheese plate, which was basic though good.
I was offered drinks as the course was served, and selected a glass of sparkling water and also the drier of the two white wines on offer.
For the main course I ordered the prawns, which were… fine. I think it’s a bit of a stretch to call them “king prawns,” but the dish was decent enough, even if the presentation was lacking.
About 20 minutes later the crew came through with the dessert trolley. I asked if I could have both the cake and ice cream (only because I wanted pictures of both), and the crew gave me the cake and said they’d come back if they had leftovers of the ice cream, which they did.
The cake was sinfully decadent.
The ice cream was good as well, though mainly I just liked the presentation, rather than most non-US airlines, which just serve ice cream in the original container.
Interestingly coffee wasn’t offered on the dessert trolley, but rather was brought out separately. I had a cup of coffee, and also was offered either some milk or dark Lindt chocolate to go along with it.
Lastly I was offered a bottle of water to finish the meal.
Bottled water in Iberia business class
The entire meal service took about 1hr45min, which seems fairly long for a sub-six hour transatlantic redeye. That being said, the crew did seem quite efficient, so with their setup I guess that’s just how long it takes.
As far as the crew goes, I don’t have anything bad to say about them… but I also don’t have much good to say about them. They were efficient and got the job done, and were nice enough. They seemed neither engaged nor disinterested, but rather like they were on a mission to carry out a decent service, and they succeeded at that. But I was never addressed by name (aside from the purser), never offered a drink refill, and smiles seemed to cost extra.
After the meal service the cabin lights were dimmed, and I tried to get some sleep.
I reclined the seat into the fully flat position, though the pillow didn’t help much in the way of providing padding, so I simply didn’t recline the seatback all the way.
Aside from that, I find this to be a fairly comfortable seat, thanks to the ample legroom and privacy. Unfortunately I couldn’t really sleep, which wasn’t because of the seat, but rather due to the early departure out of New York. Furthermore, I had booked a day room in Madrid, so figured I’d stay awake so I could sleep there.
With just under four hours to go to Madrid, I decided to watch a few more TV shows.
After watching an episode of Modern Family I watched a National Geographic documentary called YouTube Revolution, which was fascinating. I was a huge fan of YouTube before (I always annoy people by making them watch videos), though had no clue just how much it has changed society. If you’d like to see the show, here it is:
It’s worth noting that the cabin got pretty warm during the night, and unfortunately Iberia doesn’t have individual air vents on the A340.
Before I knew it we were 75 minutes out of Madrid, and the cabin lights were slowly turned up in anticipation of arrival.
Hot towels were distributed, and shortly thereafter the meal service began.
The breakfast menu read as follows:
Given the short flight, the breakfast service was quite simple. Everything was served on one tray, and there was blueberry yogurt, fresh fruit, a croissant, and a slice of toast. I was also offered some coffee.
As an afterthought the crew brought around orange juice. They didn’t actually ask what beverage people wanted, but rather just plopped down an orange juice on everyone’s tray.
15 minutes before landing the captain came back on the PA to advise us we’d soon be landing and to thank us for flying Iberia, anticipating we would touch down at 5:50AM.
Moments later an arrival video was screened with information about Madrid Airport, including tips for connections.
As we began our final approach the head purser once again came through the cabin to thank everyone for flying Iberia and to ask how their flight was. She was clearly rushed for time, and simply said “thanks for flying Iberia… everything was okay?” Usually I’d find that to be a pretty bad metric of determining customer satisfaction, but given the limited time she had and effort she put in, I’ll give her a pass. 😉
Sure enough we had a smooth touchdown at Madrid Airport at 5:50AM, and then a five minute taxi to our arrival gate.
While Madrid Airport is beautiful, it’s extremely impractically designed, as walking between gates and immigration can take 20+ minutes. After taking the train and clearing passport control I headed to the Iberia arrivals lounge to check that out, before heading to the Hilton Madrid Airport for some rest.
Iberia business class bottom line
I’ve long said that business class is all about the seat, and Iberia does fairly well in that regard.
While my two favorite business class seats are reverse herringbone and the “sky suite” offered by JAL and Oman Air, this is probably my third favorite kind of seat. You have a good amount of privacy and plenty of room for your feet, which is where most other airlines don’t do so well.
I thought the food on this flight was quite good, better than I’ve had on many other airlines. The service was definitely focused on efficiency, and I can’t say it was friendly or rude. I realize flight attendants are rushed on these short transatlantic flights, and that was pretty apparent here.
If Iberia had reasonably priced wifi I’d be an even happier camper. Offering 4MB of free wifi is basically useless, and their pricing otherwise is exorbitant.
So overall I give Iberia pretty good marks. I definitely prefer them to British Airways business class, and also prefer them to Finnair’s A330/A340 business class (though I prefer Finnair’s A350 business class, which they don’t typically fly to the US).
Ultimately my favorite way to travel on oneworld in transatlantic business class continues to be American’s reverse herringbone seats.
If you’ve flown Iberia’s business class, what was your experience like?