Iberia A350 business class long haul – better than BA?

I am sure plenty of my readers have some of their 90,000 Iberia Avios bonus flights coming up soon, so hopefully, this will be a timely review.

I have always heard very mixed reports about Iberia long haul and having only ever flown them short haul I thought it was about time I tried them out. I booked the seats using an Avios redemption from Madrid to New York. This costs a very cheap 34,000 Avios one way so although you have to go to Madrid first, it can be a good use of Avios compared to BA. The taxes were also cheap at £91 one way. To get this price I had to transfer my Avios to Iberia which is relatively easy to do using Combine my Avios providing the details on both accounts matches up. You can find out more about redeeming Avios on Iberia in this article. 

 

Check-in

Iberia business class check in

There is a separate business class check-in at Madrid which is pretty unremarkable. There was no wait for a desk and it was fairly swift and efficient since I had checked in online. The agent was fine but nothing like my previous experience at Iberia Madrid where the agent went into a full charm offensive going on about how I was one of their most important customers! (no idea why as I was travelling on my Iberia Plus status – which I am the bottom tier of).

I quite like travelling from Madrid airport as it is usually pretty stress-free and I like the design of the impressive building. There is fast track security which I normally find pretty swift. The only downside of Madrid is that BA and Iberia both use the satellite terminal which is a surprisingly long train journey to what feels like a completely separate terminal rather than a satellite. I always find there is a bit of a wait for the trains too.

Lounge

Iberia Madrid Velazquez lounge review

Entrance in Duty-free

The lounge at the satellite terminal is very new and overall impressive. It has a strange entrance that would be easy to miss as it is in the middle of the duty-free shop!

Iberia Madrid Velazquez lounge review

Very long lounge space

 

Iberia Madrid Velazquez lounge review

Luggage storage

As you enter there is a clever secure storage area for your luggage with a funky modern design. In the lounge, there is also a work area and a kid’s space. Pre-flight dining is offered in a separate room in the evening. 

Both ends of the lounge have a dining area with similar food although the left side has a few drinks there as well. On the right side the bar is just around the corner so you get your drinks from there. 

Iberia Madrid Velazquez lounge review

Bar area

It was mid morning and they had an assortment of breakfast food and snacks such as sandwiches and ice cream. Here is a selection of the food:

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Boarding

Boarding never seems to work particularly well with Iberia and despite calling business class first we still ended up queuing on the jetbridge as is often the case.

There was already a package on my seat with a blanket and pillow when I arrived. Once seated I was given headphones and an amenity kit. I thought the amenity kit was actually pretty impressive and I liked the neoprene material. Although it may not feel particularly luxurious it was practical and smart.

The bag had products by Germaine de Cappucini which not everyone may have heard of but are actually a well respected high-end spa skincare range. The kit had moisturiser, lip balm, facial mist, toothbrush and paste, socks, earplugs, a comb and shoehorn. There was even a hair band which I have never seen in an amenity kit and useful if like me, you look like you have been dragged through a hedge backwards when you wake up on a plane! (or anywhere for that matter…..). There was also a bag which I am guessing you would use as a laundry or shoe bag.

Prior to take off I was offered a welcome drink with the soft drinks on a tray but the Cava poured at my seat which I thought added a bit of class to it. Although it is not champagne I had actually forgotten how good a decent cava can be compared to a bad champagne so I was quite happy with my drink. 

The cabin and seat

IBERIA A350-900

This was the second time I had been on Iberia’s A350 but previously I had only flown on it short haul, so this would be the real acid test of the seat.  The cabin is laid out 1-2-1 and has quite a variety of seat options. For me, as a solo traveller, the A and L seats are the best as they have the best window views as well as plenty of privacy. Other seats for solos would be the C or J seats or the alternate middle rows where the seats are further apart.

Rows 1, 3, 5 or 7 are best for couples although I would avoid 1 and 7 on a night flight due to noise. 

Iberia A350 business class short haul full review cabin

Iberia A350 business class cabin with alternate middle seat layouts

I had seat 5L.  There is plenty of storage space at the seat although not all are meant to be used until after take-off. There were a couple of fairly open shelves that were quite small and after take-off you could put stuff under the footstool and on the table. The main issue I had is that there was nowhere really to store a laptop which is something BA does well with the drawers unless yours is too big for it.

The seat felt extremely wide, probably the widest I have sat in recently apart from Singapore Airlines (it is wider than Iberia’s A340 seats) I wasn’t keen on the seat belt with the over the shoulder restraint and I certainly wouldn’t want to wear that for too long on a bumpy ride. In terms of comfort, the seat felt better than my initial flight on the A350 where I found it a bit hard. At that time it was brand new so it has probably softened up with a bit of use! Once reclined it felt comfortable and I could easily reach the footrest. The controls were simple and you could move the seat forward if you were too far from the footstool.

I had a little snooze after my lunch to test out the seat for sleeping. I found it pretty comfortable and I particularly liked the width lying down.  You could sleep on your side comfortably and didn’t feel at all hemmed in as you do on some of the modern seats. The footrest was open sided which also helped the sense of space. The pillow was OK if a little thin with a cotton pillowcase and the blanket was more of a duvet/quilt which again was fine. Overall I had a good doze and would be happy with the seat on a night flight. 

Food and drink

Shortly after takeoff, I was given the menu and a hot towel which came on a nice ceramic dish.

It was then time for an apertif so I took a look at the list of drinks. It was very Spanish feeling but I quite like something that reflects the home country of the airline. I thought the drinks were impressive with my favourite gin, Fifty Pound gin being one of the choices. It is quite a boutique brand and hard to find in bars let alone on a plane. Here is the menu:

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With such a selection I was really torn between the gin, cava and a manzanilla sherry which is also a favourite. In the end, I went with the cava as I had really enjoyed it. I was also offered olives or nuts which is also a first on an airline for me. 

I was also asked for my choice of main course. I thought the menu looked interesting with lots of things that I liked the look of and again I was torn by the choices. Initially, I thought it was a choice of starters:

Then without any further interaction, the starter arrived and it was a lot of food! I was asked if I wanted the soup so I thought I would give it a try. I was offered warm bread and it was nice to have a proper crusty baguette type bread with the olive oil for dipping. 

The light starter!

It was all really tasty, particularly the foie-gras with the jam and the soup. The couscous had lots of flavour in it but was a little filling for one part of a big starter, so I left most of that. 

Throughout the meal, the cabin crew were extremely attentive backwards and forwards constantly with top ups. The woman serving me was not what I would call friendly but she was very efficient and polite which to be honest is enough for me.

However, the Purser (I’m guessing probably in charge of all the cabin crew onboard) was a delight! She came over at the beginning and end of the flight to introduce herself and chat. She was so warm and friendly it really made you feel very welcome as a customer and to be honest not something I was expecting at all on Iberia. It will be interesting to hear if other people have had the same experience on Iberia or I was just lucky? 

Lamb main course

I had decided on the lamb which when it arrived didn’t look particularly great. The lamb was reasonably tender and the cassava mash had a nice flavour but was a bit glutinous for my liking. There was nothing wrong with the dish perse but I did find it a little bland and disappointing after the menu description. I had a glass of the Ribera del Duoro Crianza which I really enjoyed. It was full-bodied and oaky which is my style of wine on a plane where you need something more robust I think.

Unusually for business class there was no cheese option for dessert but I guess we had that as part of the starter! I decided to go with the ice cream which was OK but didn’t really taste of much. I had to have a glass of the Pedro Ximenez dessert wine though (actually a sherry technically) as it is one of my favourites. If you have never had it it is like drinking liquid alcoholic raisins! It was good to see there was actually a choice of dessert wines.

Finally, they came round with coffee and liqueurs. Being a brandy fan I was intrigued by the Crema de Alba, licor de brandy which I had never heard of. I tried a glass with some ice and it was like a brandy flavoured Baileys with a bit more punch! Definitely something I will be bringing back from Spain next time I visit!

Overall it was a good meal and probably on a par with BA although you did get a lot more food. 

A second meal was served prior to landing. Normally I wouldn’t bother but since it was small I decided to try it. It was a nice snack and I liked the tomato pulp so you could make your own Spanish style tomato bread with another warm crusty roll. 

 

Entertainment and connectivity

Good definition on the TV screen

The A350 has a large high definition screen and the list of movies and TV programmes was good enough for me. I decided to watch Crazy Rich Asians which was quite funny and didn’t require too much concentration. The handheld remote was very responsive and simple to use. It was probably one of the best I have used, plus you could also control things from the main screen which had a touchscreen. Interestingly the noise cancelling headphones had a constant crackling noise which was down to a dodgy cable I think. I also had the same issue on my last Iberia flight so I am guessing they are not very robust. 

Iberia A350 business class short haul full review headphones and remote

Noise cancelling headphones and remote

If you needed to charge your devices there was a multi-country socket and two USB ports too. 

Iberia A350-900 business class review footstool

Charging points

There was Wi-Fi on board but I struggled to use this as it didn’t work for quite a long time and then when it did come on it kept failing after about an hour. I had bought a package for 3 hours but it went far more quickly than 3 hours because of the data limit. I was only using social media, email and some blog work so I was surprised at how quickly it went. You could only use it in one device which was annoying unlike Virgin where you can switch between devices. The speed felt fairly average and was good enough for what I wanted to do. 

The prices are: 

Time Price Data limit
1 hour 8.99 € 40 MB
3 hours 19.99 € 100 MB
Full flight 29.99 € 200 MB

 

Conclusion

I was surprisingly impressed with the Iberia flight. Given the cheap cost of business class redemptions in both money and Avios this was well worth the outlay to get to Madrid, especially since its a city I love visiting. The seats and entertainment were definitely a big step above BA although I think BA’s fast option for Wi-Fi is better speed wise than Iberia. I liked the fact that the seats had aisle access but the ones like I had are quite private too. The width of the seat was impressive and overall it was comfortable.

The food was plentiful if a little hit and miss in places but the biggest surprise was the service. I have never heard particularly good things about Iberia’s service but I really could not fault it on this flight, especially the charming Purser. 

Overall I would view this as superior to BA in terms of the onboard product although BA wins on a wider choice of wines and being able to pre-order food is useful too. There were no spa treatments either which are offered with BA although to be honest the chances of getting one are slim for most people!

You can find more about Iberia business class here.

You can read my Iberia A340 review here. 

 

 

 

7 Comments on "Iberia A350 business class long haul – better than BA?"

  1. How similar do you think BA’s CW will be compared to this one?

    • The rumour is that these will be the new CW seats. From everything I have heard I think if they are the seats they will be customised quite heavily. Given how far behind the competition BA are now I think they will need to do something more impressive than the IB seats. But I expect that the layout will be similar.

  2. Glad you had a good experience. We just flew Iberia down to Buenos Aires and whilst the seats were good everything else made us miss BA, especially the service. They all disappeared for most of the flight!

    • I am doing that route in April so it will be interesting to see.

    • I agree with you on this, I flew with Iberia to Lima in business class on their A330 and the cabin crew was only really seen during meal service. There weren’t any snacks but overall it was worth the detour to save on taxes compared to flying from London.

  3. Clive Bennett | 6 January 2019 at 12:42 pm | Reply

    I have been forced to use Iberia business class long haul to get to South America many times and I have had nothing but mediocre to bad experiences. On my second trip with them – Lisbon-Madrid-Santiago (Chile) – the feeder flight was delayed, with no explanation. I and six others ran for the long haul flight, including that long train journey, got there breathless 20 mins before take off and were rudely told the gate was closed, with no sympathy or advice. We queued at the Iberia desk. After 30 minutes, the lady said her shift had ended and she closed the counter with no explanation or apology. An hour and a half later (middle of the night) we were sent to a truly horrible airport hotel, where, for example, you had to leave the hotel and go to a dispenser to get water and the food the next day (24 hour delay) was almost inedible. On another occasion, my wife was with me, got ill and we needed a wheelchair to get her to the flight (by coincidence in Santiago again). The Iberia desk staff were rude and dismissive – in our distress we eventually found an extremely kind and helpful airport employee to save us.

    In several years experience, Iberia service has been consistently arrogant, rude and unhelpful. On board, I find the cabin crew to be mostly unfriendly and the food sometimes frankly really poor, never interesting, once on business class short haul disgusting. The wine choices are feeble, especially given how good Spanish wine can be. Seating and comfort are average, on tired old planes and the in-flight entertainment poor. Telephone and email support (you are not allowed to respond to their emails) is atrociously unhelpful. Iberia is so bad I now prefer to add an extra leg or take longer flights and use LATAM instead, which is rather good.

    I am not a big fan of BA – especially the very ungenerous and sometimes opaque miles system – but it is way better than Iberia, which I would put around number 20 in my list of airlines for long haul business and first class, with BA about number 10. I even find some American airlines to be better than Iberia and that is a pretty low bar.

    I strongly recommend TAP Air Portugal for the miles system – it’s generous (free gold card for a second person, only 50 000 miles to renew gold status, completely transparent on how award and status miles are calculated) and the gold card customer support a delight. On one occasion, a telephone adviser looked at award flight availability for me to Sydney every day for a whole month, without my asking, and calling me of his own accord at the end. Usually, much easier to get business class award flights and upgrades than with BA – I have been trying for two years, on several routes, as a BA Gold card member to use miles for an upgrade Business to First Class and have never succeeded, even when requesting 9 months in advance.

    TAP’s renovated Business Class Lisbon to New York on new A330s is outstanding and their short haul planes (A319) are new and spacious too, even in economy. Their ground staff and cabin crews are genuinely friendly and the food is good, usually with excellent wines and generous service. In-flight entertainment is average.

  4. Oh dear. the way you describe Iberia service in the air and on the ground as arrogant, rude and unhelpful also seems to be the case if – heaven forbid! anyone has to phone Iberia too. Based on recent experiences where Iberia caused me severe problems I’d also add lazy and probably many agents are incompetent. It’ll be a cold day in hell before I’d set foot on another Iberia plane particularly longhaul.

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