Why Iberia’s long-haul business seat is better than BA Club World (and low taxes too!)

This is my review of Iberia’s long-haul business class seating.

It is almost four years since I flew Iberia’s long-haul business class so I thought it was time to take another look.  We are running a series of reviews over the next few weeks on IAG’s other premium class products.  I reviewed Iberia Express business class yesterday and we have pieces on Aer Lingus and Vueling (Excellence) on the way.

I wasn’t flying far, even though I was on a long-haul plane.  Iberia runs a number of afternoon flights each week from Madrid to Heathrow (and back) with long-haul aircraft.  This is done for cargo purposes, in the same way that Finnair is now running A350 aircraft between Heathrow and Helsinki.  Because they are being used for cargo, they are ‘fixed’ in the timetable and you are unlikely to find yourself moved to a normal short-haul plane.

Because it is a long-haul aircraft, you will get a flat bed seat if you book into business class.

If you have never flown long-haul business class before with a flat bed, this is not a bad way to give it a go whilst you are waiting for your Avios balance to cover a proper long-haul holiday!

The lounge

If you booked yourself a flight from Madrid to London in Iberia business class, you would get access to the Velazquez lounge in Terminal 4S at Madrid airport :

Iberia Velazquez lounge Madrid review

That photograph is from my 2013 trip.  I didn’t make the lounge this time.  My flight from Palma was a few minutes late arriving, and once I had got into Terminal 4 I saw this:

Iberia long haul business class A330 A340 review

Yes, 21 minutes to Terminal 4S from Terminal 4!

(Madrid Terminal 4 is what happens when you give an architect all the space they want and tell them to build a terminal.  The distances between gates are ludicrous.  The new Hamad Airport in Doha is the longest free-standing building in the world.  Heathrow Terminal 5, whilst much derided, is actually a work of genius – from a passenger perspective – in terms of the time taken to get to your gate.  The design of T5 was forced on Heathrow by the position of the M25, however.  If Richard Rogers had been given a choice it would also probably be a mile long …..)

So, clearly no time to visit the lounge.  I hopped straight onto the plane (an A340-600):

Iberia long haul business class A330 A340 review

And into my seat, 5A:

Iberia long haul business class A330 A340 review

and

Iberia long haul business class A330 A340 review

Let’s look at the layout.

It is 1-2-1 in Business Class.  However, each section alternates.

My window seat was an actual window seat.  However, the seat in front and the seat behind had the seat by the aisle and you could not get a direct view of your window.  If you are travelling alone and want to watch out of the window, ensure you get a seat such as 5A and not 4A or 6A.

The centre pairs also have alternate seating.  In some rows, the seats are directly on the aisle and there is a large gap between yourself and the person in the other middle seat.  These are best for solo travellers as you can see here:

Iberia long haul business class A330 A340 review

In other rows, you are sitting in the middle, just off the aisle, and are directly next to your seatmate.  This seats are best for couples.

Note that all seats have direct aisle access which is something you don’t get with BA’s Club World seat.

There was a USB socket which I used to charge my phone, and also a power socket.  Wi-fi is usually chargeable but we were all given a voucher for 4MB of free data usage.  This does not last long, of course – literally a few minutes with general browsing.

Standard wi-fi pricing goes from €4.95 for 4MB up to €34.95 for 45MB.  Even 45MB won’t get you far if you are doing a lot of browsing on image-heavy sites.

Iberia long haul business class A330 A340 review

The controls were easy to operate, although I didn’t put the seat flat given the short flight time.  Two things are worth noting:

Your feet are NOT in a cubby hole, as it the case with many business class seats at the moment

The TV screen does not fold away, because it is built into the design of the seat and is actually fixed to the back of the seat in front.  You are staring at it for the entire flight, whether you want to or not!

You can see both of these points in action here:

Iberia A340 business class seat reviewed

Food and drink

Iberia was running a proper hot meal service. Get on a British Airways Club Europe plane departing in the mid-afternoon and you’d get the awful ‘afternoon tea’ pack of four finger sandwiches.

Iberia, on the other hand, was offering this (and even gave out proper menus):

Pear tomatoes, courgette and asparagus salad

Veal burger with a Pedro Ximenez sauce served with finely sliced poatoes or

Cheese and nuts stuffed pasta in a tomato, aubergine and thyme sauce

Manchego cheese

Chocolate sponge cake

Basket with assorted breads

Selection of wines, soft drinks and spirits

Coffee and teas

I took the burger.  It was all served as one tray, and wasn’t at all bad (although, arguably, I would expect a burger to include bread and not just the patty):

Iberia long haul business class A330 A340 review food

Conclusion

There are many good reasons to fly Iberia on your long-haul business class redemptions purely on price.  After all, Madrid to New York off-peak is 68,000 Avios plus £157 return, instead of 100,000 Avios plus £527 return on BA from London.

(Note that you must book Iberia redemptions via the Iberia Plus website to get the £157 taxes figure.  Book exactly the same Madrid to New York flight via ba.com and the taxes rocket to £364.  Remember that you cannot transfer Avios into Iberia Plus until your Iberia Plus account is 90 days old and it has earned 1 Avios.  Another benefit of booking via iberia.com is better availability compared to what ba.com shows.)

The even better news, as you see here, is that Iberia has a good long-haul seat as well.  I haven’t tried to sleep on it, neither have I tried the proper long-haul food service, but you can tell from the pictures above that you are going to have a decent experience.

If you have never flown a long-haul fully-flat business class seat, then why not give this a go?  A one-way ticket in Business Class between Madrid and London is only 15,000 Avios plus taxes, irrespective of whether you fly Iberia or British Airways – so try to get the Iberia long-haul flights if you can.

If you book via iberia.com, the aircraft model is clearly shown when booking.  If you book on ba.com, you need to click on the flight number.  This opens up a box with more information including the aircraft being used – you are looking for an A330 or A340.

Next up on our tour of IAG business class products is Aer Lingus and their new long-haul business class seat.  We should get that series of articles up in late October.

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Comments

  1. Same seat as the A330 which I flew MAD-JNB on last year. I made a video if I might be able to link? Thanks

  2. Rob – could you confirm that when flying on Iberia Express from MAN to Madrid in business class, you can use the BA lounge at MAN before the outbound flight? It wasn’t quite clear from the article.

    Thanks 🙂

    • I’m not sure about flying Business Class, but I was recently told over on the oracle of all things flying, Flyertalk, that as BA Silver, flying MAN-MAD, I should have access to the lounge. So I’m sure that the same would apply to flying business class on a oneworld carrier.

      • Thanks – I probably wouldn’t bother with business class for a short flight if there was no lounge access!

  3. I have taken advantage of the Madrid- JFK flight , 68,000 points for 2 in November it will be interesting to compare it to the BA product. On the distances Flying T4 Madrid to T5 Heathrow usually meant I was pretty close to my 10,000 step target…

  4. BlackBerryAddict says:

    I did MAD-LIM earlier this year. Cracking deal because there was promotion on with a 25% discount for the long haul sectors. We booked LHR-MAD separately, stayed the night in an airport hotel and flew the next day. The seat is absolutely fine, and the lounge in T4S is also good, although they are currently rebuilding it (was there last weekend) which means it can get very busy, especially as the entire QR crew was camping there as well).
    BUT – ground service is not nice – check in was rude and dismissive. And in flight service is even worse. Crew are surly, would rather not have you there. They took an hour (and several reminders) to replace a faulty headphone. They served lunch shortly after take off, and then no food for 9 – yes nine hours. It is the first time I have had to go to the galley to ask when they were going to feed us again. And yet again, i was looked upon as if i had asked something extraordinary. The second meal eventually came, but consisted of a few slices of meat, and a roll. Call bells don’t seem to work. No drink top ups. We went straight to a restaurant after getting off the flight because we were starving.

    On the return (night) flight we just slept – having had a very busy three day stay in Lima.

    • It must be a One World thing. On our 12 hour flight home from holiday in August we got one meal and nothing else until they gave us a croissant shortly before landing!

      • Jonathan says:

        I’m flying NRT-LHR BA CW soon. Might anyone know what meal service (and approx timings) I should expect? Thanks!

    • Have to agree about the ground service – when collecting and re-checking bags in Madrid on HAV-MAD-LHR, I was given fast-track as BA Silver, but not my wife (Blue) – they refused to let us go through together, and we had to negotiate a very long queue at security. Seems bizarre when we are allowed lounge access with one silver between us!

      Also had bad experience with food and drink on the HAV-MAD leg. No drinks served after boarding, not until long after take-off – we were gasping for a decent drink after a couple of hours in HAV! Then the meal was served 2 hours after take off (by which time I had hoped to be asleep), and it was still cold – my wife and I both sent them back – her was then OK, but mine was still frozen in the middle. By the time I got an edible meal, the rest of the service had finished, and I had to keep chasing for dessert, drinks etc.

      I did get compo Avios eventually, but I’d rather have a decent flight in the first place.

  5. Did LON – MAD – LIM last year, great value. On the outbound we booked a one-way flight separately after work Friday evening and stayed the night close to the airport (Hilton Madrid Airport – worked well with the Gold status via Amex Platinum!). On the return we booked the LIM – MAD – LHR journey on one ticket with Avios so we could connect quickly and have our luggage checked through. Booked the long haul in business and the short haul in discounted economy “blue” class on Iberia.

    Had to change the FF number to my BA Silver Card in order to use the lounge on the way back but this only took a couple of minutes at the entrance to the lounge.

  6. barry cutters says:

    question on this ,
    is it 90 days from when the first avios is earned . or 90 days from the account opening?
    I have an account that iv had for years, but never earned a point. is it a case of just earning a point then I can book our flights to lima?

  7. dicksbits says:

    You can turn the tv off completely so the fixed screen doesn’t bother you

    • Yes I know – but the screen is still there, so you have something directly in front of your face.

  8. Bigglesgirl says:

    I’ll be flying Aer Lingus DUB-YYZ on Saturday so will probably pop a review up on Business Traveller’s Seatplans website….hubby and I have got the ‘Captain Kirk’ seats out and back so it’ll be interesting

  9. Ok so I am sure I am just being especially dim, but how do you spend Avios via the Iberia website? I have been trawling around the Iberia Plus pages but just cannot see how to do this – lots of earning and spending tables etc, but can’t see how to actually make a booking (it might be as it is Sunday morning…!)