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

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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.

(Want to earn more Avios?  Click here to visit our home page for the latest articles on earning and spending your Avios points and click here to see how to earn more Avios from current offers and promotions.)

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Comments

  1. Simon Cross says:

    I use iberia from time to time when I fly to dominican Republic – the long haul leg (Madrid to santo domingo) is definitely better than BA business class – food is superior as well as the seating, but there are downsides. Having to connect via Madrid instead of direct from London (albeit to punta cana with BA instead of SDQ). This takes time and I have done this three times and on two occasions Iberia have mislaid my baggage in Madrid and it took 3 and 5 days to get to me as well as unbelievable hassle.

    It is definitely cheaper – both in terms of Avios and in terms of taxes and also there are some bizarre situations where it is even cheaper to book the outbound as 2 separate legs – one to Madrid and the other from there onwards (savings in excess of pounds 200) and then the return as one booking (from SDQ to LRH (it makes no difference is one booking or 2 separate ones). I also saved even more by booking the lhr to mad leg on the ba website and then the mad to SDQ on iberia. Of course I will have to collect and recheck my baggage but as the iberia lounge in Madrid is excellent a stopover there and a saving of around 250 pounds overall is no hardship.

    So – if you are Latin America bound I strongly suggest readers look at using iberia and the various booking rises available to save money and experience a much better service although I suggest a minimum of 3 hours connection time is needed to make sure that your baggage makes it. Iberia will book you on flights with as little as 50 minutes connection – don’t do it unless you are travelling with hand baggage only.

    Of – long haul iberia also allows 3 pieces of checked baggage against BA’s 2 but you still have to et the third piece to madrid!!!

    Happy travels.

    • Michael C says:

      I did Madrid – B. Aires around a donzen times a few years ago, connecting from BCN. The luggage wouldn’t make the connection about 75% of the time: I ended up taking only carry-on. Btw I believe that was the longest flight by a European carrier not to have AVOD in economy at the time – don’t know if that’s changed?!

    • Have to agree with the comments about connection times and baggage delays due to short connection times at Madrid. Our long “run” from arrival / departure gates took us about 12 mins after a delayed Edinburgh – Madrid flight. The terminal is absolutely huge. We just made the flight but our baggage didn’t. Note to self and others, make sure it’s at least a 2 hour, if not 3 hour, connection time.

  2. Alan Wan says:

    I did LHR to Madrid on the IB Airbus A340-600 in business and really enjoyed it. I had a nice hot meal, a good bar service including mini bottles of cava and a very nice Spanish brandy and the IFE was fully operational. I watched a YouTube video of a fella doing the BA equivalent trip onboard a B777 in Club – no food was a very limited salad and the IFE wasn’t working.

    • Did BA Madrid to LHR in CE, food was a waste of time, no choice and better in economy with buy on board, didn’t realise the IFE was supposed to work 🙁

      • that was in then 777.

        The Iberia lounge in Madrid 4s is very good IMO although being refurbished when I was there a few weeks ago and also very busy.

      • Are there movies and shows on there in English?

  3. Rob all competitors business class is better than BA Club World. Surely your readers are well aware of this by now and if they are not isn’t it your duty to regularly remind them?

    • This was also pointed out in the comments in the 241 Amex article the other day.

      Rob – how about a league table with HFP readers ranking Business class?

      1. Qatar Q Suites…

      27. BA Club World

      And then one on value using any promotion/redemption available. That would move BA CW into the top ten..

      • I haven’t been on that many long haul J/F classes, but from my limited personal opinion:

        1) Qatar A350 (1-2-1) business
        2) BA 777 First. 787 F is better apparently and trying that next year along with A380 thanks to HfP!
        3) Korean New Business. Think on A330.
        4) Garuda Indonesian. 777.
        5) Air China (done on both 777 and A330).
        6) Korean A380 business.
        7) BA CW. Benefit of this is direct plus can get some deals esp ex-EU. The 241 voucher is generally used in F.

        Really hope that the new Club-World on the A350 will be competitive, the leaked pictures don’t fill me with much confidence though…..

  4. Other downside is that they serve Cava (yuk from me) rather than Champagne.
    Such a shame given how most other things are better than BA.

    • I know, absolutely atrocious, darling

    • I had an equally traumatic experience at the Hilton Berlin, at the breakfast buffet it turned out that the fizz was German sparkling wine. I had to add orange juice and make a fake bucks fizz, but fruit portion for the day sorted.

      Actually, last time I was in the Malaysian Business Class Lounge in KLIA they too were serving sparkling white wine (no more champagne) #cuttoofar.

  5. Looks a good setup, LOVE the lack of foot cubby (hated that on Swiss).

    Surely the burger is just ‘deconstructed’ with the roll next to it? 😉

    • No, I took the roll from the bread basket – technically I could have made a burger with it, I suppose!

    • I regard not having a doughy roll as a plus point.
      Waitrose coffee shop is the only place you get a decent bun IMO.

  6. I think I got pretty much the same burger flying Madrid to Chicago with them. The min difference with this flight is the mini bottles of wine instead or it being poured from the bottle in long haul business.

    I do think they take the “we’re a Spanish airline so everything must be Spanish” thing a bit too far though. Even though I like Spanish wine a lot, it would be nice to have some other options on a long flight

  7. Roger I* says:

    But there can be unexpected problems.

    I was smugly satisfied when I could book a one-way Avios Johannesburg-LHR via MAD in biz for the two of us when there was zero direct availability from London. Booked online at an acceptable price. Unfortunately (and rarely from me) I had to cancel the booking. And the troubles began.

    iberia.com directed me to cancel by phone – by calling Miami! They had no idea what I wanted and gave me a Spanish number to call. No joy there. A helpful post on FlyerTalk gave a London number with English option and things slowly began to happen.

    Avios were quickly redeposited. IB Spain sent me 4 PDFs detailing the refund, presumably one per passenger per flight coupon, showing refund amounts: 2x USD 77 and 2x USD 92. My credit card statement shows 2 credits of GBP 60.17 each. Presumably these are for the 2x USD 77. So I’m currently USD 184 out of pocket.

    I’m assuming the refunds are net of cancellation fees, and I’d rather like to have the remaining USD 184.

  8. Roger I* says:

    er, ‘zero direct availabiilty from London’ should have read ‘zero direct availability on BA’ …

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

    Your feet ARE in a cubby hole if you choose the centre pair( honeymoon) seats. rows 1,3 and 5 E and G.

  10. Does anyone know if Iberia redemptions booked on avios.com are refundable, just paying cancellation fee?

    • Mikeact says:

      You can’t book Iberia on Avios.com.

      • You can book Iberia on Avios.com.

        • Yes, I didn’t know that you could book them before playing around. Also low taxes on avios.com too. But my question is whether its refundable like other redemptions. I couldn’t find any info.

      • Mikeact says:

        Apologies.

    • I think Rob has mentioned before that points bookings on Iberia are not refundable.

      • Bookings for oneworld airlines (excluding IAG airlines) made via Iberia are not refundable, so don’t book Qatar redemptions etc via them.

  11. William Avery says:

    Rob – curious as to why T5 is derided? I’m getting all Rule Britannia here but I think it’s fantastic save for crowd control at times. Very open, security pretty efficient (though LGW better), decent food offerings, easy to navigate. Great little water bottle station.

    I’d say it’s in the top 5 of airport terminals no doubt. Id like to see what they’ve done at the Queens Terminal.

    • Top 5?? Maybe if you’ve only ever been to large US airports…

      • I would agree actually. Looked at as a stand-alone terminal, and given the speed of getting around, you really can’t knock it.

        • William Avery says:

          :))

        • Not fun if you’re connecting int-dom though (which I appreciate you aren’t) – Schiphol much more efficient in my experience for that. LHR security also seem to be the most actively unfriendly that I’ve had in the UK!

      • William Avery says:

        Been to plenty of airports including Hamad, KL, NRT, Bangkok etc.

        Yeah the American airports are the pits (SFO is fine) but I genuinely enjoy T5 every time and think it’s up there with the v best.

        Like I have asked? Why the derision?

        • the real harry1 says:

          most of it stemmed from the cock-ups – the luggage fiasco when it first got going, then the couple of outages, with images of crowds of tearful people etc – eg the latest being the IT fiasco (June 2017)

          some of which, more generally Heathrow, not particularly aimed @ T5 – such as snow fiasco when we had to head back to Cornwall (Xmas 2010) instead of our place in the ‘good’ snow

    • Always found T5 to be a good terminal, as long as nothing goes wrong, its compact which means shortish walks to gates etc., and able to make a quick pit stop for a free dram of whisky.

      A lot of modern airports (DXB, KUL, BKK) seem to follow a long thin design which means long distances to gates. If you have ever been at the satellite terminal at KLIA, if you follow the signs you can end up walking around in circles around that outdoor garden and end up back where you started.

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