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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.

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Comments (63)

  • xcalx says:

    “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.

  • meta says:

    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.

      • AndyR says:

        You can book Iberia on Avios.com.

        • meta says:

          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.

    • CV3V says:

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

      • Rob says:

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

  • 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.

    • John says:

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

      • Rob says:

        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:

          :))

        • Alan 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

    • CV3V says:

      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.

  • rob says:

    So start in Madrid to X destination. The positioning flight from London to Madrid; would/could that be on the same PNR (if use BA/Iberia also) or would we have to collect bags, leave terminal in madrid then check-in?

    BA business class isn’t that bad, it’s just goes by a different name; First!

    • John says:

      Yes, you could, but you have to spend at least 24 hours in Madrid if you want to reduce your taxes which I think means you have to book by phone

  • Judy says:

    Which lounge do Iberia use at LHR and how does it rate?

  • Rhi says:

    This is really useful. I have a Central America trip booked for November. Madrid to Guatemala City then return is San Jose Costa Rica to LGW (upgraded to CW using a Lloyds voucher). I’ve been considering upgrading the outbound from economy to business as it’s a 12 hour flight (ouch), so this makes it even more tempting. There is availability, so might upgrade. I think it’ll be 22500 avios each for me and the OH plus some extra taxes. Hmmmm!

  • David Safir says:

    The key to relatively seamless if protracted) connections via T4S is to fly BA (which uses T4S) rather than IB (which uses T4 for flights from the UK) into MAD. When on an IB late-night departure to EZE, SCL or MVD, an early evening departure from LHR has always given me plenty of time for a decent meal in the T4S Sala Velazquez followed by several hours reasonably comfortable sleep soon after boarding a westbound 11–13 hour flight at just the time when my body clock would expect it.

    • Mzungu says:

      And if I recall correctly, the lounge in T4S is better than the one in T4 (and less crowded when we were there. I found this returning MAD-LHR on Iberia after a long haul into Madrid. I think if I had booked BA, we would have been in T4S? I chose Iberia in the hope of having more chance of getting the baggage checked through, but that was a waste of time!

  • signol says:

    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