This is my review of business class on the new Iberia A350.
Ten days ago Iberia‘s first A350-900 long-haul aircraft went into operation, flying between London and Madrid for crew training before it is introduced on the New York route next week. Last Wednesday and last Friday I gave it a go.
There are a few flights around Europe which can be done on long-haul planes. From London, the key ones are Madrid, Helsinki (on Finnair) and Istanbul (on Turkish). Not every flight is on a long-haul aircraft so you need to check when booking. These flights are done for cargo purposes or to keep an aircraft busy during the day which will have an overnight long-haul sector later.
British Airways has promised a brand new Club World seat on the A350 aircraft being delivered next year. This is why it is important to keep an eye on what Iberia, BA’s sister airline, is doing. To be frank, if British Airways adopted the same seat no-one would complain. Whilst Qatar Airways, Emirates and Etihad will not be running scared it is a VAST improvement over what we have now. I mean …. even Aer Lingus, which IAG treats as a ‘value’ long haul airline, has a superior business class seat to Club World as we reviewed here.
Inside Iberia’s A350 business class
I can’t find an official photo of the cabin so you will have to rely on mine. A fellow passenger said that the colour scheme was too ‘beige’ but, when all the TV screens are showing the bright red Iberia logo and passengers have their red blankets out, it works well.
What we didn’t see was any mood lighting used. The A350 can do this – Finnair has a fascinating ‘northern lights’ display programmed into its A350 fleet – but it is possible that Iberia will use it on overnight flights.
What you have is a staggered 1-2-1 configuration:
This offers EXCELLENT privacy for everyone in the left or right blocks. Here is 3C where I sat on the way out (the A seats are reversed so the seat is directly by the window). Note that the console table is designed so that it does not block your view out of the window:
If you sit in the middle block, you also have a huge amount of privacy if you are in the pairs where the console tables are in the centre. If you are sitting in one of these seats, you are actually closer to your neighbour in the ‘C’ seat than you are to your middle seat neighbour.
The only seats to avoid for solo travellers are the middle block where the console table is on the aisle – although, even here, if the divider is up (as it is in this picture) you still have privacy from the person next to you. Couples, of course, will gravitate to these seats.
Here is a middle pair with the divider down:
Things I like about the Iberia A350-900 seat
There are lots of little things I liked about this seat. It is, after all, very similar to Iberia’s existing long-haul seat but they have taken it and made it better. Not radically, but in numerous small ways which make a difference.
Take a look at the ‘cubby hole’ below:
Many airlines have now adopted ‘cubby hole’ seats. By having your feet under the seat in front, it frees up space for storage and personal items. One problem is that people feel that their feet are enclosed. For all seats except the centre block middle pair, however, your feet are free.
The ‘A’ seats are the same. This should make a real difference when sleeping.
Another improvement is the TV. This is 18 inches and fully touch sensitive. I can’t review the content because only a small number of short items had been loaded. One snag is that the TV does not fold away because it is built into the back of the seat in front. You are forced to stare at it for the entire flight – luckily it is easy to turn off.
If you are not a member of Iberia Plus, you can register via the IFE system. I thought this was a clever touch.
The TV remote also has a small screen on it which you can use to watch or show the moving map:
Here is something else I liked. The tray table flips down and pivots around as you can see below. What you can’t see from the picture is that the table can be pushed further back so you can get out of your seat. There is nothing worse than having to get up from your seat when your tray table is set and finding it can’t be moved – and if you are travelling with kids you can be sure that your presence will be required at least once during the meal ….
The person in this picture is a HFP reader and was happy to be featured.
Lighting was good with overhead lights and an adjustable reading lamp:
The photo above also shows two storage areas which are ideal for glasses, iPhones etc. Shoes can go under your footrest.
There are no shortage of power sockets:
It’s not all perfect, however.
The seats, when in the take-off and landing position, are surprisingly uncomfortable. The back is quite firm and when sat upright it wasn’t pleasant. Once the seatbelt sign was off I reclined the seat slightly and it was fine. (I met a couple of HFP readers on the outbound flight and we compared notes afterwards. They both agreed with me on this point.)
On my return flight, in the ‘A’ seat, I made the seat into a bed. The arm rest slides down to give you a wider sleeping area which is good. However, there was a noticeable gap between the seat and the curve of the fuselage and I can imagine some passengers rolling over during the night and getting wedged in! One downside of the arm rest being designed to drop down into the seat is that it isn’t very sturdy.
The seat belt is ‘car style’. As well as the standard two pieces which clip around your waist, there is a third piece which comes over your shoulder, goes diagonally across your chest and clips onto the buckle of the main belt. I was OK with this but my fellow HFP readers found it uncomfortable.
The aircraft has wi-fi but it was not operational on these test flights. Iberia has chosen not to install cameras on the outside of the plane which is a missed opportunity – I always find this fun when flying on an Emirates A380.
Being an A350, you also benefit from larger-than-usual windows and, due to composites used to build the aircraft, a more pleasant level of cabin pressure.
Food and drink
Iberia was obviously not serving a typical long-haul menu on these services. I will show you what I got though. On the outbound, I went with a chicken dish, which came with a salad, yoghurt and cheese:
and on the return I had a steak, with the alternative option of cream cheese stuff pasta. Steak never looks good in a photo …..:
There is no champagne but cava was available.
With the exception of the uncomfortable upright seating position – which may improve in time as the seat gets used and the cushioning softens up – I was very impressed by Iberia’s new A350 business class seat.
I think it sets a good base line for what you should be demanding from a business class seat in 2018. Excellent privacy from most seats, enough storage, wi-fi, numerous power outlets and a large touch-screen TV. Yes, you can add more bells and whistles as the Middle East carriers do, but you will be perfectly happy with such a seat.
I wrote an article recently explaining why I think the game is up for Virgin’s current Upper Class layout. Most HFP readers don’t need me to tell them that the game was up for BA’s Club World about five years ago.
Both British Airways and Virgin Atlantic should take what Iberia is offering here and treat it as the minimum they should deliver on their own A350 aircraft in 2019.
If you want to give the Iberia A350 a try, it is due to operate on the Heathrow route until 3rd August, and then again from 17th August to 31st August. It will be the 18.50 outbound and 15.55 return. Outbound, the Iberia timetable still shows an A340 although inbound does show an A350. Avios seats are available at the standard price of 15,000 Avios each way plus £25 Reward Flight Saver if booked via BA. Remember that Iberia Plus tends to have better business class availability than ba.com if no seats are showing.
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