Iberia has achieved the impossible: it has installed a new business class seat one year ahead of schedule.
Whilst other airline cabin refurbishments languish years behind, Iberia has skipped ahead and has been flying its new business class product since 10th December.
The arrival of the new seat was no secret. IAG had already teased a photo of the cabin in its First Half results in July:
The IAG results suggested the new seat wouldn’t be flying until December 2023, but here we are. Iberia’s latest aircraft, its 15th A350, features the new seat. Since Saturday it has been flying from Madrid to Paris, Barcelona, Düsseldorf and even London.
Iberia isn’t exactly making a song and dance about it. Apart from the image above, our best look at the seat is via Spanish Twitter account AeroinfoBCN:
As you can see, it has a door:
The seat has been announced as the Recaro CL model, and it appears to be the Recaro CL6720 that is shown here on the Recaro website.
The closest I have got to this seat is on TAP which operates an older version. I did have a quick sit down on my recent TAP hangar tour and thought it fairly comfortable, although I didn’t get much time in it.
It is a staggered layout, so you have variants that are better for couples and seats that are better for solo travellers. Most of the seats face forward, although some are slightly angled.
Recaro calls it “the next generation of business class travel.” It also says that:
“Even though this business class seat lacks nothing, it is one of the most layout-efficient and lightest seats in the industry.”
These are the key metrics in business class cabins – you want to fit in as many seats as possible, and the heavier they are, the more fuel you need to burn per passenger.
I’m a little surprised that Iberia didn’t go with the Collins Super Diamond, the basis for BA’s Club Suite, or the Collins Aerospace Elements, the next generation version. It just goes to show that whilst a lot of decision making has been centralised at IAG, some key customer decisions are still left to the individual airlines.
First impressions of Iberia’s new business class seat
My first impression is that the colour scheme is a bit drab. It feels a bit uninspired, given Iberia is known for its red and yellow branding and doesn’t shy away from using zingy red carpets in its Madrid lounges. A bit more personality could have gone a long way in differentiating the cabin.
The addition of the door is welcome and means you should get a fairly unified experience flying Iberia, British Airways and American Airlines as part of the transatlantic joint venture.
Personally, I tend only to close the door when I’m trying to get some rest. It is particularly useful in staggered configurations like this one where some seats are closer to the aisle and therefore more sensitive to people walking past.
It’s hard to gauge how much personal space it offers, although it’s worth noting that Iberia is also one of the first customers to receive an A350 with the new wider cabin. Airbus has started rolling out a new interior called ‘New Production Standard’ that reclaims four inches of cabin space at armrest level.
One thing that is clear is that there won’t be any benefit to booking row one on this aircraft. Iberia has chosen to insert an additional storage unit for cabin crew rather than increase the leg room:
The foot well looks on the narrow side in that photo, although that may just be the wide angle lens.
Apart from that it looks fairly standard, with a big side table and a little shelf that looks perfect for storing a bottle of water or some headphones.
Note that, unlike British Airways, Iberia has chosen to remove the centre luggage bins. This gives the cabin a greater sense of space but means the window bins will be fuller. Centre seats, at least, won’t get individual air nozzles.
Will Iberia refit its existing fleet?
Iberia has five more A350s on the way, and presumably they will all be line-fit with the new cabin.
It isn’t clear if the existing Iberia A350 fleet will be reconfigured or not. It would be expensive, given that the seats are relatively new, but operationally it will be tricky having two different layouts on a small fleet.
There is no word on whether the new seat will be retrofitted to the A330 fleet.
Air China is currently using this seat on part of its fleet and it looks impressive, so this is definitely one to keep an eye out for over the next couple of years as more airlines adopt it.
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