There is usually nothing unusual about a new aircraft delivery except that this was the first aircraft to feature Iberia’s new business class seat, which it had teased at IAG’s First Half results in July.
When the article went live, I suggested that Iberia was keeping things low key and was not planning a formal press event to introduce the new cabins. As it turns out, I was wrong. Yesterday I went to Madrid (with 36 hours notice!) to see the aircraft and experience the new business class seat for myself, albeit on the ground.
With British Airways American Express 2-4-1 companion vouchers now valid on Iberia flights, this may well be a seat you can try for yourself soon.
Onboard Iberia’s newest A350s
EC-NXE is the first of eight new Iberia A350s to feature the new cabins, but it is also special for another reason: it is the first A350 that Airbus has delivered to any airline, anywhere, with a wider cabin.
This has been achieved by reducing the width of the sidewalls, adding an additional four inches at armrest level.
Airbus is calling this change ‘NPS’, which is an acronym for ‘New Production Standard.’ Going forward, all future A350 deliveries will come with the wider cabin as standard.
Other improvements include a weight reduction of 1.2t which will increase the aircraft’s efficiency, as well as a higher maximum-take-off weight which should allow airlines to fly further or with more cargo.
If these changes pique your interest then I can highly recommend John Walton’s behind-the-scenes piece on the changes here. Forewarning: it is quite technical!
The good news, for economy flyers, is that Iberia confirmed it will not go 10-abreast. This is one of the options enabled by the increased cabin width of the NPS A350. Whilst Iberia did consider it, it has decided to retain the 9-abreast seating. The extra space has been used to introduce economy seats that are 1cm wider than on the rest of the A350 fleet. I had a quick sit in one of them and it did feel very comfortable.
Another oddity of the New Production Standard is that there is quite a large gap between the existing business class seat and the sidewall. In business class, at least, it feels like the full width of hte cabin is not being utilised. You could easily increase the seat and bed width by a couple of inches in the window seats:
Of course, like the older A350s, the new ones feature the same, improved cabin pressurisation and humidity levels, which should reduce the effects of jet lag.
Introducing Iberia’s new business class seat
For its new business class cabin, Iberia has chosen to fit the Recaro CL6720. This was launched earlier in 2022 on China Airlines’ A350, and it’s not one I’ve had the pleasure of sitting in before. I was curious to see what it had to offer.
Iberia is calling it ‘A350 Next’, after the Panasonic inflight entertainment system it is using.
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.”
The CL6720 has a staggered layout with alternating rows of seats. Iberia’s existing A350 fleet already feature a staggered layout so there is some consistency between the new and old products:
In the middle pair, every other row (in this case every odd row) features what Iberia is calling a ‘honeymoon suite’ as the seats are closer together. In even rows, you’ll see that they are further apart. Don’t worry if you find yourself in a honeymoon suite with a stranger, however, as there is an electronically controlled divider if necessary:
In the window seats, you’ll find that odd rows are closer to the window whilst even rows are closer to the aisle:
Fundamentally, there is a seat for everyone, regardless of whether you’re a solo traveller or travelling with friends or family.
The number of business class seats remains unchanged on the newer A350s, with 32 seats across eight rows. There are two lavatories, as before.
A tour of Iberia’s ‘Next’ business class seat
As a big fan of window seats I sat myself down in 5L:
One of the big changes versus the old seat is the addition of a door:
The CL6720 has something I haven’t seen on any other aircraft: very cool little seat numbers projected onto the cabin floor:
Recaro is looking to tweak the angle of the light so that it is more visible, as it is currently projecting onto the emergency glow-in-the-dark floor strip, but this is a subtle yet effective innovation.
All the seats are forward facing. They are fairly standard-looking seats with all the mod-cons you expect from a modern business class seat. This includes a large two-tiered side console:
I’m not sure what the lower, smaller shelf is for – it doesn’t seem very useful, and if I were to make any tweaks to the seat one of the things I would do is simply raise this to the same height as the rest of it.
Above the console you’ll find a small storage cupboard, a little shelf big enough for a 500ml bottle of water, a remote for the in-flight entertainment system and some power sockets, including a universal mains adapter, a USB-A port as well as a USB-C port:
The cupboard opens up and features a splash of red – the only bright colour in what is otherwise a sea of greige. Inside were some headphones:
The seat controls are underneath and finished with very classy capacitive touch buttons. The placement was high enough that I didn’t accidentally knock them, and unless your forearms are bare they probably wouldn’t trigger anyway.
Underneath the seat controls you have an armrest. This can be flipped up and out of the way, which is particularly convenient in bed mode as it effectively increases the size of the bed:
In front of the seat you have a small literature pocket as well as a coat hook.
Plus, of course, the large screen featuring Panasonic’s NEXT 4K screens. According to Panasonic, this is the first A350 to be fitted with its NEXT in-flight entertainment system in every cabin. It has the highest pixel density of any screen on the market, apparently. It certainly looked good and felt very responsive.
If you don’t want to reach to the screen you can also use the IFE remote. This is quite clever, as it features a touch pad that lets you scroll and flick through all the films and TV shows. It’s not something I’ve seen on an aircraft before and feels like a nice combination between a touch screen and a remote control.
One MASSIVE improvement is the introduction of Bluetooth connectivity at every seat, letting you pair your own Bluetooth headphones with the IFE. I managed to test this on my recent flight on Virgin Atlantic’s A330neo and it is a huge improvement on the tangle of wires and adaptors you’d otherwise need.
Underneath the screen is the tray table. This is released very easily and is one of the deepest tray tables I have ever seen:
There is a single, 15cm fold out that can act as a little cocktail table if you push the table back under the IFE:
The seat itself was comfortable for the 90 minutes or so that I had. As with all modern seats, it features a car-style seatbelt, although you only need to wear the shoulder strap for take-off and landing:
I did put the seat down into bed mode to see how big it was. Apparently, it is 5cm longer than Iberia’s existing seat when fully flat:
(I have to admit I am very impressed with Iberia’s bedding kit, which includes a very nice mattress protector, a large white pillow and quilt. It is very stylish!)
It is not quite fully flat. One thing I did notice is that Iberia has chosen not to add padding to the seat surrounds. This means that, in bed mode, you have a sort of border a few inches lower:
This is an odd choice, as adding padding to the surrounds would increase the size of the bed substantially. It is a massive wasted opportunity to increase the usable surface area of the seat.
The foot cubby is surprisingly big. It is about 30cm wide but very tall – like the Virgin Atlantic seat, I get the impression that the seat mechanism lowers the entire seat to increase the clearance when you sleep. Here are my size 10.5 feet:
In terms of length, it was ok although at 6’2 (188cm) I was basically maxing the space out.
First impressions of Iberia’s new business class seat
In my article last week, I noted that I thought the colour scheme was a little on the drab side.
I still think this is true. Whilst the seat cupboard adds a vibrant splash of red, it isn’t very visible as the cupboards are closed the majority of the time.
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.
The one thing the seat does not have is a huge amount of storage space. The cupboard is all you get. You can’t put anything underneath the leg-rest / ottoman, either, as apparently this is where the technical bits for the seat are.
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.
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. There are no indivdiual air vents at any of the seats.
Will Iberia refit its existing fleet?
The second of the new A350s arrived yesterday, and by February Iberia expects to have four A350s in total with the new cabin and seat. This will be followed by two more later in 2023 and a final two in 2024, for a total of eight A350s with the new cabin.
When I asked whether Iberia would refit its existing A350s with the seat, I was told that this decision had not yet been made. From what the Iberia team told me, it sounds like they are trialling the new seat and – depending on customer feedback – may roll out a second generation version across the fleet if necessary.
I have to say I am very pleasantly surprised by Iberia’s new A350 Next business class seat. This is the first time I’ve experienced Recaro’s CL6720 business class seat and I found it comfortable. The addition of a couple of innovations, such as the seat-number projection, is a nice touch.
Modern IFE with a vibrant screen and Bluetooth connectivity is great, although I did notice that there was no wireless charging, unlike a number of recently unveiled seats.
If I were being really nitpicky, there are a couple of changes I would make, such as making the console table a single surface rather than the double level it currently is. I’d also add padding around the seat base so that it is larger when in bed mode, and try to increase the width of the window seats to make the most of the increased cabin width. A bit more colour wouldn’t hurt, either!
Overall, however, this is a really promising product. The true test, of course, will come on a real long haul flight.
How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (February 2023)
As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Avios points from UK credit cards. Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses!
In February 2022, Barclaycard launched two exciting new Barclaycard Avios Mastercard cards with a bonus of up to 25,000 Avios. You can apply here.
You qualify for the bonus on these cards even if you have a British Airways American Express card:
There are two official British Airways American Express cards with attractive sign-up bonuses:
SPECIAL OFFER: Until 21st February 2023, the sign-up bonus on the British Airways Premium Plus American Express card is increased to 35,000 Avios from 25,000 Avios. You can apply here.
You can also get generous sign-up bonuses by applying for American Express cards which earn Membership Rewards points.
Run your own business?
We recommend Capital On Tap for limited companies. You earn 1 Avios per £1 which is impressive for a Visa card, along with a sign-up bonus worth 10,500 Avios.
You should also consider the British Airways Accelerating Business credit card. This is open to sole traders as well as limited companies and has a 30,000 Avios sign-up bonus.
There are also generous bonuses on the two American Express Business cards, with the points converting at 1:1 into Avios. These cards are open to sole traders as well as limited companies.
Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Avios. This includes both personal and small business cards.