Airline: Iberia Flight #: IB3166 Route: MAD – LHR Class: Business Seat: 2L Date: Thursday 5th September 2019
After a wonderful few days in Madrid (you can read about what I got up to here & here), it was time to head back to the airport to catch my flight back to the UK. As I’d flown out to Madrid with British Airways (read about that here), I thought I should try their IAG sister airline and OneWorld partner, Iberia, on the way back. As with my flight out I had planned my travel to take advantage of the one wide-body flight a day and was therefore scheduled to be travelling on a Airbus A340.
Flying in Iberia’s Business Class meant a separate check-in area and security screening lane, both of which were completely empty as I headed through and so within 10 minutes of getting off the Cercanías I was heading down to the basement of Madrid’s Terminal 4 to take the shuttle train across to T4S. The shuttle train takes just a few minutes to cross the width of the airfield and I was shortly heading back above ground and to Iberia’s lounge.
The ‘Velázques’ lounge in T4S is very spacious and elegantly laid out. There is an abundance of natural light due to floor to ceiling windows which also provide amazing views of the apron. Despite being Iberia’s main hub, as T4S only handles non-Schengen flights, the lounge was relatively quiet and I was easily able to find a table to do some work, have some lunch and watch the aircraft. There was a small selection of sandwiches and wraps as well as cold meat, cheese and fish available. Initially the only hot option was a Spanish Omelette, however I believe this was the end of breakfast as when I headed back to the ‘taste zone’ to get some lunch their was a wonderful choice of paella, rice, sautéed vegetables, grilled hake, pan fried chicken and more. I opted for a small portion of paella and a piece of the hake, both of which were wonderful and cooked just right.
The lounge had various seating options with full size tables and chairs surrounding the two ‘taste zones’ at either end, with more relaxed seating with coffee tables filling the remaining space. There were also a couple of ‘breakfast bars’ around the lounge as well as a full service restaurant in one corner (although this didn’t look to be open). There were also numerous coffee machines dotted about as well as two larger drink areas near the food which offered various juices, wine and soft drinks. Later during my stay in the lounge I also found a selection of pastries and cakes on offer near some of the coffee machines.
After a very pleasant couple of hours relaxing and enjoying the views it was time to head to the gate and board my flight home. There seemed to be some confusion and issue with the departure boards in the lounge as it indicated my flight would be departing from the ‘H’ gates in the main part of Terminal 4 and not the satellite. However, a well timed email from Iberia and confirmation from the lounge staff ensured I headed to gate S4, at the far end of the satellite from the lounge, but in the satellite non the less. As a Business Class passenger I was in the first of the four boarding groups and actually ended up the first on board the aircraft when boarding began about 45-minutes before departure.
Unfortunately, despite boarding being completed fairly quickly, our departure was delayed as the bags of someone who had not turned up needed to be found and removed from the aircraft. Whilst we waited for this to be sorted, the purser passed through the business class cabin and introduced himself personally to the high level frequent fliers. Although this didn’t include me, I did think it added an extra touch to the business class service. Eventually, after a delay of about 25 minutes we pushed back and taxied to the nearby runway 36L with us taking off just after half past four.
The advantage of Iberia’s long haul Business class seat compared to BA’s Club World seat is that the IFE can be used throughout due to the positioning of the screen directly in front of you. As with my journey out, I decided to spend most of the flight just listening to music and tracking us on the moving map, however before the meal service I decided to investigate what games were available on the system. Unfortunately my skills at Tetris were severely lacking and so after a couple of embarrassing scores I brought up the map, put the remote away and explored the functions of the seat.
As would be expected, the seat is able to adjust into a completely flat position, with there also being a pre-set ‘relax’ position which reclines the seat whilst also bringing it closer to the footrest. Another feature of the seat itself is a massage function which, at the press of a button, provides a massage to the lower back area. The seat also has an easily accessible universal socket and USB socket, although Iberia’s policy is that these can’t be used during take off and landing. The tray table folds down from the seat in front, however can be swung around allowing you to get out of the seat whilst the table is down. I also found this table much studier for working on than the BA equivalent.
Whilst I personally much preferred Iberia’s hard product, the on-board service seemed a bit slow, with the only service being a combined drinks and meal service over 45-minutes after departure. Again, please don’t take this as ungratefulness, just constructive criticism. The flight was only about two hours, however for a business class service I would have expected a drinks service shortly after departure, followed by the meal and another drinks service. Not seeing the crew for almost an hour is not the service I would expect.
The menus had been distributed just before departure and the choice of mains was either grilled chicken breast with apricot and black olive, served with a creamy sherry sauce and green beans or salmon stuffed pasta with a cava cream sauce and sundried tomatoes. Both choices came with a standard starter of peppers, golden raisins and pine nut salad and a desert of sheep’s milk cheese and a raspberry yoghurt. My choice of the chicken was absolutely delicious with the meat not being too dry and cooked just right, something which can be quite difficult on an aircraft.
Due to the timing of the meal service, there wasn’t much time to work after eating and so I enjoyed the views of the south coast of England as we began our decent into Heathrow. Approaching from the south-west, we unfortunately didn’t get to experience the amazing approach over central London, however my position on the right hand side of the aircraft did afford my great views of the city as we turned onto final approach over Battersea power station. Despite our delay leaving Madrid, we landed at Heathrow two minutes early and after a short taxi past one of BA’s ‘retro’ 747s, pulled onto stand 556 bringing my Spanish adventure to a close.
In conclusion, my journey back to Heathrow with Iberia was very different to my outbound flight with BA. Personally I much preferred the hard product on Iberia as the seat layout was much better and I had more space than on BA. Unfortunately the service on-board Iberia was a bit slow and it seemed as though not as much care was put into it as could have been. However, the journey was still great and I’d definitely fly Iberia’s wide-body aircraft on this route again if I get the opportunity.
Lounge 4* Seat/Facilities 4* Food 5* Service 3* Punctuality 5* Overall Rating 21/25 (read about my rating system here!)