Tried & Tested

Iberia A321 Business class

22 Jan 2010 by AndrewGough

Background Iberia operates up to eight flights a day between Madrid and London, and codeshares on British Airways’ flights between the capitals.

Check-in I arrived at Terminal 4 of Madrid Barajas International airport at 1840 for my 1955 flight IB3178 to London Heathrow – there is a dedicated Iberia zone at the far end. I checked in using the self-service machines, of which there were plenty, and went to drop off my bag. There were fairly long queues at the economy desks and I couldn’t see any signs for the business ones, so I had to ask. I was directed to the next block of bag-drop desks, numbers 840 to 859, where there was no queue. Security took about 15 minutes to get through, with no fast-track lane for premium passengers.

The lounge I made my way to Iberia’s Dali lounge, located in the centre of Terminal 4 departures opposite the security gates, and received a warm welcome from the receptionist. She told me my flight was delayed by half an hour, which had changed since I had last checked the screens. The Iberia lounge was refurbished last summer, adding a new menu designed by top chef Sergi Arola. The lounge overlooks the hall below – the views are great, and it feels airy and spacious. Inside are comfortable leather armchairs, two feng shui fountains, two quiet rooms for napping, a café zone providing hot and cold drinks, sandwiches, salads and snacks, and several bar areas. There is also a smoking room and a meeting space for up to 12 people, as well as information screens for you to keep an eye on your flight.

Boarding At 2000 the departure boards showed my gate, H8, had opened. Just outside the lounge, a sign said it would take me seven minutes to reach it – I walked at a fair pace and it took 12 minutes, even taking advantage of the moving walkways. By the time I arrived, the flight was closing, and I was told I was among the last to board. I was in my seat, 3A, by 2020. The staff didn’t offer to take my coat so I put it in the locker above my seat. The flight took off at 2032.

The seat The A321 has two classes, business and economy. On my flight rows one to 11 were business class, with a movable curtain separating it from economy. The seat layout is 3-3 in both classes, but in business the middle seat is kept free. Business seats are upholstered in grey fabric and have a pitch of 84cm/33in, a width of 44.5cm/17.5in and a recline of 30 degrees.

Which seat to choose? Emergency exits are on row nine in business and 23 in economy, so these offer extra legroom (see seat plan, above right). Seats 9F and 23F have a seat for cabin crew opposite for landing and take-off. Row one is near the toilet and galley so it provides more legroom but could also mean some disturbance.

The flight About 40 minutes into the flight I was offered a soft drink, beer or wine – I opted for a Spanish white from Catalonia (Torres, Vina Esmeralda, 2008). Dinner, also by Sergi Arola, was served at the same time and there was a choice of fish or veal. I chose the former – it was cold, the tapenade crust was fairly stale and the flesh rubbery. Thankfully, it came with warm rolls and a delicious and beautifully presented tuna salad with fried almonds, black olives, courgette and cherry tomatoes. To follow, there was a cheese selection and a sickly-sweet honey and thyme cake.

As it was a short flight there was no in-flight entertainment, so I took the time to catch up with some work – I managed to use my laptop comfortably, but there was no in-seat power.

Arrival We arrived at Heathrow’s Terminal 3 at 2137 local time. I used IRIS to pass through immigration, and there was no queue so I was through in minutes. The bags weren’t so fast and didn’t appear on the carousel for another ten minutes – mine was the first to appear though, having been given a priority tag.

Verdict A good short-haul service – the seat was comfortable and the lounge excellent. But my meal was disappointing and I would have liked a bit more warning about boarding.

Sara Turner

FACT FILE

  • Configuration 2-2 in business, 3-3 in economy

  • Seat pitch 84cm/33in

  • Seat recline 30 degrees

  • Price Internet rates for a return business class flight from London to Madrid in March started from £357.

  • Contact iberia.com

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