Transfer I was transferring from a South American flight at Madrid airport (click here for the review of the LAN flight between Santiago and Madrid), so I was already checked in for my 1630 flight to London Heathrow and I had my boarding pass. Madrid has a huge airport and once off the plane I joined a long queue for immigration. I then had to get a transfer train to Terminal 4 and pass through security. This was busy and the checks seemed random, with some people having to give up their duty-free bottles of wine and others getting through with bottles of water.
The lounge There are plenty of shops in the modern terminal building but I had access to the Iberia business class lounge on level two next to Starbucks so I headed there. It is a spacious, modern facility on a mezzanine level with two huge rooms on either side of the welcome desk. There are computers, several kitchens offering a wide variety of snacks, mini water features, and leather chairs and sofas. There’s a meeting room for around ten people, a smoking room, and showers. As I had been on a long-haul flight I put my name down for a shower and waited a few minutes for my name to be called. I gave my boarding pass in at reception and was given a key. The shower was clean and large with soft white towels and shampoo, shower gel, moisturiser and eau de toilette. Flights are not called at the lounge so I checked with the front desk and was told Gate 8H was an eight-minute walk away.
Boarding Boarding was at 1600 so I left the lounge at about 1550 and walked to the gate. There was a long line of people already so I joined the queue. Boarding was fast, and although the flight was very busy, we took off on time.
The seat I had been allocated seat 32C, an aisle seat towards the back of the plane (there are 35 rows in a 3-3 configuration). This A321 had a business class section between rows one and five in a 3-3 configuration, with the middle seat left empty. Economy class is separated from business by a curtain, and is configured 3-3.
Row nine is next to the emergency exit and offers extra legroom. Row 23 is also by an emergency exit and window seats on this row have no seats in front of them. The middle and aisle seats have seats in front of them but because it is an emergency exit there is more of a gap. However, there is a long metal box here instead that you could rest your feet on, so although there is still more legroom than other seats on board, it is not the best row.For a seat plan of this aircraft, click here.
Which seat to choose? The best economy class seat is seat 23A. This is by an emergency exit with no seat in front. Seat 23F on the other side is also next to an emergency exit with no seat in front but the flight attendant sits opposite you for take off and landing, which is a bit daunting.
Iberia’s economy class seats on European flights have a pitch of 79cm (31in), a width of 43cm (17in), and a recline of 10cm (4in). Intercontinental economy seats have an 81cm (32in) pitch, a width of 43cm (17in) and a recline of 15cm (6in).
The flight It was a Saturday afternoon and the flight was busy. There was a large group of people who took up several rows in front of me. They stood in the aisles and chatted loudly throughout the flight. They were irritating but the flight attendants handled them well, telling them to sit down every now and again and bringing them drinks, after the trolley service had been through. Iberia serves food and drink at a price and there is no in-flight entertainment. I slept for the first hour but the laughter was so loud I woke up and did some work on my laptop.
Arrival We landed on time but after taxiing for around ten minutes we sat on the tarmac until a gate became available. Then we had to wait for the stairs to arrive. It was 1815 by the time we left the plane – nearly half an hour after landing. Immigration was busy so I was relieved to see there was no queue IRIS. However, for the first time it did not recognize me and I was sent to join the long line with the other passengers. My bag came out soon after I arrived and I was out of the airport by 1840, nearly an hour after landing.
Verdict The economy class seats on Iberia are comfortable with ample legroom. On this occasion the arrival was not straightforward but the service on board was efficient.