I recently enjoyed a terrific holiday in South Africa, and I will publish my trip reports over the coming weeks. This is what you can expect:
- Review: Iberia A330 Business Class from Madrid to Johannesburg (today)
- Review: Four Seasons Hotel The Westcliff, Johannesburg
- Review: River Lodge, Lion Sands Game Reserve
- Review: Royal Malewane, Thornybush Private Game Reserve
- Review: Kapama Karula, Kapama Private Game Reserve
- Review: Rovos train from Pretoria to Cape Town
- Review: 12 Apostles hotel, Cape Town
- Review: Cape Grace, Cape Town
- Review: Ellerman House, Cape Town
- Review: South African Airways A340 Business Class from Cape Town to Johannesburg
- Review: British Airways A380 First Class from Johannesburg to London
Today (January 18, 2016): Trip report: Iberia A330 Business Class Madrid (Spain) to Johannesburg (South Africa).
On January 2nd 2017, I flew Business Class in an Airbus A330-300 of Iberia from Madrid-Barajas International Airport (MAD) in Spain to O.R. Tambo International Airport (JNB) in South Africa. Iberia, the flag carrier of Spain which was founded in 1927, operates an impressive international network from Madrid. While the carrier dominates the market of flights between Europe and South America, it has recently added direct flights to key Asian and African cities, such as Johannesburg. In 2010, Iberia merged with British Airways, making the combined operation the third largest commercial airline in the world by revenue, although both airlines keep flying under their own and well-known brand names. A couple of years ago, Iberia introduced a new Business class product on their longhaul fleet, and it’s a very good one. Although the cabin crew was just ok and not overly friendly, the food, seat and inflight entertainment were terrific.
- Trip: MAD-JNB
- Airline: Iberia
- Aircraft type: Airbus A330-300
- Aircraft registration number: EC-MAA (nicknamed Rio De Janeiro)
- Flight Number: IB6051
- Date: January 2nd, 2017
- On time departure: Yes (11.30 pm)
- On time arrival: Yes (11 am)
- Miles: 5020
- Flight time: 10 hours 30 minutes
- Seat: 6A
- Class: Business Class
In this review (more information & photos below my Youtube clip & slideshow):
- Iberia Business Lounge at Madrid
- Business Class Cabin
- Business Class Seat (& what seat to choose)
- Other inflight experiences
- My verdict
1. IBERIA BUSINESS LOUNGE AT MADRID
Madrid-Barajas is Europe’s largest airport by physical size. It has 5 huge terminals that handle around 50 million passengers a year. Getting from one terminal to another can take up to 30 minutes, and involves a train and lots of walking. Iberia uses terminal 4 as its main hub for intercontinental flights. Spain’s national carrier has three Business Class lounges in this terminal, but only one of them is open 24 hours a day: the Velazquez lounge. Since my flight to Johannesburg departed around midnight, the two other lounges were closed already and I was directed towards to the Velazquez lounge.
I had some troubles finding the lounge, since the entrance is hidden away in the duty-free shopping area. But once inside, it’s a fairly large, airy, rectangular, and modern space, with floor-to-ceiling windows along its entire length offering nice views of the runways and airport activities. The facility did not feel crowded at all during my visit (despite this being a peak hour for Iberia at the airport, with many of its flights departing in the late evening hours). The reception is located at the very center of the lounge, with plenty of seating areas spreading out from there towards both ends. The layout of the lounge is mirrored and both sides feature a food station, where a nice and decent buffet is on display with a mix of cold and hot items (e.g. smoked salmon, salads, pastas, chicken curry, etc …). In addition, there are also some self-service cafés nearby, where one can grab lighter items such as sandwiches, cereals, and fresh fruits. The lounge also has an à la carte restaurant (that seats around 20 people) and a wine bar, but I had a very short connection time, so I was not able to spend some time here. The usual lounge facilities – such as showers, business center and free Wifi – are also available and offered for free to everyone who wants to make use of them.
Overall, I found the food and drink spread to be very good for a Business Class lounge, and the space ranks among continental Europe’s best lounges.
From the lounge, it was 10 minute walk to the gate.
2. BUSINESS CLASS CABIN
Iberia’s Airbus A330-300 planes are equipped with two Business Class cabins: a large cabin which seats 28 passengers in front of the plane (behind the cockpit) and a smaller, more intimate cabin with just 8 seats in front of the 242 seat Economy Class cabin. Both cabins are separated from each other by a galley. This is a different layout than the one you find on Iberia’s A330-200 planes where all 19 Business Class flat-bed seats are located in one cabin.
The A330-300 features Iberia’s latest Business Class product (in contrast to some of the carrier’s older A340 planes, which are still equipped with an inferior product). The cabin features a modern and sleek design. Iberia’s signature bright-red color is prominently displayed on the large entertainment screens upon boarding the plane, which contrasts nicely with the soft grey colours of the seat cushions, tray table, and storage cabinets. The colorful pillows add a nice touch the overall onboard colour pallette. The seat themselves are Solstys-style, fully lie flat seats placed in 1-2-1 configuration, which means that all seats face forward and that every passenger has access to the aisle without having to clamber over anybody else, even when all seats are reclined. Note that this seating pattern means that middle pairs and window seats have a few inches/cm more length in bed mode than their aisle counterparts. This is a similar product like the one you find on Etihad, Air Berlin, and Alitalia.
Click here for a seat map of Iberia’s A330-300.
3. BUSINESS CLASS SEAT (& WHAT SEAT TO CHOOSE)
I was seated in 6A during the flight.
The Business Class seat features a generous pitch of 78 inch (198 cm) and width of 26 inch (66 cm). In front of the seat, below the large entertainment screen (more on that below), is an ottoman, which becomes part of the flat-bed (when the seat is reclined) and which allows you to extend your legs as much as you like to. The seat itself has an adjustable back and shoulder pillow with massage function. At the push of a button, the seat can be reclined into a fully and very comfortable flatbed of 78 inch (200 cm), including the footrest.
The seat’s side features the seat and inflight entertainment controls, the power supply (so you can use your laptop for the duration of the flight), and some cabinets to store your smaller items such as glasses, wallets and cellphones (your larger items need to be stored in the overhead bins or under the ottoman). The tray table is attached to the back of the seat in front of you, and can be pulled out quite easily; the table can also be moved out-of-the-way when you need to get up, without disturbing the contents.
The only annoying thing I found about the seat is that Iberia puts a lot of inflight magazines and menu cards on your seat, but there’s no proper space to store them (so they freely move around, especially during takeoff and landing).
What are the best Business Class seats on Iberia’s A330-300? Use this seat map for more information.
- Solo travelers should go for the window seats. Widows seats are alternately located closer to the window (A & L seats) or to the aisle (C & J seats), and the A & L seats are the ones you want to choose (you will feel very exposed in the C & J seats, which are more located along the aisle than the window).
- Couples and good friends should go for one of the so-called ‘honeymoon’ middle seats (seat E and G on rows 1, 3, 5, 7 and 8).
- The seats in the smaller Business Class cabin (rows 7 and 8) enjoy a more intimate ambience
What are the worst Business Class seats on Iberia’s A330-300? Use this seat map for more information.
- Seats in row 1 and 7 may suffer from some noise from the galley and toilet.
- I also suggest to avoid the last row of Business Class, row 8, which is in front of the Premium Economy bassinet seats.
- If you are traveling solo, you don’t want to be seated in one of the honeymoon seats, since here, you are seated as close to the person next to you as you would be in economy (which is downright awkward when you end up next to a stranger in that configuration). In case you would end up here, there is a divider that you can raise for added privacy.
- The C & J windows seats face into the aisle and are not as private as the A & L window seats.
Stylish amenity kits are handed out by the cabin crew to Business Class passengers when boarding is completed. They are well stocked for Business Class: socks, ear plugs, eyeshades, toothbrush, toothpaste, hairbrush, a couple of hairbands, L’Occitane en Provence Spa products, and a shoebag. Each seat also comes with a comfortable blanket, a decently sized pillow, and noise cancelling headphones.
Iberia’s impressive menu card requires some extensive reading, especially the wine list. Food was great during the flight, and both the service and presentation were well executed (although the dinner service only started one hour after takeoff at 1 am local time, a bit late for an overnight flight). The dinner menu read as follows:
- Warm bread and extra virgin oil
- Fresh shoot salad with feta cheese brunoise and semi-dried tomatoes
- Balsamic vinegar of PEdro Ximenz vinaigrette
- Foie-gras terrine with curly endive, pomegranate and fig jam
- Tronchon sheep’s cheese with Santa Terese quince jelly and grapes
- Main course:
- Salmon and spinach in puff pastry with creamy dill sauce
- Triple chocolate cake
Ninety minutes prial to arrival, after a few hours of sleep, an excellent breakfast was served, comprising of:
- Plain omelette
- Smoked boiled ham and chicken cold nut
- Toasts and extra-virgin olive oil
- Orange juice
- Seasonal fresh fruit
- Croissant, butter, jam
- Coffee and herbal teas
6. INFLIGHT ENTERTAINMENT
Iberia’s inflight entertainment system is quite substantial and won’t fail to entertain you during a longhaul flight. It features more than 60 films in different languages, covering a variety of genres from comedy, drama and cartoons through to action and suspense, as well as Spanish cinema. There are also up to 98 options including TV series (Spanish and international), documentaries and sports, technology and travel programmes, to name a few. There are also over 200 music options, from classic records to all the latest on the market, and a varied selection of 3D games. Iberia’s new A330 long-haul aircraft are also equipped with WiFi and GSM network, so you can stay connected by satellite with your personal device. Business Class passengers get a voucher for a complimentary 4MB of data.
7. OTHER INFLIGHT EXPERIENCES
# CREW: Albeit professional, my experience with Iberia – on this flight and my previous flights with them- is that the carrier’s cabin crew are not overly friendly, sometimes creating a rather rude and cold impression.
# BAR: After dinner, a small walk-up bar is set up in the galley between the two Business Class cabins for those who get hungry during the flight. It features wrapped sandwiches, chocolates, fruits, drinks, and bottles of water.
# LAVATORY: There are three lavatories for Business Class passengers, one located behind the cockpit, and the two other in between the Business Class cabins.
# WIFI: Iberia’s new A330 long-haul aircraft are also equipped with WiFi and GSM network, so you can stay connected by satellite with your personal device. Business Class passengers get a voucher for a complimentary 4MB of data.
# FLIGHT PATH: the flight took as the way over the African continent. The sunrise halfway the flight, above the Equator, was quite a spectacular sight. Remarkably, we did not experience any turbulence over this region, which is otherwise known for its violent weather.
8. MY VERDICT
- Lounge: 8/10
- Seat : 8/10
- Food: 8/10
- Inflight entertainment : 8/10
- Service: 6/10
- Cabin: 8/10
- Overall experience: good: 7,8/10