Last summer Iberia launched a promotion that awarded 9,000 Iberia Avios with every flight purchase. They capped it at a total of 10 awards, or a total of 90,000 bonus Avios that can be earned. Some bloggers read the fine print and discovered that the points would be awarded after booking the flight, not after taking the flight which is what would have normally been expected.
That mean you could book a number of cheap Iberia flights for $20-$30 each and earn the bonus points. We jumped at the chance and paid ~$280 each in flights to earn the 90,000 bonus Avios, which gave us enough points to book roundtrip business class to Madrid .
Iberia has a distance-based award chart with peak and off-peak dates. Roundtrip business class flights can be had from the U.S. for 68,000 to 84,000 Avios, which was more than covered by the 90,000 each we earned from the promotion. We ended up identifying off-peak dates with roundtrip flights originating in Chicago (ORD) costing only 68,000.
That left us 22,000 points from the promo. We needed to get to Chicago from our hometown of Lubbock, so we used the remaining Iberia Avios points to book roundtrip economy flights from LBB to ORD. The cost for that flight was 23,000 Avios, so we transferred 1,000 each from our Chase Ultimate Rewards account to our Avios accounts to make up the difference. In total, the cost for our roundtrip flight from our home in Lubbock to Madrid cost us 91,000 Avios, with the ORD to MAD flights being in business class.
Of course, we also paid cash for the 10 flights to earn the points, which ended up costing about $280 each, and there were also considerable taxes at about $220 per ticket. All told, the cost to us was about $500 each, which most would consider a great deal for roundtrip international business class.
Obviously, the promotion is now long gone, but if you’re interested in a trip to Spain flying Iberia business class, you can still transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards to Iberia, and book off-peak dates starting at 68,000 Avios. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a cheaper roundtrip business class booking to Europe. That’s why we were so keen to take this flight and review it, as we can see ourselves using this option for future trips to Europe. The Iberia award calendar has pretty extensive off-peak dates, so with a little flexibility (i.e., not summer and major holidays), you should be able to book flights at the reduced rate. Even if you have to pay the full rate of 100,000 to 125,000 for peak dates, it still presents a pretty good value for roundtrip business class flights.
We printed our boarding passes at our hotel, and we weren’t checking bags so we went straight through security and directly to the lounge. At Chicago O’Hare, business class travelers on Iberia get access to the American Airlines Flagship Lounge. It’s located above the Admirals Club in Terminal 3.
We decided to get to the airport early so we could do some work before the flight and since we had to check out of our hotel in Chicago anyway. That meant we got to enjoy both breakfast and lunch service at the lounge. We were pretty impressed by the food offerings, which were a step above many other lounges we’ve experienced.
In addition to the quality food selections, there was also a sizable selection of alcoholic drinks. However, it was all self-service with no bartender on staff, which would have been a nice touch given this was a “Flagship” lounge, and full-service bartenders are frequently employed in other lower-end lounges.
The lounge is quite spacious, with plenty of seating. There are areas for dining, areas for working, and areas for relaxing. I liked the arrangement because you were able to isolate yourself from other passengers that may have been a distraction. We set up in the work area and enjoyed some plane watching awhile getting some work done.
We made our way to the gate a few minutes before boarding was scheduled to begin. The gate seemed rather small for a long-haul international flight and felt a bit crowded. Despite a sign pointing where business class and other priority passengers should line up, there wasn’t much organization in the boarding process. It was only after everyone started crowding the gate that the agent made an announcement for business class passengers to line up at the left.
After finally getting the lines organized, we scanned our boarding passes and headed through the jet bridge to the plane. Flight attendants were there to greet us and direct us to our seat, with considerably less fanfare than other business class flights we’ve taken, mostly just gesturing which aisle we should walk down to get to our seat.
Cabin and Seat
Entering the cabin I was struck by how cramped it immediately felt. We’ve flown business class products on other A330s, but for some reason this plane struck me as smaller than expected. It may have been due to the overhead bins above the center seats, which many other removed to make the cabin feel more spacious. But the seat layout such as it was also made the cabin feel smaller.
The seats are in a 1-2-1 staggered configuration. That means if you’re traveling with a companion, you’ll likely want to book odd numbered seats in the middle so you’re next to each other. But if you’re traveling solo, you’ll want to book even rows to be closer to the window. If you’re solo and end up having to book one of the middle seats, shoot for the even rows to have some space between you and the other person in the middle, but be advised you’ll be exposed to the aisle and passing traffic without any kind of privacy divider.
I wasn’t sure how I would like this seat configuration based on the research I had done before the flight. We chose seats 1E and 1G to be next to each other. Mentally setting a low bar, I actually found myself pleasantly surprised. It won’t win any awards or make it to the top of my list of business class cabins, but it was reasonable comfortable for an eight hour flight. I liked that the staggered configuration allowed Iylana and I to sit closer together than the reverse herringbone layouts that are common in other carriers’ business classes.
But the cabin was definitely no frills, so set your expectations accordingly. My main gripe was that throughout the duration of the flight the cabin temperature was quite toasty, which prevented me from getting much sleep.
Converting the seat to a bed is a simple affair with seat controls and allow for a full lay-flat recline. The foot cubby was ample, and below that there was storage space for shoes and small items, but the negative is that those items were hard to access if the seat was fully reclined.
Food and Drink
The overall theme of this flight was setting low expectations going in, based on research I had done beforehand on Iberia premium offerings, and then finding myself pleasantly surprised.
That was the case with food and drink offerings as well. I knew to expect a fairly robust selection of Spanish wines, but the expectation was that the food would be subpar, but on this flight I found that to not be the case.
We were served a starter of smoked salmon and asparagus which was accompanied with other small bites and breads.
For the main, we had a choice between a grilled chicken with demi glace sauce, seared grouper with lemon cream sauce, and cheese ravioli with pesto cream sauce. I opted for the seared group and Iylana chose the ravioli. Both options were tasty, and I even found my fish to be quite good. It’s far from Qatar-level business class offerings, but met my minimum expectation for what food offerings on a premium long-haul flight should be.
Dessert was a choice between chocolate tiramisu and lemon sorbet. I skipped dessert but Iylana chose the tiramisu and let me sample a bit, which I found enjoyable.
An hour-and-a-half before landing a light breakfast was served consisting of a selection of breads and jams.
Adding on to pre-flight expectations, I had read that Iberia’s service was lacking, if not sometimes downright rude. I didn’t find this to be the case at all. All the flight attendants I interacted with with pleasant. Meal service and drink service was performed with a smile, and the requests I made were fulfilled politely and promptly.
No turn down service was performed when it was time to sleep, but I don’t know if would have been an option or not had I requested it. As it was already so hot in the cabin, I didn’t even think of extra bedding.
IFE, Wifi, and Amenities
Amenity kits were handed out shortly after boarding finished and before take off. The kit was in a red neoprene sleeve, and had a pretty basic assortment inside: dental kit, comb, lotion, eye mask, socks, etc. No special brands were included. As my bag was already pretty packed, I didn’t bother taking it with me to add to my ever-growing collection.
No additional amenities were located in the bathroom, so you had to make do with what was in the kit, which for me is usually only an issue with the amount of toothpaste provided in an amenity kit.
The IFE screen was a bit dated, measuring 15.4″ which, while a good average size, is smaller than many of the newer business class IFE screens. I noticed the color of our two screens didn’t match. Also my screen was pretty unresponsive to touch commands, forcing me to rely on the remote.
Overall, I found the selection of films to be good. I had no trouble finding a couple of movies to watch from amongst a selection of recent hits. I perused the foreign selections and wished there had been more, but the Hollywood offerings were plentiful enough to keep me entertained.
We were instructed by a flight attendant that complementary wifi was included, and we jus needed to use our name and seat number to connect. However, I tried several times throughout the flight and never managed to get a login screen to show up when connected to the wifi. I eventually gave up as I didn’t really need wifi, but it would have been nice to test.
Overall, I found this flight to be enjoyable. While it can’t compare to the major carriers in the Middle East or Asia, Iberia still has a very enjoyable product, and when considering the great value you can get on off-peak award redemptions, it becomes a top choice when looking to travel to Europe.
We went in with appropriate expectations and found ourselves pleased with a solid seat, if a bit dated, and good food and service. Add in the enjoyable selection of Spanish wines and it’s a comfortable, high-value option to cross the pond.