In my estimation, the benefits of flying business class on international flights start with access to airlines’ airport lounges. Although my home airport has no such facility, I was able to relax, check e-mail, and enjoy a snack at American’s Admiral's Club Lounge during my three-hour layover at Chicago’s O’Hare airport as I waited for my flight to Madrid. That respite from the maddening crowds in the terminals helped start my trip on a high note.
Boarding the Iberia A340, I was directed to seat 4D, a typical business-class arrangement with a fully reclining seat, entertainment unit, and amenities kit. And while I would take advantage of those items as the flight wore on, I was eagerly anticipating tasting the food and experiencing the service.
The food and drink were quite good.
As with many long-haul carriers, Iberia has an area toward the rear of the Business PLUS section, which it calls simply “bar service”. Passengers can help themselves to beverages, finger sandwiches, and other appetizers as the mood strikes them.
|Wine and cheese course|
When it came time to snooze, I found that my seat did go fully flat, but only reclined to 170° - off level enough to leave me feeling like I was about to slide off. More important, the seat wasn’t very well padded and was not comfortable in that position. A reclining position more like one’s easy chair at home proved to be more to my liking, and actually allowed me to get a little sleep.
The amenities kit contained footies for in-flight wear, a bag for your street shoes, a shoehorn, earplugs, moisturizer and eau de toilette, lip balm, toothbrush and toothpaste. For comparison, American’s business-class amenities kit contains footies, eyeshades, earplugs, mints, tissue, toothbrush and toothpaste, Burt’s Bees lip balm and – thoughtfully – a pen for filling out the requisite immigration forms.
The service. Ah, the service.
To Iberia’s credit, we had four flight attendants for 42 business-class seats. That’s a very good ratio of FAs to passengers and, for many, it meant excellent service.
I wasn’t one of the fortunate.
I don’t know why it happens to me so often but if there’s one sourpuss among the in-flight crew, that’s the one who’ll be taking care of my area. You guessed it; that was the case on my flight to Madrid.
|Salad course en route to Amsterdam|
Before you protest that I’m being too hard on her or perhaps speculate that her English might not have been that good, remember that FAs don’t just stumble on to overseas flights; such runs are among the most desirable. Considering that they know the destinations of the flights and, by extension, the other languages that will likely be spoken by the passengers, it does no one a service to bid on a flight to a country where you don’t speak the language. It certainly didn’t reflect well on the airline, either.
The airport lounge.
|Iberia lounge at Barajas Airport|
The lounge had more munchies and alcohol available (like I needed any more of either at that point) as well as computers, comfortable seating areas, and other amenities including a conference room for guests’ use (including a humorous misspelling in the English translation). The staff members at the lounge were all cordial and helpful, making sure guests felt welcome and had what we needed.
On the shorter (2-1/2 hour) flight from Madrid to Amsterdam, I was provided with yet another meal which was less grandly presented but no less tasty. And on this flight, the FAs actually deigned to speak with their passengers, making the time go by more quickly.
Overall, I’d give Iberia’s Business PLUS cabin a grade of a B- to a B, largely because of the service and seating issues. Better than average, but far from “best in class.”
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Photos by Carl Dombek
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This entry was originally posted November 5, 2009.