Iberia NEW Business Class Review A350 New York (JFK) to Madrid (MAD) – The proud and the lazy… plus BA First Lounge New York Terminal 7 and Alaska Lounge Terminal 7
Iberia has been upgrading their New York flights to a twice daily A350 with direct service to Madrid. When booking with Iberia Avios these flights used to price out under 35,000 Avios and $130 in taxes and fees. A wonderful deal when traveling from the US East Coast to Europe. Iberia uses Terminal 7 at JFK - something the gives me sheer horror after getting stuck in the more than mean security before. The terminal is incredible crowded, hot and just 50 years behind times. However security had NO wait that day (just after Christmas) and we were on our way to the British Airways Lounge. The British Airways Lounge I knew is gone and under renovation and all passengers are using the First Class section of the British Airways lounge. So far so good - the rude lounge attendant was too lazy to reply to my friendly question when the lounge buffet came out. She simply shot back you are on Iberia - no food! The lounge itself is beautiful with a lot of seating and many alcoholic options including a wine tasting bar similar to the American Express Centurion lounges setup. However besides potato chips, stake fruits and one lone sandwich there was indeed no food until 4.30 PM (the scheduled boarding time for our flight). The WiFi was incredibly slow as well - so we moved on to the Alaska Lounge next door which is brand new and accepts Priority Pass members when it is not at capacity. That was a great move as this is a beautiful lounge - much above anything I have ever seen from Alaska. It has a beautiful view over the apron and comes with a number of healthy and yummy options like chicken salad and greens. There are a number of made-to-order dishes under $10 that are similarly healthy and tasty. There is a also a full service bar and a barista making enormous espresso drinks. The WiFi was speedy too and we would make it our home for a few hours. We dropped by the gate a few minutes after the scheduled time and to our surprise Business class boarding was well under way - we just walked right through - our online boarding passed had been accepted all the way despite stern warning from the 'friendly' lounge attendant earlier it would 'never work'. The cabin was almost full already with mostly 'post Christmas family travel' (indeed half the passengers were under 18). The new A350 Business Class seats offer a lot of privacy and space (we both had an aisle seat). The seats is an evolution of the Business Class seats you can find at Etihad. However it is wider and more ergonomic. Stelia Solstys III is what the manufacturer calls this seat model. It is used by Air Mauritius, Singapore Airlines new 787-10, Thai Airways A350, Azul's new A330 as well as others. It is rumored Turkish Airlines will use it for their new Business Class. The IFE displays are huge and crisp. I thought the seats were fantastic and they would later go all the way flat just as I'd hoped. Every seats came with a pillow and a warm, high quality blanket. There was also an amenity kit with the necessary essentials. No pre-departure drinks were offered - I wasn't sure if the catering arrived late of there were just too many passengers. The crew was simply non-existent during boarding besides running through the aisle and shouting down my picture taking (fair enough it is their plane). We pulled back right on time and after a quick taxi took off into the windy skies over New York. Iberia features inflight Wifi that is charged by MB and 100MB (that is not much) will set you back $20. Just a few minutes after reaching 10,000 feet the flight attendants came out with the cold items & drink cart - that is likely the fastest I have ever seen that. I took it as a good sign but this wasn't what happened... My tray was simply dropped off at my table without any words with the plastic cover foil still attached to the dinner items. My request for a champagne was acknowledged but apparently none was on the cart. About 15 minutes later I'd get a small bottle of sweet, sparkling wine that was frankly horrible. By that time the main course was already in full swing. Dinner was over in less than 30 minutes but a Fast Food Drive Thru manages better service than that. I finally wanted to switch to a red wine and rang the call button. Nothing happened for some time (10 minutes) and once a flight attendant came by they simply remarked that 'call buttons are not used on this plane'. That seems nonsense since there is an optical indicator too and the plane is simply so quiet there is no need for a loud sound signal. While the food looked somewhat good it tasted horribly and was extremely salty. I barely ate anything. During the whole dinner service other passengers received dinner rolls with olive oil several times though they never showed up at my seat. I pressed the call button again and ....well not much happened... After this disappointing dinner service I decided to watch a movie (it was less than an hour after take off). I settled on 'Meg' and enjoyed the movie despite its silliness quite a bit. The huge display and decent (though not great) headphones helped. Breakfast rolled around at about one hour outside Madrid (11 PM body time) with full lights and quite some noise. It wasn't any better though :( In summary Iberia (and IAG) can be proud of the best Business Class (hard) product within the IAG empire that has been delivered on the Iberia A350. It is awesome. However anything that is not fixed to the plane (and was done by Airbus and Stelia) is a huge disappointment with the crew, the catering and lounges being cheap and more akin to a discount carrier like Scoot or Level's Premium Economy than a Business Class offering for a modern airline. If you just want to sleep I'd take Iberia again anytime but anything else keep your expectations minimal.