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Iberia took delivery of its first two Airbus A350s back in July and since then it has mostly been flying them on various short-haul routes around Europe as the airline gets its crews accustomed to the new aircraft.
The first Iberia A350 finally flew its inaugural long-haul flight in early August when it took over one of the airline’s two Madrid – New York JFK flights while the second A350 took over the second flight on the New York route this Saturday just gone (1 September).
Shortly before the second Iberia A350 embarked on its long-haul duties I tried out its Business Class cabin on one of the last short-haul flights the aircraft flew.
In this review I’m just going to concentrate on the A350’s Business Class cabin and, to a lesser extent, the entertainment on offer. Everything else surrounding the flight (food, service etc…) were all part of Iberia’s short-haul product and they’re not going to be relevant to anyone looking to book the Iberia A350 going forward.
Iberia A350 Business Class Cabin
The Iberia A350 Business Class cabin offers 8 rows of Business Class seating in a 1-2-1 formation. This layout offers all passengers direct access to one of the aircraft’s two aisles and is the same layout offered in the Iberia A330 Business Class cabins.
While it’s great that the cabin offers all-aisle-access seating it’s worth noting that the nature of the seats Iberia uses (which are the same seats as in the Iberia A330 aircraft) means that travelers need to be careful where they choose to sit – not all seats are the same.
Although every row of the Iberia A350 Business Class cabin has just 4 seats only alternate rows are the same.
In the odd-numbered rows the seats either side of the aircraft are close to the windows and have a dividing table between them and the aisle….
….while the same seats in the even-numbered rows have the dividing table fixed between the seat and the window leaving the seat further from the window and more exposed to the aisle:
The window seats in the odd-numbered rows are considerably more private and this can be most clearly seen when viewing one of these seats when it’s in the fully flat position:
The passenger is well insulated from the rest of the cabin and the traffic in the aisles. The same cannot be said for the window seats in the even-numbered rows.
There’s a similar distinction for the seats in the center of the aircraft.
The center seats in the odd-numbered rows are separated from each other by fixed tables….
….and are noticeably exposed to the aisles:
The center seats in the even-numbered rows are closer together and have the fixed tables positioned between them and the aisles:
These seats are ideal for couples wishing to sit together as their proximity to one another makes conversations easy and the placement of the fixed tabled makes them quite private.
They’re less than ideal if you’re a solo traveler as you’ll be seated very close to the person next to you and your privacy will be limited (there’s a central divided that can be raised between these seats but it still doesn’t offer all that much extra privacy).
Iberia A350 Business Class Seats
Here’s what my Iberia A350 Business Class seat looked like (I was seated in and odd-numbered row and in a window seat):
The seat controls are self-explanatory, simple to use and are found on the inside of one of the chair’s armrests:
This is also where the IFE controller is housed.
A headphone input, two USB ports and a universal power outlet are all located to the side of the seat…..
…and their position right next to the fixed table area makes it very convenient for when you need to charge your devices.
Each Iberia A350 Business Class A350 seat comes with two lights in the ceiling above….
….and a 3-mode reading light attached next to the seat at around head height:
As with a lot of modern long-haul aircraft there are no individual air vents which can be controlled by the passengers – you are at the mercy of the crew when it comes to the temperature around your seat.
The armrest closest to the fixed table section of the table can be lowered (via the large button at the front of it)….
…and this gives the passenger a little bit more lateral room which can be very useful when the seat is fully reclined.
Overall the seat itself is comfortable enough (some may find it a bit hard) but, although it’s far from being a bad Business Class seat, there are a few things that I just don’t like.
- Lack Of Storage Space
With seats like the ones you’ll find in the American Airlines 777-300ER you get a number of convenient places where you can store things you’re likely to want to have close to hand during a flight (laptop, tablet, e-reader, books, shoes etc…) but with the Iberia A350 Business Class seat your options are limited.
There are two small storage shelves next to each seat….
…but these aren’t big enough to hold a laptop or tablet and, as they’re open to the cabin, they’re not ideal for storing smaller valuables like passports and wallets.
The shelves also both have signs instructing passengers not to use them for storage during take-off and landing:
There’s a small magazine rack near floor level….
…but, considering the amount of literature contained within, passengers are unlikely to be able to make much use of it.
If you’re seated in one of the window seats in the odd-numbered rows there’s a gap running the length of the cabin between the seat and the cabin wall where you can place a few items….
….but this isn’t exactly secure or ideal and, once again, there’s a sign indicating that this area cannot be used for storage during take-off and landing:
The only truly useable storage spaces the Iberia A350 offers are the fixed table next to each seat (which is still not all that useful if you’re looking for somewhere to store valuables) and the space under the ottoman ahead of the seat itself:
The problem with the space under the ottoman is that it’s inaccessible when the seat is reclined past a certain angle or when it’s placed into bed mode.
It’s fine for storing shoes and perhaps a small bag but it’s not exactly the best place to store things you’re likely to want to get at throughout the flight.
- The Fixed IFE Screen
The IFE screen in the Iberia A350 Business Class cabin is fixed in place so you cannot angle it or move it in any way. This can cause a couple of issues.
Firstly, there’s nothing you can do about screen glare that sometimes occurs when you recline the seat and, secondly, it makes the area around the seat feel a lot more compact than it should do.
Because of this design a passenger’s legs have to be extended under the screen when the seat is reclined or placed in bed mode…..
…and I found that this made the sleeping space feel tighter than it actually was.
One piece of good news here is that the screen is easily switched off so at least you don’t have a screen glaring back at your for the full length of your flight.
3. The Tray Table
The tray table is stowed in the back of the seat ahead and to one side of the IFE screen….
….and is a pretty good size:
The table can be angled away from the seat (slightly) to allow a passenger to get to the aisle without it having to be stowed away….but that’s the only movement it is capable of.
The seat controls allow a passenger to move closer to or further away from the table….
….but the lack of any other range of motion creates one particular issue.
I like to watch movies and shows that I have loaded on my laptop and I prefer not to do this while seated bold upright – with my laptop on the tray table I struggled to find a comfortable reclined seat position.
The seat gets closer to the table as it reclines and, if you just trust a single control to get you comfortable, you’ll find yourself uncomfortably close to the table and probably not very relaxed at all.
With the table down it took me a few minutes and the use of a number of the controls to get myself into a position where I was reclined, I wasn’t too close to my laptop and I didn’t have my legs pressed up against the bottom of the tray table.
Is this a first world problem? Yes, of course it is….but it’s also an example of poor design.
4. The arm rests (one in particular)
One of the arm rests is ridiculously narrow and not all that comfortable to rest on.
Also, as if the narrowness wasn’t bad enough, the arm rest is very poorly padded and is quite hard…and that just adds to the discomfort.
I’m not sure what the reasoning behind this design is (weight saving?) but I don’t remember encountering an arm rest this narrow on any other Business Class seat.
Entertainment & Wi-Fi
Iberia’s A350 come fully equipped with overwater wi-fi but that’s where the good news ends as far as connectivity goes – not only is the wi-fi expensive but it’s also limited.
€29.99 is approximately equal to $35 and, when you consider that the likes of American Airlines’ charge $20 for full-flight access without a usage limit, you start to see what a rip-off this is.
Also, who knows how long it will take to use up the 200MB allowance? I often receive email attachments that are 8-15 MB is size so just one of those hitting my inbox would use up 7.5% of my whole flight allowance.
This may be ok if you have work paying for your internet access but for those of us who have to pay our own way this is verging on extortionate.
The news is better when it comes to the in-flight entertainment.
The Iberia headphones are not all that impressive….
…but, despite being of the double-pin variety, this doesn’t prevent the IFE system from allowing passengers to use their own single-pin headphones and still getting stereo sound – there are a number of airlines on which a double-pin input would require a passenger to have a double-pin adapter if they want stereo sound through their own headphones.
As you would expect from an internationally configured aircraft the Iberia A350 comes loaded with a reasonable number of movies, shows, music, games and more.
Per the airline this is what you’ll find onboard
- 72 movies
- 110 series and documentaries
- 21 games
- 55 music albums
- 20 play lists
- 7 audio books
- A dedicated kids section
it’s not an impressive set of choices but it’s also not bad.
Some of the movies and series on offer weren’t exactly new….
…but at least most series offered more than just one or two episodes:
If want to see what kind of movies and shows Iberia provides onboard then you should check out the current month’s offerings via the airline’s dedicated entertainment page.
The Iberia A350 Business Class cabin and seat are a middle-of-the-road offering.
While clearly superior to the angle-flat seats you’ll find on some Emirates and Air France aircraft, the older Business Class seats on Qatar Airways and United and the antiquated Club World seats on British Airways, the Iberia A350 Business Class seat is still quite a way short of being as good as the better Business Class seats you’ll find offered by a lot of airlines.
The reverse herringbone seats you’ll find on American Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Delta and Finnair (amongst others) are considerably better than the Iberia A350 Business Class seat….and the suites you’ll find on Delta and the newer Qatar Airways aircraft are light-years ahead.
If you don’t fly in Business Class very often or if you’re used to flying Business Class with airlines whose cabins are old and out of date then the Iberia A350 Business Class seat will be a very pleasant upgrade for you – for everyone else it’s a more than acceptable option but not one that’s likely to wow.