Review: Iberia Economy Class Airbus A320 (LHR-MAD)

Iberia Economy Class A320

I recently spend some of my hard-earned Avios on a frivolous day trip to Madrid just to try out the new Iberia Business Class offering on their Airbus A330-200 aircraft (review coming soon) and, as part of that trip, I flew to Madrid in Iberia Economy Class on one of their Airbus A320 aircraft.

The flight was booked via British Airways (with a British Airways flight number) but it was operated by Iberia:

iberia-economy-avios

I’d never really given this much though but it turns out that all Iberia flights out of Heathrow operate out of Terminal 5. Having not flown Iberia in years I would have assumed they still flew out of Terminal 3 but, apparently, that changed back in 2012.

I’d pre-booked parking at Heathrow’s long stay T5 car park for a reasonable (by Heathrow standards) £13.47 ($19) and I made sure I booked through TopCashBack’s UK site to make it cheaper – much better and more reliable than taking cabs. The bus transfer to the Terminal is actually pretty good and one of the better aspects of the Heathrow infrastructure.

Heathrow T5 seemed strangely quiet for a weekday morning….

heathrow-t5

…but that made little difference to me as I’d already checked-in online.

I headed straight for the Fasttrack security lines in the hopes of flying through quite quickly…but Heathrow security had other ideas. The Fasttrack line was backed up (30-40 people), only one of the two conveyor belts was working and the speed at which the scanners were doing their jobs seriously made me wonder if they were on a go-slow. Tectonic plates move faster than this lot.

Eventually I got though to the other side and went off to do some shopping for Joanna and to check out the Galleries Club lounge which I haven’t visited in years (I’ll review this properly on my next trip in a few weeks time).

Boarding/Pre-Departure

Boarding was delayed due to the late arrival of the incoming flight (how do they manage to get delayed this early in the day when there’s no bad weather around?!) so, for a 9:15am departure we eventually started boarding around 9:05am.

I was one of the first on the plane (in my never ending quest to get vaguely decent pictures without dozens of passengers in them) and, for the first time, was asked quite seriously why I was taking pictures of the plane. The flight attendant that did the asking was very pleasant, there was no hostility at all and it took all of 30 seconds to explain what I was doing…but it was still interesting how taking a photo of a seat can raise suspicions.

Cabin/Seat

The Economy Class cabin of the Iberia Airbus A320 is set out in a 3-3 formation…

iberia-economy-class-a320 - 03Iberia Economy Class A320 – Cabin

…with exit rows in rows 11 & 12:

iberia-economy-class-a320-seat-map

As I explained in the introductory piece to this trip, I purchased my ticket quite close to the departure date so all the exit row seats were taken. The next best option was an aisle seat in a row with an empty middle seat – 18D.

Wow it was cramped.

I’ve been very lucky in that, apart from an easyJet flight a couple of years ago, I haven’t been in a non-exit row Economy Class seat for years…so this was quite an awakening.

SeatGuru says that the Iberia Economy Class seats on their A320 have a seat width of 17″ and a seat pitch of 31″ but it felt tighter than that.

iberia-economy-class-a320 - 04Iberia Economy Class A320 – Seats

iberia-economy-class-a320 - 05Iberia Economy Class A320 – Seats

I was very fortunate in that the middle seat next to me remained unoccupied for the flight so the seat width didn’t really bother me – I’m not the widest of people (yet!) so it’s only at shoulder level where the narrowness of seats can bother me….and that only comes in to play when there’s someone in the next seat. So I avoided an issue there.

What I couldn’t avoid was the lack of leg room:

iberia-economy-class-a320 - 13Iberia Economy Class A320 – Leg Rom (or lack thereof)

Even when I was sitting bolt upright my knees were firmly up against the seat in front of me and I was fortunate that the guy in that seat didn’t feel the need to recline – I think his headrest would have been in my mouth had he reclined!

The seat cushion was comfortable enough but you’re not really thinking about that when you’re trying to find a way to contort a 6ft frame (admittedly with long legs) into a space it’s clearly not meant to fit in. How passengers do this on long haul flights is beyond me – it must be hell.

As I had boarded the plane, a British Airways staff member (not a member of the Iberia crew) asked me to place my one and only carry-on item (a small backpack) under the seat in front of me. Sorry but no. If you’re going to restrict leg room to an alleged 31″, I’m absolutely not going to put my one piece of hand baggage where my leg room is going to be constrained even further.

In case you were wondering, up front the Business Class passengers have more seat pitch (34″) (that’s an area where Iberia is better than its sister airline, British Airways) but the product didn’t exactly look enticing:

iberia-economy-class-a320 - 02Iberia Business Class Cabin A320

Connectivity/Entertainment

This will be one of the shortest sections I’ve ever written!

  • No power outlets at the seats
  • No wi-fi
  • No entertainment options as far as I could see

Food

Unlike British Airways Iberia charges for absolutely everything and, although I didn’t test this theory, I don’t think they even provide water for free as it’s in their extensive onboard menu as an item to buy:

iberia-economy-class-a320 - 19Iberia Economy Class A320 – Food & Drinks

Sandwiches are €7, snacks start at €2 (for a bag of chips/crisps) and a coffee is €2.50. If you really want to see the full selection then check out the thumbnails below:

Amenities/Service/Other

There were no amenities on a short flight like this and, aside from the tray table….

iberia-economy-class-a320 - 29

…which was just about deep enough to hold an 11″ MacBook Air, there wasn’t anything worth mentioning.

The crew seemed friendly enough (although I had limited interaction with them) and, unlike most US airlines, were proactive in helping passengers place their carry-ons into the overhead compartments.

The one issue that I noticed was to do with the service announcements.

Two members of cabin crew made announcements during the flight and one was almost completely unintelligible while the other was a little better.

I fully appreciate that Iberia is a foreign airline and no, I can’t speak Spanish, but if you’re going to make announcements in English (and I have a feeling it’s now mandatory to make announcements in English….but I’m not 100% sure) then they should be clear and understandable. These were not and it got me wondering what would have happened if an emergency had arisen. I’m not convinced crew instructions would have been understood by at leat 40% of the people on the plane.

Overall

Between the cramped seating and having to pay for snack and drinks on board this felt more like a flight on a low-cost carrier than anything else. If I’d had to pay to check luggage I’m not sure there would have been any difference.

I’ve got a whole new level of respect (and pity!) for people who fly long-haul with just 31″ of seat pitch…it wasn’t fun on this short flight so I can only imagine how bad it must be on longer flights.

As I discovered when I researched the various seat options across the Atlantic (Which Airline Seats For USA – Europe) and across the Pacific (Which Airline Seats For USA – Asia), there are a lot of airlines that offer 31″ or less of seat pitch on long haul routes and I will do everything possible to avoid them.

That reminds me…I need to do something about a long haul British Airways flight I have later in the year. I’m currently not in an exit row on that flight and I’m not about to tolerate 31″ of seat pitch for 9+ hours 🙂

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