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Earlier this month, I flew out to Madrid in Iberia’s new business class to celebrate my friend’s 30th birthday. It was fun to surprise her, and meant that I got to visit one of my favorite cities in the world. For my return trip, I had purchased an economy ticket on AA.com months ago and used an EVIP Systemwide Upgrade (which I get 8 of each year for being an Executive Platinum elite) that cleared at the time of booking so I knew I’d be flying business class, albeit aboard an American Airlines transatlantic 757.
Fortunately the flight was non-stop from Madrid to JFK and I didn’t have to fly through London and elongate the journey by leaving earlier in morning, so the flight made sense for me, though I knew I’d be flying an old plane and an old business class product (that I reviewed in 2011). Still it was the best option and I need to requalify for Executive Platinum so I decided to see if the service/food changed much, even if the hard product hadn’t. Sadly, the food was worse, though the service was decent.
Because I was flying American business class, I got access to Iberia’s lounges at Madrid Barajas. My friend and I wanted to check out the one in the domestic terminal, but since we were on an international flight the lounge reps made us go to the lounge in the satellite terminal where our planes were departing, which ended up being fine because the terminal was a good 20-minute walk from check-in and we had to go through immigrations before accessing it, so it’s better to get all that over with and relax near the gate rather than hanging out in the main lounge and then having to rush over and risk missing your flight.
I was reasonably impressed with the pretty decent facilities in the lounge, which was expansive and included a relaxation room, a great view of the runway and was close to the gate. With less than half-an-hour to spend there before takeoff, it was all we needed before boarding.
Here’s a quick Instavid I made of boarding and the plane’s two cabins, as well as of my impromptu mimosa-making skills.
I had flown AA’s 757 transatlantic service in Business Class before in March 2011 on a previous trip to Madrid, which was an alright experience but not not remarkable in any way, so I had low expectations going into the flight.
American’s 757 has 16 angle-flat seats in Business Class that have a pitch of 58-59 inches and a width of 21 inches, in a 2 x 2 configuration. There are also 52 Main Cabin Extra seats, and 108 Economy seats. The inflight entertainment comes in the form of an outdated 10.6-inch personal TV with the AVOD system stocked with movies, TV, games, music, etc., in English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, and German. Other added amenities for Business Class are Bose QuietComfort 15 Acoustic Noise Cancelling headphones (I always bring my own, though), amenity kits with Dermalogica products and a duvet and pillow.
My latest flight was run by a NY-based crew and the service was okay, but the food was horrendous – I’ve had better meals on domestic JFK-Miami trip!
The menu sounded reasonably tempting, with a crab cake and coconut curry rice salad to start, with a side salad of seasonal greens, vegetables and pesto bocconcini. The entrée was a choice of Chateaubriand steak served in a green peppercorn sauce, with potatoes au gratin and a mushroom, leek and onion sauté; or Rosemary Cumin Chicken, Citrus Shrimp and Scallop Sambal, or Buffalo Mozzerella Torteletti Pasta.
I opted for the Chateaubriand steak, which was so foul it tasted like a bucket of mop water.
Later, there was a pre-arrival snack of deep dish pizza that was at least edible, but very greasy.
Luckily I wasn’t too hungry as I had eaten a late breakfast, but I was severely disappointed, especially considering the shrimp in “American sauce,” lemon and onions, with potatoes that I had on Iberia on the way to Madrid was pretty good. Just another reason why comparing Iberia’s new business class to AA’s 757 is a no-brainer.
After this last round of flights, I would choose Iberia above both BA and American’s old angled lie-flat business class, especially since not having to fly through London on a Oneworld carrier means potentially saving hundreds if not thousands of dollars in taxes and surcharges. If American ever launches service from JFK-Madrid aboard its new 777-300ER (not holding my breath for that to happen anytime soon), however, that would be my top business class choice on this route.
Although this experience was short of impressive, I still thought it was a decent value for me since I had only paid for a discounted economy ticket, was able to use an EVIP upgrade and fly a comfortable if not world-class product non-stop back from Madrid. That said, given the choice, I’d opt for Iberia’s new business class over this any day.