Review: Iberia Business Class A320, Madrid – Marrakech

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Iberia is a member of One World Alliance and operates from its hub in Madrid, Spain. Iberia’s hub in Madrid and its proximity to North Africa makes it a great way to redeem frequent flier points in order to get into Africa; without the expensive premiums needed for an Africa award redemption. We redeemed British Airways Avios for a short hop from Spain over to Morocco on Iberia Business Class. How did the flight and service stand up ?


This post is one chapter on our trip to Iceland, the United Kingdom and Morocco. This trip was redeemed through Alaska Mileage Plan and enhanced through Marriott Bonvoy Elite Status. For more information on how this trip was booked, please see our trip introduction here. For other parts of the trip, please see this index.

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Review: Iberia Business Class, Airbus 320, Madrid – Marrakech

Booking:

Getting to Africa is always difficult on points and miles. This is because there is usually a substantial point premium for entering the African zone versus the European Zone, making flights to South Africa a much better deal than shorter flights to nearby Morocco. I figured that the best way to do it was to get ourselves as close as possible to the African continent and redeem a short haul flight through British Airways Executive Club Avios. I booked this one way Iberia flight in Business Class for 15,000 Avios and $39.98 CAD ($30.32 USD) per person. There was ample Iberia Business Class availability across most days for two persons when we booked at the 5 month mark before travel.

After leaving the Iberia Premium Velazquez Business Lounge Madrid, we headed through the airport to locate Gate 23. The Madrid Airport is picturesque and interesting with a curvy roof and a design that’s pretty unique as compared to the world’s airports.

Navigating to the Gate in Madrid Barajas Terminal 4S
Iberia
IB – 3440 – Business Class (U)
MAD – RAK (Madrid Barajas – Marrakesh)
Sept 10, 2018
11:30 AM – 12:30 PM
Booked: Airbus 320
Flown: Airbus 320 

Unfortunately, on arrival to Gate 23, it was a full on scrum for the gate. There were three lines that had formed and strangely, no priority signage or other postings for them. We opted for the shorter line and boarding for all priority passengers was announced. On Iberia, this seems to mean every credit card holder, status member and business class all at once.

Scrumming for the Boarding Lanes

On Board Iberia Business Class:

We were about the thirtieth person to board the aircraft. The Iberia Business Class configuration on this Airbus 320 is 2 – 2 economy seat with a blocked middle seat. The Iberia Business Class is situated over 5 rows of business class on the left side of the aircraft and 4 rows of business class on the right side of the aircraft.

By the time we got to row 2, all the business class overhead bin space was gone. One of the flight attendants was being pro-active by doing bag valet service by firing the carry on bags backwards to bin space in rearward rows so my carry on Tumi ended up two rows back in row 4.

Iberia Business Class Seating Airbus 320

While some European carriers offer a small table and tray blocking the middle seat, the middle seat on Iberia Business Class was just empty.

View in the Iberia Business Class Seat

I hopped into the surprisingly compact Iberia Business Class seat. As with most European carriers, Iberia Business Class seats are essentially economy seats where they don’t sell the middle seat. There isn’t even a cup holder in the middle seat and there doesn’t appear to be much more leg room distance offered for business class versus economy. In addition to just being an economy seat, these were definitely the tightest European business class seats I’d ever flown. I ended sitting partially sideways like I usually do in economy. Next time on this route, I think I’d probably just do economy class and settle on Priority Pass with a credit card membership for access to the lounge.

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Pre Departure Services:

There was no pre-departure beverage offered, aside from the general cabin announcements.

We had a very quick departure from the gate to the runway. We were airport within about 10 minutes of pushback with no waits for other aircraft. There were a few views of Iberia aircraft, which I don’t get all that much opportunity to see.

Departing Madrid Barajas Terminal 4S
Departing Madrid behind an Iberia Airbus 340

Food and Beverage: A Lunch

As we reached cruising altitude, immigration cards for Morocco were passed out. These were followed by distribution of printed menus, which is a classy touch for a short haul international flight.

Iberia Business Class Menu: Madrid – Marrakech

The service of the cabin started from the rear to front. Continuing the theme of the day, the purser seemed exceptionally grumpy and I got the impression that the other staff crew members seemed to be intentionally staying away from her.

Today’s lunch was presented on a tray all at once. Lunch consisted of Toledo style salad with pepper, raisins and pine nuts. The main was grilled chicken breast, apricot and olive rolled up served with a creamy sherry sauce and stir fried thin beans, followed by cheese from Zamoura (most excellent) and raspberry yoghurt.

Chicken Breast, apricot and olive served with creamy sherry sauce and stir fried thin beans

The meal service was just enough time to finish the meal and enjoy a glass of wine. It was just an okay glass of Verdejo wine with no offer of seconds.

Viewing the Straits of Gibraltar:

The best part of the flight was the flyover of the Strait of Gibraltar. I was surprised to see how narrow it was compared to other bodies of water that I had seen. You know the flight isn’t all too exciting when the best part of the flight is staring out the window. There were no TV monitors or other movies playing.

Viewing the Straits of Gibraltar
I was Surprised to See how Narrow this Strait Actually Was

Approaching Marrakech Airport:

We had a quick approach into Marrakech and over flew some sand dunes outside of town on our approach. We also passed by the rural areas on the way in. Even the views on the approach showed that we were living the civilized world of order into the world of disorder.

Our First Sight of Sand Dunes in Morocco
Viewing Morocco on Final Approach
The Reds of Morocco on Approach

There are no gates at the Marrakech Airport so we pulled up on the apron and the doors were opened after the stairs were put up. The guidebooks said that taking photos of airports was “verboten” in Morocco but I snapped a few photos when people weren’t looking. There also seemed to be a lot of tourists taking pictures of the plane while it was on the ramp itself. The Iberia flight was the only one on the apron at this time of the day.

Marrakech International Airport
Our Iberia Airbus 320 at Marrakech International Airport

Our priority bags were the last to be put out on the claim belt. This wasn’t a bit deal but it seemed to be another underscoring of the apathetic nature of our experiences on Iberia. We went and changed some money to have Moroccan Dirhams available to us.

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In Summary:

Ultimately, I had great hopes for Iberia as a possible alternative to British Airways for trips around Europe. Unfortunately, it was a pretty bare bones experience traveling with them in business class. Although the food catering was reasonable, as was the Iberia Velazquez Lounge, the whole involvement was a crowded and pushy affair. The staff seemed to be pretty disinterested and disconnected from their jobs. The business class experience was exceptionally compact and not very comfortable. I can’t say that I’d be in any rush to fly with them again.


If you’ve flown Iberia Business Class through Europe, did you find that Business Class offered value above Economy Class?

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