Iberia, the national flag-carrier of Spain, merged with British Airways in January 2011. As a result, it is now the third largest airline in Europe and the leading airline on routes between Europe and Latin America.
We have travelled with Iberia over the years on routes from London to Madrid, London to Costa Rica, and a number of internal flights within Spain. Returning to travel with them on the London to Madrid route we were amazed by the transformation of the airline in the last couple of years.
The most significant change is that, on its European routes, it now operates like a low-cost carrier. On all routes they operate just two classes, business and economy. Business is competing at a premium level, whilst economy is competing against the no-frills airlines.
Its fleet is now of a good standard. They operate only relatively new Airbus aircraft. Having had an unpleasant experience on a very old aircraft on a domestic flight within Spain a few years ago, we are relieved that they have retired their old Boeing and McDonnell Douglas aircraft.
Online check-in prior to our London to Madrid flight is average. Not as easy to navigate as some we have used, but we get there and bag-drop at Heathrow Airport is quick and easy. Our Airbus A320 aircraft looks fairly new inside and compares favourably to the true low cost airlines, uniforms smart and, up to this point, it seems similar to the Iberia of old.
Once on-board, however, the changes really begin to show. Customer service is now pared right back. Nothing happens quickly but, on our flight, the crew were generally pleasant and helpful when asked. Confusingly, not much information is volunteered. Iberia no longer serves complimentary food or drinks on European routes, but passengers have the opportunity to purchase them. We were expecting, as apparently is the case on flights over three hours or to the Canary Islands, a trolley service to be in operation. It gradually became evident that we had to ring the call button and ask for what was wanted. It would have been nice to have been told, not least as it is quite a laborious process, particularly if lots of passengers are waiting. You can choose from a couple of different sandwiches, nuts, beer, wine and soft drinks. My club sandwich was surprisingly tasty, but my travelling companion’s cheese roll was almost inedible. As you would expect, prices are high and quality low, so we would advise bringing your own food, if required.
If you like in-flight entertainment then you should by-pass Iberia. Flights within Europe have overhead screens, but these only show the safety video and map during flights. On long-haul flights, economy only has overhead screens showing a fairly eclectic range of movies. Not our idea of a good time. It does have a decent in-flight magazine called ‘Ronda’, which is written in both Spanish and English. The articles are of a good standard, but the translation is poor at times, which lets it down.
As the service is so minimal on Iberia, the entertainment non-existent, and food and drinks elusive, we find ourselves with not that much to review. We got from point A to point B safely. The plane was pretty new. We had little interaction with the cabin crew. There was no entertainment. And I guess that is the point. If you travel with Iberia in economy, you will get a no-frills experience.
Our recommendation would be that, if Iberia provides the cheapest and most convenient way to get to your destination, travel with them. If it doesn’t, don’t. As simple as that.
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