Read more from this trip – Thanksgiving in Florence:
- American Airlines Flagship Lounge JFK
- American Airlines Business Class New York to Madrid (JFK-MAD)
- Hotel Spadai – Florence, Italy
- Aeroporti VIP Club Lounge Florence Airport
- Iberia (A350-900) Premium Economy Madrid to New York (MAD-JFK)
- Date of flight: December 1, 2019
- Where: Florence (“FLR”) to Madrid (“MAD”)
- Flight time: 2 hours 25 minutes,
- Departure / arrival time: 12:30pm-2:55pm
- Flight #: IB3439
- Seat: 2A
- Paid flight / points: Paid
I was originally booked in economy class for this 791 mile journey from Florence to Madrid. About a week before my flight I received an e-mail from Iberia with an offer to upgrade to business class for €64. While I already had access to the business class check-in desk and lounge as a oneworld Sapphire member I thought having an in-flight snack and vacant empty seat was worth the premium. As Iberia said I’d have more “confort.”
The e-mail claims the process is very easy, but it’s actually pretty convoluted. You reply to the offer e-mail with your phone number and record locator. A few days later an Iberia rep will call you to confirm the booking and charge you for the upgrade.
A lot of folks associate business class with spacious cabins and lie-flat seats. This isn’t the case with European business class. The business class cabin is almost identical to the economy cabin and is converted to business class by blocking off the middle seats.
Seats 2D/2F have slightly more legroom so would be my first choice. On this particular aircraft economy seats have 28-30 inches of pitch compared to 31 inches in business class. It might seem like a trivial difference to most folks, but I welcome all the space I can get. At each seat was a flimsy pillow, which I used for lumbar support and a blanket.
There’s no in-flight entertainment on this aircraft. However, you can get access to 7,000 newspapers and magazines from more than 150 countries, in 60 languages through the PressReader application ahead of your flight. Just open the Iberia smartphone app, go to “My Trips” and then click on “Free Press and Magazines.”
The flight attendants appeared busy upon boarding so didn’t check my boarding pass or welcome me aboard. I usually get a second look when boarding planes since flight crews aren’t always accustomed to having giraffes on board, but not today. Pre-departure beverages (“PDBs”) weren’t offered on this flight. In comparison, the Finnair regional business class flight I took over the summer offered PDBs. While service got off to a rock start on the ground it significantly improved once we got into the air.
Food and Beverage
Shortly after takeoff menus were distributed. Flight attendants then came around with hot towels.
After the towels were collected the flight attendant came around to take meal and drink orders. I chose the steer eye fillet in a rosemary and Guernica pepper sauce served on a bed of mashed potato with olive oil.
I almost never choose a steak on a plane, but when given the choice over cream cheese stuffed pasta I’ll go with the steak. It was served on a singe tray alongside a green sprouts salad with oranges and sunflower seeds, strawberry yogurt and Mahón cheese. I ordered a glass of the Marques de Riscal Rioja Reserva ($18 per bottle) to go with my meal. In terms of presentation the flight attendant could have removed the plastic wrap on the cheese and salad. I hate when plastic or foil wrap is kept on.
Looking past the presentation the meal was actually pretty tasty. The salad was fresh once I unwrapped it and was accompanied by Spanish olive oil. The steak while a bit overdone was flavorful. I was happy to see the Mahón cheese, which gets it’s name from the port of Mahón on the Minorca island in Spain. It’s rubbed with butter during the maturation process, which gives it a nice buttery, salty taste. Giraffes love butter more than disgraced TV chef Paula Deen. The wine was surprisingly good and paired well with the steak. The meal on this short flight was significantly better than what US carriers serve on their domestic routes.
Flight attendants came around several times checking on drinks and offering coffee / tea. Upon disembarking the plane the purser thanked me for traveling with Iberia, which I thought was a nice touch.
First Class Giraffe Not Impressed
Iberia’s intra-European business class hard product isn’t good, but their competition doesn’t offer a differentiated product. Service on the flight was rocky to start, but then improved in the air. The food was good, but the presentation left a bit to be desired.
Buying intra-European business class outright isn’t worth the incremental cost, but when offered a reasonable upgrade offer it’s definitely worth your consideration.