Flight: Iberia 3167
Aircraft: Airbus A340-600
Route: London Heathrow (LHR) – Madrid (MAD)
Scheduled Departure: 18:45 (Actual: 19:23)
Scheduled Arrival: 22:05 (Actual: 22:22)
Scheduled Duration: 2hr 20min (Actual 1hr 59min)
Seat: 4A, Business class
Wait…what? A wide body A340 aircraft between London and Madrid? Yes, you read that correctly. Everyday both Iberia and British Airways fly a long haul plane on this route for the primary purpose of transporting cargo. These routes are profitable whether or not they actually carry any passengers!
One consequence of having such a large aircraft is that there are huge amounts of Avios award spaces available for redemption, which is great if you fancy something different to the norm. At 773 miles in distance, this route falls into Band 2 of the Avios Award Chart costing 12750 Avios during off peak dates or 15000 in peak dates.
Being a Saturday night there was hardly anyone in the airport or on this flight. We were amongst the last to board, leaving the British Airways Galleries Lounge in Terminal 5 a bit too late, and having to dash over to Terminal 5C gates, arriving with just 3 minutes until gate closure.
There were a total of 6 passengers in business class, which basically gave us total freedom to sit wherever we wanted. In the middle part of the cabin there are the ‘honeymoon' seats for couples, but in alternate rows the seats are much farther spaced.
The individual seats on the sides are staggered as you can see. So if you want a true window seat you need to take 2A, 4A, 6A etc., because going for rows 1, 3, 5 etc will actually be an aisle seat.
During the flight the mood lighting is switched on. The picture shows it to be much brighter than it actually was but in real life it's actually a really soothing colour!
As mentioned my seat was 4A, which gives 3 windows for you to gaze through.
Unfortunately the cabin crew missed this one in the magazine holder…
While leg room is a tiny bit less if you are in the true window seat as compared to the ones in front or behind, there is obviously more than enough for nearly anyone. There is storage space on the floor underneath the foot well for a small bag.
The In Flight Entertainment screen does not fold in though, so it does protrude into the space above your legs. The screen can be switched off from the remote control though, which is necessary if you want to sleep when the cabin lights are switched off.
There is in flight 60Hz AC power is rated at 110V, but I don't know how much current it draws. I did try to charge my phone via the USB port but I barely noticed any change to my battery level. I would be surprised if it gave more than around 200milliAmps.
In-flight Service and Meal
As there weren't many of us in the cabin and quite some time until push back, the stewardess gave us the menus and took our order for the main course a few minutes later. I chose the veal burger.
Though to be honest I expected something slightly different to what I was presented. Nevertheless it was actually pretty tasty, although the meat (or the sauce) was a tiny bit too salty for my preference.
I really loved the cava that was served. I don't usually drink sparkling white wines so don't have much to compare against but this worked well with the savouriness of the main course.
The Rest of the Flight
The stewardess handed out a few vouchers for use on board. But with each being 4MB, you can imagine there is little you can actually do with it other than checking a couple of Twitter posts before you need to use another voucher!
And of course testing out the on-board wifi's speed! At 0.33Mbps I decided to give up on trying to do anything meaningful with the wifi and took a snooze instead.
I really enjoyed this flight. The cabin crew were attentive and helpful all the way, passing through offering top ups of drinks every 10-15 minutes, and clearly up trays with great efficiency. There was one pass for in-flight shopping around 20 minutes after meal service.
I wanted to get some sleep on this flight to test out the comfort of the seat in lie-flat configuration though there were no blankets. Luckily the ambient temperature of the cabin was fine and I was very comfortable in just a t-shirt. I was gently woken up as the seat belt signs were switched on and the cabin prepared for landing.
We took this flight for the novelty factor rather than for a genuine need to travel, and we were happy to have done so. Considering the huge difference you would get on Iberia's standard A319 or A320 product, this may be one of few times where the value proposition of a business class ticket is truly justifiable. Iberia flies this route during the mid-afternoon from Madrid to London and late evening on the way back.
There is the added bonus of some flights between March-May 2019 being operated on an A350 for crew familiarisation. Either way it is highly unlikely for these flights to be swapped for a short haul aircraft due to its importance as a cargo flight.