This is part 2 of a series documenting my Memorial Day weekend trip to Sitges, outside of Barcelona. You can read an overview of the trip here. Sorry for the delayed post, as I had a computer meltdown.
My May trip to Europe started very similarly to my last trip to Europe, around Labor Day, as both had me routed through Boston, of all places. I’ve realized Boston is kind of a sweet spot for AA awards, because there is very little connectivity up there, with just hub flying and some small American Eagle Northeast destinations (and seasonal Caribbean). That used to mean snagging Airberlin flights was easy (RIP), but there is still a lot of Cathay award availability and I’ve seen more Iberia availability out of Boston than other destinations.
My first leg, as with last time, was on the good old American (nee US Airways) Shuttle from DC to Boston. And like last time, award availability never opened in business. I had access to the Admirals Club due to my business connection, though, and was given a voucher for a premium drink. Standard meh Admirals Club food, though the tomato basil soup was good and I used my voucher for a decent prosecco. The club (the nicer, pm-AA lounge), was pretty full on a Thursday afternoon pre-long weekend, but I found a seat at a table with an outlet and survived my 30 minutes.
My shuttle flight was completely full, as was every shuttle that afternoon, so there was some aggressive bag checking at the gate. But boarding was on time, and we actually took off 5 minutes early. The plane was an E190, and it was in pretty good condition with a new-ish interior. Since I am no longer an AA elite, I had seating towards the back of the plane (row 18) and boarded in group 5 based on my credit card. There was still room for my rollerboard, though. The flight was uneventful and we landed in Boston about 15 minutes early. And then it was the ridiculous 13-minute brisk schlep up and down several escalators and walkways and through parking lots to get from the B terminal to the E terminal at Boston. (As noted the last time I made this connection, Boston is not an airport built for connections. There’s a bus you can take also, but you still have to leave the secure area, and it doesn’t really save any time.)
Logan’s Terminal E is a fun little terminal because it has a bunch of random international carriers and nothing else. At this time of day, it was dominated by Lufthansa-family flights, and Hainan Airlines, which flies to both Beijing and Shanghai from Boston. The Iberia check-in process was extremely unfriendly (what would be a common theme in my interaction with Iberia). There was no wait on the business line, but the Iberia agent didn’t even make eye contact with me the whole time, and barely spoke to me, instead talking to her colleague in Spanish. No mention of lounge access or anything, not a single smile — just handed me my boarding passes and sent me on my way.
One thing that is not fun at Terminal E is the security, which has one narrow priority lane that saves no time and dumps passengers in the same choke point as the two other lines, which in turn lead to only 4 belts and 2 scanners – not enough for the number of widebodies boarding at that hour. It only took about 15 minutes to get through, remarkably, but only because a TSA agent opened up a 3rd scanner and beckoned me through.
My layover in Boston was much shorter than last time, as the Iberia flight leaves at 5:25pm- an early redeye, so the only lounge I headed to was the British Airways Lounge –the designated lounge for Iberia. It’s a large, very nice lounge; check out my last report for more pics and details. It was emptier this time, since the three BA London flights wouldn’t leave for hours after the Iberia flight. It seemed the lounge was just opening up as I got there. Dinner isn’t served until 5:15pm, so the food offering was just the tea service of small sandwiches, corn chowder, crudité, and chips, along with the BA standard jars of cookies, M&Ms, pretzels, nuts, etc. (I love the BA chocolate chip cookies.) There was self-serve wine, beer, and soft drinks in the dining area, as well as a large bar.
I had thought about eating dinner at the airport and then maximizing sleep time on the plane, but it would just be too early. So, I just had some snacks and some prosecco and did some work. The bartenders were *very* loud, which was annoying—one even played some loud video on her phone sans headphones, which I could hear across the lounge.
One of the gates is actually connected to the lounge, and BA uses that for one of its flights. The Iberia flight boards from a gate just across from the elevator and stairs to the lounge. I got down about five minutes before scheduled boarding, and a few minutes later, an agent at the gate just yelled “Business” and I headed on board, as the second in business class.
This was my first time on an Iberia long-haul flight in any cabin, and I didn’t have much in the way of expectations. The plane was an A330-300, and it was supposed to be full in all cabins. Up-front, the cabin was pretty nice – very similar to the business class Airberlin had on its A330, but perhaps the next generation. The cabin is a 1-2-1 configuration, with white, beige, and grey design elements. The seats alternate so that every other middle pair is right next to each other and others have a console in between, and aisle seats alternate between closer to window and closer to aisle. I deliberately got 4L, which was one of the solo seats closer to the window. It felt less narrow than on Airberlin for some reason, but it probably wasn’t. The seats were in pretty good condition.
Upon boarding, the cabin was very warm. There were no individual air nozzles, and the window shades were all open on what had been a sunny, warm day. The flight attendants were all milling about and still getting the cabin ready. There was no real welcome on board. When they did speak to passengers, there was a presumption of Spanish-speaking, and I’d say about 85% of the cabin was Spanish speakers. At each seat was a nice red duvet and an okay pillow, with a case in red and maroon—Iberia’s colors.
There were also noise-canceling headphones and an amenity kit. The amenity kit actually had some nice features. It was a red neoprene case, with a cool rubber embossed logo on the zipper pull. There were little elastic loops for everything inside. The contents included L’Occitane face cream, moisturizer, and lip balm; dental kit; socks; shoe horn; sleep mask; ear plugs; comb; shoe bag; and hair tie.
The in-flight entertainment started working at boarding, with a pretty big, stationary touchscreen. There was also a large remote in the side of the seat, that had both buttons and its own small touch screen. The table was pretty large, and folded down from the back of the seat in front of you. There wasn’t a ton of in-seat storage – just a small cubby next to the armrest, and one above the console that could hold magazines and some smaller items.
About thirty minutes after I boarded, the flight attendants came down the aisle with a newspaper cart, followed by magazines. Then, they came down with menus. About ten minutes later, a flight attendant brought out a tray with water, orange juice, and empty sparkling wine glasses. I’m not sure if they were lazy, or just running late, but it suggests that there should have been champagne on offer. It was also awfully late to start pre-departure beverage service, so I’m not sure what was going on. So, no champagne selfie for me.
Once in air, one of the warmer flight attendants brought me a hot towel and I settled in for a movie. The selection was average—not comprehensive, but enough. I loaded up Lady Bird. I also checked out the in-flight Wi-Fi, which offered one hour free courtesy of Visa (once per email address). It was pretty solid. The prices after the free hour weren’t so bad, ranging from 6,99 EUR for an hour to 17,99 EUR for the full flight. If it was a day flight, I would’ve considered it.
There was no separate drink service; rather, shortly after take-off, the meal cart was rolled out with appetizers, wine, and water. I actually was never offered a drink of choice the whole flight, which was a little weird. The appetizer course was pretty hearty, though, with several appetizers served at once on one tray. The fennel and pumpkin seed salad was fine. The shrimp and mango and quinoa was tasty, and the cheese and quince paste was an interesting appetizer. The beef consommé, poured “tableside”, was gross. There were frequent passes of the bread basket, and refills of a good Verdejo wine.
For the entrée, I went with the pretty basic chicken, which was actually a hefty size and very moist. The dish it was served in was pretty cramped. For dessert, I chose poorly, and went with the ice cream over the cheesecake. It’s hard to have not-delicious ice cream, but this was. The chocolate shavings tasted like paper. I washed it down with some Moscato. There was then a coffee cart and distribution of individually wrapped Guylian chocolates, before water bottle distribution before bed. In all, the service was done 90 minutes in after take-off, which is good on a redeye. While I was disappointed there was no beverage service, the service was fairly warm once the meal service was underway.
I went to sleep right after dinner, and got a total of about 3.5 hours. The cabin was very warm, and there was a guy snoring extremely loudly in the cabin. The seat and bedding were fine though. Lights came on a full 80 minutes before landing, which seemed unnecessary. A lot of people slept straight through that and breakfast, which was a pretty bad breakfast: croissant and two pieces of toast that were hard as a rock, accompanied by fruit and yogurt, jam, butter, and olive oil.
Continuing the trend of no formalities on the flight, a lot of people got up and started using the bathroom during our final descent, and no one cared. Oddly, as we landed, the captain announced we landed early – though on my watch it seemed we were five minutes past the scheduled arrival time, and the official landing time got recorded as 17 minutes late. Oh, well. I had enough time for my connection, which I’ll cover in my next post.
In all, Iberia was a totally fine transatlantic business class experience. The hard product is solid, though the soft was a bit underwhelming. Spoiler alert: I found the service on my return trip on fellow IAG carrier Aer Lingus to be much better. But given the paucity of AA redemption options for crossing the Atlantic, I wouldn’t hesitate to fly Iberia again.