Those of you who have been following me on YouTube already know that I flew Iberia for the very first time several months ago. It was on a short route between Madrid and London, aboard the A340-600 in economy class. Long story short, it was a disaster of a flight (due to my own stupidity) and therefore, I will not be writing a full flight report about it here on the blog. I will, however attempt to answer the question a lot of you have been asking: is Iberia a good airline?
The TLDR answer to that question is “of course it is!” The more complicated answer is something along the lines of “of course it is, but…” – and that’s what I’m going to unpack and present in this post. Iberia is a perfectly good airline most of the time, but I discovered a few things in my brief experience with them that are definitely worth knowing ahead of time.
Things you might not know about flying Iberia
Even though I’m one of the first to admit that most major airlines are pretty much the same these days, it’s still fun for me to fly as many as I can to discover the little differences. 10 years ago, I assumed that Iberia was a good airline based solely on the fact that they were accepted into the Oneworld alliance. That’s hardly a scientific conclusion, I know, but that was enough to convince me that they were doing more things right than wrong.
However, I realized that there was a *lot* that I didn’t know about Iberia until I flew them for the first time several months ago. Such as:
- There is no free food (drinks, snacks, etc) on intra-European routes. If you want something to eat or drink, you’re going to have to purchase something off the menu.
- According to Skift, Iberia’s on time performance in 2018 was 90.05%. Delays averaged 33.7 minutes. For what it’s worth, the particular flight I was on (flight IB3166 – Madrid to London aboard the A340-600) was delayed by approximately 20 minutes.
- Iberia has over 1000+ flights every day to 135 destinations in 47 countries. FYI, they are also part of International Airlines Group (IAG), meaning that they have deep interline connections with other major airlines such as British Airways, Aer Lingus, LEVEL, etc. This is a massive airline network, and they are not likely to leave you stranded if a flight gets cancelled or delayed by many hours.
- Terminal 4 at Madrid Barajas Airport (is MAD) is absolutely stunning. This is the terminal that Iberia operates out of, so the arrival and departure process at MAD is quite good – assuming you arrive and depart on Iberia.
- Terminal 4 is also very huge, consisting of several different concourses. Know that it can take 30+ minutes to walk from the security checkpoint to the farthest gate. Yes, this includes the time necessary to ride the intra-terminal train between concourses.
- Iberia seems to be one of those airlines that will initiate the boarding process even if the plane itself isn’t ready for boarding. I assume this is done to minimize delays as much as possible, but as a passenger, it’s annoying to have to stand in a steamy hot jet bridge for 20 minutes waiting for the janitorial crew to finish cleaning the aircraft.
- There was nothing “Spanish” about the Iberia onboard experience. In other words, don’t get your hopes up expecting beautiful flight attendants in flamenco-style uniforms serving you tapas and sangria all the way to your destination. The ambiance aboard an Iberia flight is as center-of-the-road European as British Airways and Lufthansa experiences are.
Anyway, these are all things that I never would’ve known if I hadn’t taken that short hop with them from Madrid to London. It’s easy to be an airline critic based on all the things I see (and hear about) on the interwebs, but experiencing it first hand uncovers the nitty gritty details that wouldn’t be obvious any other way.
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All the things I liked about flying Iberia between Madrid and London
As you just read, there are some very interesting (and good) things about the Iberia experience. Some of it was good, and some of it was bad. Here are all the things I liked:
- The A340-600 I was on (EC-IZX) was exceptionally clean inside and out.
- Speaking of the A340-600, Iberia has been flying at least one daily internationally-configured widebody between Madrid and London since the beginning of time (well, at least it seems that way). These are the flights to choose, especially if you’re flying business class. What’s not to love about a fully-lie flat seat on a 1 hour and 30 minute flight?
- If business class is what you want, it’s usually a bargain on the Madrid to London route. The cost was only $300 when I was booking my reservations – which is an absolute steal for an international business class product. Of course you’re not going to get a formal international business class meal, but having a fully lie-flat seat with tons of space to stretch out is nothing to scoff at.
- The Iberia mobile app is quite good. Not only was I to check in and get a mobile boarding pass with just a few taps of my finger, it was quite intuitive and easy to find all the information I needed.
- This isn’t a specific thing about flying between Madrid and London, but in my experience, Iberia.com consistently seems to be asking slightly lower prices compared to what some of the other major airlines are asking for on the same routes.
All the things I didn’t like flying Iberia between Madrid and London
Ok. Enough about the good stuff. What are all the things I didn’t enjoy about flying Iberia? And more importantly, is Iberia a good airline if it’s so easy for me to write about all the things I didn’t enjoy about my experience?
Not exactly. This is mostly because some of the things I’m about to list are petty. You may or may not agree with some of the things I’m about to write, but I’m a petty person with an airline review blog. It’s what I do.
- A vast portion of the Madrid airport is a confusing, convoluted, dark, and dreary dump. Thankfully the Iberia gates in terminal 4 are extremely nice, but my condolences if you arrive at a different terminal and you need to get over to T4. I flew into terminal 2 on KLM, and it took no less than an hour and 30 minutes to get over to terminal 4 on the inter-terminal bus. Not because it was far. It was because nothing made sense. The signage was poor. The wait for the bus took forever. And the bus ride itself was frustrating because we seemed to drive in loops before finally arriving at T4.
- There didn’t seem to be any sense of urgency for the gate agents to keep passengers informed during our short delay. The boarding time came and went (with no information being displayed on the video screens), while all the gate agents stood around pecking at their mobile phones in silence.
- An access panel along the floorboard near my seat on the A340-600 was open and I accidentally dropped my camera into it. Watch the video if you wanna see me cry and pout about it…
- The lack of free food (at least on intra-European routes) really rubbed me the wrong way. Especially on such a business-heavy route such as Madrid to London. Nearly every other major airline in Europe is still serving free snacks and meals on regional routes (even in Lufthansa economy from Frankfurt to Zurich), and there’s no excuse why Iberia shouldn’t be doing it either. If they want to convey themselves as a low cost carrier, then fine. But trying to compete with the major European airlines while acting like an LCC is odd.
Is there anything that makes Iberia unique compared to other airlines?
To me, listing out all the things that makes an airline unique is a very good way to help answer the question of whether or not an airline is good or not. That means if you slide into my DM’s and ask “Hey Scott! Is Iberia a good airline?”, I’d have to think long and hard about all the things that make them stand out from all the others.
And you know what? I can’t think of anything. This is both a good *and* a bad thing in my opinion.
On one hand, being an airline just like all the others means that there won’t be any surprises. Simply show up to the airport, and you can feel totally relaxed knowing that you’ll be whisked to your destination safely and comfortably just as you would on any other airline. You are also far likely to spend the entire flight wondering if you would have had a better experience on a different airline.
On the other hand, Iberia’s lack of personality doesn’t give me any extra incentive to go out of my way to fly with them. If I can find a cheaper price on another airline, it behooves me to go with them since at least I know that I’ll get a free snack or meal.
Enough rambling. Is Iberia a good airline, or what?
As you’ve read, I’ve bobbed back and forth between “yes” and “no” throughout this entire article. I won’t deny that I think that Iberia is a very good airline. However, I believe it’s very important to weigh the pros and cons against your own expectations and preferences so that you don’t end up making a choice you’re gonna regret later.
For me, I’ll very happily choose Iberia again if the price and schedule fits my needs. They certainly aren’t the best airline in the world, but they are definitely not the worst. I can live without food on short intra-European flights. The casual attitude of the ground staff is a non issue. And their safety and on-time performance record seems legit.
Yes. Iberia is a perfectly good airline. For me anyway.
I flew with Iberia from Philadelphia to Athens Greece it was an awesome flight was on time is plenty of stuff to eat I’m looking for the same flight cuz I’m going again this summer and I found it and I’m going to book it. That’s how much I liked Iberia Airlines.
Glad you had a great experience on Iberia Loretta! I’m looking forward to my next flight with them as well.
Luz marina Lushpynskyj
I think you wrote A LOT and nothing really BAD about IBERIA. Last time I.took.Iberia I felt so sick in the airplane, and the Pilot came to.my seat to.confort me .Very unsual on any Airline. I have been traveling for 55 years!! My worse experience was with ALITALIA that is a BAD AIRLINE! BAD SERVICE!! BAD ATTITUDE FROM THE CREW!!. …
Just no, it isn’t a great airline. T4 is massive and amazing, for sure, and I can’t speak to their intercontinental service, but my recent flights to and from Tenerife and Lisbon were knee-gnawing discomfort, start to finish. It is public transportation, pure and simple. There were no real difference between the Iberia Express flights and Iberia’s- same miserly pitch. I’m a big guy and I’m used to golfing into economy seats but these flights were a challenge. I have flown similar routes on Norwegian and easyJet and would gleefully return trip them where available.
Sadly due to fear of Coronavirus I had no choice but to cancel our five day trip to Madrid only yesterday.
We were to fly by Iberia Airline from Heathrow to Madrid on 7th March and return on 12th March.
I had informed the airline about my intention to cancel the trip about two to three weeks ago.I did not receive a single reply to my three emails to Iberia Airline and during my telephone conversation with the lady at their office,she was not helpful nor sympathetic on my reason for cancellation.
Whilst I received all the money back from hotels and transfers,Iberia would not refund a penny but agreed to cancel my flight booking.
One would think at a time like now when spread of Coronavirus every where,it was wise of us to stay home and cancel all our plans and one would expect some sympathy from travel companies.
Shame on Iberia and I will not use them in future.
I also had trouble with Iberia on two occasions the first they said some thing wrong with the locator form and refused me to board. Lost flight lost hotels. I rebook with them a few months later with my brand new passport they refused me to board again saying the numbers were not right on my new passport again lost flight and hotels. I contacted U.K. passport office who said these passports are checked and rechecked. I also went to two independent airlines and ask if they would scan my passport which they did and nothing wrong with it.
I complained to Iberia. Took 5 weeks to reply saying it’s their right to denied boarding of a passenger. Great what an airline.
“There was nothing “Spanish” about the Iberia onboard experience. In other words, don’t get your hopes up expecting beautiful flight attendants in flamenco-style uniforms serving you tapas and sangria all the way to your destination. The ambiance aboard an Iberia flight is as center-of-the-road European as British Airways and Lufthansa experiences are.”
Mmmm… That kind of rubbed me the wrong way… Would you expect Tyrol stewards on Lufthansa or kilts and tartan on British Airways? Spain is a bit more than flamenco, tapas and sangria… in many regions, those are as foreign as a kilt in London… I think center-of-the-road European for a European airline is what you should expect.
Fair enough. But there are some airlines (mostly the Asian carriers such as JAL, Korean Air, Xiamen Air, etc) who are very proud of their culture and it comes through strong in the cabin service. Perhaps I was setting my expectations a bit too high with Iberia, but it would have been nice to see something other than cookie-cutter “Euro”.
Iberia left me stranded in Caracas, they cancelled my flight back to Geneva , and forced me to accept 140 francs .
I am still trying to figure out how to cross the Atlantic.
To sell a return ticket and then give the difference with a one way ticket is a scam.
40 years in the air…first time…I will have to press charges
Good airline, but a nightmare to try and contact them on the phone and they dont seem to have a email address to contact them on. Their FAQS FAQS are pretty generic and if you speak to them about something unusal it’s a problem.
James Rollin Stanton
And that, Steve, is my major issue with Iberia! Terrible communications.
We were ticketed on them 2 years ago, for a multipurpose trip, JFK to Madrid to Paris and back to Alicante. Competitive price. The night before the flight out of JFK, my wife fell and fractured a knee. I spent all night on the phone with Iberia reservations trying to change the flights for a later date. Not on the phone with one person, but multiple Spanish (poor English comprehension) speakers somewhere in Spain where they answer their Res/Customer Service numbers. Bottom line: After speaking to 4 or 5 agents – none of whom understand the nuances of the English language, we ended up giving up over US$8,000 in airfares with no recourse as I wasn’t able to make changes prior to flight departure. Searching for a direct email line to their customer service was worse and when I did find one, it took them weeks to answer with a “boiler-plate” response which didn’t align with the complaint and request for refund. Not often I walk away from US$8,000 but my frustration with Iberia made it a pleasure to disengage from them – forever.
I flew Iberia London to Madrid several times in 2017 and 2018. They had also entertainment in about 50% of the flights I took.
You are saying you only flew once with Iberia but still write a review. Don’t do it then because it’s not possible to have the full experience on only one flight. Sure, all the things you said makes Iberia a decent airline (I do not agree to the app being good though), but you only know if it’s a good airline when you know how they handle complicated situations. And they are really bad at that!
1. Bad service. The app chat bot is too simple, the phone service is hardly reachable and the automated dial support when calling them too long and not really professional.
2. UX design on the homepage could be better. Even with an account I have to fill in my booking code every single time. Certain processes are a little too complicated too. Plus, it happens that downloading the passbook ticket just does not work.
3. Communication – BAD!
3.1 During COVID, the first time I flew with them they did not tell me about the health questionnaire Spain requires before the flight. Fine, I knew it already, and we were handed out the questionnaire in the plane. Second time the local crew in Frankfurt would not let me fly without the QR code you receive after filling the questionnaire online in advance – without knowing that the air crew would give me the questionnaire in the
3.2) 3 out of 4 flights had a delay of about 20-30 minutes, for two of them it had not been communicated in any way. I was just waiting at the terminal.
3.3.) the online information is not reliable and would not be updated. T2 in Frankfurt was closed two of the times I took Iberia. And yet, homepage, app and wallet ticket told me that arrival and departure would be fully processed in T2. Once, due to very bad weather conditions, the flight was redirected halfway and we landed in Barcelona instead of Madrid. 1000 people standing in line for 7 hours overnight, no communication until the very end, saying that we will receive info 3 hours prior to the newly scheduled flight the next day. Of course, the next day the airport was still closed which we learned from the media, not Iberia. Here again, no communication whatsoever. On twitter they say they are “At your service 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.” Truth is, no response on comments or messages. Heard from a friend that the second day again, there will be no flights – she was about to fly with Iberia as well, but from Italy, and her flight was rescheduled. Another friend coming from Chile was able to get on the plane at a time the airport in Madrid was closed already. Of course, she got stuck in Barcelona, too. Iberia always refers to the flight information online or in the app. However, the flight information says that our flight has arrived in Madrid as planned, only with a delay of one hour.
Putting it all together, I will think twice the next time booking a flight with Iberia…
I am due to return to the Uk on 11th March.
My flight has been canceled about 5 times. I am very concerned that it will be canceled again. I was not to bothered until the last one which was the 4th March.
These flights were with BA but am writing here for help as my outward flight in October was replaced by BA to Iberia who I understand is owned by BA.
From reading the last comment would it be a foolish move to buy a new ticket for Iberia and claim refund from Iberia.
Iberia may be canceling flights as much as BA.
Now passengers need to have Covid tests paid before leaving and complete firm. Both exercises have caused anxiety then may not be valid with change of flight passing the Covid fit to fly test. Any advice will be greatly appreciated.
I’m flying from Costa Rica to UK via either Miami with BA or Spain then Iberia.
Iberia is as good as any other Europe airline and is a 4 star flytrax company. Only 11 world airlines have 5 stars and none are in the Americas and only one barely makes it in Europe. They are pragmatic and don’t offer you the thrills of Asian airlines but are way cleaner and have better food than most American companies. In short flights where you order your food and pay for it ( unless you go business) you actually get real Mediterranean food, something Spain registered way back at the UNESCO as an intangible human good. Science has proven it makes sense to pay for it. You will live longer. Service in Iberian airplanes is as good as your politeness as a client and flight delays or cancellations happen everywhere in the world but their dealing with unhappy customers is simply European. They have the same approach which is “ life happens, deal with it”. As for flamenco dresses they are way too expensive to wear in an airplane and I am afraid the customers would complain about the increase fares to enjoy those “luxuries” . The skirts would entangled passengers every time they ask for a glass of water and may impair your emergency exit access but, of course, who cares about safety if one can pass away surrounded by beautiful women in flamenco skirts. Spain May look exotic to foreigners but it is actually as pragmatic flying as any other European company. For the record Delta is considered the best US company but it gets only 3 stars in flytrax. Unless you fly Asian or certain Middle Eastern companies the experience is very similar in most American or European airlines.