Is Iberia a good airline? Well…it’s complicated.

Is Iberia a good airline? Well…it’s complicated.

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.

Iberia A340-600
Is Iberia a good airline? Well, I’d normally automatically declare any airline that flies A340-600’s to be “totally awesome”, but that’s not very “aviation blogger-ish” of me. Read on for my full opinion on the subject…

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.

    Iberia menu
    I hate to admit it, but the food on the menu actually looks pretty good. They almost had me!
  • 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.

    Madrid Barajas Airport
    Welcome to Terminal 4 at Madrid Barajas Airport. I wonder how many construction workers quit as soon as they saw the blueprints?
  • 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.

    Madrid Barajas Airport interior
    Is Iberia a good airline if there’s a pretty good chance it’s going to take 35+ minutes to walk to your gate? Only you can decide.
  • 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.

    Madrid Barajas Airport gate
    Pro tip: don’t believe the gate agents when they tell you it’s time to board. I did, and I ended up standing in a jet bridge with 150 confused souls as we waited for the cleaning crew to wrap things up.
  • 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.

    Iberia a340-600 economy class seats
    “Seats so clean I’d lick ‘em” was my primary candidate for the caption of this photo. FYI, I decided not to use it.
  • 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?

    Iberia a340-600 interior
    Although I wasn’t flying business class today, I could still very much appreciate being on an A340-600 on such a short route. Well, at least on the outside I looked to be appreciating it like a grown man. But…on the inside? I was hyperactively jumping up and down thanks to my out-0f-control levels of excitement and enthusiasm.
  • 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.

    Iberia mobile app
    The Iberia mobile app is really good! So good as a matter of fact, that I almost felt tempted to purchase a WiFi plan. Almost.
  • This isn’t a specific thing about flying between Madrid and London, but in my experience, 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.

    SANspotter selfie Madrid Airport
    “Will I sound like a crybaby if I complain about the long walk to my gate?”
  • 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…

    Iberia poor maintenance
    Is Iberia a good airline if there are open access panels in the fuselage? I would have said “yes!” if I didn’t get my camera back after it fell in.
  • 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.

SANspotter selfie Iberia
This is me trying to think real hard about all the things that makes Iberia unique. No pude pensar en nada.

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.

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