MADRID — Hola from Madrid! Airways hops aboard the newer-generation Airbus A350 bound for New York -JFK with Iberia (IB). It’s to be noted that IB is the first airline to fly this updated version of the XWB.
The airline has laid out a map to move to a new feeling called NEXT. Some weeks ago, Airways was at its unique customer experience center in downtown Madrid some weeks ago, but today it’s time to witness the real product.
Zipping through the fast track, one must catch the underground train service connecting the main Terminal 4 to the satellite concourse, it’s where long-haul international flights are housed – Iberia flights, Oneworld member airlines, and certain codeshare partner airlines.
A Drop by the Premium Velázquez Lounge
We head over to IB’s Velázquez premium lounge located at Terminal 4S, that in all honesty is one of the most beautiful lounges out there. Sleek and classic, it spans a good portion of the concourse itself covering 2500 square meters with two buffet zones at the extremities along with a bar.
One can find a variety of seating options, each having its own colors and atmosphere but all receiving ample natural lighting. The views are fantastic, and a complete overview of all the parking bays and the ramp (Terminal 4S) – is perfect for spotting.
Boarding, Initial Look at the New Cabin
Today’s service, IB6251 departs Madrid (MAD) at 12:20 LT and is scheduled to arrive at New York (JFK) at 14:35 LT. Aircraft operates is an Airbus A350-941 named “Pau Gasol” that’s eight months old – one of the four newer generation A350-900 at Iberia, the others being EC-NXE, EC-NXC, and EC-NVR.
A very warm Spanish welcome and we made our way to seat 3C for today. The business cabin features 31 seats in a 1-2-1 configuration and today, it was completely full.
Equipped with an amenity kit, noise-canceling headsets, blanket, padding, and pillow duo, it made up the soft product, while the seat itself is a complete lie-flat, hosts multiple power outlets, personal storage compartments, and the Panasonic IFE in 4K covered the hard product offering.
Seat 3C gives you closer aisle access along with a window that’s at a slight distance but it’s great as once can leave the shade wide open as the layout structure blocks off any ray of light falling onto the IFE avoiding any glare.
On getting comfortable, the seat felt really spacious, and the grey theme along with the wood finish to the table tops made it a perfect blend.
Cava – sparkling Spanish wine as a pre-departure drink and the crew also handed out the menu for the flight, with three options for Main.
Iberia’s newer Airbus A350 featuring the new NEXT cabins doesn’t have the overhead bin in the middle which might seem like a slight compromise in storage but the room and feel it provided, definitely superseded it.
IB6251 is one of the last of the North and South American bound IB flights to leave – peak time for heavy departures. We roared down Runway 14R powered by two mighty Rolls-Royce Trent XWB.
A hot towel was distributed soon after the belt signs were turned off. In the background, the large Panasonic IFE was nothing short of impressive. Continuing the Cava along with some Spanish olives.
The tray table was great with multiple slotted options for various lengths. And of course, the wood finishing always makes it more classy.
Iberia moved to Do&Co for its in-flight catering a couple of years ago and has been working hard to bring an international palate to its customers. The appetizer was common to all as the only option – a Russian Salad with an avocado fan.
For the main, we tried the Hake in peas and potatoes, the garnish and flavor were on point but the hake did lose some moisture to fall on the drier side. The panna cotta for dessert was of perfect consistency and composition with the fruit to balance in.
The lights were dimmed thereafter and we began to explore the map features. Powered by “arc”, the map offers several options with real-time moving that’s very precise and instantaneous.
Besides the map, on the more entertaining end, a wide selection of movies, from classics to the latest releases, TV shows, and music can defiantly keep you engaged for a long time.
The IFE system in itself is extremely modern and wide with great resolution. While it’s easy to access the screen directly, for quick access the stowed remote can be extremely efficient – it does take a bit to get used to it.
A self-service beverage bar was set up at the front galley. For those who are curious about the overhead panel, we’ve caught that for you, and not to forget a glance at the missing mid-section overhead bin. The arc allows you to zoom in well, almost down to the taxiway layout of the airport.
We made a long, slow descent with continuous leveling off, JFK was rather busy being peak hour for European arrivals. The touchdown at JFK’s Runway 22L was earlier than scheduled.
As a wrap, it was definitely a new refreshing experience with Iberia, the NEXT cabin program seems to aid them in the right direction toward fleet modernization and passenger experience – a must today to stay competitive today as several airlines rush to better their product offering.
No issues with the seat (based on a mere 7-hour flight) – neat, roomy, and fresh. The width of the leg rest allows you sufficient room to move your feet, it’s not cramped in there.
The crew were really sweet and accommodating as they could be with smiles all the time. The quality and portioning of the main meal were perfect, and so was the presentation.
However, the pre-landing snack could have been something more appetizing than a cupcake. Wifi on today’s flight met with an unfortunate fate – it didn’t work although the crew tried resetting it multiple times. However, this remains a rather common experience on several airlines today.
Cheers to Iberia’s NEXT program. Four more Airbus A350s will feature the new cabin taking the total to eight aircraft with the new feeling.
In a follow-up post, Airways‘ Siddharth Ganesh discusses with Iberia’s Director of In-flight Customer Experience, Melanie Berry, how the airline wishes to enhance its product offering.
Featured and all images: Author/Airways