Review: Economy class Madrid to JFK aboard Iberia's A340 is a flight we'd definitely fly again

Iberia -- Spain's main airline with its hub in Madrid -- operates a trans-Atlantic joint venture arrangement with its partners British Airways (the two are actually the same company), American Airlines, and FinnAir. We have crossed the ocean on both American and British at least once this year, so were happy to add Iberia's economy class service from Madrid to New York (JFK) aboard an Airbus A340 to our experience. This is our review, for anyone considering a similar trip.

Flight: Iberia #6253
Date: 15 October 2017
Origin: Madrid (MAD), Spain
Destination: New York (JFK), USA
Aircraft: Airbus A340-600

Airport Experience

Madrid is an excellent airport. Beautiful, and bright, my only complaint is incessant walking necessitated by the place's sheer size. It took a full 3,000 steps to move from the airport's train platform, to check in, through security, into the lounge for a bit, and to the gate. Plan for the extra time that demands.

Further reading: Navigating the big, beautiful, bright, and always efficient Madrid Barajas Airport

I had booked these tickets with American Airlines, wherein the trip from New York ten days prior had been with American, and the return was aboard Iberia. If your ticket calls for something similar, keep in mind that you'll be checking in at the Iberia counter, for which there is an efficient priority line for business class passengers and OneWorld Sapphire or Emerald members (so American AAdvantage Platinum and above). Look for the signs. 

Normally we have found that passengers without OneWorld status who are traveling on the same ticket as someone with status get that status printed on their boarding pass as well. Not the case here. My pass clearly indicated Sapphire status, Priority boarding, and Fast Track security line access… Meghan's did not. The only real impact of this was that I decided to go through the very quick and efficient standard security line alongside Meghan. She was otherwise able to just walk on and board with me (rather the Zone 3 printed on her pass), and she entered the Iberia lounge as my guest.

Once through security, follow the signs (most likely) to the RSU gates in the Terminal 4 Satellite (T4S) building, from where you will most likely depart. This requires a 3-minute or so train ride as these gates are quite far off from the main building. You'll find the Iberia lounge in the middle of the duty free shopping area, to which any passenger with the aforementioned OneWorld Sapphire or Emerald status may enter. Those without that status, but with a Priority Pass membership, can use the non-Iberia lounge located nearby. We love the food and wine selection in Iberia's lounge, and particularly loved that Iberia is now featuring a little booklet if you're interested in the wines on offer, or general tasting information. Nice touch.

Gate and Boarding

Boarding for this flight begins 50 minutes early (check your boarding pass to be sure), so allow yourself ample time to traverse the massive T4S building. It's wildly unclear to me why such a massive airplane was boarded via bus rather than directly from the terminal via the jet bridge, but we nonetheless piled into buses and schlepped out to the tarmac. The plane was not ready on our arrival, so we frustratingly had to sit (stand) tight on hot buses without a lot of explanation from the ground staff.

Aircraft Interior

The sheer size of the Airbus A340 aircraft is striking. It's also recognizable: four engines, two on each wing, but a very long plane, rather than a double decker. It is aesthetically what stretch limos are to cars; it just seems to go on forever.

I am a big fan of the economy class seat configuration because it is arranged in a 2-4-2 format, meaning that there are two seats next to the window on the left side of the plane, followed by an aisle, four seats in the middle block, another aisle, and then two seats on the right side. The twofer seating is great for couples as well as solo travelers because nobody there sits in the middle. It is, for this reason, very well worth paying extra to choose your seats when you book, so that you don't get stuck in the dreaded middle seats of the four-abreast block in the center of the plane.

Legroom was also impressive. Iberia's sister company, British Airways, has seemingly been on a quest to make economy passengers as uncomfortable as possible by cramming in as many as possible. Not so for Iberia's long haul aboard the A340. I found it to be some of the roomiest regular economy seating I've flown in a long time. The seats themselves are a little worn and dated, but the in-flight entertainment (IFE) screen in the back of the seat in front of me was quite responsive. I watched a movie and enjoyed the map. Each seat featured a USB jack, and there was a power plug underneath and between our two seats.

Crew and Communication

Nice experience with the crew, particularly the fellow that luck of the draw had working our area. English and Spanish are both readily on offer, and the pilots were effective and to the point in their communication as well. No issues here.

Food and Beverage

Meghan and I agreed that the couscous and raisin dish was, unequivocally, the best single dish either of us had ever tasted in economy class. It's served (as of this writing) with both the pasta and chicken dishes, both of which are fine but not on par with the couscous. The ready availability of actually pleasant airplane wine in combination with the fact that Iberia stocks Fanta Limón (that's lemon-flavored Fanta, ubiquitous in Spain, but non-existent in the US) easily make this flight some of the best economy class beverage service we've had as well. 

Aircraft and Destinations

As of October, 2017, Iberia operates a total of 135 aircraft worldwide, of which 77 are in the mainline fleet, and the rest are in the regional / express fleet. Those who value the two-on-the-side configuration I mentioned earlier (to me, one of the single most important considerations when I have flexibility as to which flight I book) will appreciate that the airline's entire long-haul fleet is composed of the Airbus A340 and smaller but still wide body A330, all of which should be configured this way in economy.

Iberia itself flies to destinations throughout Spain, Europe, and North and South America, as well as a handful of others that include Tokyo, Shanghai, Tel Aviv, and an assortment of African cities. It becomes really valuable, though, as a partner particularly of British Airways and American Airlines, allowing passengers to book travel to an immense number of destination worldwide, with seamless switching between the three. 

Bottom Line

I fly Iberia intra-Europe quasi-regularly (four times in 2017), and don't love their economy class product there (very cramped). So I was a bit unsure going into this experience that turned out to be quite nice. I'd book them again in a heartbeat. Anyone who values good seat configurations, above average legroom, friendly people, good food and beverage service (by economy standards), and making your connections in a bright and beautiful airport should consider doing so as well.