Hello Flight-Reporters and welcome to the 3rd and final review in this series of pandemic-era flights.
After being grounded for almost 10 months in 2020, I've slowly-but-surely been getting back to more regular flying again. After moving the family back to the U.S. at the beginning of the year, we had a few uneventful domestic flights in the spring–which I may post at a later time–and now it was time to fly back across the pond to spend the summer with family in Southwestern France.
While in the previous 2 reviews, I covered my first ever flight in JetBlue Mint (Business) class and my first ride on an A350, this review will be a little less exciting, covering an Iberial Regional short-haul Business class flight on a CRJ1000 in the opposite direction of a flight I'd already reviewed in a previous series.
Flight reviews in this series:
With the 1-hour delay on our flight from New York, we had less time to spend at the Premium Traveller Air Rooms Madrid Hotel. Thankfully we had a long layover to begin with, leaving us with enough time to rest up and shower before our flight to Toulouse.
The Air Rooms Hotel is conveniently located in the arrivals area of Terminal 4, making it a great option for long layovers. The current typical day-use room rates are 75 EUR for a 4-hour stay or 100 EUR for 6 hours.
The rooms are modern, simple, and of a decent size by European standards.
Note that there are no windows–as is the case for several other airport transit hotels I've visited in the past–but it's a perfectly comfortable experience for a few hours. For me personally, when flying with a young child, it's definitely preferable to spending 4+ hours in an airport lounge…or the Terminal!
There's even 24-hour room service and to-go snack boxes for sale.
After a pleasant and restful stay, it was time to head back airside to catch our flight to Toulouse. As the Air Rooms hotel is located right in the terminal and flights to the Schengen area depart from the same main Terminal 4 building, we didn't have to leave as early as we would have to go to the remote T4S gates.
Unlike our previous flights through MAD a few months earlier, the Fast Track lanes were open, which saved a lot of time as the regular security queues looked rather long.
Iberia operate two lounges in their MAD hub, the Velázquez Premium Lounge in the T4 Satellite, which I'd covered a few years ago here, and the Dalí Premium lounge in the main T4 building.
The lounge is large, with several different seating areas and a large dining area.
The design of the dining area, with walls between tables, is convenient in times of Covid as it provides some separation.
I assume the walls were previously there, but that the plexiglass is a recent Covid-era addition.
There is a pretty decent selection of drinks, snacks, and fresh food located at the central buffet area.
Each item is individually wrapped and covered, pandemic-oblige
There was even a choice of several hot dishes, which was appreciated, as we hadn't eaten since the dinner service on the JFK-MAD flight.
As the lounge is located in the central part of the main Terminal 4 building, it can be a very long walk if your gate is located on either end of the terminal, which was our case.
In my experience, Iberia regional flights depart from the far end of the terminal.
It was quite crowded in this area as there were many flights departing around the same time.
Our gate was located in a corner with no view of the aircraft, which was parked to the right of this Airbus.
As with the previous flight, Business class would be boarding last due to Iberia's temporary Covid-era protocols with strict back-to-front boarding.
As we waited, I checked the live seat map on ExpectFlyer.com, which showed the cabin was now up to 4 rows and about 2/3 full.
There were only 3 rows of business class when we originally booked the flight so it's nice to see there's some decent premium demand on this route.
Boarding moved surprisingly fast compared to the JFK-MAD leg. Gate agents managed to keep the queue moving steadily while simultaneously verifying passengers' Covid-test results and vaccination certificates.
Before we knew it, Boarding was wrapping up and we were among the last to go down to the aircraft. It was a short walk to our CRJ-1000 as it was parked close to the terminal building. It was a beautiful day for tarmac boarding!
Larger carry-on bags were dropped off with the ramp staff.
That's one long regional jet!
Seats in the Business class cabin are the exact same as in Economy, though with slightly more legroom. With the exception of Lufthansa group carriers and a few others, most European carriers, including Iberia, don't block adjacent seats on regional jets.
As the cabin wasn't full, I ended up having a free seat next to me once again, which made for a much more comfortable experience. I've been lucky on my 2 previous Iberia Regional flights to have an empty adjacent seat. Being crammed next to a stranger in Business class wouldn't feel very premium.
Seats 2A/C have the best legroom in the J cabin.
There is no row 1 on the left side, as there's a coat closet there.
Seat pitch is pretty decent in the standard J cabin rows–between 31 and 32 inches of seat pitch vs 30-31 in standard Economy rows. This is above average for intra-European Business class. For comparison, British Airways Club Europe seats on their A320 family aircraft have 30" seat pitch in most rows.
The seats themselves are comfortable as they have thick padding, which is increasingly rare in these days of high-density cabins and ultra-slimline seats.
Cabin crew distributed sanitising wipes as boarding wrapped up–seemingly standard protocol for most airlines in the pandemic-era.
A major sign of the times with onboard Covid-19 guidelines posted on the back of each passenger seat.
The placard holder also confirms that this aircraft is equipped with a streaming in-flight entertainment system 👍
And it works from gate-to-gate–not bad for a regional aircraft!
It knows my name 🤣
There's a decent amount of content, especially considering these aircraft mostly do short 1-2 hour hops.
There's even Covid-19 content
My 2-year-old, exhausted from long two-days of travelling, was asleep before the aircraft door was even closed.
Unlike the JFK-MAD flight, boarding was completed close to on-time despite the additional Covid checks at the gate.
Doors were closed and we pushed back from the gate as the cabin crew did their safety briefing.
Although the terminal seems lively on the inside, outside there was very little movement at we taxied to the runway.
It's difficult to get the entire length of the gigantic Terminal 4 in one frame.
Though they're still around, I don't hear much about LEVEL anymore, especially since they shrunk so much after closing the Paris hub and Austrian subsidiary last year.
The parked BA A380s were still there–and will be for a while longer.
Next in line for departure after an Iberia A350.
And we're off for our quick 1h hop across the Pyrénées to Toulouse.
European carriers were clearly not recovering as fast as US carriers with so many aircraft still parked at the beginning of the summer season.
All those beautiful A340-600s that will never fly for Iberia again 😢
It was a beautiful clear day for flying…at least on the Spanish side of the mountains!
The climb was smooth and cabin crew were able to jumped into action just minutes after takeoff. With only an hour of flight time, the earlier they were able to begin the service, the better.
Meals were fresh and served with plastic wrap intact per special pandemic-era sanitary protocols.
Once again, a very impressive meal service on Iberia Regional for such a short flight! A proper 3-course fresh meal on a 1-hour flight is unheard of in North America, where the typical fare in domestic First/Business is a packaged snack, if that.
They even managed to serve warm bread.
I had a Cava to go with my meal, which paired well with seafood.
The terrain got more mountainous as we approached the Pyrénées.
Bubbles with a view, Salud!
There was even a snack served after the meal! I assume on a longer flight, this would have been part of an apéritif service.
There was still quite a bit of snow on the mountaintops for late June, as summer had gotten off to a cool and wet start in much of Europe.
The French side was covered in a sea of clouds–what a difference from the clear skies over Spain!
We made our descent into a rainy Toulouse.
But still had some great views of the city despite the rain and low clouds.
We landed on time.
The massive Airbus factory in the distance.
We parked on the far end of Terminal D, previously reserved for non-Schengen flights, as we would have to go through passport control to verify Covid-tests or Vaccination certificates.
Some LCC birds on the other end of the terminal.
Luckily there was a break in the rain, which allowed us to deplane and wait for our gate-checked bags without getting wet.
Since we were among the last to board, I expected that our bags were closest to the door and would be among the first to come out, but nope! They were among the last to come out.
Once we got our bags we headed towards the terminal.
One last look at our CRJ-1000
Queues for passport checks were quite long despite there being at least 4 lanes open. Verification of Covid-tests or vaccination cards was a longer process at that time, just a few weeks before the wider introduction of the EU Digital Covid certificate.
On the bright side, because passport controls took so long, our baggage was already out by the time we got to the belt.
Caught a glimpse of this Air Corsica A320 on the way out, which automatically brings images of blue skies, gorgeous mountainous scenery, and clear azure seas. Such a beautiful island–we spent our summer vacation in Corsica last year, but took the ferry–hopefully next time we can fly Air Corsica!
Thanks for reading!
Once again, Iberia Regional have exceeded expectations on such a short flight. From the streaming entertainment to full fresh meal and attentive service in Spanish, French, and English, it was about as good of an experience as one can have on a 1-hour RJ flight within Europe! Living in the U.S. where larger regional jets have true Business class Recliner seats in premium cabins, this is the only area where there could be some improvement, along with in-seat power. Business class Recliner seats just aren't a thing in Europe, but at least the adjacent seat could be blocked to better differentiate the seat itself from Economy. Luckily, once again, I had an empty seat next to me as there were several open in the cabin.