Review of Iberia flight Madrid Chicago in Business

Airline Iberia
Flight IB6275
Class Business
Seat --
Aircraft Airbus A330-300
Flight time 09:35
Take-off 25 Aug 22, 11:35
Arrival at 25 Aug 22, 14:10
IB   #35 out of 71 Airlines A minimum of 10 flight-reports within the past two years is required to appear in the rankings. 281 reviews
KévinDC
By GOLD 1114
Published on 12th September 2022

introduction


Hello and welcome to this short series of flight reports taking us back home to Southern California after a summer spent with family in Europe. Unsurprisingly, we'll once again be flying a member of the oneworld alliance.

Prior to the pandemic, we mostly flew British Airways across the pond; however, as mentioned in past reviews, we began to fly Iberia more and more as their schedules became more predictable than British Airways' during pandemic times. This was mostly due to Britain's complex and ever-changing Covid entry restrictions. Because we tend to reserve our flights well in advance–usually about a year out–Iberia became a safer bet and over the past two years, I'd grown quite fond of Iberia and the ease of flying in and out of Madrid's gorgeous Terminal 4.  

Although most Western countries had dropped the majority of Covid travel restrictions by summer of 2022, we now like to fly a mix of British Airways and Iberia between the US and Europe.

On the way to Europe in June, we'd flown BA and had gotten to experience the fantastic new Club Suites cabin for the first time–you can find that review here if you'd missed it. In this review, we'll have an opportunity to experience Iberia's improved post-pandemic long-haul soft product. 


routing


Flight reviews in this series


Routing


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check-in & lounge


Having experienced packed airports during this infamous summer of "revenge travel" we made sure to arrive at the airport early. 

Luckily the Business class check in area was quiet with very little wait for an agent. Our bags were checked through to San Diego; however, the agents were not able to print our boarding passes for the Chicago-San Diego sector operated by American Airlines. It was strange that the system could not get us checked in for the connecting flight, considering the flights were booked as part of the same itinerary. Although the AA/BA/IB transatlantic joint-venture has existed for years now, the 3 oneworld carriers' IT systems still don't communicate properly. I even tried to check in for the AA ORD-SAN flight on the AA and IB apps, but no luck there either–we would need to get out BPs for the domestic sector in Chicago. 


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From the Business class check-in desks, it's a very short distance to the Fast Trak security checkpoint to which Business class passengers and oneworld Sapphire and Emerald status holders have access. 


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Once again it was a breeze getting through Fast Track security with no wait at all and very friendly agents assisting. 

Upon arriving airside, there is an escalator leading to the main concourse of Terminal 4 (Gates H, J, and K). These gates are reserved for intra-European/Schengen flights.  


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To head to Terminal 4S (Satellite gates), we walked left past the very-crowded normal security checkpoint to another set of escalators that lead to the underground train connecting the main terminal and the mid-field T4S concourse. 


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Upon arrival at T4S, all passengers heading to non-Schengen destinations head through passport control. Once again is was pleasantly quiet and very quick getting through. 


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As we had a few hours to kill before the flight, we headed to the Iberia Velazquez Lounge, which is located in the middle of the concourse. The entrance is inside the main duty-free zone.


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The Iberia lounge in T4S is huge, even bigger than the already huge lounge in the main T4 terminal.


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There was plenty of seating available and we had no trouble finding a quiet table with a good view of the action on the tarmac.


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Each seating area conveniently has multiple power outlets and USB ports for charging electronic devices, which is always nice.

As the lounge is so large, there are two buffet and bar areas on either side of the lounge.  



There was a good selection of both hot and cold fresh options for breakfast.


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boarding


We headed to the gate about 10 minutes before boarding was due to begin. Distances can be long at T4 with such long terminals, but I always enjoy the beautiful architecture. 


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As a parent, another thing I love about MAD T4 are the children's playgrounds throughout the terminal, including the baggage claim areas! My 3-year-old knows this airport like the back of his hand by now and knows exactly where they are located. These playgrounds are great for getting that extra little bit of energy out of your toddler before embarking on a long transatlantic flight. 


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We arrived at the gate just as boarding was beginning. 

Our flight was operated by EC-LYF, an 8 year old A330-300 carrying the name Juan Carlos I 


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Being in boarding group 1, we were able to board immediately. 


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Iberia A330-300s have 29 seats in Business class, 21 seats in Premium Economy, and 242 in Economy.

The business class cabin features STELIA Aerospace SOLSTYS seats laid out in a spacious 1-2-1 staggered configuration, allowing aisle-access for all passengers. 


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Though these are an older generation of the SOLSTYS seat model than those found on the A350, which I've previously reviewed here, they are quite comfortable and roomy. The staggered layout is convenient for those travelling together as there are pairs of centre seats ideal for people travelling together in odd-numbered rows.   


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Though obviously these seats are not as private as the British Airways Club Suites on the inbound flight, these are much more convenient for families and couples. As mentioned in my previous review, I couldn't even see my son from across the aisle when sitting in Club Suites.

Also, being in the last row of the Business class cabin, privacy was not an issue on this flight.  


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Seats on the window side are also staggered with some closer to the aisle and others closer to the window. For those who seek privacy, window seats A and L in even-numbered rows are true window seats.

My seat in row 7 was on the aisle-side, but again, I didn't mind since it's in the back of the cabin and there was very little traffic in the aisles with the galleys and lavatories forward of the cabin. 

The most obvious product improvement from the onset was better bedding. Each seat had a larger pillow and comforter compared to past experiences, with the nice addition of a mattress pad. 


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Each seat features individual universal power outlets and USB ports. Seat and in-fight entertainment system controls are found on the side console. 


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Noise-cancelling headphones and amenity kits were also available at each seat upon boarding. 


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The amenity kits haven't changed since our last flight, though I've always found the Iberia kits to have above average content for business class.


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Legroom is plentiful and the seats are reasonably long in full-flat bed mode. At 5'10" (178 cm), I can lay perfectly straight and not touch the end of the footrest when fully reclined. 


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Seeing out of the windows from these aisle-side seats isn't difficult as there's plenty of space to lean over to see out of the window. 


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I've always found Iberia's cabin interiors to be surprisingly dull for an airline from such a colourful and sunny country. All the brown, white, and grey just doesn't scream Spain to me. Luckily the red and yellow from the in-seat Entertainment home screens adds some Spanish flair. 

Aside from the dull colours, the Business class cabin is generally pleasant and airy.  


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Speaking of Entertainment screens, lets check out the IFE. 


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There is plenty of content including Hollywood, Spanish, and international movies, TV series, documentaries, music, games, and children's programming. There are also instructions on how to connect to the in-flight Wi-Fi.
 
The IFE interface itself is only available in English and Spanish, similar to British Airways, which is a shame, but most content is available in multiple languages. My son mostly speaks and understands French, so luckily most children's content was also available in French. 



There is of course also an airshow with some decent graphics. 


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You can also browse and select content from the touchscreen remote.


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As boarding began to wind down, friendly cabin crew came through the cabin with pre-departure beverages. Choices were water or Cava.


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Shortly thereafter another flight attendant came through the cabin handing out printed menus and introducing himself individually to each passenger. I thought this was a nice touch and must be part of the new improved service protocols that have recently rolled out. 

I hadn't seen a paper menu on Iberia in the past two years of flying with them since the beginning of the pandemic.  Another obvious improvement since my last flight on Iberia was the return of multiple choices of appetisers and desserts, something that still hadn't returned to British Airways as of my previous long-haul experience in June.



the flight


Boarding wrapped up on time and we pushed back from the gate shortly thereafter. 


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The safety video played on the in-seat screens as we taxied to the runway.


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It's always impressive just how long Terminal 4 really is. 


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After a short taxi time, we were off. 


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A bit over 9 hours of flying time to Chicago today.



Once in the air, I decided to check out the in-flight Wi-Fi.


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Business class passengers enjoy complimentary in-flight messaging.


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For those wanting more access, there are multiple package options ranging from 5,99€ for 1h to 20,49€ for full flight access. 


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I ended up purchasing full-flight access. Speeds were reasonably good. I was able to upload photos and videos and stream content with no issues. 


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Here's a look at the seat fully reclined in bed mode. The sleeping area is wide (especially for a 3-year-old) and doesn't have that claustrophobic feeling that can come with seats that have high walls on either side. Note that there is a moveable divider between the seats that can be pulled up for privacy. 


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In-flight service began about 45 minutes into the flight with an oshibori. Another service improvement since my last flight. 


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Shortly after, the chief purser came to take our meal orders. She introduced herself by name and addressed all three of us by name, thanking each one for being oneworld Emerald customers. She was very friendly and took the time to chat for a bit in both English and Spanish. I certainly appreciated the recognition and friendly greeting. 
 
As the service began, we were heading out over the Atlantic just south of Porto, Portugal.


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Great views of Porto and the northern coast of Portugal as we began our ocean crossing.


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The aperitif was accompanied by a choice of small tapas, which included olives and cheese. This was definitely a major improvement over pandemic-era service and better than most carriers, who only offer a small bag of crackers or nuts with pre-meal drinks. 


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Soon after, came the appetiser course. 

Appetiser:

Cod tartare topped with a crown of sweet red peppers
and kalamata olive tapenade, accompanied by parsley extra virgin olive oil 


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A delicious, original, and well-presented dish. It was a creative Spanish twist on Ceviche. I haven't seen such elevated catering and this level of presentation effort in years. A truly premium dining experience! 

I also loved these salt and pepper shakers, an homage to Diego Velazquez's famous Las Meninas.  


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I tend to order the fish dish whenever flying Iberia Business class and have never been disappointed. It's always perfectly cooked.

Main:

Poached gilthead bream flambéed with lemon and fennel
on a bed of Riojana vegetables with potatoes


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The fish dishes were perfectly accompanied by a nice white Rioja.


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For dessert: A plate of Spanish cheeses accompanied by a sweet Jerez wine. 


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Delicious meal and impeccably executed coursed service. 

 After the meal, cabin crew distributed bottles of water and small chocolates. 


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The cabin in flight.


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After the meal, I put the mattress pad on the seat and took a short nap. 


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I only slept about two hours as my kid woke up mid-flight and was hungry as he's missed lunch. 


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Flight attendants were fantastic, and brought his meal out the child meal within minutes of my asking. I certainly appreciated the great and speedy service, considering it was well outside of meal times. Again, this was a better experience than the BA A350-1000 in June when we'd waited two hours after take-off for my son's child meal.


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 As always, his favourite part was dessert. I love how they always make an effort on the presentation of child meals.  


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I spent most of the rest of the flight relaxing and watching movies,.

About an hour prior to landing, the pre-arrival meal was served. There was a choice of Rigatoni pasta with meatballs or a Spanish tapas plate. I went for the latter.

Pre-arrival meal:

Manchego cheese with Spanish quince accompanied by Serrano ham,
cream cheese with chives and piquillo pepper stuffed with tuna 


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Again, very nice, fresh and well-presented. 

Pretty soon we were making our final descent, on track for an early arrival into O'hare. 


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I was on the wrong side to get downtown Chicago views, but I imagine there were some good views from the other side given the approach into ORD. 


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We landed early and ended up arriving at the gate 10 minutes ahead of schedule. It could have been more if it weren't for the long taxi time. 


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We parked at international Terminal 5, where Iberia passengers, and indeed all international passengers, disembark to go through customs and immigration. Once all inbound passengers are off the aircraft, the aircraft is then moved to American's Terminal 3 for cleaning, outbound passenger boarding, and departure back to Madrid. 


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Last view of the cabin before disembarking. 


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We walked past the beautiful Lufthansa 747-8i in retro livery on the way to immigration and customs 


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It was a very very long walk from the aircraft to the immigrations hall. Although there were no crowds, multiple airport employees were aggressively barking at passengers in the Global Entry lanes rudely asking for proof of access to Global Entry. Luckily, we all had our cards on us, but in years of having Global Entry I've never been asked to show the card…and it's not even used at the kiosk. When I asked why they insisted on seeing the cards, considering they serve no purpose in the actual process, several agents kept repeating "lots of people cheat"—that doesn't even make sense! 

It's impossible to cheat–if you don't have a Global Entry membership, the dedicated kiosks will not work for you and you'll have to go to the back of the regular immigration line. I could maybe see people trying to skip ahead of a few people by going around the regular line through the Global Entry lane, but as you can see, there were no queues at all today. So having multiple agents barking to see Global Entry cards–more agents then passengers in the line, by the way–was completely non-sensical and just unpleasant to have to deal with. Welcome back I guess!! 


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And yet, getting screamed at by queue-minders was still better than having to go through the regular immigration line…it was not pretty!


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Thanks for reading and feel free to drop any questions in the comments section!

See more

Verdict

Iberia

8.9/10
Cabin8.5
Cabin crew9.5
Entertainment/wifi8.5
Meal/catering9.0

Iberia Velázquez Premium Lounge - 4S

8.4/10
Comfort8.5
Meal/catering8.5
Entertainment/wifi8.0
Services8.5

Madrid - MAD

9.0/10
Efficiency9.5
Access8.5
Services9.0
Cleanliness9.0

Chicago - ORD

6.0/10
Efficiency3.0
Access6.5
Services7.0
Cleanliness7.5

Conclusion

I was very impressed by the new long-haul service improvements. I've always found Iberia flight crews to be very friendly (especially if you speak Spanish), but the addition of the more personalised service and individual recognition made it an even more memorable and enjoyable experience. Most airlines, including Iberia, had so drastically cut service in pandemic times, that I'd come to have rather low expectations these past two and a half years. The service on this flight was even better than most carriers' pre-pandemic standards, so I was very pleasantly surprised by Iberia's efforts. It's so nice to see things going in the right direction again and even exceeding pre-pandemic standards.

Information on the route Madrid (MAD) Chicago (ORD)

The contributors of Flight-Report published 4 reviews of 1 airlines on the route Madrid (MAD) → Chicago (ORD).


Useful

The airline with the best average rating is Iberia with 6.9/10.

The average flight time is 9 hours and 35 minutes.

  More information

12 Comments

If you liked this review or if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to post a comment below !
  • Comment 611537 by
    ChrisB GOLD 2169 Comments

    Hello Kevin, thanks for the report mate!
    As you mentionned the seats are better designed for families but I guess not so good if you were to fly on your own.
    You are right the amenties kit seems to have a bit more items than what we usually see on other carriers.
    The apetizer is just WOW. Really well presented.
    A bit disapointed not to have a desert after the cheese plater, but it was a very nice thought from the crew to draw a rabbit on your son's desert!
    See you later!

    • Comment 611620 by
      KévinDC TEAM GOLD AUTHOR 5886 Comments

      Hey Chris, thanks for your comments!

      As you mentionned the seats are better designed for families but I guess not so good if you were to fly on your own.

      At least the "Honeymoon seats" in the middle in every other row. All other seats are single seats with no neighbours so good for single travellers. The best seats for single travellers are window seats in even-numbered rows because they are isolated from the aisle and the large tray table actually doubles as a privacy screen when in vertical position.

      A bit disapointed not to have a desert after the cheese plater

      I'm sure I could have asked for dessert too, if I'd wanted. I've done it in the past on many carriers offering cheese plates as a dessert option and have never had an issue. I just wasn't hungry anymore after also eating in the lounge. Most non-French airlines don't separate cheese and dessert as separate courses since cheese isn't as big a thing culturally elsewhere as in France, as you know, so I think it's a way of avoiding waste. But like I said, it's never usually a problem to ask for both.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  • Comment 611567 by
    airberlin GOLD 1630 Comments

    Thanks Kevin. I’ve been always a huge fan of your reviews and it’s not going to change with this one. IB belongs to the few airlines that seem to have improve their service post Covid. I love the meal offer that is both elaborated with attention and well executed. Rare on an aircraft. Less a fan of this seat but must confess, never tried it before. So don’t judge without making your own trial.
    Side question on MileagePlan. What’s your experience on AA awards? Are they normally priced similarly or is AAdvantage more generous with a lover mileage rate for awards?
    Thanks in advance, Vincent

    • Comment 611621 by
      KévinDC TEAM GOLD AUTHOR 5886 Comments

      Hey Airberlin!

      I’ve been always a huge fan of your reviews and it’s not going to change with this one.

      Aaw shucks, thanks 😊

      IB belongs to the few airlines that seem to have improve their service post Covid. I love the meal offer that is both elaborated with attention and well executed. Rare on an aircraft.

      So refreshing to see! IB always get a bad rap for some reason I'll never understand. Thoughout the pandemic they've consistently had some of the best service out there, and now they've improved it even more by leaps and bounds, whereas most carriers are still not even at IB's pandemic-era level of service.

      Side question on MileagePlan. What’s your experience on AA awards? Are they normally priced similarly or is AAdvantage more generous with a lover mileage rate for awards?

      Honestly I've never actually used any of my Alaska miles and I stopped accumulating on AS once they became part of oneworld since I was already Elite with AA, so there was no point. However, from what I've always understood about AS's programme is that it is more generous for awards--in fast AS have always been reputed as one of the most generous for award space and pricing. Generally, partner awards are always at lowest level. Whereas AA SUUUUUCKS for awards now that they do revenue management on awards. AA regularly sell domestic First for well over 250k miles, which is just ridiculous, while I've never seen AS sell for more than 75K RT...they very well may, though.

      Basically, this is how I view the two programmes:

      AS good for award mileage spending, not so good for earning miles and/or Elite status
      AA reasonably easy to ear/maintain Elite status--decent for earning miles, terrible for spending miles.

      Thanks!

  • Comment 611568 by
    PresRDC1 12 Comments

    Wow. What an improvement.

  • Comment 611570 by
    NGO85 1640 Comments

    Hi Kevin, thank you for sharing this beautifully documented flight report. MAD T4 is definitely one of the most unique terminals, the natural wood coloring from the ceilings really lightens up the place and makes it so much airy then the usual industrial concourses.

    I've always found Iberia's cabin interiors to be surprisingly dull for an airline from such a colourful and sunny country. >

    It's a stark contrast to MAD T4 and the unique cultural touches they put in their menus and meal services. I've only flown in this cabin once, but I remember it being a very drab looking product (but maybe not as drab as the OZ B772s^^). I agree that these seats are generally comfortable and have good footwells for sleep.

    The main meal service looks quite nice on IB, a stark contrast from my previous experience. The presentation and local flavors are definitely an improvement.

    Great views of Porto and the northern coast of Portugal as we began our ocean crossing. >

    Nice aerial of OPO.

    About an hour prior to landing, the pre-arrival meal was served. >

    The presentation looks nice, but the portion size looks on the small size. There was no accompanying salad, just a leaf of lettuce? That said, it's rare to see the second meal service not done by tray.

    I've never been asked to show the card… >

    I never travel with my physical card, I thought that was really only used for entry into Canada/Mexico by land? Yelling in the immigration lines is pretty much the status quo in the US, law and order.

    Thanks again for sharing!

    • Comment 611623 by
      KévinDC TEAM GOLD AUTHOR 5886 Comments

      Hey NGO85, thanks for your comments!

      It's a stark contrast to MAD T4

      For sure! I suppose it's an effort to appear more "business-like" and serious, but really it just comes across as boring and doesn't do justice to the home country. Many airlines manage to have nice cabins with design flair while maintaining calm and relaxing atmospheres. AF and BA both come to mind as having good cabin design aesthetics.

      but maybe not as drab as the OZ B772s

      It's impossible to look more drab or sad LOL

      The presentation looks nice, but the portion size looks on the small size. There was no accompanying salad, just a leaf of lettuce?

      It was smallish, but very in line with what you get on other European carriers for "tea" service (not like US carriers that just keep shovelling food at you). That's the main different between US and EU carriers in my view---Euro carriers have smaller portions but higher quality food/presentation, while US carriers are good at doing simple comfort food in huge portions. The pasta dish was actually pretty decent sized but I didn't get a picture of it.

      I never travel with my physical card, I thought that was really only used for entry into Canada/Mexico by land?

      Exactly! I told one of the agents that, and that's when they explained "Oh you know, people cheat" and I was like "but how???" Ugh, whatever...I swear arrival back into the US is always such an unpleasant experience...even with GE they find a way to make it suck so that everyone is equally miserable.

      Thanks for stopping by and nice to have you back :)

  • Comment 611586 by
    TonTonChristian 675 Comments

    Hello and thank you Kevin for this report and for the great experience on board.
    Thank you also for showing the "TonTonChristian" test on the central honeymoon seats. The armrests and the bottom of the divider prevent it from becoming a double bed like the Qsuites for an overnight flight.
    See you soon.

    • Comment 611624 by
      KévinDC TEAM GOLD AUTHOR 5886 Comments

      Bonjour TonTonChristian, thank you for reading!

      The armrests and the bottom of the divider prevent it from becoming a double bed like the Qsuites for an overnight flight.

      Indeed! The central divider does come down quite a bit, but does prevent there from being a true double bed. It also goes quite high for those who may have gotten stuck next to a stranger in the honeymoon seats and aren't feeling like getting too friendly, LOL.

      IB are coming out with a new suites product with doors soon, so that will be interesting to discover! But of course, I would never expect them to ever have a QR level hard product.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  • Comment 612010 by
    KL651 TEAM 4523 Comments

    Thanks for this report gurrl.
    The service is indeed very premium now, except for the pre arrival snack which I find a bit light, but with an extensive lunch a few hours before it's understandable I guess.
    The bedding and new china and glasses really change the comfort and perception of the meal, I like it when there's branding on the glasses and cutlery.
    I see they followed KL and VS in their offering of cute salt & pepper shakers.
    The only thing that's missing in this dull cabin is more color, even Y+ has some burgundy accents, they should put dark orange headrest in J.

    • Comment 612334 by
      KévinDC TEAM GOLD AUTHOR 5886 Comments

      The service is indeed very premium now, except for the pre arrival snack which I find a bit light, but with an extensive lunch a few hours before it's understandable I guess.

      A bit light for sure, but good quality and like you said, very big lunch just a few hours before.

      The bedding and new china and glasses really change the comfort and perception of the meal

      Yes, makes the whole experience feel much more upscale

      I see they followed KL and VS in their offering of cute salt & pepper shakers.

      I know they were so cute! Damn it, I forgot to take them home...next time!

      The only thing that's missing in this dull cabin is more color, even Y+ has some burgundy accents, they should put dark orange headrest in J.

      Yes, there definitely needs to be more colour to make the cabin less boring. Hopefully their new suites cabins will be a bit less boring looking!
      Thank u gurl

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