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Spain’s capital city Madrid is regal, beautiful and very accessible. Hotel and food prices are still low compared to other European capitals, and Spain has an excellent train network. Spain is also a family-friendly destination – it has great beaches, wonderful museums, magnificent castles and beautiful parks with great kids’ play areas in every city. There are enough things to see and do for every age and every budget.
In deciding how to get to Spain from the US, a traveler has many choices. Most US major airlines and several international ones fly non-stop from major US cities. I decided to try Iberia on for size because of its competitively priced business class and good availability. I enjoyed it and kept a keen eye out for this report.
Booking My Flight
Iberia has a distance-based award chart divided into peak and off-peak dates. The off-peak rates are very reasonable and actually cover the “shoulder” season, which is a great time of year to visit Spain.
Spring and Fall see fewer tourists, have cooler temperatures and are perfect seasons for traveling to Europe, especially to Southern Europe, where it gets unbearably hot during the summer. For example, Iberia considers the whole month of May, except for May 1st and 5th, to be off-peak season.
I booked my Madrid to Chicago flight in business class with 34,000 Iberia Avios and $135 in taxes/fees. I transferred Ultimate Rewards points to Iberia; the transfer is instant and the points transfer at a 1:1 rate. I earned the points with the Chase Ink Business Preferred – the card also came with a generous sign-up bonus of 80,000 points.
Madrid Barajas Airport
Because I had a suitcase and had to be at the airport pretty early, I decided to book a car transfer with help from my AirBnB host. I spent 35 euros, which is the same price as booking a regular taxi, but more expensive than taking a train or an airport bus.
Madrid has a beautiful and contemporary airport. After a very quick check in, I was directed to a Fast Track area for premium cabins passengers. There was almost no line, and you don’t have to take off your shoes, so I sped through security in a couple of minutes.
Iberia’s U.S. bound flights depart from Terminal 4S connected by a train to Terminal 4. After security, I took an elevator down to the train platform for a quick ride to Terminal 4S. The passport control is just a short walk from the train station in terminal 4S. The line was only a couple of people deep and after a few short minutes I was already relaxing in Iberia’s beautiful Velazquez Lounge.
Iberia Velazquez Lounge
When I arrived at the lounge around 9:00 A.M, it wasn’t crowded at all, but when I left to board my flight 90 minutes later, there were very few seats left.
The lounge is big and there are a few seating areas, including a quiet area. This is where I camped out but, in spite of its designation as a quiet area, there were still a couple of people talking on their phones.
The quiet areaThe entire lounge is decorated in beautiful shades of grey and Iberia’s signature red with pale wood accents.
At this time of day the lounge served breakfast. There were omelets (traditional and Spanish), bacon, bread and pastries, fruit and yogurt.
The lounge has a few coffee machines scattered around, as well as refrigerators stocked with water, soft drinks and beer. Other drinks are served in the bar area.
There’s also a kids’ play area but I haven’t noticed any toys there, just videogames.
The lounge has a few showers, which is always a nice feature. I had to ask the front desk for the code to open the shower room.
There’s also a darkened sleeping area with comfortable loungers.
Side note: I always wonder why you have to give your boarding pass before being able to use the shower. Do people steal towels? If anyone knows the answer, let me know in the comments.
I really liked the bright and airy feel in the lounge and the huge windows that let in lots of sunshine.
Boarding and Business Class Cabin
After getting a quick bite and a relaxing shower at the lounge, it was time to head over to the gate. The gate was all the way on the other end of the terminal, so it took me a good 10 minutes to get there. The agents checked my passport and the boarding pass and we had to wait in a holding area for U.S. flights. The boarding process was a bit chaotic, and the announcements were hard to hear over the dim of the crowd, but everyone got on the plane eventually.
Pro Tip: Bring a pair of hotel slippers with you on a long flight, whether you are flying economy or business. You’ll be so much more comfortable onboard.
In every other row, the two seats in the middle have a divider that comes down to about knee level, perfect for couples or families traveling together.
When everyone was seated, the flight attendants distributed the headsets and the amenity kits, passed newspapers (in Spanish only) and the welcome drinks.
The amenity kit came in a cute bright red pouch and included all the usual stuff, like toothbrush and toothpaste, hand cream, a pair of socks, a comb and a small shoe horn. I always keep the pouches I get in business class and use them to store small electronics, cords and other small random things.
I found the seat to be comfortable and comparable to other business class seats. I wished there was a bit more storage but otherwise it was great to be able to stretch out.
After flight attendants passed around the pre-lunch drinks they started the lunch service. The plated appetizers were tasty and I was happy with my choice of roast chicken. One of the appetizers was salmorejo soup, a cold soup similar to gazpacho, served with chopped hard boiled egg. I tried it once in Madrid and I am a little obsessed with it now. I need to find a good recipe so I can make it at home.
I had chicken as my main dish and it was pretty tasty and tender, I was happy with my choice.
For dessert there was a choice of ice cream or cake and a few minutes after everyone’s tables were cleared we were offered chocolate pralines. Wine and other drinks were offered a few times during the meal service.
Mid-flight snacks were laid out in the front galley and included sandwiches, pastries, candy bars and fruit cups.
A light meal of quiche Lorraine with a small salad and a cup of fruit was served about 90 minutes before arrival.
WiFi and Inflight Entertainment System
Iberia business class passengers get 4MB of free WiFi. The connection was painfully slow and when I lost it after a couple of minutes I couldn’t login again. I didn’t even bother asking for help with this, it wasn’t going to be useful anyway.
The inflight entertainment system felt a little outdated and there wasn’t a huge selection of movies or TV shows.
Don’t think about using Iberia Avios as just a good way to get from Madrid to the U.S or vice versa, you have a whole country of Spain within easy reach. After you spend a few days in Madrid, buy a cheap ticket to an island of Mallorca or Ibiza for some sun, or jump on a train to see more of Spain. It’s a big country with so much to see and it has an excellent train network. It’s very easy to visit Barcelona, Valencia, Seville and even a neighboring country of Portugal by train.
All in all, I had a comfortable flight. It wasn’t the most luxurious experience but you really can’t beat 34,000 Avios redemption for a business class seat! Had I booked a similar flight with United miles, it would have cost me 30,000 MileagePlus miles in economy and 60,000-70,000 miles in business class. I think I got a great bargain for a lie-flat seat on a nine-hour flight.
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