Iberia Review #2.
It’s my 3rd time flying Iberia from Madrid to Mexico City. This time, flying with Lissette, I saw the little things that might make me choose Aeroméxico the next time I do this trip.
I’ve mentioned what I liked about Iberia on my review of my first Iberia flight. Key among them was price (post-Covid their prices were very competitive) and the efficiency of connections through Madrid. If you fly Iberia, your connection will be through modern terminals 4 and 4s. If you decide to connect to Aeroméxico in Madrid, you’ll have to connect through crappy old Terminal 1.
The above is a BIG incentive to flying Iberia (we fly out of Malaga and connect through Madrid to CDMX). That, and connecting times between flights, is what made me choose Iberia over Aeroméxico the first two times.
But after this last trip I’m willing to try out Aeroméxico the next time around.
Why? I have a whole bunch of reasons but a few stick out.
1. The Iberia website is horrible
Flying by myself in the past, it was pretty simple: I went to the Iberia website and booked my flight. I didn’t require any non-standard options. It was easy.
Lissette doesn’t eat meat so this time around I had to choose a non-meat food option. I didn’t see any options when booking the flights. A few days before the trip I looked up “manage booking Iberia”: I entered Lissette’s last name and our booking code. Our flights came up. There’ s section where meals are listed…but there was no way of changing the meals. After spending 15 minutes trying to figure out how to change her meal I gave up.
The day before our Madrid – Mexico City flight I received an automated email from Iberia prompting me to get our online boarding passes. I did that (that option is very easy), and looking at the meals options again, I was able to change Lissette’s option to “vegetarian”. The website warned me however that meal changes had to be done at least 24 hours before the flight. No problem, it was about 30 hours before we were due to take off.
It wasn’t a surprise when on the flight that the stewardess told me that they had no record of a vegetarian meal for Lissette. “Sorry” was the best I got. The menu was either a “meat” option or a “pasta” option (which didn’t have meat) – but since we were at the back of the plane and among the last served, the “meat” dish was the only option remaining. So Lissette didn’t get a full meal.
For our return flight, Mexico City – Madrid, I again went online to change Lissette’s meal option. Again, no luck. Clicking on “meals” just told us what would be served. Every time I went to that option and tried navigating back to the main page of “manage options” I would get logged out. It’s an infuriating website.
So this time it was a surprise when, on the flight, the hostess came up to Lissette and asked “you ordered the vegetarian option?”.
My jaw dropped. I guess the change I had made on the 1st flight finally made it in the system. Who knows. Just weird.
The big thing though – if you can’t even change a meal on their website, what kind of service are you going to get if you have to modify/cancel your flight or have an issue with baggage? I’ve heard other people’s nightmares reaching anyone at Iberia for assistance either on their website or phone number. This minor issue didn’t inspire me with confidence.
2. Horribly cramped seating
I don’t remember Iberia flights being so tight. Below is a photo of my knees against the seat in front of me. I’m just a touch under 6 feet…I can’t imagine how someone 6’3 would fit in that seat. And I could have lived with it if it wasn’t for the asshole in from of me reclining his chair as far back as possible. I spent the next 10 hours having his greasy hair and dandruff within 6 inches of my face. And try getting out to go to the bathroom…you have to go into a Matrix-like position to squeeze out into the aisle. Come on, Iberia, stop treating us like sardines and give us a couple of extra inches.
About reclining seats: I understand people have to recline a bit. And sometimes on a long flight I need to change it up a bit because sitting in the same position hurts my back. But I’ll usually recline an inch or two max. I think anyone suddenly reclining their seat 6 inches so that it smacks into the knees of the person behind is an asshole. And if airlines are going to pack us in like sardines then at least limit how much seats can be reclined. It sucks to have someone’s head within a few inches of you.
3. Stupid. Just stupid.
For the return flight (Mexico City – Madrid) I went online and got our online boarding passes. Great!
Everything went smoothly until we went to board. That’s when an Iberia agent told us to get into another line to “get our passports checked”.
So we got into a line when the majority of people were Mexicans filling out immigration forms for the flight to Spain. There was a single lady processing all these forms and passports while 5 other Iberia staff looked on doing nothing.
Finally, getting up to the agent’s desk (the people in front of us being a couple of pissed off Germans), the lady went through our passports and printed out our boarding passes. Now, what is the point of that?? At no point had she looked at our online boarding passes. So what’s the point of having online boarding if you’re just going to be asked to step to the left for additional security?
So we ended up being among the last 10 people getting on the plane. And, just as on previous flights, there was no overhead space for our 1 bag. Iberia stewardesses are great at telling you that you should be doing something (in this case “you have to look for somewhere else for your bag”) while being totally useless. It was only after giving her my best pissed off look and saying “well, where should I put it!!??” that she started moving around a couple of smaller backpacks into another overhead compartment to make room for my bag.
Contrast this to Czech Airlines where a buxom 6 foot-tall stewardess grabs the suitcase out of your hands, orders you to sit down, and shoves it into a pre-organized slot in an overhead compartment. Most of those Czech Airlines girls looked like they’ve previously competed in the Olympics. These are the kinds of stewardesses you need on a plane. One of the stewardesses on our Iberia flight needed to put her feet on the aisle seat to be able to fiddle around the overhead compartment. I know it’s probably not politically correct to tell an airline not to hire a 4-foot-tall stewardesses (I’m exaggerating) but shouldn’t they at least be able to reach the overhead bins?
Other points: Food was passable on our flights, “Highlight” movies on their entertainment system had 9 movies including “Gremlins” and “Die Hard” (the other 7 I never heard of), bathroom cleanliness was borderline, and inflight service ranks among the poorest I’ve experienced. Boarding was bad, just as I wrote about on my first review: they board in groups: Group 1, Group 2, Group 3, Group 4 – I don’t know the logical sense of it but somehow Iberia boarding is always incredibly slow and the boarding line always ends up being backed up onto the jet bridge.
Addendum: I forgot to mention that Iberia charged 40 Euros for seat selection for each leg on the long-haul Madrid-CDMX flight. That’s 80 Euros return per person. I don’t remember having paid that in the past. Maybe Iberia isn’t the only airline doing that these days? But it seems excessive…
I can get over those things though, it’s 10 hours of my life and I can suck it up. But it’s the website stuff, the cramped seating and the stupid, stressful situations they unnecessarily put you through that drive me crazy.
Other than the above, Iberia (being the Spanish flag carrier) is unsurprisingly the best option if flying from Spain, especially if you have a connecting flight. Their prices are competitive, they go to many places, they have a modern fleet of planes and a good safety record. Those are the pros of flying Iberia.
Is that enough? If going to Mexico then Aeroméxico is the only other realistic option. I used to fly them regularly when living in Canada and going to Mexico. They’re a very good airline and I don’t remember sitting in a sardine box. I recently asked people on our Mexican Experience FB page about Aeroméxico and everyone had good things to say. The only con with Aeroméxico is connecting through Madrid. As I say, it’s the biggest advantage to flying Iberia.
Your opinion on Iberia?
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