Home Ramblings Is Business Class worth it? A view from a first timer (Iberia A330 Business Class)

Is Business Class worth it? A view from a first timer (Iberia A330 Business Class)

by Simon

Let’s face it. The faster check-in, lounge and separate boarding are just the accoutrement to the main course. It’s all about that lie-flat bed and not having to claim your arm rest before you have an elbow stand off with your neighbour.

For my whole life, business class was somewhat unattainable. For a number of reasons:

Firstly, growing up I didn’t have wealthy parents who paid for it.

A little later, I never had a corporate gig where I had to travel for work.

Even when I maybe had the money to pay for it, I simply couldn’t justify it. Business class is often three to four times more expensive than a normal flight. The last time I checked a flight, it was £800 to fly economy and £3000 to fly business.

I like to view things in terms of opportunity cost. To start off with, what could I do with £2200? The answer is quite a lot. More importantly though, if someone had come up to me and offered to pay me £2,200 to sit in a seat I’ve been sitting in my whole life, would I take it? That’s rhetorical question. I was blissful in my ignorance.

As I said, it never really made sense to me. Considering that my legs are like stumps it’s not like I have a problem fitting into cattle class seats.

This flight was different though. For £200 I could upgrade my flight. £22 an hour to have a lie flat bed? Sure, I’ll bite.

To set the scene it was an Iberia Flight from Madrid to Santo Domingo. Nine hours on an Airbus A330. Time to see if business class is really worth it.

Check-in and boarding

As an economy flyer I’ve always had a bit of a chip on my shoulder about the treatment of business and first class flyers. Sure, I understand they’ve paid a premium for a better service. It’s just the way the airlines seemingly idolise them.

Separate check in area.

Fancy lounges.

That’s what I got. Actually, I only got a separate check-in and boarding area. My upgrade didn’t qualify me for lounge access which was fine because I didn’t have time anyway.

Needless to say the upgraded treatment was pleasant. No standing in a check-in line having to shuffle your luggage a metre at a time as the line creeps along. Nobody in the business queue. Straight to the front. Lovely.

That’s where I was hit with my first surprise.

I was flying from London Heathrow to Santo Domingo, via Madrid. The problem was that my flight to Madrid was economy…..and my luggage was 2 kilos overweight. I sort of assumed that they would be lenient considering that the weight allowance for the main portion of my journey would accommodate my 25 kilos. Maybe the perceived business class arrogance had already seeped into my being?

TL;DR A 100 euro fee later and I was through check-in. Thanks Iberia.

Boarding in Madrid produced my second surprise.

Calmly standing in the boarding queue for business, I was quite content, if not feeling a little bit smug. Until a woman seemingly decided that I couldn’t be in the right queue, perhaps from my more normal appearance, and simply joined the queue right in front of me.

The queue wasn’t exactly long so I didn’t say anything. In my mind though it felt like a snub, a confirmation of the smell-your-own-farts smugness associated with the wealthy. Imposter syndrome was strong with me that day. The separate gangway didn’t help. It felt like segregation. “Welcome person who can spend 4 times as much on a flight as a normal person. We’ll make sure you don’t even have to see those peasants”. CLEARLY this isn’t completely true and likely unfair for the queue larger. It was chaotic at the gate and it was probably an innocent mistake. I couldn’t shake that feeling though.

The Seat

So there I was, feeling a little bit weird about the whole experience.

Until I got to the seat.

Let’s face it. The faster check-in, lounge and separate boarding are just the accoutrement to the main course. It’s all about that lie-flat bed and not having to claim your arm rest before you have an elbow stand off with your neighbour.

As I said in the video, it’s a strange one. The chances are that you’ve walked past first/business class multiple times. You’ve had a good look at the seats, you already know how much space they have and you definitely know they lie flat. So you know what you’re getting. You have a bed at home. You know what it feels like to lie down.

I entered into my new seat armed with this knowledge and yet I was still amazed.

The space and privacy is unreal.

No longer did I have to Tetris my stuff into the pouch in front of me. No longer did I have to find space near my feet for the blanket and/or bag.

I didn’t even have to worry about my feet smelling when I took my shoes off.

I just spread my shit out. Some went into the little cubby holes in the main console. Some went down the side of my seat. The rest went on the foot rest.

No champagne was served, but that didn’t bother me. Champagne is wasted on me, I’ve never been a fan. Anyways, I was too busy watching the tutorial video on the seat’s functions.

The third surprise…and subsequent disappointment

To my amazement, the seat had a massage function.

Like a child playing with a new toy I frantically searched for the button.

I pressed it….and was immediately brought crashing back to earth. It’s ludicrous to call it a massage chair. It barely moves. There’s some sort of bar built into the lower portion of the chair that moves up and down about 4 inches. There isn’t any oscillation to talk of, just an up and down movement. It does press into your back slightly, but no more than an inch.

I didn’t expect a massage function so had it been a good massage chair, it really would have blown my mind. Instead I turned it off wondering why they would even include it.

The lie flat bed

Onto the main course.

As expected for a noob like me, as soon as the seat belt signs were turned off I had to get this baby to ‘lie flat’ position. Shoes off, blanket at the ready I pressed the button that people pay a premium for.

The seat reclined. The bottom pushed forward. The back reclined further. The seat pushed forward to make more space. I was now past 45 degrees, past the position of a recliner in front of your TV.

Within seconds my seat had joined the foot rest in front of me and I was in my own little bed in the skies. A view out of the window to my right and the console to my left preventing any view outside my own private space on the plane.

A quick adjustment of the tray table to upright position and swung outwards and the cabin was complete. To call it a cabin does an injustice to the true cabin found in first class nowadays (from what I’ve seen on Youtube) but again, like a child, this was my own little cabin.

I would actually go back to a more normal seat position and wouldn’t sleep till later. To state the obvious, when I did go to sleep it was the best sleep I’ve ever had on a place. Who would have thunk it?!

Hairgate

Onto the food and I should probably start with a caveat. I’m no foodie. I like good food, but I can also be remarkably unfussy when it comes to food. In fact, I tend not to have an issue with plane food. I’ll happily eat it!

Iberia served the business class food in a box, which I don’t think is typical. I presume that it was for health reasons given the current global issues. I don’t even know if economy got the same food, I imagine not.

A few wraps, salad, cheese and crackers. Fairly normal stuff and actually quite tasty. Not much to comment on here except it would have been nice to have the normal food – which I think is served on proper plates and not a cardboard box. Given the circumstances though, there probably isn’t another option for airlines.

Surprise #5

I did have a hair on my wrap which wasn’t ideal. I tend to shed hair at a remarkable rate myself so I understand. Plus it wasn’t a short and curly so after a quick removal, the rest of the wrap was down the hatch.

Should I have complained? Possibly.

Did I complain? No. I couldn’t see how I would benefit from the outcome (except perhaps a new wrap).

Would I pay for a full rate business class flight?

How was the experience as a first time business class flyer?

Excellent.

I knew what I was getting and it was even better than I thought it would be, which was one of my worries. I’ve been perfectly happy with my various economy seats throughout my life. Chalk this down to my ignorance, or my stature. Whatever the case, I ran the risk of finding out how much greener the grass was.

Would my exposure to the front of the plane mean that I wouldn’t be able to go back?

Nope.

Don’t get me wrong, if I get another offer to upgrade a flight for a couple of hundred pounds, I won’t even think about. It’s lie flat time baby. The problem comes when you’re having to shell out a couple of thousand pounds for the privilege. Put it this way, that’s multiple custom shaped surfboards to add to my quiver. It’s a nice camera. It’s what I would call a good budget for a 2 week holiday. Would I swap any of those for more comfort for 9 hours? Not a chance.

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