The Spanish flag carrier Iberia is flying brand new long-haul aircraft worth around $317 million each at list value without proper Business Class seats, and it has both passengers and aviation experts scratching their heads wondering why not?
After all, the Airbus A350 was designed to operate Iberia’s longest flights, and a proper Business Class cabin with lie-flat seats is generally one of the biggest revenue generators for an airline.
In simple terms, you have to have a lot more Economy seats, taking up a lot of space to make the same kind of revenue as just one Business Class seat, so it seems like a really bizarre omission on the part of Iberia.
It turns out, however, that Iberia would love to have Business Class seats on its two latest A350s but the global supply chain crisis has snarled delivery of key components of the Business Class seats that Iberia has on order.
Iberia had a tough call to make – either attempt to delay the delivery of the entire aircraft from the manufacturers, but that comes with the risk of being slapped with a late acceptance penalty from Airbus or take the aircraft but without a Business Class cabin.
The Madrid-based airline opted for the second option and has so far taken delivery of two Airbus A350-900 aircraft with missing Business Class cabins rather than incur a penalty from Airbus. But they can’t just remain on the ground, making no money while racking up maintenance costs.
So, as the Tweeter @aviosAdventurer recently discovered, Iberia decided to put the aircraft into action but primarily on short-haul routes around Europe. Where lie-flat seats should have been, were just a few strategically placed standard Economy Seats (which had to be blocked out for weight and balance purposes).
Thankfully, European airlines don’t normally use lie-flat seats on intra-Europe flights so from a passenger experience point of view, there shouldn’t be any big shocks. In fact, Iberia is booking Business Class passengers into its Premium Economy, which could even be viewed as an upgrade on a standard intra-Europe Business Class seat.
One of the two aircraft (EC-NXD) has been mainly operating flights of between two to four hours in length, although this aircraft has recently been scheduled to operate a long-haul service from Madrid to Caracas.
That might suggest, however, that Iberia really needs to start putting these aircraft into use for what they were originally designed for.
Unfortunately, supply chain woes aren’t likely to be resolved anytime soon. In fact, many multinationals are preparing for supply chain disruptions to become the norm.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.