On the Ground: I arrived at JFK with plenty of time to spare for my 9 p.m. departure from Terminal 7 and was quickly checked in and on my way to security. At that time of night — 7:30 p.m. — security is not too crowded, so the process did not take long. Iberia uses the British Airways lounge in Terminal 7, and as I entered I learned my flight was now scheduled to depart at midnight. Due to a second ash cloud drifting toward the South Atlantic, the plane from Madrid had to take a more southerly route that added at least an hour or two to its flight. Ultimately, I ended up spending close to five hours in the lounge. The BA lounge was pleasant and the receptionists were great at updating us on the status of the flight, but even the best service in the world starts to pale after so long a wait. (29/30)
Pre-flight: It was a full flight, but once the boarding process started, close to 1 a.m., it went quite fast, with weary passengers eager to get settled after the long delay. Iberia’s Business Plus Class allowed me to pre-board and stow my bags in a leisurely fashion. The flight attendants were more than accommodating, making up for any frustrations produced by the delay. I enthusiastically took the glass of Champagne that was offered after I had settled into my seat. (29/30)
In-flight: Once off the ground, the flight attendants made up for lost time by quickly starting the food and beverage service. Many people in the Business Plus cabin skipped eating dinner in the middle of the night and took advantage of the lie-flat seats and went right to sleep. I decided to eat and was very pleasantly surprised by the excellent food offered. I had delicious baked cod, a glass of Cuatro Rayas Viñedos Centenarios 2009 and a glass of Sembro 2008 Red D.O. Ribera del Duero, both of which were superb. Iberia has expanded the personal space (87 inches) for each passenger in Business Plus Class, making its seats fully horizontal, so after my meal I adjusted my seat to 180 degrees and snoozed until breakfast. (38/40)
The Experience: My return flight was flawless, in part because I spent almost two hours in the newly renovated Velasquez VIP lounge in T4 at Madrid-Barajas Airport, where I relaxed and had a late lunch from the elaborate buffet that offers snacks as well as hot meals. The lounge is a very attractive, light-filled space with large windows overlooking the runways.
Total Score: 96/100
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