Iberia expands first class, continuing quality upgrades

In its continuing efforts to reposition itself as a premier airline, Spanish carrier Iberia announced November 2 that it has begun expanding and upgrading its business-class sections.

The airline is decreasing the number of business-class seats on its aircraft in order to expand the personal room in the posh cabin by more than 30 centimeters (1 foot). Each business-class passenger will now enjoy completely a horizontal bed as well as more than 2.20 meters (7.2 feet) of individual space.

By March 2011 the planes used for Iberia's long-haul routes -- between Spain and the western hemisphere, South Africa and Israel -- will be entirely refitted. Iberia's business class is the most popular between Europe and Latin America, with a market share of 24 percent, according to the company.

Since Iberia absorbed Clickair into its low-cost subsidiary Vueling, which they envision as a challenger to Europe's budget kings Ryanair and EasyJet, Iberia has embarked on a number of improvements that put it squarely in competition with legacy Europe-based carriers such as British Airways (with whom a merger deal is currently stalled), Lufthansa and Air France-KLM.

Iberia announced late October that it will create a new airline to handle its short- and medium- haul routes, beginning operations in 2011. Few details have been announced, but the airline will not be a low-cost carrier, rather occupying the middle ground between Iberia and Vueling.

The business-class expansion follows several recently announced initiatives, including the July renovations of its VIP lounge at its Madrid hub, the construction of new VIP lounges and renovations to existing lounges at key airports around the world, meal quality upgrades for both economy and business class and other improvements, all part of their ongoing Customer Service Quality Improvement Program, which will continue until 2011.