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By Marika Sboros
Spanish airline Iberia aims to turn Madrid into a global aviation hub with the resumption of flights between Johannesburg and Madrid starting in August 2016 .
Even better, the airline will fly the route on new aircraft, with wider, ergonomically designed seats even in so-called “cattle-class” economy sections – which Iberia calls “tourist class”.
The route was one of a few long-haul routes Iberia suspended in 2012 after a financial crisis that led to the slashing of jobs and loss-making routes and shedding of aircraft from the airline’s fleet. The airline says it has reinstated all the long-haul routes it has suspended in recent years.
In an airline press release, Iberia chairman and CEO Luis Gallego says the company promised to resume flights on Johannesburg-Madrid route as soon as possible after suspension in 2012.
“Now we’ve come back to stay, with a new brand image and new, more fuel-efficient aircraft, equipped with new cabins and much improved customer service.”
The airline, named the world’s third most punctual airline in 2014 according to Flightstats, will fly to Johannesburg three times a week using its latest A330-300 in a two-class (business and economy) configuration.
That is good news for travellers in both classes. According to the press release, the new Airbus A330-300s are twin-engined aircraft that burn 15% less fuel than those they replace. They are equipped with Iberia’s new long-haul cabins.
Business class features include seats that become 2m-long flat beds, all with direct access to the aisle, the entertainment programme on 15.4” touch screens, and gourmet meals accompanied by a selection of top regional Spanish wines.
There’s also more comfort for economy-class travellers with ergonomic seats that are wider and more comfortable, the same entertainment programmes in Business Class available on 9” touch screens, with Wi-Fi and GSM connectivity throughout the aircraft.
The route will be codeshared with British Airways and connections will be available from London.
Iberia is expected to announce more new long-haul routes in the coming months as it is due to take delivery of Airbus A330-200 and A350 aircraft in the near future. Other cities previously mooted by Iberia at the same time as Johannesburg were Doha, Toronto and Tokyo.
Iberia will fly from Johannesburg to Madrid three times a week, on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and return on Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays. The Johannesburg-Madrid flights will leave on Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays at 20.15 and arrive in Madrid at 06.35. The return leg will be Mondays, Thursday and Fridays from madrid at 23.45, arriving in Johannesburg at 10.10.
The flight schedule is “not only good to fly to Madrid, but also to fly on to more than 100 destinations in Iberia’s network, including Barcelona, London, Lisbon, Porto, Havana, New York, Chicago, Miami, Milan, Rome, Berlin, Frankfurt, Geneva and Zurich”.
To mark the occasion of Iberia’s resumption of services to South Africa, the airlines has launched a special flight offer to fly to Madrid starting at R6,910 (including taxes and surcharges). Flights can be booked in travel agencies, while iberia.com was activated on 16 December in South Africa.
This is Iberia’s 11th route linking Africa to Spain. Other destinations are Luanda, Algiers, Oran, Accra, Malabo, Casablanca, Marrakech, Tangier, Lagos, and Dakar.
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