Iberian Express – A Spanish Railway Odyssey

Iberia Express was created in 2012 to cover routes that were losing money for Iberia, achieving cost efficiencies. Eight of its top 10 routes are domestic and the airline is the largest carrier on each one.

On board, passengers can enjoy Iberia’s slim seats and high-quality service. Iberia Express was recognised as Europe’s most punctual low-cost airline in 2022.

The origins

Iberia Express is a low cost subsidiary of Iberia, the Spanish national airline. Launched in 2012, the airline operates a network of short and medium-haul routes connecting the main Spanish cities to the rest of Europe.

The carrier was founded to offer travelers a more flexible way of travelling, and it has a reputation for being punctual. It is part of the IAG group and has codeshare agreements with LAN Airlines, Air Berlin, Japan Airlines, American Airlines, British Airways, Avianca, Finnair, Copa Air, Bulgaria Air, S7 Airlines, Royal Air Maroc and Air Lingus.

When Iberia Express was first launched, it caused a lot of controversy due to the fact that it was intended to take over routes that were loss-making for Iberia’s parent company. This led to a series of strikes by pilots and a long period of negotiations that eventually resulted in the creation of Iberia Express as a separate airline, with flights run by dedicated staff using aircraft reallocated from Iberia’s fleet.

Today, Iberia Express is a modern airline with a young fleet of 21 Airbus A320s and CRJ900s, serving 31 destinations across Europe. Its headquarters are located at Adolfo Suárez Madrid – Barajas Airport in the city of Madrid and it is a member of the Oneworld airline alliance.

On our flight to Marrakech, we boarded Iberia Express’ Airbus A320 EC-MEH via the airbridge and settled into our slim Recaro seats. These were set out in a 3-3 configuration, leaving the middle seat empty on each side to give more space and a feeling of luxury. Iberia Express also offers the option to pay for an upgrade to Business Class, which includes priority boarding and extra legroom.

Like many other European low-cost carriers, Iberia Express doesn’t offer inflight wifi, but it does have a good selection of digital entertainment to choose from. There are also a few cultural touches, such as serving Cava during the pre-flight drinks service. The airline’s club is called Club Express and it offers members exclusive benefits including discounts, inflight entertainment, personalised offers and the ability to earn Avios points.

The route

Despite being a low cost airline, Iberia Express still delivers a high level of service. Its fleet of Airbus narrow-body aircraft fly to 31 destinations, with the vast majority domestic. The airline also offers a number of short-haul international flights. This mix of routes is key to ensuring Iberia Express remains profitable while providing growth for parent airline Iberia’s long-haul business.

In fact, Iberia Express is renowned internationally for its punctuality. FlightGlobal ranked it the world’s most punctual low-cost airline for five consecutive years.

As the train pulls into Lisbon’s Gare do Oriente, I settle into one of the airline’s Recaro slimline seats and start to relax. A selection of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks is available for purchase and the inflight entertainment offering is also comprehensive. The seat itself is rudimentary but comfortable enough. It’s a dark grey leather-like material and the red branded antimacassars are a nice touch.

The onboard service is attentive and friendly. As I’m travelling economy, I can take advantage of the airline’s free WiFi. This allows me to use my phone and tablet for internet access during the flight, something which is not always available on European low-cost carriers.

Iberia Express is a member of the IAG group (International Airlines Group), which is also the parent company of British Airways and Iberia. This means that the airline can leverage Iberia’s brand and network to attract passengers. It also reduces the risk of cannibalisation as the airline’s routes feed traffic to Iberia’s long-haul network.

Iberia Express also has codeshare agreements with a number of other airlines, including LAN Airlines, Air Berlin, Avianca, Finnair, JetBlue and Royal Air Maroc. This is useful because on some metasearch engines Iberia Express can be found alongside mainline Iberia flights and prices are often within a few Euros of each other, especially for connecting routes.

The trains

The humble train might seem less glamorous than air travel or space flight, but it still has a powerful impact on people. For most, the sight of miles and miles of rails carries with it an alluring sense of adventure that is hard to match. And the design of trains has one of the most fascinating histories out there – a story that spans centuries and continents, evolving into the modern form that we know and love today.

The first leg of my Spanish railway odyssey began with an overnight trip from Madrid to Lisbon on board Iberia Express, the low-cost subsidiary of the official national carrier Iberia. Unlike its parent company, Iberia Express doesn’t offer onboard wifi or inflight entertainment, but its cabins are a cut above your typical budget European sleeper – with a comfortable Recaro slimline seat, ample legroom and USB power points.

Iberia Express also offers a Business class section, with slightly larger seats and a dedicated waiter service (although this was not the case on my journey). However, there are no inflight wifi options, so it is recommended to bring along a book or download some movies for the journey ahead of time.

As far as the rolling stock is concerned, Iberia Express’s fleet of Talgo IV sets (used by Sud Express and Lusitania prior to their Covid-19 suspension) are nearing the end of their lives. The trainsets are currently stored in a depot in Toledo and their loan contract with incumbent operator CP has ended. With Renfe still resisting relaunching its interior night trains that connect Spain with France (including the aforementioned Sud Express and Lusitania) it seems highly unlikely that these Talgo IV trainsets will see the light of day again.

Fortunately, CP has a small fleet of dual voltage Class 252 locomotives that are usually used in Galicia. These are Iberian gauge and can be upgraded to run at 200 km/h, the maximum speed of Portugal’s Intercity trains. As a result, this would allow them to operate between Vilar Formoso and the French border at Hendaye without any additional costs.

The final destination

With its 107 destinations across Europe, Iberia Express is the ideal airline to book your next trip. Whether you’re looking for an exciting adventure or simply want to relax, we can help you find the best Iberia Express flights. Our flight deals feature low change fees and flexible departure times, so you can reschedule your trip without any hassle. Plus, we offer a free mobile app that gives you immediate trip updates, so you can stay on top of everything that’s happening with your flight.

Iberia Express is a low-cost carrier owned by Iberia, part of the IAG global aviation group. It operates a network of high-frequency domestic services and leisure routes within Europe, while also feeding traffic into Iberia’s long-haul network. Its fleet comprises Airbus A320s, A321s and A321-200s, with the latter two types primarily used on longer routes.

A tailored pricing solution was adopted for Iberia Express to achieve impressive cost efficiencies and improve performance from the start. The airline has an extensive route network that spans the continent, from Italy (Naples, Palermo and Catania) to London, Manchester and Edinburgh in the UK, Frankfurt and Munich in Germany, and Funchal in Portugal.

In the future, Iberia Express will further expand its footprint with flights to New York and Paris Orly in the US, as well as Lisbon, Dublin, Tel Aviv, Prague and Berlin in Europe. It will also introduce a four-times-a-week Naples – Madrid route to compete with existing Air Italia routes between the Spanish and Italian capitals.

If your Iberia Express flight is cancelled due to extraordinary circumstances, as defined by EU 261 Regulation on air passenger rights, you’re entitled to a full refund of the ticket price. This is regardless of whether you agree to a rebooked flight, or opt for vouchers instead.

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