Iberia Announces First Airbus A350 Long-Haul Route

Artist rendering of Iberia's Airbus A350 (Photo: Airbus)

During an event at Fitur, the International Tourism Fair in Madrid, Spanish airline Iberia announced the first route for its new Airbus A350-900 aircraft to New York’s JFK Airport. However, the airline did not go as far as to announce a start date for the aircraft, and no updated schedule including the A350 has been published.

While details about the new route are still limited, and there has yet to be a press release published by the airline, AirlineGeeks has learned from Iberia that the airline will be receiving two Airbus A350-900 in 2018. The first aircraft will arrive in June, which will then be placed on the Madrid to New York-JFK route. The rest of the 16 total A350s that Iberia has ordered will be delivered up until 2021.

The arrival of the new aircraft will add to Iberia’s existing fleet of long-haul aircraft including the Airbus A330-200, Airbus A330-300, and Airbus A340-600. The airline noted that the addition of the A350 is not meant to replace a specific aircraft type outright, but rather is to help the airline achieve its goal of 8% annual growth until 2022. As the aging aircraft in the fleet, however, the A340-600s will be gradually replaced by the newer and more efficient A350-900.

Currently, the airline operates twice-daily service between Spain’s capital, Madrid, and New York using both an Airbus A340-600, the largest aircraft in Iberia’s fleet, and an A330-300, one of the youngest long-haul aircraft in its fleet, having entered service with the airline just five years ago in 2013. When asked which aircraft the A350 would be replacing on the New York route, the airline stated that it had not decided whether it will be replacing the A340-600 or the A330-300.

Currently, on the Madrid to New York route, which ranges from eight to nine hours in the eastbound direction, Iberia competes with three other airlines: Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, and Air Europa. American Airlines and Delta operate the route using Boeing 767 aircraft, while Air Europa uses an Airbus A330-200 on the route. Iberia and American Airlines are part of the oneworld airline alliance, while Delta Air Lines and Air Europa are part of the SkyTeam alliance.

Iberia’s decision to adopt the Airbus’ A350 over Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner shows Iberia’s continued commitment to the European aircraft manufacturer. Currently, Iberia has an entirely Airbus mainline fleet, retiring its last non-Airbus aircraft ten years ago in 2008. Meanwhile, Iberia’s sister airline in the International Airline Group, British Airways, has taken a different approach, ordering 18 Airbus A350s but also ordering 42 Boeing 787 Dreamliners.

Iberia is also one of the last operators of the A340-600, the largest of the A340 family. The airline currently uses the A340-600 for part of their operations at JFK, alongside Lufthansa, Virgin Atlantic and South African Airways.

While the exact date of its first flight is unknown, when the A350 debuts in June, Iberia will join the 12 other airlines operating one of Airbus’ newest aircraft.

Update: Iberia announced in a press release on Monday that it will start the A350 on the Madrid-New York route in August. Until August, the aircraft will be used on intra-European routes for flight crew training.

Correction: Air Europa is part of the SkyTeam alliance, not oneworld.

Thomas Pallini

Thomas Pallini

Tom has been flying for as long as he can remember. His first flight memory was on a Song Airlines 757 flying from LaGuardia to Orlando. Back then, he was afraid to fly because he thought you needed to jump off the plane in order to get off. Some years later, Tom is now a seasoned traveler, often flying to places just for the fun of it. Most of the time, he'll never leave the airport on his trips. If he's not at home or at work as a Line Service Technician at Long Island MacArthur Airport, he's off flying somewhere, but only for the day.
Thomas Pallini