Flying Iberia Regional Air Nostrum in Business Class from Madrid to Brussels during corona

May 2021. The Belgian government lifted the ban on leisure travel in April, but strict travel rules limited options. As the Balearic Islandslles Balears or Islas Baleares – were a yellow zone, we booked flights to and a hotel in Palma de Mallorca.

After flying the first sector Palma de Mallorca to Madrid on an Iberia Express A321, we disembarked at Madrid Barajas to change planes. We spent our 6 hours layover (there were no earlier flights due to the thinned out corona flight schedule) in the Iberia Dali lounge.

Our last flight of the holiday was on a smaller Bombardier Mitsubishi CRJ-1000, just seating 100 passengers. As this was a smaller plane we would be boarded by a bus. Once again at the boarding desk passengers that checked-in online had to have their documents and tests checked at the gate, while people like us that checked-in at the airport could just easily be scanned and be let through. Moral of the story, during such exceptional circumstances like a global pandemic requiring extra paperwork to be checked it actually is smarter to just check-in at the airport to have to check already performed at check-in.

The gate agents also had to set aside a bunch of people that did not have the required PCR test and where not Belgian residents returning home. Always make sure to read all the small print and fly to your home country if circumstances make more creative solutions posing a higher risk.

Flight IB8694
From Madrid (MAD) 16:35 to Brussels (BRU) 18:55
Flight Time 1 hours and 44 minutes
Bombardier Mitsubishi CRJ-1000 EC-MXA
Delivered to Air Nostrum in August 2018

At first I was a bit apprehensive about bus boarding. They once again started boarding back to front, but this looked like a dumb idea to me if they would be cramming everyone into one bus anyway.  However Iberia surprised me by only loading 55 people into one bus and thus use two buses to board the aircraft. After a short apron tour we arrived at our aircraft, sporting a special Valencia Football Club livery. We were held on the bus for a bit as they were still boarding a person with limited mobility.

After a short walk across the apron we just climbed the short stairs into the aircraft. Once again we received a greeting and a disinfecting towel at the door. The cabin of this regional jet was of course more cramped than the Airbus A320’s we flew before. Seats where in a 2-2 configuration with no extra seats left open in business class. Even though there were only six seats in business class we had the luck to be offered the option to spread out after boarding was completed as only four seats where occupied, meaning Timothy and I each received two seats for ourselves. The legroom was acceptable while the seats where of an older thickly padded design.

After a lengthy taxi we finally blasted off in the direction of Brussels. Thanks to the engines mounted at the rear of the aircraft the take-off and flight was very quiet at the front of the aircraft with hardly any engine noise.

After take-off we first received a paper copy of the passenger locator form for Belgium. Even though we already filled it in online we still had to fill in a paper copy as well, for the airline to keep in their records. Typical red tape at work here.

After the paper service, the meal service started. While due to corona the normal buy on board service was scrapped in economy (they just received a cup of water), the full service was still in swing in business class. Surprisingly we were offered a choice of two different hot meals, I chose the pasta in a cheese and apple sauce while Timothy selected the fish with some sort of green vegetable. I wasn’t even aware the small CRJ was equipped with an oven, a very nice surprise. On the tray there were also a small bun, a salad with chicory, smoked salmon and a tuna salad and a very nice berry cheesecake for dessert. We were served drinks of choice alongside, a white wine and some water for me, both with a full small bottle and glass. After we finished the meal we were offered a tea or coffee, served in a real porcelain cup.

Of course during the meal we hot some turbulence, making it the utmost priority to not spill any wine. The rest of the flight was rather uneventful, if you wished you could connect to the on-board Wi-Fi network to stream some entertainment it however did not offer exterior connection.

All too soon we touched down and our short holiday came to an end. Our bags appeared on the belt quickly for Brussels Airport standards.

We were also very positively surprised by the standard of the business class service offered by Iberia Regional / Air Nostrum. Iberia and it’s subsidiaries provided us with a better service than expected, especially now during the restrictions of the Covid pandemic. Their new catering provided by Do&Co clearly was a good idea.

Previously on this trip

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