Iberia started life as a government-owned monopoly back in the days when each country wanted to have a "flag carrier". Even though we now have competition, it is still Spain's dominant airline, and so if you live here, you cannot avoid it completely.
Iberia was privatised in 2001 and became part of the International Airlines Group (IAG), owned by British Airways, in 2011. Sadly, each airline continues to operate under its own brand and with its own corporate culture, so none of the service and work ethic prevalent at BA has rubbed off on Iberia. It continues to provide terrible service, and many of its employees still act as if they were still working for a government-owned monopoly. They behave like funcionarios, in the worst sense of the word.
I have started this site to document my own experiences with this airline. More precisely, the straw that broke the camel's back was a trip to Vienna in November 2015 which went totally wrong and provides a great illustration of Iberia's lack of competence and its complete indifference to its customers.
I hope that other victims of Iberia's "service" will share their stories too, and I will publish them here as well.
November 2015: A trip to Vienna, gone bad...very bad!
This is the trip that made me set up this web site. I was booked to fly from Alicante to Vienna on 2 November 2015, to attend a conference starting the next day. The flight details were:
IB8393 Alicante-Madrid, departure 13:25, arrival 14:35
IB3122 Madrid-Vienna, departure 15:45, arrival 18:45
It was my first trip ever to Vienna, and I was looking forward to having a free evening before the conference began the following morning.
As is my habit, I arrived at Alicante airport in good time--I travel a lot, and I hate to have to hurry in airports. By 12:3o I was through security and relaxing in the lounge. Then the message came that the flight to Madrid was delayed until 15:30. This obviously meant that I would miss my connection to Vienna in Madrid. But our in-house travel agency recommended that I should still go to Madrid that afternoon and let Iberia put me up in a hotel for the night and re-book me on a morning flight to Vienna. Indeed, I had checked the Iberia web site and seen that there was an 8:45 flight from Madrid to Vienna the next day--I would miss the morning of the conference, but OK. I was annoyed that no reason for the delay had been provided, but as a frequent traveller, I am used to delays that are only explained later by the pilot on the plane.
At around 15:00 I left the lounge and went to the gate but there was no plane, no information, just a lot of frustrated passengers. No Iberia personnel at the gate, no information, nothing. There is an Iberia office in the departure hall, but it was closed for unexplained reasons, in the middle of the afternoon on a weekday.
Then it was announced (just on the monitors, still no Iberia humans in evidence) that the flight was delayed until 18:30. So I went back to the lounge to wait. But then around 16:30 it was announced by the lounge attendants that the flight was cancelled. Since the Iberia counter in the transit area was still closed, my only option was to go to the Iberia counter in Departures, where one person had to deal with a planeload of passengers who needed to be rebooked somehow. Many of them were flying via Madrid to various cities in South America, so rebooking arrangements were complex and it took at least 5-10 minutes, often longer, to take care of each traveller.
Look closely at the photograph above. On the left you can see two employees doing internal tasks, leaving one stressed woman to deal with about one hundred tired, frustrated and increasingly angry passengers. This is Iberia's idea of customer service.
I spent almost 3 hours waiting in that line. Finally, it was my turn around 19:15. By then there were no more flights to Madrid and the early morning flight from Madrid to Vienna was full (I could still have made it to Madrid on the AVE high-speed train but it was pointless). So I ended up getting rebooked on a Vueling flight to Vienna via Barcelona the next day. I arrived in Vienna late in the afternoon, thus missing the entire first day of the conference.
Throughout this ordeal, no explanation was provided by Iberia. To this day, I have no idea why the flight was cancelled. The weather was good, there were no strikes anywhere in Europe, so clearly no force majeure was involved. I can accept that a flight gets cancelled. This can happen to any airline. But I have never experienced such poor customer service as I did today from Iberia. So I have now instructed our in-house travel agency to avoid Iberia unless there are no other options. And if I ever have to travel via Madrid, I will take the train to Madrid, every time.
Now the story continues...according to EU rules, I am entitled to €600 compensation from Iberia. After returning to Alicante on 5th November, I filed the claim on Iberia's web site. I should note that it was exceedingly difficult to find the claim form on the site--obviously, Iberia does not want to make it easy for its victims, I mean "customers", to file complaints.
A week later, I received this message from Iberia, saying basically nothing:
Madrid, 13 de noviembre de 2015
Estimado señor Wajsman:
Le escribo en relación con el vuelo IB 8393 del 02 de noviembre de 2015 y le doy las gracias por haberse dirigido a nosotros.
Le pido disculpas por las molestias que le ha ocasionado la cancelación de su vuelo. Somos conscientes de la importancia que supone en un viaje que se respete el horario programado, por lo que ponemos todo nuestro esfuerzo para evitar que se produzca esta incidencia.
A veces, se producen averías inesperadas que nuestros técnicos tienen que reparar para garantizar la seguridad y que nos obligan a cancelar el vuelo. Entiendo que su viaje haya sido más cansado y aunque la causa no esté bajo nuestro control, hacemos lo posible para disminuir los inconvenientes proporcionando, en función de las alternativas disponibles, el modo más rápido para llegar a su destino. Todos los días analizamos las incidencias y hacemos planes de mejora ante estas situaciones. Siento si la información o la ayuda que le proporcionamos no fue suficiente.
Le agradezco de nuevo que se haya puesto en contacto con nosotros, porque su colaboración nos permite mejorar. Esperamos seguir disfrutando de su confianza.
Iberia. Centro de Atención al Cliente
On 8th December, another message from Iberia, saying even less than the previous one:
Madrid, 08 de diciembre de 2015
Estimado señor Wajsman:
Al conocer su disconformidad ante nuestra respuesta, he vuelto a analizar su caso y he comprobado que la resolución que le proporcionamos fue la correcta.
Espero que comprenda las razones que han motivado mi respuesta y aprovecho la ocasión para saludarle atentamente.
Iberia. Centro de Atención al Cliente
So until now, Iberia is giving me the one-finger salute. They are not explaining the flight cancellation, they are (apparently) refusing to pay compensation, and their communications are utterly pathetic. I will continue to pursue the case, but I have little hope of actually seeing any compensation in my bank account.
Please include as many facts as possible. Be specific. Do not be emotional. Tell us what happened, and how Iberia let you down.