Following the drama of booking our flights to Peru, I really thought Iberia Airlines’ customer service couldn’t get any worse. I couldn’t have been more wrong!
“we’re unable to confirm your seats as Iberia have cancelled your tickets, you need to speak to Iberia about your booking.”
With no other information, the other half rings BA whilst I go down to breakfast with mum. When we return about 30 minutes later, BA are categorically assuring him that the booking is fine, the seats are booked and we have nothing to worry about.
As we need to catch our flight to Lima, we head to the airport. On the way to the airport, we check the status of the booking on the Iberia app, Iberia website, BA app and even the Finnair website. Everything shows a confirmed booking. The BA app even shows the ticket numbers.
Nonetheless, once we clear security, we find a quiet spot to ring Iberia. Mid-conversation, they cut us off. We call again. Mid-conversation, they cut us off. Feeling buoyed by the call to BA and every website we check showing the booking as confirmed, we figure everything must be ok.
We spend the day in Lima and head to the airport early, arriving about 4 hours before departure. Lima Airport has some decent looking lounges and bars which take Priority Pass which I was looking forward trying out. I get checked in ok, but mum and the other half are told that their tickets have been cancelled!
A heated discussion ensues as we explain everything leading up to now, but the BA check-in staff aren’t interested. As far as they’re concerned, this is our problem to take up with Iberia, regardless of Iberia not wanting to speak to us.
The BA check-in manager is useless but one of his staff eventually starts being helpful. She agrees to call Iberia and speak to them in Spanish which turned out to be a massive help. They were difficult with her too and you could see the look of frustration on her face. The hour long phone call determined that the tickets were cancelled in November 2018 but there’s no notes in the booking to say why and Iberia will not reinstate the tickets.
The realisation that our only option was to buy new tickets – at a cost of nearly £3000 – hits. The last 90 minutes have been the most stressful I’ve ever experienced whilst travelling and I’m visibly upset, crying in the middle of the check-in hall. I’d put so much effort in to making this holiday perfect, a once in a lifetime trip that we’d all remember forever and it was being so spectacularly ruined right at the last minute. And then there was the worry; had I done something wrong? Had I missed something? Was this all my fault?
As I’d ran out of free airport WiFi and couldn’t connect to the premium service, the kind BA lady let me tether to her phone to get online and book new tickets. Some of her other colleagues were less charitable and pointed and laughed at me for being so upset. I’d like to see them hand over £3k and still be laughing!
Fortunately, I know a little bit about travel and I know how travel systems work. The BA lady lets me see the booking on her system and even printed the notes from the booking for us. Whilst I knew the significance of the November date from the previous complaint, it was immediately clear that Iberia had messed up; the tickets were cancelled but the booking itself was still live. A full cancellation process clearly hadn’t been followed which is why the booking still showed live on all websites and apps. The seats had also been on hold for nearly 7 months without any live tickets against them. That in itself wasn’t right.
The notes in the booking were interesting as they didn’t appear to be written in any legible language. Not English, Spanish or even any travel speak that’d I’d come across before.
I obviously complained to both BA and Iberia once we’d got home. BA resolved the complaint and agreed that Iberia clearly hadn’t cancelled the booking properly but as Iberia was the ticketing agent, BA couldn’t say why. I understood that. This problem wasn’t BA’s.
Iberia took longer to reply but surprised me with the promise of a refund of the replacement tickets without argument. Based on my last experience, I fully expected a long, protracted and legal battle to get that money back. I literally instructed a solicitor to look at the case a few days before Iberia replied after the legal assistance on our home insurance said we had a clear breach of contract claim.
Iberia gave no explanation as to why they cancelled the tickets, but my guess is that they got confused when responding to my previous complaint and cancelled the tickets in error. Somehow, when refunding a €30.00 telephone booking fee, the managed to cancel the tickets on a completely seperate booking. I’d like to think that this was a genuine mistake but there’s clearly significant problems in Iberia’s processes if they can cancel tickets without notifying the customer.
Iberia make me laugh though. They said they’d refund the cost of the replacement tickets – £2763, but wouldn’t refund the non-sterling transaction fee levied by my credit card company of £82. They then emailed to say they’d refunded £2807. I’m still not sure how they arrived at that figure but to be honest, I don’t care.
In terms of compensation for the almighty stress and upset? They’ll give mum and the other half 5000 Avios as a gesture of goodwill. But nothing for me. I wasn’t affected by this, apparently.
Needless to say, this was the worst experience I’ve ever known in travel. Even in 20 years of booking travel on behalf of clients, I’ve never come across a scenario like this before. It truly was horrendous and I can safely say that I will never, ever, ever fly with Iberia Airlines again.