I just spent a lovely weekend in Spain with my wife.
Getting there and back was completely awful.
I flew an airline called Iberia.
Long story, short: They gave us an impossibly short layover so we missed our connecting flight. They lost our bag, They refused to help us find it all weekend. And they canceled our return trip without telling us. All in all, flying Iberia cost my wife and I an extra ~$4,000.
Long story, long…
About eight years ago, my best friend Zach took a bus up from Washington D.C. to visit me in New York.
On the way, he sat next to a girl named Raquel. Somewhere around the New Jersey Turnpike, he leaned over and asked her if she liked the movie she was watching. The move worked!
Sometime in 2014, Zach and Raquel got engaged. Raquel is from Valencia, on the east coast of Spain.
That’s where she and Zach planned to get married. The date: Memorial Day weekend 2016.
This was great news for me, because I love Spain. There are a million reasons, but all you need to know is that the wine is delicious and cheap, and it comes with free food.
So we booked a flight for last weekend.
The itinerary looked easy enough:
- A 9pm Thursday flight out of New York to Madrid, landing at 10:15 AM local time Friday.
- A 11:50 AM flight Friday morning from Madrid to Valencia.
- Three days partying with Zach and Raquel et al in Valencia.
- A 10:20 AM Monday morning flight out of Valencia, landing at 11:15 AM in Madrid.
- A 12:10PM flight out of Madrid, landing at 2:25PM local time in New York.
The problems started when we landed at Madrid on Friday morning. By the time we got off the plane, we only had an hour before our scheduled flight time. Signs at the airport said it would take us 25 minutes to get to our connecting gate. We walked fast, but then we got stuck in a huge passport control line. It took at least a half hour. After we got through, we ran the rest of the way, but missed our flight.
At the customer service counter, a representative told us the next flight we could get on would take off after 10pm. That meant we would miss the rehearsal at Zach’s wedding.
We decided it would be easy enough to take a train to Valencia. Before doing that, though, we wanted to make sure our bag wasn’t on the plane we missed.
The rep told us it was downstairs on a baggage carousel. With that information, we told the rep we would not be waiting for the flight, and we left the gate.
When we got downstairs, the bag was not there.
Another rep told us: Don’t worry, we’ll find it and make sure it gets delivered to your hotel this evening or tomorrow morning at the latest.
So we took a cab to Madrid’s beautiful train station, and took an easy trip to Valencia.
The bag never showed up.
I called customer service that evening and throughout the weekend, and the reps told me they had no idea where my luggage was, but that they would call us as soon as they found it.
This was a bummer because in that suit, my wife and I had packed all our clothes for the wedding: two suits, three dress shirts, a cocktail dress, a fancy lady’s hat for the wedding, extra shoes, underwear, etc.
My wife has a good spirit and the two of us took it all in stride. We weren’t going to let a dumb airline ruin our trip to Spain.
Friday night, we went to a Spanish department store called El Corte Ingles and bought clothes for the wedding and the rest of the weekend.
The clothing bill was ~1,500 Euros. We tried to be cost conscious, but that’s hard when you’re in a huge hurry, don’t speak the language, and need what you need.
We figured at least the clothes came with a good story.
The rest of the weekend was great. Late Sunday night, someone from lost and found at Valencia airport called our hotel to say they had our bags.
Lost and Found didn’t open till 9AM and our flight was at 10:20AM, so we were a little nervous about getting our bag and catching our flight — but it all worked out.
After rummaging through a dark room in a far corner of the airport, my wife emerged triumphant with our bag:
It’s bittersweet, now, looking back on that joyful moment.
As we walked to the the Iberia check-in counter, we talked about how everything had worked out. Sure we had some extra clothes now, but at least we had a great weekend and we were about to fly home.
At the counter, the rep called over a colleague to help. We don’t speak Spanish, so we couldn’t understand what turned into a lengthy conversation.
The pair kept using the word “clase,” and my wife turned to me and said: “Maybe they’re going to upgrade us to Business Class because they lost our bag.”
That’s not what happened.
They told us we didn’t have tickets home.
Apparently, when we decided to take a train from Madrid to Valencia (instead of waiting 10 hours at the airport to take a 10pm flight), we had inadvertently caused the airline to cancel the entire rest of our itinerary.
It would have been nice if the representative we spoke to when we made that decision had told us that would happen.
But she didn’t. Of course she didn’t. Instead, she said whatever she needed to say to make us go away and not be her problem anymore. Just like every single customer service rep we spoke to from Iberia over the weekend (A company called AirHelp that helps passengers file claims against airlines recently named it one of the world’s worst).
A Spanish friend of mine said Iberia’s behaviour with us was typical.
“They are really bad a solving problems.”
He said Iberia’s problems got worse after it was recently acquired by British Airways.
“BA bought Iberia and they are just transforming it into a low cost airline. Employees are either getting fired or being overworked. Their motivation is gone.”
That Monday morning, an Iberia rep said we got a refund for our tickets. Our bank says we did not. Obviously, we’re going to pursue that refund, but what a headache.
We ended up taking a train back to Madrid and flying out on an Air Europa flight at 5:40pm. The extra train and plane tickets cost us about $2,300. Between the extra tickets and the clothes, we had spent almost $4,000.
Fortunately, we bought our original tickets with points and I am able to tell myself that we ended up spending the amount we would have if we just got a really bad deal on flights.
Overall, my wife and I are still really glad we went to Spain. It’s a beautiful country and Zach and Raquel threw a hell of a party.
But I will never, ever fly Iberia again.
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