Credit card sign-up bonuses are one of the best ways to earn lots of miles or points fast. But in their efforts to convince you to sign up, some miles & points websites don’t provide the “whole story”. This issue is especially relevant with Iberia Plus. Although it offers some interesting sweetspots – such as 34,000 Avios (miles) each way for reward flights in Business Class between certain US cities and Madrid, Spain – there are many downsides that you might not be aware of.
Iberia’s award chart has peak and off-peak pricing
Iberia charges a higher number of Avios to travel on “peak dates”. However, it doesn’t publish a calendar of peak and off-peak dates. Moreover, the Iberia award booking engine sometimes mistakenly shows off-peak pricing, only to revert to the correct “peak” pricing during the booking process.
So that “34,000 Avios each way in Business Class”? Not a problem if you are flying in February. Forget about Easter, July, August or Christmas though…
You cannot really “change” an award booking – you usually must cancel and rebook later
If your plans change – perhaps you want to fly via Madrid to Paris instead of Rome – you might think that a simple call to Iberia Plus would be sufficient.
Unfortunately not… the only “change” that agents can make is a date change, keeping the origin, destination and transit point the same. Anything else requires a cancellation and subsequent re-booking. Why is that a problem? Well… it can take several days for Iberia’s back office to process the cancellation. Meaning that the award space might be gone before your Avios have been returned to your account. If you wanted to rebook the same international flight to/from Madrid, that award space might NEVER come back…
Business Class award space isn’t likely to appear later (if you can’t see it now)
Some people like to book an award flight, then check regularly to see whether award availability appears in a premium cabin.
First of all, Iberia agents cannot “upgrade” your award ticket for you. So that strategy relies on having a healthy enough Avios balance to cancel one ticket and immediately rebook another (without your original Avios having been refunded).
But secondly, Iberia is not known for releasing additional Business Class award space leading up to a flight. Iberia would rather Business Class seats fly empty… than allow people to strategically book Economy or Premium Economy with a view to upgrading pre-flight.
You might sometimes get lucky. If another Iberia Plus member cancels their reward on the flight you desire, that award space sometimes becomes available again.
Partner awards are completely unchangeable / non-refundable
Plans change… but not if you have booked an Iberia Plus reward flight on a partner airline. Only reward flights booked on Iberia or British Airways can be cancelled for a refund.
A Vueling flight booked as an Iberia flight code? NON-refundable! An American Airlines flight booked using Iberia Avios? NON-refundable.
So even if the Oneworld partner award chart looks tempting – and it sometimes does – you should book elsewhere if you have even the slightest doubt about your plans.
Customer service is the WORST, if you can even get through…
Iberia’s call centers are swamped. Unless you are really lucky, most calls will disconnect after three minutes on hold. Spanish speakers have a slightly better chance of getting through.
Once you manage to speak to an agent, you will soon find out that they are not empowered to make any important decisions. Ask to speak to a supervisor? You are just as likely to be hung up on, as to be transferred to somebody who can fix your problem.
Don’t think it matters? Well, you can book award flights online, but you cannot change or cancel them online. Sometimes an airline cancellation can be managed online – often it can’t. So… chances are that you will actually need to call Iberia Plus when you book using your Avios…
You don’t have to book each reward flight separately
Some people have become confused by Iberia’s award pricing methodology. Yes you pay a certain number of Avios to fly to/from Madrid, and an additional number of Avios to fly beyond Madrid to another other Iberia destination.
But you can almost always book them together on the same ticket, meaning that you are protected in the event of delayed flights, etc.
There are, of course, situations where you might want to book your flights separately. Just be aware of the pitfalls of attempting to “connect” on separate tickets…
You must “activate” your account before using it
Several readers have reported problems buying Avios, or transferring them to British Airways Executive Club. This is often due to having an unused, “unactivated” Iberia Plus account.
To avoid fraud, etc. Iberia Plus requires that your Iberia Plus account be at least 90 days old, and to have had some earning activity. That can usually be a credit card point transfer, but crediting a flight, hotel or car rental to your Iberia Plus account is definitely the best.
And please don’t make your first reward booking in somebody else’s name, unless you want an account block and audit…
The bottom line
Iberia Plus has many appealing features – low cost Business Class rewards for starters – but before you sign up for that credit card or convert some Chase points, you should also be aware of some of its downsides. These are easy enough to avoid, as long as you are aware of them in the first place…