Recently, Iberia ran what could turn out to be the promotion of the year if it gets honored (it’s now over, but you can read more about it here and here). We have received a handful of reports today from readers whose accounts have been closed/suspended and/or whose tickets have been cancelled. To be clear: this does not appear to be affecting everyone, but there have been enough reports of problems of some sort at this point that it seemed prudent to alert readers who are unaware. At this point, I don’t think anyone needs to panic, but there are certainly unanswered questions.
Reader reports of closed / locked accounts
Reader reports both on our blog posts about this deal and via Twitter have thus far indicated that the issue seems to be mostly (though not exclusively) affecting those who created new Iberia accounts — one reader even says that he only made one booking. Most people seem to indicate that their accounts were merely locked out, though one person claimed their account was deleted/closed altogether.
Reader Denise reports that her account and her husband’s account were both locked out and Iberia asked them to complete a form and send that form and a copy of their IDs to Iberia.
Others on Flyertalk reported the same experience. In that case, it would appear that Iberia is trying to be sure that the accounts belong to legitimate humans. This could present a problem for anyone who created an account that didn’t actually belong to them. Those who used their own accounts shouldn’t have a long-term problem here. This might make some sense in terms of temporarily locking accounts with the intent to shut down accounts they viewed to be fraudulent.
It may well be an IT glitch
It’s worth noting that Iberia is not known for their robust IT and multifunctional cutting-edge website. Anyone who booked more than 2 or 3 trips last week likely experienced some amount of frustration with the site and its quirks. In fact, the first Twitter report I saw this morning about this topic asked if anyone was planning to do an article about Iberia having horrible tech glitches today, to which I replied that such an article wouldn’t exactly be…headline news.
However, in the hours since that tweet, more reports have come in via Twitter, Facebook, and our blog posts with people reporting similar experiences in being locked out of their Iberia accounts (though most have not reported cancelled tickets).
However, at least one member of Flyetalk has reported an account that seemed locked earlier and works fine now:
That indicates to me that an IT glitch certainly may be at play here. If your account is locked, your probable best course of action is to sit tight and wait. Iberia might just be experiencing a glitch — and if it is something more nefarious at play (e.g. cancelling the accounts of everyone who created a new account and made 10 bookings), the worst case scenario is likely that your flights are cancelled and refunded and you don’t get the Avios. If that is indeed Iberia’s intent, I think it is unlikely that anything you do to get reinstated right now is going to make a difference.
But a phone rep said….
This is an ideal time to address something that has come up a number of times during this promotion: Phone reps are often wrong. In a situation like this, calling a phone rep is about as effective as calling Joe Pesci. Both can probably make up an answer that sounds good, but it won’t mean much until the points either post or another week or two passes with no points.
Case in point:
As you can see, the phone rep said that this account was deleted because he hadn’t used it in 4 years….and the reality is that it’s only been open for 11 days.
Why does this happen?
I don’t know for sure, but I’ll speculate about it.
Imagine you are a phone rep – purported to represent your company and be the man/woman with the answers for customers who call in. An unhappy customer calls in. He/she asks a question, and you don’t know the answer. Let’s run the scenarios:
A) You admit you don’t know.
Likely outcomes: The customer either asks to speak with your supervisor (making you look bad for not knowing) or becomes irate that you represent this company and don’t know the answer to their question (unpleasant to deal with). Either way, this call isn’t going anywhere for a while.
B) You hesitate
Likely outcomes: The customer doesn’t believe whatever you said and continues to badger you / ask for your supervisor / etc. Very similar to situation #1 – this call won’t be over for a while.
C) You make up an answer
Likely outcomes: The customer believes what you’ve said and hangs up quickly, increasing your number of closed/resolved phone calls for the day. If that customer later finds out you were wrong, they call back and somebody else has to deal with it. If the customer doesn’t immediately believe you, confidently double down until they do (lest they sense your hesitation). Added bonus: There’s even a chance that your answer might be right.
I’m not saying that choice C is the correct answer, but it sure does look like the path of least resistance if you ask a question that the rep doesn’t immediately know how to answer. I don’t think that reps maliciously give out incorrect information — I’m sure they just don’t always know the answer. To make matters worse, you have no paper trail with which to hold them accountable; anyone who has dealt with a company who has had “trouble retrieving the recording” from a previous call can tell you that the phone isn’t usually the best medium.
For those reasons, I prefer Twitter and/or email. Are those methods foolproof? Absolutely not. Companies can and do get things wrong with both of those methods as well. But rather than hitting an unprepared phone agent who is playing defense — not knowing what kind of question will come at them — you’re dealing with someone who has had a moment to read and digest your question and check on the official company line without showing any signs of weakness. It is at least more likely that you’ll get the right answer. If you don’t, you have something to fall back on — whether in terms of trying to hold the airline accountable or making a case for a chargeback based on the company not honoring the promotion that they offered.
For the record, I’ve read that Avios will post on 6/30, Avios will post on 7/1, Avios will post in the next 2-3 days, Avios will begin posting on 7/5 — all of those reports have come from phone reps. If the points do post, I bet it’ll be one of those days, but I doubt that the three agents who guessed that day knew.
But the best course of action….is no action at all
Still, when it comes to a promotion like this, I find that the best bet is to just sit tight. Sure, I could waste hours calling / emailing / tweeting Iberia, pestering them to know if they are going to give me 9,000 Avios for every flight I booked with no intention of flying. And I could get a different response from a phone rep, the Twitter team, and via email and then spend another three hours trying to play each against the other in an investigative search for the deeper truth.
But at the end of the day, I know there are two possible outcomes: I’ll either get the Avios…or I won’t. I think it is extremely unlikely that any human I can reach is going to have much influence in that outcome.
At this point, I’ve only seen one report of Avios posting (and without any screen shots the last I looked). Everyone else seems to be in the same boat — we’re all waiting. I expect that this will likely be an all or nothing situation — with almost everyone getting Avios as expected or nobody getting them.
Maybe Iberia is closing the accounts of those who created a new account and made 10 bookings to game the promotion, justifying that action by saying that those customers violated the spirit of the frequent flyer program. Maybe Iberia had a security breach that caused some sort of loss of data that has not yet been resolved. Maybe Iberia is intending to honor the promotion, but the three people on the IT team are so overwhelmed with the ninety million Avios they need to award to the proper accounts that they are flipping switches in an attempt to figure out how to get the system to credit the Avios and it has temporarily caused some accounts to go down.
I truly don’t know what the outcome will be, but I advise chilling at the moment to wait and see what happens. That’s more or less been my advice for the past week and will continue to be the line I toe for at least another week or the moment when the Avios post, whichever comes first.