Fantastic Service From American Airlines As Iberia Really, Really Screws Up

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I have done more than my fair share of American Airlines bashing over the past two years (and it has been well deserved) but, right now, I’m incredibly grateful for some truly fantastic service from the airline after it got us out of a serious mess of Iberia’s making.

First, here’s a bit of background information so you know where I’m coming from with all of this.

  • Later this year Joanna, MJ and I are heading to Hawaii for what we hope will be a blissfully relaxing vacation.
  • Because we’ll be in Europe in the days leading up to the trip that’s where we will be originating from.
  • Because Business Class transatlantic saver awards are so scarce we’re not all traveling together – Joanna and MJ are traveling separate to me.

Finding American Airlines Business Class saver awards across the Atlantic can be next to impossible but, early last year, I was lucky enough to find two Business Class saver awards between Madrid and LA for travel on Iberia.

Not only did I find award space from Madrid to LA but I also found it for the return journey too…and on the exact dates I was looking for. That was a huge stroke of luck.

a screenshot of a phone

Iberia is a member of oneworld so I used 115,000 AAdvantage miles and $240 (surcharges & taxes) for each of the Business Class awards and booked them for Joanna and MJ.

We paid cash for Economy Class fares between LA and Hawaii.

This is the routing I booked for them:

a map of the united states

So, what Joanna and MJ ended up with were three separate reservations:

  1. A Business Class award booking for Madrid → Los Angeles on Iberia
  2. A cash fare booking between LA and Hawaii on American Airlines
  3. A Business Class award booking for Los Angeles → Madrid on Iberia

The timings (which are important to this story) were as follows:


  • Wednesday evening – London to Madrid on British Airways
  • Thursday afternoon – Madrid to LA on Iberia
  • Friday morning – LA to Hawaii on American


  • Friday afternoon – Hawaii to LA on American
  • Saturday evening – LA to Madrid on Iberia
  • Sunday afternoon – Madrid to London on British Airways

That’s quite a bit of flying but there were no tight connections, three overnight layovers to break the journey up and, let’s not forget, the comfort of Iberia Business Class on the flights where it counts.

Iberia NEW Business Class Airbus A330-200Iberia A330 Business Class

With all the flights booked and with ticket numbers issued I put the reservations to the back of my mind and, because they weren’t visible in my own American Airlines, BA or Iberia accounts, I didn’t give them any more thought.

In hindsight that was a pretty basic mistake to make.

Fast forward to yesterday.

I went online to check that MJ’s “known traveler number” was associated with all her reservations and, when I tried to access the reservation for her outbound flight, this is what I saw on the screen:

a screenshot of a phone

I knew that wasn’t good……and it got worse when I saw the same message when I went to access the return reservation.

I called up the American Airlines Executive Platinum desk and spoke to an amazingly helpful agent called Tracey.

Tracey took a look at the reservations and quickly found the issue – Iberia had changed its schedule between Madrid and LA back in October and not bothered to let us know.

No phone call, no text message and no email despite all those options being open to the airline.

And this happend last OCTOBER.

It wouldn’t have been too bad if the schedule change had simply involved an earlier or later flight. I’d planned for that eventuality by booking overnight layovers. No, it was a lot worse than that.

What Iberia had done was cancel its Thursday and Saturday flights between Madrid and LA and then move Joanna and MJ to flights on the following days.

This was of no use to us at all as it would mean that Joanna and MJ would miss their outbound flight to Hawaii and then the last flight of their trip back to London.

a sunset over a body of water

Tracey could see just how big of an issue this was and asked if she could put me on hold while she went to see what she could do.

While the hold music was playing I started considering our options – there weren’t any good ones.

There weren’t any Business Class award available across the Atlantic and, from a cash standpoint, even Economy Class fares were looking very expensive.

What also struck me was the fact that, had I not felt the need to check MJ reservation, there was every chance that this issue would not had been noticed until Joanna and MJ went to check in the night before their flight….and they would have been in Madrid by then.

At this point Tracey came back on the line to let me know that she was still trying to see what she could do and the hold music played again.

Just as I was starting to resign myself to the fact that we would just have to bite the bullet and buy Joanna and MJ the expensive Economy Class fares, an email dropped into my inbox….

Invalid request error occurred.

…shortly followed by a second.

I genuinely couldn’t believe the contents of the emails.

Email 1:a screenshot of a phone

Email 2:a screenshot of a phoneWOW!

Tracey had somehow managed to book Joanna and MJ on to American’s own flights between London and LA so they don’t even have to position to Madrid any more.

Just then Tracey came back on the line to tell me what was what and I couldn’t thank her enough – I would have given her the world’s biggest hug had she been standing in front of me at that moment (it’s probably just as well she wasn’t!)

Let me be very clear about the important thing here – there were no award seats available on those flights when I checked on ExpertFlyer….

a screenshot of a table

a screenshot of a computer

…so Tracey must have explained the situation to the American Airlines rate desk and they must have opened up award inventory on those flights especially for us.

How great is that?!

They absolutely did not have to do this because this wasn’t a screw up of American’s making.

Yes, the bookings were made via AAdvantage and with AAdvantage miles but it was Iberia who changed the schedule and it was Iberia who failed to let anyone know what they had done – it’s not American’s responsibility to rectify an Iberia screw up.

Had we been informed back in October that the schedule was changing there may have been something we could have done about it but, as it was, we really were at the mercy of American Airlines….and the airline really came through.

I fully expected to have the miles refunded back into my account but to then be told that there was nothing more that could be done….but American did so much better than that.

We’ve had to swallow the cost of the non-refundable flights between London and Madrid (although I’m going to see if any of our insurances cover this) and there were extra taxes of $300 to pay because the flights now originate out of London….but I can’t say I really care. I’m just happy we don’t have to pay silly amounts of money for Economy Class tickets for Joanna and MJ.

The funny thing about all of this is that, thanks to the monumental screw up on Iberia’s part and to great work by American, Joanna and MJ are now on better flights and in better Business Class seats than they were originally booked to enjoy – there’s something poetic about that.

Thanks American, this time you were fantastic!


  1. Since your MAD-LAX ticket was booked with AA, it is their responsibility to contact you and rectify any issues for this journey. I’d day that this is AA’s fault at not informing you, and them sorting it out.

    I’m not sure I would be as gushing as you in this scenario.

    • Etihad, JAL and Cathay Pacific have all contacted me directly when there have been schedule changes on awards booked through American (and those were comparatively minor) so I fully expect it to be Iberia’s responsibility to do the same.

      Perhaps I’m in a minority but I don’t believe I’ve ever been contacted by American when an award flight (booked for travel entirely on a partner airline) has had a schedule change.

      • In addition, the flights were booked with Iberia flight numbers and not as AA codeshares….so I think that puts more onus on Iberia too.

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