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OMG!! Iberia air nightmare

So….long long long story short as I can make it.
Booked daughter thru Expedia to fly American to Boston then Iberia to Seville (a few flights in between).
Check in at American no worries and bag gets checked to Seville. Off she goes. No problems til Iberia in Boston. Gate agent won’t issue boarding passes and won’t let on plane. Says it’s Expedia’s fault. Get a Expedia on the phone and they say not them, it’s Iberia. Let her on plane. Nope. Gate agent won’t budge. I get on phone and BEG agent to call someone else to help. Plane is now boarding. If there had been a problem, AA would have told us at origin. No dice. Won’t help her. Flight leaves, WITH HER LUGGAGE ON BOARD! Cause she had a legit ticket so no reason fir them to pull her bag. She air tagged it and knew it was on the plane as it took off. Totally against FAA regulations!!!
Get Iberia on phone and they admit mistake but zero help as it was booked through American. Get American on the other phone and no help cause it was Iberias fault. At one point I have IA on my phone and hubby has AA on his and both agents are telling each other not their problem.
Meanwhile 20 year old alone in Boston, AA rep office closed and no one will help. Three hours into this fight with both airlines.
Got our travel agent on the phone and asked for help even though she did not book it. In 10 minutes she had our daughter rebooked to fly and we got her into a hotel by the airport.
Her air tag pinged this morning that her bag has landed in Madrid. Call Iberia to get them to help get it moving onto Seville. Told they can’t help but my daughter will have to call herself or go to baggage claim in Madrid and handle it.
What a nightmare and travel agent is now dealing with luggage issue for us. I can not tell y’all how grateful we are that our agent is stepping up to help. I will NEVER book through Expedia and will never not use our travel agent.
Lessons learned.

Now Iberia is saying they can’t help with bag even though it’s their fault AND our agent called the number they gave us for baggage claim but no one spoke English so we are just so sick and tired of this.

Posted by
15130 posts

Not that it would have helped a lot, but I never purchase through ticket brokers; and, all else being equal, I book through the long haul airline.

But thats a horrible situation. So sorry.

Posted by
678 posts

Escalate within Expedia. Tweet at them, ask for supervisors on the phone, FILE A CHARGEBACK WITH YOUR CREDIT CARD COMPANY.

Posted by
275 posts

I never book through third parties for this very reason - it's not worth the hassle if you run into a problem. But I have heard so many horror stories lately about Expedia. I have been hoarding a bunch of Chase Sapphire points, because supposedly they offer a lot of flexibility for use, but apparently the Chase booking portal is now Expedia and I'm reluctant to book anything through them.

Posted by
7014 posts

How many connections did this trip have? How much time between each connection? There's not enough info here to know why your daughter was denied boarding, but I don't think this has anything to do with Expedia. Expedia does not control the boarding process or any policy of an airline (they sell tickets, some with really tight connections); the airline in question (Iberia) is the only one with that authority. It may be the case that your daughter had to manually check-in and get a boarding pass with the Iberia desk in Boston since they'll want to see her passport. As for the travel agent, they do the unglamorous grunt work that can be done by anyone with an internet connection and a phone. I would personally let your daughter figure this out and not stress over it. It could be a good learning experience.

Posted by
14507 posts

I am sorry this has happened, and understand it is very stressful for you and for her. But it is Iberia you should blame—it was their gate agent who denied her boarding. And the plane should not have taken off with her luggage on board.

But the bottom line lesson is: book directly with the airline, not through Expedia.

Edit: I see she is going to Spain to study for 3 months. If she had a one-way ticket to Spain and could not show a student visa to allow her to stay over 90 days, that may be a valid reason to deny boarding.

Posted by
7127 posts

I can tell that this was very alarming to you and upsetting. You probably already have a bit of anxiety about your daughter traveling so far away by herself and then these problems pop up that you are trying to deal with remotely.

I would encourage you to take a deep breath, make sure your daughter is safe and well, and then take a little time to discover what really happened before you make accusations against these companies. I don't think you have any way of knowing that Expedia was really at fault at this time.

Posted by
131 posts

She had all her stuff to get on and that was verified by original agent at home airport. They do all of that just so there will be no issues. She is not staying more than 90 days, that was also addressed at home airport.
She was denied getting on the plane through gate agent error. Iberia admitted that to us right off the bat.
I will NEVER use any third party except our travel agent. We took out insurance for the flight so we may get compensated through them. TA is also pushing airlines to reimburse for expenses.

The worst part was that neither airlines would help. Both saying the other needed to fix. Our TA cut through the bullshit in no time.

I am writing a long letter to the CEO’s of both companies and including every single other email I can find from Customer service to Board of Directors.

As for our girl, she spent the night at the hotel near airport. Navigated the shuttle and even ordered Pizza to the room. She has learned so much but missed stuff in Seville as well.

Lessons learned for sure.

Posted by
9868 posts

When the dust settles it would be interesting to hear more details of what happened.

1- If AA was able to check the bags to Seville, why did they not issue all the boarding passes at the start of the journey?

2- Why did Iberia refuse to allow her on?

3- Have you reported the 'no passenger on plane' luggage issue to FAA ( or whatever agency) ?

4- What does this mean-- Booked daughter thru Expedia to fly American to Boston then Iberia to Seville (a few flights in between)

Posted by
7127 posts

When you write those companies, it would be a great idea to have someone who is not as emotionally involved read your correspondence first to see if you can eliminate a bit of the emotion and words to get the letter as concise and emotion free as possible. You are likely to get better results that way.

edited to say I can see Nick and I were thinking alike on this.

Posted by
131 posts

Wrote letter to both CEO’s of AA and IA and copied every single email I could find on both sites and parent sites. The Iberia agent told me to send a complaint letter to Iberia so I blanketed them all. I have been in customer service for 30 years. I am well aware that if you want a response, it needs to be thought out and well crafted and it needs to go to everyone.

1. AA told us they could not issue boarding because it was Iberia system and she could get at gate
2. Gate agent said her locator number on her ticket should start with 075(IA number) but hers started with 011(AA number). That was the issue. The gate agent didn’t understand why it wasn’t an 075 number. Expedia tried to tell her because it was booked through AA and partnered with IA. Gate agent could grasp it.
3. Was unaware I could report it. Not sure I want to until she has her bag in her hands!!
4. We booked flights through Expedia. The first two flights, RDU to Charlotte and Charlotte to Boston were on American Airlines. Then in Boston she switched to AA partner, IA to fly to Madrid.

Again, IA admitted the gate agent was at fault and there was no reason not to let her fly.

Posted by
7014 posts

Expedia tried to tell her because it was booked through AA and
partnered with IA. Gate agent could grasp it.

That doesn't sound inaccurate. AA has its own internal record locator numbers that are different from its codeshare partners; Expedia has its own ticket numbers too. You probably booked with Expedia to begin with because they make the ticket purchase simpler by cobbling up two airlines' tickets. It may seem non-intutivie but even code-share partners don't have a seamless ticketing system, as evidenced by the inability to get a boarding pass through American Airlines (plus many people don't get email alerts if one of the "legs" through a code-share gets cancelled, thus imperiling the entire itinerary). Again, it's easy to blame the third party but if you use a third party you have to understand all the nuances when it comes to who is responsibile for what and who actually holds the cards when it comes to boarding and ticketing and other procedures. In retrospect, it probably would have been helpful to bring a printout of the Iberia reservation as a backup (assuming you could go on the Iberia website and pull it up to begin with)

Posted by
565 posts

Always book directly with the airline. Never book airfare, especially multi airline, multi country tickets through a 3rd party site or consolidator.

Posted by
9868 posts

I looked at both AA and Iberia and neither has a RDU-SVQ itinerary that goes through BOS.

Appears expedia was 'creative' in assembling the trip.

Surprising there wasn't a 2nd gate agent in Boston who might have been more knowledgeable. Only one agent there to board a 260+ seat plane?

Hope all ends well.

Posted by
439 posts

OP, I am on your side. Quite frankly the gate agent could have given a decent customer service response and helped you out. It was that simple. We can all parse it all kinds of ways, but ultimately it boils down to courtesy and customer service.

Posted by
4116 posts

In addition to always book with an airline, always make sure that your reservation is visible in each airline's website that you plan to fly. I wonder if the flyer needed to check in and obtain her own boarding pass for the Iberia fight, and it was too late to check in at the gate? It can also happen that a person can't get a boarding pass for all flights because the 24 hour window for the last flight hasn't opened up yet.

A bit of advice: 4 flights is a lot to stack up for one itinerary. There are 3 flight options to Seville using American and Iberia.

Posted by
131 posts

Yes, her original flight was RDU to Boston to Madrid to Seville. Expedia changed her flight to add theCharlotte leg.

Regardless, the AA agent at the RDU ticket counter saw no problems with her flight. None. And no matter what else was going on, no one helped her. And the very fact her bag went on to Madrid means that she was expected on that flight. If it ended for some reason in Boston, it would have been pulled and sent to baggage claim.

This was a failure on many levels. And I’m assuming there might have been more than one agent. But the agent or agents didn’t help her. And Iberia told me the flight wasn’t full.

Again, regardless of how it happened, a gate agents job is to get people on the plane. Expedia was telling them she was on the passenger list, AA saw no issues. The plane wasn’t full. Failure on so many levels.

Posted by
2825 posts

Cissy, I am sorry. I know you were worried sick and so upset on her behalf! It sounds like she handled it like a travel trooper, though - and will come away with tools to help her travel well in the future.

Ultimately, while booking through a third party is not a good idea, it doesn’t sound like there was a reason to anticipate trouble once she was on her way. I am glad you have written your complaint. I know I would have done the same.

I will say again, having done it three times last year, international travel during Covid is not for the faint of heart, but it’s easy for people sitting at home to think they know what you “should have done”.

Posted by
4116 posts

her original flight was RDU to Boston to Madrid to Seville. Expedia changed her flight to add the Charlotte leg.

That's too bad, it went from an unpleasant trip to a trying in the best of times trip. Aside from not using Expedia, it might have been easier to just drive to Dulles for an Iberia-only 2 flight itinerary.

Posted by
2014 posts

Another voice to say sorry to hear this experience. Thank you for sharing and adding all the details as well as answering questions that will help others avoid a situation like this in the future.

Several things about this confuse me, having flown international codeshare flights on an itinerary ( one was even separate tickets):
If she checked in for her original flight with AA, why didn’t they issue all the boarding passes for all her flights? Did she go through an actual check in process with AA where they checked her passport, etc? Or was AA treating her flight to Boston as a trip between departure city and Boston? Was it all part of one reservation or did Expedia put together different flights and sell as one reservation?Were there other flights within this itinerary that weren’t codeshare?

Whenever we’ve had international flights that fall outside the 24 hour window, the check-in desk has issued boarding passes, recognizing that we would be in transit. Why was AA saying she had to check in with Iberia gate?

Posted by
131 posts

The original AA agent did all the checks for passport, Covid vaccine card, Covid negative test results and QR code. Made sure she wasn’t staying more than 90 days…..all of it.
I have absolutely no idea why we were told she had to get passes in Boston. She put a tag on the luggage for SVQ cause I saw it.
We will probably never know why she didn’t give her the boarding pass.

Posted by
9416 posts

Let my cynical side take over: Overbooked flight? Avoiding paying passenger compensation?

Posted by
4116 posts

Noting that whenever an airline adds a flight to an itinerary, you can get you money back and book something else.

Posted by
131 posts

Not overbooked. The Iberia agent we later spoke to said the flight was not full.

Posted by
2207 posts

Cissy, what a frustrating experience. In the past few months, I've flown often and encountered similar issues on a couple of occasions, most recently in Lisbon, and ironically enough, on Iberia departing from Seville. My problems arose when checking in and because I'd booked directly with both airlines and had all my "required docs," I simply stood at the counter and repeated the mantra, "Supervisor please." I refused to move until a supervisor came to assist and in each case, they spotted "whatever the problem was" quickly and I was processed and allowed to fly. I was polite but firm. (The alternative was to get stuck in a foreign country!).

I process perhaps 200-250 flights a year and have encountered many unique circumstances. In November, I had a group of 12 headed to Africa with multiple legs on multiple airlines. Each time there was a change, I had to rewrite up to 12 separate itineraries - Combined, that came to 238 versions before they eventually departed due to the changes by the airlines. (In one case Delta decided they were no longer flying to Capetown and changed my clients' flights to arriving in Johannesburg instead. That didn't work too well with their local Capetown connection). Yes, even booking direct, airlines can be a pain. Kudos to your TA for jumping in.

Today - unfortunately - the role of the gate attendant has changed dramatically, Now, they are the "arm of the local and destination governments." There are no US or Spanish gov't officials making sure you have the correct paperwork before you depart - that all falls on the shoulders of the gate and check-in personnel. Their workload probably quadrupled. Not making an excuse, but they are overwhelmed and frustrated. There are HUGE fines if someone boards a plane without the proper documentation. In addition, there's the concern that "a COVID outbreak" traced to a specific flight could cause negative press/reaction to the brand (We saw that here at AMS with the KLM flight from South Africa). So they tend to err on the side of caution. And - overwhelmed - they rely on their computer systems for support.

In reference to your AA vs IA coding, last year, I had a traveler with fours names on his passport, the first name being Henry. Unfortunately, when the ticketing agent typed in his name, it came out on the computer as He nry. Frankly, looking at it on the ticket confirmation, because of the font used, you could not see the "space." But when he went to check-in, the computer spotted it and denied him boarding. He called us ASAP and It probably took us 30 minutes to find that error. (it was hard to see on paper) Fortunately, we were able to get that fixed and him on his way.

I guess a couple of suggestions I would have:

  • As mentioned always book direct. (we have an internal booking group and THEY always book direct with the airline)
  • After your booking, go to the airlines' websites and verify your 6-digit PNR (confirmation code) for each flight and the corresponding flight numbers
  • Always - if possible - use the COVID-provided systems to upload your COVID documents and other required info. AA and Iberia both use VeriFLY and this is sort of your "insurance policy" as it forces them to link you to the flights you are referencing. The Desk and Gate agents ALSO LOVE THIS OPTION as it relieves the pressure on them... and they can blame the computer program if there's a mistake. I've used it on AA and BA multiple times and we breezed through at the check-in desks. (Granted I spent some time at home the night before swearing at my phone as I tried to upload documents)
  • If you hit a bump, be polite, stand your ground, and DON'T LEAVE the counter area until you talk to a Supervisor. If it's still not going your way, WRITE DOWN EVERYONE's NAME you talk with. Politely ask their name if they have no nametag. That always seems to get things moving (then or later)
  • If all else fails, call your TA!
Posted by
266 posts

You absolutely have my sympathies...yes, I too, always book direct...however, the customer service aspect, the lack of assistance, the lack of "someone" attempting to solve this issue regarding your daughter, to me, would be very disturbing had I experienced it. Yes, I believe the airlines do a wonderful job moving all of us all over the world, and in any business, there are errors, but generally, there is a protocol and a back-up plan that should be implemented. I deeply appreciate your experience, and wish you and your daughter the best in future travels. PS. Years ago, while checking in at SFO to London, my reservation was denied because -and yes, I take full blame-the hyphen was omitted from my name and I did not notice it. I was within seconds of buying a ticket right then, and just eating the other, or dealing with it upon return. A supervisor happened to walk past, and after about 20 minutes, I was allowed to use my reservation and was allowed to board. I was forever appreciative of the assistance, and yet, was ready to just dive in for the 2nd ticket. Things do happen while travelling, especially now. Safe and wonderful travels ahead for you!

Posted by
131 posts

Guess who called me this evening? A lovely lady from the American Airlines corporate office in response to my email to every executive I could find, including the CEO.
She was very nice. She discussed with me what the notes in Elizabeth’s file indicated and from what she was reading, the gate agent was incorrect in her assessment of the ticket and fully in the wrong. Elizabeth should have been on that flight.
But alas, it was not American who made the mistake. Solely Iberia’s fault. Let’s see if we get a call from them.

Posted by
4116 posts

Noting something else: when you already have an online account with an airline, the names are always spelled correctly in any ticket that you buy because it transfers right from the account to the reservation.

Posted by
9868 posts

Did the AA caller have an explanation of why they tagged the bags to SVQ, but "couldn't" print all the boarding passes?

Posted by
131 posts

I asked her why they weren’t printed at RDU but she did not know.

Posted by
8620 posts

Ron — thank you for your very useful and detailed post. I wish you could post that as a “sticky” somewhere so more people could benefit from it !

I am certainly bookmarking it.

Posted by
131 posts

Tackled the Expedia portion of this saga tonight. Let them know she was denied entry onto the plane. They are opening an investigation as well. Interestingly enough, the agent said the following when asked if there was an easier way to get in touch with them during an emergency like this.
“When using Expedia, you need to give yourself three hours in advance of your flight to call about any issues or problems due to the high call volume.” Wow.
My takeaway is don’t use Expedia. 😂

Posted by
6 posts

I learned by mistake a long time ago that if I fly on a ticket issued through AA on a codeshare with a second airline I must have both locator codes handy for every call, every transaction. I sit here now looking at my AA booking on Finnair to Paris in May and have both the AA record locator and the Finnair confirmation code at the ready.

Very sorry for the hassles you and your daughter experienced but I love her recovery and ordering that pizza - hopefully a "slice" of home for comfort.

Posted by
131 posts

She is tougher than we thought! And LOVING Spain so much. Fir her return flights, we have BOTH numbers and our travel agent will be standing by to assist.
Great info for anyone traveling and I appreciate the post!!

Posted by
3761 posts

Hi Cissy, I have read this entire thread and I am bowled over by the plethora of mistakes made.

I am going to make a comment that probably comes out of left field. I had a heart attack 8 1/2 weeks ago. I’m 52 years old and not overweight nor am I a smoker. I suggest that your daughter makes her own travel itinerary from now on and that you only focus on making reservations for you and your husband.

I could hear the amount of stress you were enduring all from your words. And the stress of course was very real! I don’t want you having a heart attack. Please don’t let anything happen to you. The stress you endured for your daughter’s travels had me worrying about your heart.

Unless she is a minor, let her make her own travel itinerary. ❤️

Posted by
131 posts

I’m so sorry about your heart attack! Must have been very scary.
I think we will be going through our travel agent from here on out to take the stress out for all of us.
Elizabeth is in touch with our TA and they are making sure she is ready to travel home in April. We agree and are stepping out of it unless she needs us. We are letting the pro handle it!!
Take care ❤️❤️❤️

Posted by
8807 posts

When you’re a mom, it is extremely difficult not to get involved.

Cissy, many of us have learned from you posting your experience here. Thank you for taking the time.

Posted by
5034 posts

The gate agent clearly hasn't been trained very well in reading customer tickets. The IATA three digit accounting code merely indicates which airline has sold the ticket, 001- being AA and 075- being IB.

Iberia is part of the "Atlantic Joint Business Agreement" with American Airlines, Aer Lingus, British Airways, and Finnair. You can use any of the airlines websites for booking flights, online check-in and to get your boarding pass for any eligible flight across the airlines, so seeing an 001- ticket on an IB transatlantic flight should be nothing unusual. Behind the scenes the revenue is all shared out appropriately.

Regarding compensation I'd be looking at the minimum for the involuntary denied boarding level, presuming all the documentation was in place, which in this case would be €600 if the arrival delay was over 4 hours.

Posted by
121 posts

So sorry, I can't even imagine the frustration and worry. Sounds like your daughter is lucky to have a mom like you. Good luck with the bag, I'm glad she is safe and heading out soon.

Years ago I booked a domestic flight through Expedia and I lost my boarding pass. Got to the airport and airline nor Expedia would help, so I booked another flight one way eventually. Agent I think it was AA told me never to book this way again, always book through the airline. I now always do. Lesson learned, and it was no where near the issue you had.

Posted by
320 posts

Hi Cissy- Your experience is not unique in this Endimic age. Try to do something out of the ordinary with your ISP /telephone/Cable TV provider. Or your bank, 401(K), or Gas and Electric company. I won't even mention car dealers, restaurants, grocery stores, hospitals, hotels, and the list goes on.

Those who preach "never purchase travel through a 3rd party" are correct. But keeping 3rd parties in the "DO NOT USE" box does not guarantee that all will go well when only using non- 3rd parties. . I once flew from San Diego to Seattle with a change in carriers from Seattle to Amsterdam. I was given boarding passes for both flights in San Diego. When I asked the San Diego agent to confirm that the boarding pass from Seattle onward was good to go she replied "No Problem". Of course we nearly missed our connection in Seattle because I did not double check when arriving in Seattle to be sure the onward boarding passes given to us in San Diego were valid . We were stopped when trying to board. Fortunately there was enough time for us to return to the check-in desk and get valid boarding passes.

Always get a hard copy of confirmations - If this is denied it should raise a caution flag. Confirmation hard copies shown to managers with authority has saved my bacon many times.

BUYER BEWARE is a good motto to remember, and if the deal sounds to good to be true it most likely is NOT TRUE!!!

Posted by
142 posts

When leaving the US you checkin with the operating carrier who operates the first flight AA being the case here. Sometimes you will be asked to get an Iberia Boarding Pass on Iberia ticket stock. What I would do in the future is to complete the online checkin on both the AA and IB website to ensure that IB and AA have the same info. Sometimes the IB website will direct you to the AA website since they will be the ones checking your bags to Sevilla and verifying travel Documents.

Your Boarding Pass must say "DOCS OK" Status"HK or OK(Holding Konfirmed). You can ask IB to send you a copy of your itinerary right after booking with an E Ticket# and AA to do the same and you will see the ETicket# there too. Sometimes Iberia will have another Record Locater#.

Whenever I book a flight no matter how its booked I call up the airline and give them the PNR and ask them "Has it been ticketed" if not I call a day later. I call all airlines on the itinerary and ask the same question. Or I go online and look for the E TIcket#. Then I select my seats and make any requests and add my Frequent Flier details.

A Confirmation# is just paperweight you need an ETicket# which means that the airline was paid by Expedia and that you have a contract with Iberia. Without this you will not be allowed on as they could have sold your seat to someone else.

Did you make sure your Credit Card was Charged? As the OP its also your responsibility to ensure the ticket was ETicketed. I am sorry you had an issue and I hope in the future you can take my advice to avoid this.