If you’re just now reading about Iberia’s recent Avios promotion, I’m honestly confused about how you’re removed enough from the hobby to not have heard about it from a million other blogs yet somehow aware that my blog exists. Anyway, you can read more about it on Doctor of Credit (get ready for a SURGE in traffic, Doc). I appreciate DoC’s title on that post (“New Iberia Promotion But Don’t Do It It’s Pretty Bad”) rather than some variant of “OMG GET 90,000 AVIOS FOR ONLY $350!”
I’ll start off by saying that I’m not against buying points on principle. I don’t think points are about “free” travel; I use them as a way to enhance travel and a fraction of the actual retail cost. If buying points gets me an amazing redemption I couldn’t outright afford, I’ll do it. However, points are a terrible investment, so I only buy points if I have an immediate use for them and the opportunity is unusually good and/or unlikely to be repeated. The Iberia definitely struck me as one that’s unlikely to be repeated (probably due to the person who thought of it getting fired), but I still pretty much ignored it. There are a few reasons why:
First, the December 1st expiration date. Just speaking personally, I’d struggle to use up 90,000 Avios by then, given that I already have travel planned for this fall and don’t have enough time off work to take any surprise trips.
Second, I don’t know Iberia from a Spanish hole in the ground. Overall, my Avios game is very weak. I have a handful of British Airways ones and an account with Aer Lingus, but I’ve never gotten around to creating an Iberia account. I don’t know their chart very well, I’m not familiar with their terms, and it seemed like a stupid idea to invest a bunch of money in a currency I don’t understand. Plus, the major benefit of Avios is that they can be transferred among Aer Lingus, British Airways, and Iberia… although the terms of this promotion specifically exclude them from inter-program transfers.
Third, similar to the American Airlines Flight Cents program, it’s not like you could just plunk down $350 and get the 90,000 Avios — you had to actually book ten flights first. I was feeling pretty lazy this weekend, so this might just be me, but that seemed like a lot of work. And that’s coming from a guy who made 600 separate $1.01 Amazon gift card reloads in order to game Flight Cents.
To be honest, given the work involved in maximizing the promotion as well as the ultra-short timeframe to redeem the miles, I’m kind of surprised this took off like it did. As I’ve documented in the past, I have a horrible barometer of what will or won’t be popular among churners, but are there really that many people who have an immediate use for 90,000 Avios that can only be used on Iberia? (Apparently so… One justification I heard is that Iberia’s partner chart for American Airlines domestic awards is really good, although any promotion dependent on American Airlines releasing saver award space should be taken with an entire salt mill, to say nothing of the quickly impending expiration date.)
However, even if the above issues weren’t a problem, there’s the question of whether Iberia actually honors this. I’ll be shocked if they do. I understand that Iberia keeps saying on Twitter that you’ll get the miles even if you don’t fly, but I trust an airline’s Twitter account in situations like this about as much as I trust that email about the forty-seven Russian teens who wanted to Skype with me. Say Iberia did back out of the promotion after you had spent a bunch of money, requiring you had to call in and plead your case… and your big argument in your defense was, “BUT THEY SAID SO ON TWITTER!” Not exactly bulletproof.
I’ve also read that Iberia would want to avoid the PR nightmare that resulted from changing the terms or weaseling their way out of it. How anyone can possibly believe this in 2018 is beyond me (cognitive dissonance is a helluva drug, I guess). Does IAG strike you as the kind of airline conglomerate that gives a fraction of a percent of a fuck about PR? I feel like British Airways accidentally canceling all of their flights out of LHR one day and then trying to back out of EU261 compensation the next speaks to their general contempt for their passengers (at least at the corporate level – their flight attendants have been nothing but wonderful in my experience)… and as PR fuckups go, that’s probably a little worse than not giving tens of thousands of frequent flyer miles to people who booked a bunch of flights they never intended to take. I know it’s easy to feel wronged when you have $350 on the line, but you have to realize your case won’t play very well with a jury… I’m waiting for the story of the person who couldn’t visit her dying grandparent somewhere in Spain because all the inventory was sucked up by churners. There’s probably a bigger downside PR risk if Iberia honors the promotion, to be honest.
Bottom line, something about buying ten flights I don’t intend to take doesn’t sit right with me. (I’m not talking about from an ethical perspective.) Even if Iberia honors the promotion this time, the way airlines track passenger behavior, I’d be worried about having my account canceled or something. Maybe that’s just my paranoia carrying over from banks cracking down on churning, but it seems like a pretty blatant tempt of fate for not that much payoff. Best case scenario I lose $350 and get 90,000 miles that have to be used right away. Worst case scenario I lose $350 and my Iberia account (and whatever collateral damage with other IAG airlines). So that’s why I skipped it.
If you went all-in, I hope for the best for you — I don’t want to be the asshole gloating on Twitter about how I knew better all along, and it will be shitty of Iberia to screw people over when it was their stupid mistake that led to this situation in the first place. Just like with the Swiss/Aeroplan first class debacle, I always want the company to stand up and own their shit, rather than weaseling out of it. But until it all goes to shit, I at least want to get my prediction on the record that it’s all going to shit.
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