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I believe that I was one of the first bloggers to write about last weekend’s Iberia Plus promotion. But it didn’t need my help (although InsideFlyer readers got a head start on the madness!). I don’t really even need to remind you of the terms. You know about it. Your friends know about it. Your extended family have all purchased 10 Iberia flights between Madrid and cities they might not even be aware of. You might even have developed multiple personalities, or at least multiple Iberia Plus accounts…
If you think that this is a phenomenon limited to Europe and North America, you’d be wrong. I’m on my “book tour” of South America and people are talking about it on social media here as well. This promotion has gone truly viral, more so than any bonus mile promotion that I can recall.
So, when faced with the promotion of the decade, why didn’t I buy myself 10 flights, much less go crazy for friends and family?
Will Iberia Plus Pay Out the Avios (and When)?
When Iberia‘s number crunchers arrived to work on Monday morning, they might not have been pleased.
Some bloggers have thrown around a number of 10,000 “travel hackers” participating. I think that is really underestimating the total number. The miles and points blogosphere (+ Flyertalk) can perhaps amplify things so that they seem much larger than their actual real world impact. But if the true number were to be 50,000 promo participants – this is the number of people who apparently bought tickets on LEVEL the first day flights were offered for sale, and that’s just a low cost carrier – then Iberia Plus would be looking at paying out 4.5 BILLION bonus Avios worth perhaps £30-40 million under IAG intra-group accounting rules. That is surely enough to have senior executives (i.e. not just revenue management and marketing) start looking into ways to escape some or all of their commitment.
That said, the promotion was published quite clearly on the Iberia website. Requests for confirmation from Iberia Plus were usually met in the affirmative. So this is definitely no fat finger mistake, adding an extra zero. However…
The vast majority of promo participants do not plan to fly as booked. The T&Cs make clear that the bonus Avios will be clawed back in the case of cancellation. Will somebody decide that “no-show” is equivalent to cancellation? Especially since it will be relatively difficult for any individual IB+ member to do anything about it? Who knows…
What about all of those multiple accounts in the same name? Or those tickets booked using the credit card of a third party? Of those brand new Iberia Plus accounts where the number is being added manually after the purchase?
I do expect to receive 9,000 Avios for each flight booked – subject to the standard Iberia IT woes – but I’m not quite sure when (even though they were promised within 10 days).
Will It Be Possible to Spend All Those Avios Before 1 December?
Once I realised how viral this promotion had gone, I stopped buying Iberia flights as I don’t have particular confidence in being able to effectively use 90,000 Avios for myself, much less for friends and family. Here’s why…
- Iberia no longer offers an equivalent to BA’s Reward Flight Saver. Short-haul flights attract a substantial payment for taxes and surcharges. Poor value.
- Partner rewards are completely non-changeable and non-refundable. This restriction simply doesn’t work for me as my travel plans are never set in stone. Iberia’s IT also makes it more difficult to book partner rewards, which is why I usually recommend to transfer Avios over to British Airways and book partners through Executive Club.
- Part Pay With Avios can offer as little as 0.4-0.5p per Avios on Iberia flights.
Although the poor value from these rewards is still higher than the cost of the cheapest one-way flights people have purchased, the savings is hardly substantial enough to merit such a speculative acquisition of Avios.
What do I like to spend my Iberia Avios on? Long-haul flights in Business Class… The same as practically everybody else reading InsideFlyer regularly (and a large number of the travel hackers who went crazy for this promotion).
But can Iberia handle the increased demand for premium reward seats? Almost definitely not. Iberia has a fleet of approximately 30 long-haul aircraft. If we are being generous, those 30 planes might be able to handle perhaps 50 long-haul flights in each 24-hour period, mostly transatlantic to North and South America. If we roughly assume that 90,000 Avios (plus members’ existing balances) will get two Business Class reward seats on each flight, where do we end up?
50 flights x 150 days (between 1 July and 1 December 2018) = 7,500 total flights
50 flights x 330 days (booking before 30 November as far into the future as rewards are allowed) = 16,500 total flights.
So, we’d be looking at a total of 24,000 flights where Iberia Plus members might want to spend their bonus Avios. Of course, the number is going to be substantially lower, as many flights won’t have award space and relatively few people will want to fly on vacation to El Salvador or Malabo.
But even if Iberia were to offer 2 Business Class reward seats on every single long-haul flight they run, I don’t think it would be enough to mop up all the bonus Avios in the system, much less account for the standard Avios circulating within the system.
And, naturally, if you are Iberia senior executives this week, are you going to offer more premium reward seats, or are you going to offer fewer, so as to cause as many Avios as possible to expire on 1 December or be used sub-optimally? I thought so…
What Did I Do This Weekend Then?
I simply booked a handful of Iberia flights that I am likely to take. If I receive my bonus Avios… great… if I manage to use them before 1 December… even better. In the extreme, I can book some “Air Bridge” rewards on the Madrid to Barcelona shuttle service, since they have no capacity controls.
At some point soon, I will write another post outlining my advice for what you should do once the bonus Avios hit your account, as a second feeding frenzy is surely on its way.
But I didn’t go crazy this weekend. Did you? We’d love to hear in the comments section about your Iberia Plus weekend exploits…