Flying British Airways / Iberia to Chicago Via Madrid - Trip Review

Flight to Chicago Iberia BA
Flying to Chicago via Madrid with British Airways
on Iberia Code Share, our personal experience.

It is not often I complain about anything, in fact, it has to be said that when it comes to complaining I am very typically British, for example, should I receive completely the wrong sandwich order I am typically the one that would smile politely and just get on with eating whatever monstrosity I had been provided, such is my objection to “causing a fuss”.

I am also pretty negative about complaining in general because I own a large hospitality business myself,  so I know that in the vast majority of cases complaints are fleeting, often over exaggerated and often not that big of a deal.

There are a time of course, ( I have them in our own business) when fuck ups and bad service reach such monumental proportions that even the most bashful of complainers must indeed step forward and proclaim their unhappiness, even if doing so is just to share the experience so others do not make same mistake.

This is my personal and factual experience of flying with British Airways via Madrid to Chicago from Bordeaux. This is, of course, my own personal experience, yours may be different.

My first issue was being sold the tickets at all.

We were sold tickets from Bordeaux to Chicago connecting in Madrid with a 50 minute connection time.  Madrid is a huge airport and in retrospect, there is no way on earth that a connection from our landing gate, to the train, through passport control, back to check in at gate S where the Iberia flight departs is at all possible in less than an hour.

All of the Iberia staff seemed to know this, it was common knowledge.

This is my first peeve, flying from Bordeaux to Chicago via Madrid, British Airways should have known that the minimum connection time was more than 50 minutes and wasn’t possible.  You are not allowed to sell airline tickets that don’t allow for an MCT of the destination/hub airport.

Even with landing in Madrid, running from the arrival to the connection train and even after pushing to the very front of the passport line shouting ” Our flight is about to depart” still meant that we were 15 minutes late for the connection and only greeted by miserable headshakes from Iberia ground staff.

So, sorry British Airways – there is no way on earth that you should have sold us this flight and it should be updated in your system – you sold me a dud, had we known the connection was not possible we simply would never have booked that fight and would have connected in the UK instead.

You mis-sold this ticket in my personal opinion, you sold it unfairly and with deceptive practices in full knowledge that it was impossible for an able-bodied person or a family of 3 at full sprint being able to make the connection.

That brings me to Iberia’s role in this carbuncle of a flight, we asked 3 separate Iberia ground staff to help us from the arrivals gate to the departure gate, as soon as we saw that it would take us 25 minutes to get between terminals at we were at risk of not making the connection.

The response on all 3 occasions was not to arrange transport, or phone the departing plane or to rush escort us through passport control,  but to simply say “we must go quickly” – no one helped us or seemed interested in helping us at all. We were polite, smiley, non shouty and still we were treated like crap.

When we arrived at gate S50 the plane was still at the gate, we had pushed our way with a 3-year-old to the front of the queue and ran for a solid 20 minutes with a 5-year-old to get there on time, still, the computer said no, the man at the flight boarding turned round to tell us quite rudely that there was not enough time for our transfer – thank you BA.

Ok, so rude at the gate, I can understand that as he had effectively been calling us for 10 minutes, so then onto Iberia customer services, staffed by 3 people with 90 minutes waiting time for us to be seen and get served in order to find out what fate awaited us.

I don’t know the last time you waited in a queue for one and a half hours, especially with a screaming 5-year-old and a hungry wife but it’s not pleasant, coming from the service industry, had this been my service desk and looking out at the long queue I would have been calling more troops in for support and to lessen the queue volume – as it was nothing was done everyone got angrier as they waited the length of a feature film to be greeted by Iberia customer service.

By the time I hit the front of the queue 90 minutes after joining it, the lady serving me was also again pretty rude and explained that we would not be getting a flight the same day but instead we would be put up overnight and have to fly out the next day.

When I explained that we had both connecting flights and hire cars to consider I was told that was “not Iberia’s problem” – I can spot shit customer services training when I see it, so decided not to push it.

So no problem, we decided to head out to the hotel and make good with our hotel in Madrid for a night and re-arrange all of our hire cars and flights and start the insurance process.

I asked for our baggage as we only had the clothes we were wearing, I was told it was too difficult to retrieve the baggage and this was not Iberia’s problem.

I am guessing our baggage is on the plane and is arriving in Chicago a day earlier than the three of us arrive sporting two-day underwear, frizzy hair ( my wife’s main worry) and an incredibly grumpy 5-year-old.

No big deal, we ask for directions to the bus and we are told one is along every 10 minutes to the allocated Iberia overflow / missed connections hotel – ( this is not true we waited for 40 minutes) you have to call for the bus.  Again an Iberia training issue within their service process.

Lastly, I am now sat here in the hotel only to see that we have been given an exit row with a 5-year-old tomorrow for our flight to Chicago.

As five-year-olds don’t make very good emergency exit door openers so we have been informed that the air-crew will have to split us up tomorrow so we dont sit together on the flight, as seating for the three of us is not available apparently.

So, in retrospect what have I learned from this little escapade.

Firstly, and now that I am no longer effectively margin business exec that but am in fact a low margin family traveler is that BA does not have my best interests at heart, certainly in my personal opinion.

BA mis-sold us a flight with no potential of making the connection and subsequent phone calls to the executive club have all resulted in simple “speak to Iberia responses” – next time we will fly Virgin to Chicago, a company we have always had a positive experience with.

Secondly, that Iberia ground staff are in dire need of training in Madrid airport in my own personal opinion, the service and help we received as a family with a young child have been of the lowest standard I have ever received from an international airline.

I personally will be avoiding Iberia again and certainly will never be connecting via a Spanish airport.

Even just one apology in the whole chain of events would have helped, we got nothing.  It sucked. Iberia had three opportunities to solve this issue before it became an issue and because of poor customer service on the ground its now going to result in the loss of a family that flys an incredible amount as customers for both airlines..

Next time BA we are booking Virgin and Iberia – never again. Lets hope our flight to Chicago is not cancelled tomorrow.

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