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Worst Customer Service? Iberia/Level (long rant)


Bruin Steve
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Disclaimer:  I don't necessarily know it's the worst.  I haven't experienced every company's customer service. But, in MY experience...well...here goes...

 

I booked airfare for my upcoming cruises--Celebrity Infinity 13 nights Rio-Lisbon and Symphony of the Seas 7 ights Western Med--through Celebrity Air.  LAX to Rio on United via Houston and Barcelona-LAX on Iberia.  As is typical lately, we were able to get seat assignments, immediately and free, on United back when we booked...but, Iberia wouldn't allow seat assignments until the thing was actually ticketed...and then, not without an extra charge.  No problem, I thought, I'll deal with it later.

 

Well, we're getting really close (the Iberia leg was only 45 days away and the whole cruise including air paid in full)...so...

 

First I call Celebrity Air.  Often, in the past, they've helped me get the seats...they did it for the United flights.  But they tell me to deal with Iberia myself...they do give me the ticket numbers--often needed when dealing with the airlines.  Before calling Iberia, I go to their website since often one can just deal with it there.  But, though I can pull up my flight details, it says "no seats" and there is no clickable link that will bring up seating choices.  So, I call...

 

The agent I get (after the typical time on hold) is very nice...and things seem to be going fine...He finds us a window and aisle near the front in the 2-4-2 configuration plane.  He tells us the cost will be around $75 US.  No problem--I sort of expected that.  He says they can't take credit card info over the phone, but he'll send an email with a link to where I type in my credit card info...and he'll stay on the line with me while I do it...Seems like everything is going perfectly.  Not so fast.

 

After I input the Visa card, he says "uh-oh...it won't work".  Then he tells me the issue is that though the tickets are through Iberia, the flight is actually operated by "Level" and I have to contact Level to get seat assignments (First time in my life I have ever heard of Level...In Fact, our original confirmation with Celebrity Air clearly states "IB-2623 - IBERIA AIRLINES - Operated By IBERIA AIRLINES").

 

But, okay, I call "Level".  A recording comes on and tells me the office is CLOSED and I should call back during "business hours"...which turns out to be business hours in SPAIN--starting at 10:00 am Spanish time--which is 2:00AM MY time in West Coast America.

 

In the meanwhile, I try the Level website.  Unbelievably, the Level website doesn't even recognize my reservation.  Tried the 6 letter code, tried an alternate code, tried their alternate method of inputting route, date and email.  Nada.  So, I stay up until 2:00 am.

 

At 2:00 am, I call Level and explain the situation. After some discussion, they tell me that, although the flight is operated by Level, my ticket, being issued by Iberia, if I want seats, I have to get them through Iberia.  "Really?"  "Sure".

 

I hang up and call Iberia.  The Iberia agent I get this time looks up my booking and tells me that I have seats--the same ones the first guy said he tried to get me and failed.  He sends me an email from Amadeus which actually shows seat numbers.  I say thanks and hang up...and go to sleep.

 

In the morning, I decide to check and make absolute sure.  I check the Level website.  It still does not recognize my reservation.  I check the Iberia website.  It still says "No Seats".  I check my Visa card website.  It does not show the $75 charge.

 

So, first I call Level.  I ask why I can't see my reservation on their website.  The agent says that, since the ticket is by Iberia, they won't even have my reservation anywhere on their system...and they can't give us seats...I have to call Iberia.  I asked if he could just check the flight and tell us if our supposed seats are even assigned or still available.  He says "no".  I ask "If Iberia can assign us seats, how doies Level know that they've been assigned?".  He doesn't know.  Seriously.

 

I hang up an call Iberia again.  I explain everything in detail.  The agent says "We can't assign you seats".  You cannot get seat assignments until you show up at the airport for the flight.  I ask "Why?".  He says "Because it's a codeshare".  I tell him that's ridiculous.  I've been on lots of "codeshares" and it's never been an issue.  And, if Level is assigning seats...and if we're running late to the airport, we could find a full plane with only scattered middle seats in the back of the plane remaining.  He insisted that is just how it works.  My wife takes the phone from me and tries phrasing it differently.  The agent is still a brick wall.  Not only a brick wall, he remains silent for minutes at a time.  Doesn't answer our questions.  We ask "are you still there?"  He says "Yes"...but still doesn't answer.

 

We hang up.  I call back one more time trying to get another agent who, maybe, talks.  I finally get one.  He says "let me check".  After several minutes of hold time, he tells us that we have "pending seat assignments"...we just have an "amount due".  He directs me back to the Iberia website.  I again input my Visa card info.  This time, it goes through.  The agent forwards me several emails with confirmation and receipts.  The seats finally show up on our booking on Iberia.com.  The reservation still does not show up on Level.com.  We have seats.  We think.  It only took 7 phone calls to seven different agents over a period of about 20 hours from 4:00 pm yesterday Pacific Time to Noon today.  

 

Now I just have to worry about what kind of an airline "Level" is.

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32 minutes ago, Bruin Steve said:

Now I just have to worry about what kind of an airline "Level" is.

 

Level is a discount long-haul carrier.  Though working under Iberia, they have a very different business model.

 

https://www.flylevel.com/en/why-level/overview/

 

Do you know what kind of ticket you have with Level, because you may have a number of extra fees.  Some fares don't include meals.  Some don't include baggage.  For all but Premium, you'll pay to get a blanket or headphones.

 

Caveat emptor.

 

 

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5 minutes ago, FlyerTalker said:

Do you know what kind of ticket you have with Level, because you may have a number of extra fees.  Some fares don't include meals.  Some don't include baggage.  For all but Premium, you'll pay to get a blanket or headphones.

 

That was one of my new concerns now that this flight has been taken over by them.

The Iberia site does say my included baggage includes THREE 23 kg pieces.  I assume the extra one is due to my One World Ruby/American Airlines Gold Million Mile status...I know that status gets me two free pieces of luggage when I fly on Alaska Airlines--another One World member.

 

I called Celebrity Air and asked and they told me that they ONLY sell tickets that include luggage and food on international flights...but I'll likely call back and try to get written confirmation.

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9 hours ago, 6rugrats said:

 

Codeshares are often a pain.  Was it significantly less expensive to book with the cruiseline?

Actually, yes...

We saved significantly with Celebrity Air on our LAX-Rio and Barcelona-LAX legs...Celebrity Air's price for the Lisbon-Barcelona leg was significantly more than we paid biooking that leg directly with TAP...and all Celebrity Air offered was a change of planes in Madrid on a several hour itinerary.  TAP gave us Lisbon-BCN nonstop.  But on the two longer legs, Celebrity Air saved us several hundred dollars per person.

 

But Celebrity Air is a bit clueless in a sense...up until I explained it all to them today, they did NOT know Level was involved.  They thought nothing had changed since I booked it and that it was still on Iberia.  This morning, they sent me a new confirmation email stating that it was "operated by Iberia for Level".  They told me to call Iberia myself to confirm amenities.  The agent at Iberia said, basically, "Trust me.  You'll get food and drinks"...then he said he'd send me a confirmation by email...and proceded to email me a confirmation for some other passenger's January 18 flight from Venice to Chile!!!  When I pointed that out, he finally sent us two confirmation documents for us on "Level" letterhead.  Confirms flights, luggage and seats but neither mentions food or drink...but again, he told me "Don't worry...everything will be fine".

Edited by Bruin Steve
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Were you trying to book these as two one-ways?  Because the airports involved would qualify for an open-jaw pricing, as GIG-BCN is the shortest of the three legs.

 

And now where does Lisbon and TAP fit in?  Didn't see that before.

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1 hour ago, FlyerTalker said:

Were you trying to book these as two one-ways?  Because the airports involved would qualify for an open-jaw pricing, as GIG-BCN is the shortest of the three legs.

 

And now where does Lisbon and TAP fit in?  Didn't see that before.

There is NO GIG-BCN air leg...

We are going LAX-GIG on United...

Then Rio to Lisbon on Celebrity Infinity...a 13 night cruise visiting Salvador de Bahia, Brazil...La Palma, Canary Islands...Tenerife...Madeira...and ending in Lisbon...

3 nights in Lisbon, then Lisbon-BCN on TAP...

1 night in Barcelona...

Then we board Symphony of the Seas for a 7-night cruise to Mallorca...Marseilles...La Spezia...Rome...Naples...and back to Barcelona...one more night there...then...

BCN-LAX on "Level/Iberia"...

 

We tried every possible combination of two or three one-ways, open jaw, whatever.  Tried kayak, expedia and individual airline sites...What we got with Celebrity Air and TAP worked out best by far.

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On 3/25/2023 at 4:33 AM, Bruin Steve said:

Now I just have to worry about what kind of an airline "Level" is.

 

I'll happily be corrected if I'm wrong about this, but I think that Level-liveried aircraft are operated on Iberia's Air Operator Certificate. That would mean that it's some standalone second-rate operation, if that's what you're concerned about.

 

10 hours ago, Bruin Steve said:

The agent at Iberia said, basically, "Trust me.  You'll get food and drinks"...then he said he'd send me a confirmation by email...and proceded to email me a confirmation for some other passenger's January 18 flight from Venice to Chile!!!  When I pointed that out, he finally sent us two confirmation documents for us on "Level" letterhead.  Confirms flights, luggage and seats but neither mentions food or drink...but again, he told me "Don't worry...everything will be fine".

 

If you have a look on Level's website, you will see that almost all of its own fares include food and drink. And the worst that can happen is that you'll have to pay (and then complain to Celebrity Air afterwards).

 

6 hours ago, Bruin Steve said:

What we got with Celebrity Air and TAP worked out best by far.

 

I think that you mean "cheapest", not "best". You're discovering some of the downsides associated with "cheapest", and with not having control over what you're getting.

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4 hours ago, Globaliser said:

I think that you mean "cheapest", not "best". You're discovering some of the downsides associated with "cheapest", and with not having control over what you're getting.

When I said "best", it was not only cost...The option was presented as "Iberia", not level...and the main advantages were:

 

1)  Nonstop rather than routing through Toronto, JFK, Chicago or Heathrow...

2)  Time of flight--departing BCN at 2:00 pm, arriving LAX 6:10 pm local time...2:00 pm leaves us plenty of time to wake up in Barcelona, have a nice breakfast, check out of the hotel, getting a ride to the airport and check in at a leisurely pace...going through customs not until we are home and not dealing with it mid-trip...and arriving LAX at 6:10 pm means we are, in the least, catching an Uber from LAX around 7:00-7:30 after the height of rush hour traffic...

 

I always anticipate we could get schedule changes...our United flights to Rio changed multiple times and now we are departing earlier and have to get to LAX at the crack of dawn...but I never anticipated any change in airline.... Never seen that before...and I travel a lot.

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4 hours ago, Bruin Steve said:

...but I never anticipated any change in airline.... Never seen that before...and I travel a lot.

 

Well, you can tick this one off the list, then. If you travel enough, it will happen to you - whatever "it" may happen to be. If you leave aside cost, then whichever way you happen to have booked this itinerary, you will have to put up with Level and with all the disadvantages associated with it if you want to keep those advantages.

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I’m reading this thread for the first time, but just this morning saw an ad on FB from Level advertising their SFO-BCN service. I wondered who the heck they were, so started Googling them, and yes, saw they’re operated by Iberia, using their certificate, etc. 

 

If you haven’t already, there are several reviews of them on YouTube, if you’re interested. There’s even a BCN-LAX report, but it’s from a flight 5 years ago. 
 

I completely feel your pain dealing with code shares such as this, 3rd party cruise air, and call center agents who only know what their computer screens spit in front of them. 🙄

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  • 3 months later...
On 3/26/2023 at 11:37 AM, Bruin Steve said:

When I said "best", it was not only cost...The option was presented as "Iberia", not level...and the main advantages were:

 

1)  Nonstop rather than routing through Toronto, JFK, Chicago or Heathrow...

2)  Time of flight--departing BCN at 2:00 pm, arriving LAX 6:10 pm local time...2:00 pm leaves us plenty of time to wake up in Barcelona, have a nice breakfast, check out of the hotel, getting a ride to the airport and check in at a leisurely pace...going through customs not until we are home and not dealing with it mid-trip...and arriving LAX at 6:10 pm means we are, in the least, catching an Uber from LAX around 7:00-7:30 after the height of rush hour traffic...

 

I always anticipate we could get schedule changes...our United flights to Rio changed multiple times and now we are departing earlier and have to get to LAX at the crack of dawn...but I never anticipated any change in airline.... Never seen that before...and I travel a lot.

Could you please give an update on your Iberia Airline (Level) experience. We are traveling in October from JFK to Barcelona with Iberia (Level) for  Holland America. 

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1 hour ago, Fanpower said:

Could you please give an update on your Iberia Airline (Level) experience. We are traveling in October from JFK to Barcelona with Iberia (Level) for  Holland America. 

Horrendous would be an understatement.  I apologize... I should have posted something here when we get back, but apparently tried to block it from my mind.  I would have been more detailed.  I remember writing to Level and Iberia after the flight but can't find copies of that, so I'll go from memory.

 

The experience at Barcelona airport was not great.  Airport personnel directed us to the Iberia check-in counter--where we waited online with a couple dozen other Level customers--until someone was told we needed to go to the other end of the terminal to a different check-in line.

 

The plane was clean and, surprisingly, our seat reservations held.  The seats lacked any sort of padding and were particularly uncomfortable--even for airline seats.  No pillows, blankets or earphones were provided.  About two hours into the flight, they came through for drink orders--I asked for Diet Coke and was poured a small 8 ounce glass about two thirds full with no ice.  Little did I know that this would be the only included drink for the next 7-8 hours or so.  Shortly after, they came around for my choice of "meal"...IIRC, "chicken" or "pasta".  I saw the very unappetizing appearance of the chicken served to the guy in the row in front of me, so I ordered pasta...which was equally unappetizing.  Either "meal" was exceedingly small--containing only a small dish of the main dish and an even smaller salad...nothing else.  Around two hours from the end of the flight, they came around and threw us a bag with a very small "sandwich" of some sort--a small roll with an almost unnoticeble layer of something inside....and another six ounces of drink.  That was it for a twelve hour flight.

 

When I mentioned it to the flight attendants, they said "What do you want?  We gave you food and drink."   Then one of them told me "There are lots of people on this flight and YOU are the only one complaining".

 

Clearly, their attitude is that they are a no-frills airline.  Only because someone booked through Iberia are they even including ANYTHING...and, even so, they are limiting it to the bare minimum.  I assume people who booked directly with LEVEL got some sort of drastically discounted no-frills low fare.  our booking with Iberia was at a fare more in line with full service airlines and should have been full service.  Level is clearly not staffed or equipped to provide anything more than minimal service.  If you are stuck with them, I would really recommend stocking up on plenty of food, bottled drinks (which, due to post-9/11 rules, you'll need to buy at the airport at airport prices) and snacks before boarding the plane.  Don't count on buying the extra food and drink onboard as their stock is very limited and the flight attendants are scarce and hard to find during the flight.

 

I will NEVER fly with Level again.  Probably never book with Iberia again.  Prisoners at San Quentin get fed better.  The food/drink service on Level, if given to prisoners, would be considered unconstitutional as "cruel and inhumane punishment".

 

At least we made it home safely.

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 If you had not booked through the cruise line, and booked directly with a major carrier, would you have had this problem with International Airlines Group changing your flight to a low cost carrier?

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2 hours ago, 6rugrats said:

 If you had not booked through the cruise line, and booked directly with a major carrier, would you have had this problem with International Airlines Group changing your flight to a low cost carrier?

YES. Had we booked this IBERIA flight directly through Iberia (And, yes, it was an Iberia flight at the time we booked it) or, if we booked it with American Airines (as they book you with their "One World" partners) or, if we booked it through a website such as Kayak or Expedia, we would have had the exact same problem.  The problem was that Iberia transfered the flight to Level and the flight was operated under Level's system and rules.  The issues regarding seat reservations would have been the same no matter how it was booked--that all resulted from an awkward transition between Iberia and Level.  The issues regarding food and drink and what was offered or included were all purely operational and due to Level's operation.  Nothing to do with Celebrity Air. Had we booked a different airline--say BA or Lufthansa or United--whether we booked directly with thse airlines or with an air travel website or with Celebrity Air--it would have been different.  And those flights, at the time we booked, would also have been cheaper through Celebrity Air than directly with the airlines...and all of the other advantages of using Celebrity Air--such as not paying until the final cruise payment date--would have been the same.

Edited by Bruin Steve
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Ever since the BCN-LAX nonstops were introduced they were branded as Level, IIRC they were the first Level routes announced.  

 

I will say after doing a dummy booking that there is one difference booking via Flights by Celebrity versus other avenues and that is that FBC doesn't tell you it is a Level branded flight, all it says (much like the OP's confirmation) is that it is operated by Iberia.  Other booking avenues (Iberia, American, Expedia, etc) will say that it is a Level branded flight.

 

Technically it is correct as Level isn't an actual airline.  It operates under the Iberia AOC, with Iberia operated planes, Iberia crews, Iberia call sign, Iberia IATA/ICAO codes, etc.  It would have been helpful if FBC included the whole description 'Operated by Iberia For Level Spain' so the OP would have known, but they didn't.

 

Ultimately, the choices were a crappy non-stop or a connection.

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39 minutes ago, 6rugrats said:

 I think the main point is that booking directly with Iberia would have shown you who actually operated the flight.

MAYBE...IF you assume that LAX-BCN nonstops have ALWAYS been Level.  OTOH, I remember seeing LAX-BCN nonstops on Iberia YEARS AGO, long before Level ever existed.  Level commenced operations in the Summer of 2017.  They ceased flights to LAX in 2020 and did not resume BCN-LAX flights until the Summer of 2022 under a new contrct with Iberia.  When I booked this flight in early 2022, yes, the Celebrity Air flight showed the flight as Iberia.  BUT, I also counter-checked the same flights--for pricing--on Kayak and Expedia.  NO ONE showed this flight, at that time, as Level.  Yes, perhaps booking on Iberia, I might have discovered something amiss...but, OTOH, the absence of any mention of Level was NOT strictly a characteristic of Celebrity Air alone...at least not back in 2022.

 

HOWEVER...This really isn't the point of the recent re-opening of this thread.  A poster resurrected this thread to specifically ask me about my experience with actually flying Level.  I answered it.  Level is terrible.  However one might end up stuick with them, I would advise against it.  I also would not recommend booking with Iberia rather than with Celebrity Air.  There are so many advantages to booking with Celebrity Air.  I would only cautiuon that if the Celebrity Air site--OR ANY OTHER SITE--says "Iberia", do a lot more research...and, if it turns out you are dealing with Leve, find another flight.

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On 3/25/2023 at 9:12 PM, FlyerTalker said:

That's the unflown leg that is the "open jaw".

 

It could have been a geographical restriction on the open jaw ticket as well that provide restrictions above and beyond simple distance: 

 

https://www.cheapoair.com/miles-away/everything-you-need-to-know-about-open-jaw-flights/

 "As for routing restriction on open jaw tickets, some may apply. The most common restriction applies to the flying length of the segments. In short, the open jaw segments must be shorter in distance than the flown segment distance. For example, if you fly from Atlanta to Seattle, then drive cross-country to New York, and then flew back to Atlanta, you wouldn’t qualify for the open-jaw discount because the distance from Seattle is greater than that of New York to Atlanta. Also, in some circumstances, the destination and return origin must be in the same International Air Transport Association (IATA) region or it may be restricted to the same country."

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