(Program Reviews - Side by Side Comparison - Website Reviews)
Rated: October 2005- Hola, Iberia!
The Spanish carrier -- the first European airline to establish a frequent flyer program -- has consistently found a way to remain profitable, and they've done it their own way.
Iberia Plus, for example, has stuck to a points-based, rather than miles-based system. It imposes no blackout dates and no capacity controls. And it does all of this while maintaining membership in the oneworld alliance -- a group of decidedly more "traditional" programs.
For what seemed like years, Iberia's site was none too enjoyable. Members might remember a time when they had to wait while a slow server loaded a large and unnecessary Flash animation before they could get anything done. Those days are over, and the new Iberia.com is a graphics-light, easy-to-navigate improvement.
The site is available in Spanish, English, French, German and Portuguese, and has been customized for specific geographic regions, offering specials and promotions most applicable to the user's point of origin. The English translation is clear and understandable, if not perfect -- though chances are that Iberia's English is galactically better than the average American's Spanish.
Last year, Iberia finally got around to online award booking, and thus far, members appear to like it. Iberia, like many programs, is attempting to limit costs by migrating users to the Web. Unlike many programs, Iberia Plus has helped Iberia remain profitable, so that decision is due some deference. Javier Deleito, loyalty programs manager for Iberia, told us that even within the first few months of offering the function, 25 percent of overall award bookings were done online.
Enrollment is available online, though American applicants might be surprised to see that a passport number is required. This is not at all unusual for an international program, and shouldn't dissuade otherwise privacy-conscious Yanks.
All promotions are listed on a single, easy-to-read page. There's no need to develop carpal tunnel syndrome clicking through various categories and partners. It's all right there, and a single click will get you where you need to go to register.
If you don't see an award chart right away, don't panic. Click on "associated companies" (what we'd call "partners" here in the land of round doorknobs) and you'll see Iberia itself among the list. You'll also notice that each partner has both a "redeem" and "earn" link included; click on your desired action, and you'll be taken to a clear-cut earning or redemption table.
A word of warning: Even unregistered users will find that their sessions on Iberia.com will expire if left idle for a few minutes. If you're trying to accomplish something even a little complex, it's probably best to get it all done in one sitting.
Iberia's site still needs some tweaking -- its functionality is not quite up to the level of continental giants like Miles & More -- but its overall simplicity is a refreshing change.