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Iberia to operate some British Airways flights from Heathrow this Summer

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In a sign that it is still struggling with the ramp-up in flights this summer, British Airways has now tapped sister airline Iberia on the shoulder to operate select flights from Heathrow Terminal 5.

The major hold up is with crew training and security clearances, which are currently taking over 100 days on average. Although BA has enough planes to go around, the only way it can bring in crew at short notice is by leasing an entire aircraft complete with staff, something called a ‘wet lease’ in the industry.

Iberia to operate British Airways flights

Iberia Express is already operating around 25% – 30% of BA’s flights out of Gatwick and Finnair is also operating some flights from Heathrow Terminal 3. Rob was recently on a BA flight operated by Titan Airways on a Boeing 757.

Anyone with an existing booking will be emailed if the flight is to be operated by Iberia. It is also displayed quite prominently when you make a new booking, although it looks like flights have only been loaded a week or so in advance:

You will still get Club Europe and Euro Traveller food and service, and the aircraft seats are virtually identical, so it won’t be hugely different from any other BA flight. That said, you can change your flight to a BA-operated service from Heathrow or another London airport if you so wish.

Feedback from people who have flown the Iberia Express services from Gatwick has been very positive, almost entirely because of the cheerful cabin crew. That said, this is an opportunity to switch to a potentially better timed BA-operated flight at no cost ….

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Comments (95)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Boi says:

    Kids enjoyed playing the secret password in Miami-spinning the wheel. We hotel hopped.
    We got decent points, food credit and breakfast

  • TimM says:

    “The major hold up is with crew training and security clearances”
    So is this another case of a big business taking Government furlough money during the pandemic then making staff on higher pay-grades redundant the moment they start having to pay part of their wages? Or is it that BA found it unacceptable for cabin crew to remain working from home?

    • Rob says:

      Furlough ended on 30th September and there wasn’t much of a recovery in air travel by that point.

      • AJA says:

        With all due respect to BA but 30 September 2021 was 243 days ago. And the USA, which we are told is the cash cow especially LON- JFK, opened up to great fanfare last November, just under 7 months ago. I think BA’s problems are because it was too cautious with its staffing but at the same time overly optimistic with the flights it put on sale. BA must have known it didn’t have the crew to operate every single flight it put on sale. It got lots of cash in and now has to wetlease or cancel flights.

        • Rhys says:

          All schedules are made based on assumed capacity and growth, probably made last year, before omicron. BA didn’t have the staff at the time but obviously it was hoping to recruit and build up numbers.

          Then omicron happened, which cratered what would otherwise have been a gradual ramp up.

          I don’t think the airline industry has ever ramped up as fast as it has in the past 5 months. It has doubled and even tripled capacity.

          • BuildBackBetter says:

            The capacity was always there Rob. They weren’t able to use it temporarily. It was their choice to let staff go and try to recruit them at lower cost later. Security clearance is just a silly excuse to get away with it.

          • AJA says:

            Yes but BA sold a lot more flights than it actually had crew to operate those flights omicron notwithstanding. And I’m not just talking air crew. There have been terrible baggage handling issues at T5 as a result. Also it has found getting staff more difficult than anticipated otherwise why offer the £1k recruitment bonuses which are now potentially subject to strike action as covered by HfP a few days ago? This is BA’s faulty planning. At least wetleasing aircraft is better than cancelling flights which they do on a regular basis consolidating 5 flights a day into 1, especially on domestic routes.

          • meta says:

            Let’s not forget that BA was saying only a year ago that travel won’t bounce back to pre-pandemic levels until 2024… Do they even employ behavioural psychologist(s)?

          • georgeH says:

            “Let’s not forget that BA was saying only a year ago that travel won’t bounce back to pre-pandemic levels until 2024”

            Given that 2024 is only 18 months away that’s probably going to be correct given that business travel and travel to much of Asia, for example, is well below pre pandemic levels.

          • Londonsteve says:

            At the time BA designed its flight schedule for summer 2022, it would have known precisely the gap between staff numbers as they were then, versus how many bodies they would need to operate the proposed timetable. As an experienced air carrier, they will also have known the necessary lead time to get staff on board, from advertising to selection, training and security clearance. They’ve been doing it for 100 years, so you’d think this would be child’s play for them. Either they made a catastrophic mistake and began recruiting far too late to make up numbers in time, or they cynically sold flights they knew they wouldn’t have the staff to operate in order to see ‘what flies’ in the post pandemic era and always planned to cancel a percentage of flights at least 14 days prior to departure. Based on the modus operandi of the airline in the last few months, I’m minded to think the latter scenario is more likely. The sudden cashflow injection during the winter months might have been much needed and served as free money instead of an already maxed out RCF. If it really is the former, one has to call into question their basic competence to run an airline, down to the inherent safety of their aircraft and quality of crew training.

          • Rhys says:

            The government weren’t exactly very transparent with how travel restrictions were being lifted, though, were they? It was anyone’s guess what was going to happen with Omicron. It could have rolled on a lot longer than it eventually did. Let’s not pretend that the most severe crisis the aviation industry has ever faced is a routine event.

            From what I’ve been told, the recruiting is fine (at least for cabin crew).

            They just weren’t expecting to have to wait 3+ months to be able to employ the staff in airside roles due to the security clearance delays on the government side.

          • georgeH says:

            “The government weren’t exactly very transparent with how travel restrictions were being lifted, though, were they? It was anyone’s guess what was going to happen with Omicron. It could have rolled on a lot longer than it eventually did. Let’s not pretend that the most severe crisis the aviation industry has ever faced is a routine event.”

            Don’t think anyone is saying it’s a routine event.

            Not everyone is being impacted equally at the moment though.

            Ryanair and Wizzair seem to be managing fine but BA and EasyJet aren’t.

            That suggests it’s uselss planning rather than out of their hands.

          • Londonsteve says:

            Totally agree. To pass the buck to the government, who did what any sensible government should and would do in the circumstances it faced with Omicron is not fair. The bottom line is that some airlines sold tickets for flights that at the point they sold them, they could see there was absolutely no chance they would have the staff in place to operate them. Knowing they have to slim down their flying schedule and make cancellations, they cynically hung on to see how certain destinations would develop – a combination of consumer appetite and overseas governments dropping restrictions on incoming travellers. By leaving the cancellations until much later, they would see on the one hand how staff numbers were developing, at the same time they could knock the lowest yielding flights out of the schedule. In the meantime they’ve sat on 100s of millions in fare revenue and paid no interest on that money. My return flight on a BA Holiday was cancelled and I was treated very poorly and I was clearly encouraged to cancel. As someone else pointed out, the fact that some airlines are entirely unaffected is the smoking gun there is a chasm between well-run airlines and those whose management is second grade, blaming their failures on myriad external factors over which they supposedly had no influence. The fact that one neither sees nor hears from Doyle any longer would suggest he’s a dead man walking. I have a flight coming up with BA in J and I’m REALLY not looking forward to it, but I reluctantly decided not to cancel as the refund was not high enough to get me onto an alternative carrier 6 weeks out. If they mess up this flight I’ll never fly with them again and I won’t look back.

  • Krys says:

    do you get the same level of tier points where the flight is operated by iberia/iberia express insteas of BA ?

    • Rhys says:


      • AJA says:

        What about the number of Avios if Finnair operates the flight? Especially for those with status. If I recall Finnair doesn’t give the status bonuses.

        • Rhys says:

          They are wet leases, so it shouldn’t matter.

          It’s not a codeshare or a Finnair flight. It’s a BA flight that happens to be operated by another aircraft

          • AJA says:

            With BA’s IT record??? I am not so confident.

            It should be ok but it’s something to check afterwards.

          • Nick says:

            @AJA I flew BA operated by AY a couple of weeks ago and can confirm points do post fine. BA/AGL systems are able to cope perfectly well with wetleases. In departure systems they’re all coded as BA flights.

  • Erico1875 says:

    Why haven’t Iberia and Finnair not had the same staff shortages?
    In fact it seems they are over staffed if they can loan their crew and aircraft to BA

    • M says:

      Hospitality and Travel were badly hit by the big leave.
      People were treated badly and left. Brexit happened too — you know!
      With how things are atm — you’re lucky to get nice service in a restaurant or good coffee.

    • Graham C says:

      Not sure about Iberia. Finnair on the other hand has been impacted by the Russia flyover ban. It has made some routes unviable so I assume some crew are available there.

      Probably more to it than that though.

    • meta says:

      Finnair at least has much reduced network at the moment due to Russian airspace closure (no Asian routes).

    • Charles Martel says:

      Spain 13.6%
      UK 3.7%

    • Rich says:

      It was all over the news months ago – Finnair impacted by Russian airspace ban. Crew I spoke to on a recent flight were really pleased to be working rather than being furloughed and described the whole situation with them and BA as ‘win-win’. They fly over to London for a 4 day stint then back home for their break.

    • Marcw says:

      Iberia employees benefitted from the Spanish Covid employment protection furlough. However, the employer has to commit to employ the employee for at least 6 months after returning to work.

      The problem IB is facing is they don’t have “enough” Long haul planes.

  • Clive Watts says:

    I think that BA has planned to use Iberia services for some time in advance. I booked a September BA holiday to Malta around a month ago and the return flight on 24th September is already cleared marked as Iberia operated. In fact, I was originally booked on 23rd and BA pulled both flights on that day. When I rebooked on the phone, I was asked if it was OK that the return flight was an Iberia one (to Gatwick).

    • SamG says:

      Iberia Express to Gatwick was long planned. These Iberia mainline aircraft at Heathrow just popped in last week

  • Michael says:

    Currently in Blythswood. Reception staff looked at me like I had two heads when I said stay cool and mentioned the social password. ‘Do you mean the WiFi password?’ 🫤

    • Alan says:

      😂😂😂 Love it!

    • DJ says:

      Did you manage to get something in the end? They are generally quite good at it! I had a spa set to my room when I mentioned “just chill” the last time 🤣

    • RussellH says:

      Similar issue last November. We were checked in by a trainee and my partner used an outdated password. She just looked blank.
      However, there was a manager at a desk off to the right who overheard and came to the room with a spa treat.
      Not actually of interest to my partner, but she said it made an excellent Christmas present for one of her sisters.

    • Peggerz says:

      I’m interested to see if Blythswood check-in staff recognise the code as I’m staying there in a couple of months too…… Any joy?

      • s says:

        when I last stayed, the check-in agent looked so cold and grump that we couldn’t really do the playful password thing – it would have been purely transactional for a freebie and we passed on that!

        • dst87 says:

          This is the sort of experience that makes me sort of hate the social password concept. If the hotels aren’t training folks well, and haven’t instilled the fun & playful approach that Kimpton try to present as… it’s a bit of a disaster and leaves a bad taste.

          Staff at the Kimpton Toronto a few weeks ago also seemed a bit miserable – no social password to try on them though, so it didn’t matter.

          • Brian says:

            Agree. When I last used the social password at the Kimpton in Amsterdam, the check-out staff seemed genuinely delighted – they high-fived me and gave me free breakfast (it was a reward stay, too). The whole thing loses much of its attraction if there isn’t the human warmth involved too.

        • Joe says:

          I stayed in the Kimpton Palomar Philadelphia and also had very brusque, unwelcoming service from the front desk on arrival. Kimpton seems to think it is this edgy, cool brand, but I just don’t see it. I’ll take basic manners and hospitality over cool any day.

  • SamG says:

    I wonder if BA contracts have provisions on the balance of flying vs Iberia etc (US airlines have this)

    Otherwise we could see a longer term shift to Iberia / Iberia Express operating more Spanish routes as BA codeshares like we do on Madrid

    • Nick says:

      No they don’t. The only related equivalent is the size and scope of Cityflyer aircraft at London airports.

  • SamG says:

    There was an interesting eurocontrol report recently – Ryanair is planning above 2019 flying and from what I’ve seen and heard they haven’t had the problems others have had. Though aided by a few things, their main UK bases doesn’t seem to have the problems other airports have and they’ve got bases across Europe to draw on for crewing

    Every Ryanair flight friends have taken over the past few weeks has been early so if you’ve got somewhere to be this summer Ryanair & Stansted/Luton may be the way to go!

    • Marcw says:

      It’s called good planning. That’s all.

    • Dace says:

      Ryanair wipes the floor with BA when it comes to planning and common sense. BA are for me the best case example of a big business being ‘pennywise, pound foolish’.

    • Ivan Korichnevyy says:

      Lucky you ! I have taken 6 FR flights in the last month and all of them (plus a seventh which I booked but didn’t fly) have arrived over 30 minutes late. Then again, I’ve not paid more than £9.99 per sector so mustn’t grumble 🙂

    • Londonsteve says:

      You can add Wizz Air to that list. Their London bases are Luton and Gatwick. No cancelled flights, just reliable on-time service. I always find them enjoyable to fly with, more so than Ryanair. Luton used to be an absolute hole to the detriment of Wizz when compared to flying FR and EZY from either STN or LGW (and the arrival experience is still pretty grim), but since MAG have taken over running STN, I think LTN is now nicer, at least on the departure side. It’s also significantly smaller and you don’t get the massive walk you do from security to FR departure gates at STN, snaking through a shopping mall and constantly blocked by dawdlers who are window shopping with loads of time to kill.

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