Redeeming British Airways Avios points for travel on Iberia without fuel surcharges!

Ah, Avios. The points currency everyone loves to hate thanks to their astronomical fuel surcharges.

If you had asked me six months ago whether there was a way to redeem British Airways Avios points for transatlantic travel without fuel surcharges I would’ve confidently said “of course not!”

Then reader Mac discovered that you can actually redeem Avios points for travel on Aer Lingus with minimal fuel surcharges. Not only that, but since British Airways’ award chart is distance based and Boston to Dublin is such a short flight, it costs only 25,000 miles roundtrip in coach or 50,000 miles roundtrip in business class. This spiced up Avios points quite a bit for me, and I’m quite looking forward to going to Ireland in a couple of weeks.

But today there’s a new discovery thanks to the comments section of the Frugal Travel Guy blog. It appears as if there’s a way to redeem British Airways Avios points for travel on Iberia without fuel surcharges. Let me explain.

As many of you may know, Iberia belongs to the British Airways “family,” and also uses “Avios” as their points currency. However, they do technically have separate loyalty programs, though points can readily be transferred between the two programs.

So I first registered for an Iberia Plus account.

After being logged into my account I clicked on “Redeem Avios.”

Then I did an availability search. I first verified availability on ExpertFlyer, and saw there was business class award space on the flight from Madrid to Chicago on February 8, for example.

Once I ran the search I got the following results:

As you can see, the total cost for a one-way award in business class from Madrid to Chicago is 40,000 Avios points plus $75.62 in taxes.

The same exact award booked through British Airways would cost you 40,000 Avios points plus $262.84.

So you save $187.22 on a one-way ticket by booking through Iberia instead of British Airways.

But here’s the BIG catch — in order to transfer British Airways Avios points to Iberia Avios points, both of your accounts have to be at least three months old. So even if you don’t have any immediate need to fly Iberia, I highly recommend opening an Iberia Plus account so you can start that clock.

To transfer Avios points between accounts, log into your British Airways Executive Club account and click on “Manage My Account.” Once there select “Combine My Avios.”

On that page you’ll be prompted to enter your British Airways and Iberia account numbers, and will be given the option of transferring Avios points between the accounts instantly. Again, the catch is that your accounts both have to be open for at least three months before you’re allowed to do that.

Anyway, given that taxes, fees, and fuel surcharges on British Airways can run $1,000+ for a roundtrip business class ticket to Europe, I’d say this is another great option for redeeming Avios points. I’d rather spend 80,000 Avios points plus $120 and fly Iberia than spend 80,000 Avios points plus $1,000 and fly British Airways.

Hopefully some of you can put this to good use, and thanks again to Howie from the Frugal Travel Guy blog for bringing this to my attention!

Comments

  1. John says

    Can you transfer Avios to an Iberia account for someone with a different name if that account has been open for over 3 months?
    Or does the account name have to be the same on the Avios and the Iberia account?

  2. lucky says

    @ Erik — Their award is distance based just like British Airways, so you pay by the segment (meaning you can have as many stopovers and open jaws as you want, since you’re paying by the segment).

  3. Larry says

    I knew something lucky didn’t? Amazing. Been sort of hoping this would stay away from the blogs until I book my Spain trip for Summer 2013, but it wasn’t to be. At least I got the 3 month head start!

    As always, Lucky, good stuff.

  4. thrashsoundly says

    I take it the fuel surcharges aren’t added going the other direction as well (from the US)?

  5. Lantean says

    Great find!
    How is Iberia business class comapared to BA?
    And how does it compare to Lufthansa/Swiss?
    Thank you.

  6. lucky says

    @ Gene — It’s definitely not great, probably on par with American’s. But is it worth paying a $400+ premium per direction for a short transatlantic flight?

  7. lucky says

    @ thrashsoundly — Correct, and taxes are even lower, under $50 one-way.

    @ aussie — Correct, they still seem to impose fuel surcharges for BA redemptions when booking through Iberia.

  8. lucky says

    @ Lantean — BA has a fully flat business class product while Iberia’s is angled flat. So I suspect BA’s product is superior, though I’m not sure it justifies the fuel surcharges.

    I’d say Iberia is probably more or less on par with Lufthansa’s old product and not as good as Swiss’ new product.

  9. Maya says

    If we have a household account at BA, I am assuming all 4 of us have to get separate Iberia accounts & then combine them separately on BA?
    Great post Lucky!

  10. lucky says

    @ Maya — Best I can tell you can make a transfer from a household account to an individual account, per the T&Cs:

    “Members of a Household Account under the programmes may not use CMA other than (a) from a British Airways Executive Club Household Account to an individual account under the Avios programme or the Iberia Plus programme and (b) from the individual account under the Avios programme to a Household Account under the British Airways Executive programme. Any other Household account transaction will not be permitted under CMA.”

  11. Zz says

    Ever flown with Iberia??
    If you have a choice, don’t do it, in coach at least. Just flew MAD->JFK. Food was awful, even by airplane standards. And there were no movies to watch…. Of course no individual screens to entertain yourself. 8h+ on a plane has never felt that long.

  12. Harrison says

    This is very interesting. So in three months, I can transfer Ultimate Rewards points to BA then to IB for cheap redemptions? I like that.

    Is there any difference between redeeming through IB or BA for American?

  13. Michael says

    Nice work. I have discovered the same recently. The 90 day option is a pain, however if you have spare Amex MR points you can just do an instant transfer to IB and that will solve that problem if you need the points asap.

  14. lamonster says

    From what I see online, Iberia’s product is fully flat.

    Take a look at flatseats.com for the reviews there. I believe that the seat was angled before, but they just increased the distance between seats in business class, allowing the seat to recline into a fully flat position, rather than an angled one.

  15. Spencer W. says

    Can I transfer points BACK to Avios if I end up not using them on Iberia? Or is this question essentially moot because you’re not really “transferring”–you’re actually “sharing” points across the two programs?

  16. says

    Any restrictions if your BA account is part of a family account? If not, this might be a way to get around the restriction that awards from family accounts can only be booked for family account members.

  17. Typhoon says

    I wouldn’t bother starting the clock ticking on those 3 month start dates. This long time YQ dodge will be long gone by then.

  18. lucky says

    @ Typhoon — Best I can tell you can transfer from a family account in one program to an individual account in the other program, but not from one family account to another.

  19. Apu says

    What other partners can you book on using Avios through Iberia program? May be you have good options there with no surcharges for which BA charges some? Any such find?

  20. lucky says

    @ Apu — You can book most of the same partners as with BA, though best I can tell surcharges are similar.

  21. Jason says

    Yeah and pray that your are not caught in one of the 27 strikes they have each year.

    Not a chance.

  22. abcx says

    Lucky, why don’t you send BA/IB a letter so that they can shut this down? Easier than posting it here and then posting again a week later when it’s gone.

  23. Dave says

    Can you book a ib code share flight on Ba metal using ib avios to avoid the fee and still fly Ba?

  24. lucky says

    @ abcx — What’s the last thing they shut down as a result of a blog post? Aer Lingus awards and no fuel surcharges out of Brazil are still going strong, no?

    @ Dave — No, you can’t.

    @ Maury — It depends where you’re originating since the award chart is distance based. Chicago to Madrid roundtrip is 40,000 Avios points.

  25. BA Exec Club says

    Thank you for pointing out this error. We will immediately take steps to rescind it.

  26. Ozaer N. says

    Ben: if were flying from the west cost, do we calculate how much Avios it would be from PDX-ORD and then calculate ORD-MAD? and so on and so on to our final destination?

  27. Carsten Varming says

    Hi Lucky,

    You forgot to mention one minor detail that is not writen in any terms and conditions I have been able to find. To be able to transfer Avios between Iberia and BA, there must have been recent transactions (as in less than 12 months ago) on your accounts. A simple Amex MR transfer or a car rental or almost anything can do that, so it is not a big problem.

  28. HF says

    Hey Lucky, I can’t find such Combine My Avios option under Manage my account tab at BA.com. Is it due to mine is part of a household account?

  29. dhammer53 says

    I love the fact that IB asks you for your ‘second’ last name. Made me smile. Somewhere down the road, this tip will pay dividends. Thanks Ben.

  30. Dan says

    I need some clarification…Can I use my Avios with Iberian to book a flight on AA metal and avoid the surcharge or not?

  31. lucky says

    @ HF — Hmmm, are you sure you’re on your account summary page and not the main page?

    @ Dan — Best I can tell you still pay the fuel surcharges for AA metal, so this only works on Iberia metal.

    @ Emily — Correct.

  32. Robert says

    I’m the guy that started this firestorm with my comment on the frugaltravelguy’s blog. Here’s my experience:

    I had an award booked with BA Avios for about $300 and 40K MAD-ORD. I’ve had a Iberia account for about a year with no mileage. I tried to transfer BA Avios to Iberia Avios using the BA website. (I can send a screenshot if someone is interested of the options.) However it failed with a generic message. After reading around I decided I’d try buying 2K Iberia Avios. I did that then it allowed me to the next screen on BA’s web site. (It allows you to transfer from either direction on BA’s web site).

    I logged into Iberia and found my new flight (Different date) and went as far as it would let me go to purchase with Avios.

    Next I canceled my MAD-ORD flight on BA’s web site, logged out and then logged back in. The redeposited Avios were there as soon as I logged back in. I then transferred the miles successfully. (It took 2 tries, maybe I typed my password wrong?)

    I switched back to my Iberia tab and clicked the button to purchase my itinerary. It now recognized I had the needed miles and let me complete the transaction. Here’s a rough breakdown:

    $ 320 BA airfare fees
    $-280 refunded
    $ 40 2K Iberia Avios to active Iberia account
    $ 90 Iberia Airfare fees
    —–
    $ 170 Total amount spent by canceling and rebooking award saving $150.

    Robert

  33. says

    Hey lucky,
    For medium haul flights on BA or IB + codeshare flights, BA YQ is eliminated when using the Reward Flight Saver option (https://www.britishairways.com/travel/ba6.jsp/rewardflightsaver/execclub/_gf/en_us). Zones 1-3 are any flights that are sub 1999 miles. Full chart: http://awardguru.files.wordpress.com/2011/11/ba-award-chart1.jpg?w=640&h=216 .

    For example, MAD-DKR 1-way is 10K avios + $20 when booked on ba.com (http://imgur.com/QsyDt), while MAD-DKR 1-way is 10K avios + $53.42 (http://imgur.com/liX7W). The savings would obviously double if this were a RT. Hence, this would be an instance where you’d want to use BA Avios instead of IB Avios to book the flight.

    Do you know of any other flights/options like this? This is the only one I was able to find.

  34. rick says

    BA Avios
    HKG to NRT on Cathay Pacfic
    20k miles +$100~ fees

    Iberia Avios
    HKG to NRT on Cathay Pacfic
    36k miles +$100~ fees

    IS Iberia on a different distance calculator?

  35. mike says

    @lucky

    So basically where are the Iberia Hubs? I do not see any Iberia hubs in SEA or PHX? Well is a good plan to use Avios to secure short haul on Alaska Air or American Airlines to the Chicago Iberia Hub? Then book the main Iberia roundtrip to Madrid?

  36. says

    @rick

    I ran into the same issue – it is confusing because Iberia has a “blue class” which is for the same amounts of low points as BA as well as an “economy class” which requires more points. That is most likely the difference you see. Check a different date and Blue class might be available. It’s kind of like the difference between MileSAAver and AAnytime® awards American or between Saverpass and Easypass awards on United.

  37. rick says

    @James Elkins , “blue class” is costing 36k, I just checked again. Either case, it seems like fuel surcharges is only exempted on Iberia but not Oneworld Partners

  38. Kevin says

    Thanks for the information, but the BA site keeps telling me my session has timed out and I need to re-login (worst airline site ever IMO). Can the linkage be done via Iberia’s site? I can’t find it, but I’m new to the program and site. Thanks again.

  39. bayguy says

    I can’t find “Combine My Avios” option. Do I need to have some avios in my Iberia account? I created this after Lucky’s blogpost only. I am trying to link now but not transfer any avios.

  40. John777 says

    @lucky — it seems that IB has fuel charges on AA transatlantic flights of over 500 Euro…is this correct in your experience? I thought that would only be charged for redemptions on BA.

  41. Hank says

    I can’t find such Combine My Avios option under Manage my account tab at BA.com. Can anyone help?

  42. Tao says

    Hi Lucky, I had an Oneworld ticket that includes several Iberia flights, but Iberia website is not allowing me to select seats. Is this normal? Do I have to wait until check-in (I presume 24hr before departure?) to get my seat assigned? and RJ website couldn’t even find my booking. The same record locator worked just fine on CX website.

  43. lucky says

    @ Tao — Are you flying coach? Iberia unfortunately doesn’t do seat assignments in advance for free. Did you have the RJ record locator, or were you trying to use the same one as the IB one, as they’re probably different locators?

  44. Tao says

    @lucky – All segments are in business class. The AA agent told me that all partners use the same record locator on oneworld tickets, which proved to be true for both Iberia and CX, but not for RJ. I guess I’ll have to call them?

  45. Tao says

    @lucky – One more question related to Oneworld tickets. Is it absolutely impossible to change the business class seat for a segment to first class on a business class award? I need to change the time of that segment, but the later flight only has first class available. The segment is the HKG-SFO on CX. Thanks.

  46. lucky says

    @ Tao — American should be able to assign seats if you call them. Unfortunately there’s no way to switch to first class for a segment, regardless of the circumstances if you’re a business class OneWorld Explorer ticket.

  47. Flyer says

    I think this Q was asked before but I didn’t fully understand the answer.
    Let me ask again
    suppose I have a friend who has an iberia account for longer than 3 months, and I join his family BA account. Would he/she be able to book for me on Ibearia using MY BA avios in BA family account?

  48. lucky says

    @ Flyer — You can only transfer points from your British Airways account to your Iberia account. Even if you’re in a household account you can’t transfer your British Airways points to the Iberia account of someone in your household.

  49. bayguy says

    If you dont see Combine My Avios option, complete your passport details on your profile. This option will show up but I always get an error that session timed out. I am just trying to combine my BA and IB accounts and not to transfer any avois.

    Any ideas?

  50. lucky says

    @ bayguy — Have you tried using a different browser? Not sure what else it could be.

  51. Rick says

    Madrid to Rome on BA Avios

    11/06/2012

    7500 Avios $20 taxes

    On Iberia

    PRICE OF THE TRIP 7,500 Avios + $ 37 .83

    Interesting?

  52. lucky says

    @ Rick — This is because for intra-Europe travel on BA there’s a fixed cash component for award tickets, while for travel on Iberia the standard fuel surcharges and taxes apply.

  53. steven says

    lucky, even I waited for three months, my transfer is unsuccessful. And the surcharge of iberia for trip within europe is expensive than BA.

  54. Ian-UK says

    @Steven
    Don’t worry too much: BA is putting up the fixed ££charge for intra-Europe “reward savers”

  55. Gene says

    My spouse and I have a British Household account, and also have individual Iberia accounts with a few miles in Iberia.
    For whatever reason, we haven’t been able to combine the avios… when I go thru that CombineMyAvios screen, and enter my Iberia number and password, it tells me “Sorry, your log-in details have not been recognised. Please contact us”
    Then when I speak to British, they say I can only transfer all my British miles to Iberia.
    Can someone assist here

  56. TomTTravel aka ThunderStorm says

    In general, where is better to redeem Avios? On BA.com or on Iberia.com.

    ..Or is the answer that it depends because its different for different routings and there is no one Go-To site for booking awards.

  57. lucky says

    @ ThunderStorm — The benefit of booking on Iberia’s website is that there are no fuel surcharges for travel on Iberia when booking there. But you do have to transfer the points, and that’s not easy at times. Otherwise I prefer BA’s website.

  58. Steve says

    I am interested in flying Iberia to Lisbon from New York and my search doesn’t even bring up the business class column. Do you know if they longer allow online searches for business class or if they don’t offer it anymore for awards?

  59. lucky says

    @ Steve — I’d suggest searching segment by segment. First check space between New York and Madrid, then space between Madrid and Lisbon.

  60. Gebe says

    Ok, I have 1000 miles in my Iberia account with a ton in my BA account which I can move over at any time…
    When I do a search on Iberia’s site for a transatlantic trip, say JFK to Rome, in business, it tells me at the end that I dont have enough miles but also at the bottom, a chart showing Avios and points, and the redemptions are terrible. Best redemption is 47,500 avios and $104. Last year I recall it was 40,000 and $63. What gives? Is this its because its showing only the Avios and Miles deal, due to not having enough Avios miles ???

  61. leah says

    I am considering using Iberia Avios to book a trip from nyc to tlv in June 2014. Since it is so far out, can you tell me what costs, if any, I would incur if I would have to cancel the trip? Also, can I get the points redeposited to my account? If I would have to cancel, it would happen at least 30 days before the trip. Thank you

  62. lucky says

    @ leah — I believe the cancellation costs are the same as through the BA program, so it would be $40 to redeposit, if I recall correctly.

  63. Luis says

    I just off the phone with BA. I have about 155,000 miles and was trying to combine my Iberia Plus account (0 Avios miles). As the Points Guy details you can combine the two accounts and use Iberia to fly and has lower prices. However, I tried doing this and get an error. I called and was advised I need to have at least 1 Avios point in the Iberia Plus Account to work. I just purchased the minimum number of Avios of 2,000 points for 54 Euros. I will try to combine the accounts later. See this previous posting……….

    **************

    June 15th, 2012 at 2:33 pm

    Robert said,

    I’m the guy that started this firestorm with my comment on the frugaltravelguy’s blog. Here’s my experience:

    I had an award booked with BA Avios for about $300 and 40K MAD-ORD. I’ve had a Iberia account for about a year with no mileage. I tried to transfer BA Avios to Iberia Avios using the BA website. (I can send a screenshot if someone is interested of the options.) However it failed with a generic message. After reading around I decided I’d try buying 2K Iberia Avios. I did that then it allowed me to the next screen on BA’s web site. (It allows you to transfer from either direction on BA’s web site).

    I logged into Iberia and found my new flight (Different date) and went as far as it would let me go to purchase with Avios.

    Next I canceled my MAD-ORD flight on BA’s web site, logged out and then logged back in. The redeposited Avios were there as soon as I logged back in. I then transferred the miles successfully. (It took 2 tries, maybe I typed my password wrong?)

    I switched back to my Iberia tab and clicked the button to purchase my itinerary. It now recognized I had the needed miles and let me complete the transaction. Here’s a rough breakdown:

    $ 320 BA airfare fees
    $-280 refunded
    $ 40 2K Iberia Avios to active Iberia account
    $ 90 Iberia Airfare fees
    —–
    $ 170 Total amount spent by canceling and rebooking award saving $150.

    Robert

    ****************************

  64. Jerry Mandel says

    Two questions: 1. If flying on AA award to MAD on AA and onward on IB, is there a fuel surcharge? Example: DFW-MAD-ATH. 2. If flying on an AA award to MAD and onward using Avios, will there be a fuel surcharge? Same example.
    NOTE: IB also includes subsidiaries: Vueling, Air Nostrum, Iberia Express.

  65. lucky says

    @ Jerry — If you’re using American miles for the above example, you’d only pay a very small fuel surcharge for the segment from Madrid to Athens, which would be roughly $20USD or so. It would be a bit higher if redeeming British Airways Avios.

  66. Dave says

    Another hitch- in order to transfer avios to Iberia, not only must you have the membership for 3 months, but you mus have revenue based activity on Iberia FIRST, before they will allow a transfer!

Trackbacks

  1. […] BA 100K: The on-again, off-again 100,000-mile offer from British Airways is on again. Whether or not this is a good deal depends on whether you’ll take advantage of the sweet spots of this program, which generally do not involve flying on actual British Airways flights. Good values include flying BA partners on short haul domestic trips (I can go from my Charlotte home to NYC for 9,000 miles, or to Miami for 15,000), or from the west coast to Hawaii, or from the U.S. to Central or South America, or even using Iberia Airlines to cross the Atlantic. […]

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