Using Iberia Avios As An Alternative To British Airways

In light of the recent announcement that British Airways will be increasing the base cost of North American redemptions, I thought it might be helpful to go over the details of the Iberia Avios program. This is separate from the BA program, though you can transfer points freely between the two.

This won’t represent a cost savings for everyone, but if you can book a round-trip itinerary, you may be able to salvage some value by transferring your Avios to Iberia.

And if you find yourself needing multiple segments on domestic trips, you should probably have been using Iberia all year anyway.

Iberia and British Airways — same name, different programs

I’m sure this makes sense to someone, but while British Airways and Iberia are owned by the same company, and share the same “Avios” currency, the programs are completely separate.

British Airways and Iberia also have different partners; British Airways partners with Alaska Airlines, for example, while Iberia partners with Royal Air Maroc.

You can transfer Avios between the two programs, provided the following is true:

  • Both accounts have been open for at least 90 days
  • Both accounts have had some activity (which can be transferring a handful of points from Membership Rewards or SPG, crediting a flight, etc.)

So if you’re reading this, and don’t have an Iberia account, you should probably go ahead and open one now to get that 90 day count going, just in case.

Why bother with Iberia?

When British Airways announced their first devaluation this year, Iberia followed with updates to their own program and award charts. While devaluations are always unpleasant, the bright spot in the Iberia chart was that premium cabin awards on Iberia became a comparatively reasonable redemption.

Beyond that, Iberia charges significantly lower fuel surcharges on their own flights than British Airways does. So you should really never be redeeming British Airways Avios for Iberia flights anyway.

The big savings is on multi-segment trips

Unless you live or are traveling to a hub city for American or Alaska, these “short-haul” Avios awards probably haven’t been much use to you. Connections are penalized by British Airways’ distance-based chart, so even if you aren’t traveling many miles overall, you pay for each segment separately.

With Iberia, you pay for the total mileage of the trip. So if you’re in Washington DC and want to head to Boston, you can connect in New York for no additional miles (I’m not saying that connecting is preferred, but it happens sometimes).

The same holds true for any route where you’d need to connect — with British Airways you’ll pay for each segment, and with Iberia you pay for the total round-trip mileage.

And in some cases the costs can be much lower:

Current BA Avios CostNew BA Avios CostIberia Avios Cost
Short-haul flights < 300 miles:
• SAN-LAX
• NYC-BOS
• ORD-STL
• DFW-AUS
• etc.
4,500 one-way
9,000 round trip
7,500 one-way
15,000 round trip
11,000 round trip
Short multi-segment trips (601-1000 cumulative miles):
• DCA-LGA-BOS
• SAN-LAX-LAS
• etc.
9,000 one-way
18,000 round trip
15,000 one-way
30,000 round trip
12,000 round trip
Longer multi-segment trips (1001-2000 cumulative miles):
• DEN-DFW-AUS
• SAV-MIA-GCM
• etc.
12,000 one-way
24,000 round trip
15,000 one-way
30,000 round trip
17,000 round trip

So if you live close to a hub city, or have been stymied by how British Airways prices each segment separately, Iberia can offer some real values.

For those of us who have primarily used Avios for positioning flights this might not help much. I frequently only need a one-way flight, so wouldn’t truly realize the savings of a round-trip. Beyond that, I value flexibility tremendously, and am not always prepared to book the return and the outbound at the same time.

But for some people, this can be a useful strategy.

Redeeming Iberia Avios on American

Iberia is one of those fun programs that has slightly different redemption rates for each of their partners. Their chart for awards on American Airlines is as follows:

Redeem-Iberia-Avios-04

All award prices are round-trip, which is key. Iberia only allows round-trip itineraries on American. So you lose a bit of flexibility, but if you plan strategically this can represent a significant savings over both the old and new British Airways charts.

On the plus side, awards can be booked online!

From your Iberia Plus account click on “Avios” then “Using My Avios”:

Redeem-Iberia-Avios-15

Make sure you select a roundtrip booking, otherwise the system will just error out:

Redeem-Iberia-Avios-06

You’re looking for “Blue Class” which should match the economy SAAver availability on American’s website:

Redeem-Iberia-Avios-07 Redeem-Iberia-Avios-08

Once you’ve selected an outbound and return, the total price in Avios and any fees will be displayed. The fees are a bit higher than through British Airways, but there aren’t any close-in penalties:

Redeem-Iberia-Avios-09

If you need multiple segments, and the connecting times are logical, the Iberia tool can price those awards as well:

Redeem-Iberia-Avios-16

Just make sure you have (and are selecting) “Blue Class” for all segments:

Redeem-Iberia-Avios-17 Redeem-Iberia-Avios-18 Redeem-Iberia-Avios-19

More complex itineraries can be booked over the phone, but the Iberia call center isn’t the greatest.

Sad news for the West Coast

For those, like me, who have primarily been redeeming Avios on Alaska, there’s really no good news. Iberia doesn’t partner with Alaska, and as American flights tend to be a bit longer on this side of the Rockies, your options are going to be very limited.

The downsides of Iberia

While there are certainly some values to be had in this chart, there are some negatives and limitations to the program that you’ll want to be aware of.

Calling Iberia is awful

Just so you know. If you have a bit of Spanish it’s not as bad, but still generally awful. If something can’t be booked online, be prepared for a struggle.

Partner awards are non-refundable

If you’re booking at the last-minute this likely doesn’t matter, but it’s worth knowing. So you’re getting a discounted rate, but might have to sacrifice those Avios if your plans change.

No transfers from Ultimate Rewards

While you can transfer points directly from American Express Membership Rewards to Iberia, Chase is only a partner of British Airways. You can still move points from BA to Iberia, so this isn’t a huge problem, just an extra step to be aware of.

Transfer from Membership Rewards aren’t instant

They generally take fewer than 24 hours, though I’ve had them take as long as three days in the past. Again, just something to be aware of.

How to transfer Avios to Iberia

The transfer process is generally straightforward, though there have been confounding tech glitches at times.

From your Executive Club account, select “Manage my account” and then “Combine my Avios”

Redeem-Iberia-Avios-20 Redeem-Iberia-Avios-21

This will bring you to several “info” screens. Just click through them.

Redeem-Iberia-Avios-22

Eventually you’ll get to a page where you can enter your Iberia Plus details:

Redeem-Iberia-Avios-23

The transfer should be relatively quick, but again, sometimes there are technical issues that gum things up.

Bottom line

The British Airways devaluation sucks. Full stop.

However, if you are sitting on a pile of Avios there can be some strategic value in transferring to Iberia and redeeming through their program. And if you’ve been looking for a solution to multi-segment itineraries, this could be the way to go.

Have you redeemed Avios through Iberia? What was your experience?

Comments

  1. What is the easiest way to get some activity in your iberia account? Any way to avoid having to credit a flight?

  2. Great informative post! You are the only one of the contributors on OMAT that adds any value to the blog. I’ve enjoyed reading yours and Luckys posts.

  3. @ODB – when I read BA’s most recent devaluation email, going through IB for short haul awards was the first thought I had. The bloggers have *a lot* more experience than me at playing the game, so I’m pretty sure that they had the same idea. This particular concept isn’t exactly rocket science. I’m tired of people crying about seeing the same content on FT and Reddit as the blogs. Sometimes the blogs do crib some especially specific info from those sources, but a lot of it is common sense.

    @wahoowah – sign up for the Iberia promo emails and just make sure to read them whenever you get one. Occasionally they have promos for small Avios bonuses. ie: I activated my account a while back when they had a promo giving 150 Avios just for registering for their summer flights promo, you didn’t even have to fly.

  4. Come on, the devaluation sucks? Maybe in that anything becoming more expensive sucks, but this isn’t some horrific thing. The cost has now increased to *only* 60% of the cost in AA miles from 36%. This is not even close to the end of the world or something that literally *every* blogger needs to declare a disaster.

    If this sucks, what are you going to call it when AA devalues?

  5. When you indicate that partner awards are non-refundable does that include BA? As both are under the avios fold, would flights booked at Iberia but flown on BA still be considered as a partner airline (as opposed to American)?

  6. So she ripped off Lucky from his Jan ’15 article and a published award program? You guys do realize Tiffany books award travel for people for a living, right? sheesh…

  7. Something to keep in mind is that when you book awards on Iberia metal, you’re sometimes / often / always (?) given the opportunity to use cash for part of the award instead of Avios. For instance, if an award was 5,000 Avios, IB might offer to let you get it for 3,000 Avios + $25, effectively “buying” 2,000 Avios @ 1.25 cents each. I’ve gotten offers as low as 1 cent per Avios. I don’t know if there are similar offers when you’re booking partner or TATL IB flights.

  8. @ ODB @ hg — Really? I think we’re pretty good around here at giving credit wherever we find info elsewhere. For what it’s worth, I wrote this on Wednesday, and as @JDL mentioned — we do this stuff all day.

  9. @ wahoowah — Sure! You can transfer some points over directly from Amex or SPG, along with the stuff @Matt mentioned above.

  10. @ Nick — Well, the AA devaluation is impending, which (to me) is part of the difference. BA has been chipping away at the Executive Club program for the past four years. If you remove one of the last vestiges of value from a program, that sorta sucks, I think.

  11. @ Jim — Well, you don’t want to book BA flights with Iberia Avios really, as you will sometimes pay more in taxes due to the Reward Flight Saver scheme that BA offers by booking directly. But I believe they would also count as a partner airline, and subject to the same partner rules — the booking screen and the T&Cs give different info, and I’ve not personally needed to cancel one.

  12. Okay, two different opinions. Oh well:

    @Jim – according to the Iberia award search, award tix on IB, YW, I2, and BA are refundable.

    @ Jim — Well, you don’t want to book BA flights with Iberia Avios really, as you will sometimes pay more in taxes due to the Reward Flight Saver scheme that BA offers by booking directly. But they would also count as a partner airline, and subject to the same partner rules.

  13. @ jfhscott — Well, before you get too excited, it’s not last-seat availability or anything. Just “more”.

  14. @ Jim — I edited my comment to clarify, because I honestly don’t know. The T&Cs say BA is considered a partner. The award search says differently. I haven’t ever needed to cancel a BA booking through Iberia, so not sure, unfortunately.

  15. @ODB~ was this reported somewhere else? Well, I for one don’t care; I would have missed it completely, and this is information particularly relevant for me right now. Very informative and timely as far as I’m concerned. I don’t spend all day reading every FF blog as some apparently do.

  16. This is a great article – thank-you!
    So I’m comparing short haul flights – specifically out of Detroit to Florida destinations and I am finding one new thing which may or may not be true – maybe you know.
    Firstly, its actually less Avios used to Orlando with Iberia (17,000) than Ba (18,000) Currently even though taxes are $12 higher. But you probably already knew that!
    The thing I am finding which seems astonishing is the HUGE availability on Iberia using Avios compared to BA. I did a few sample flights with both websites and found this true every time.
    Take Detroit – Orlando Nov 3 -11.
    BA shows 7 available on the way there on 1 flight and 3 flights with 7 avail. on way back. Connections in CLT or DCA or PHL
    Iberia shows way more. But it doesn’t show how many per flight which is somewhat annoying.
    So my question is…”Is this generally true that Iberia shows more availability or is this just random/my mistake/ whatever?”
    Thanks again for the informative post.

  17. @ Jay — They should have the same availability, but BA doesn’t always display everything on their site. What you see at the saver level on aa.com will be most accurate though.

  18. Understood. Just means if you find something on AA saver and it’s not on BA site, you have to call? Whereas it just might be online with Iberia? Rather not call BA as there are only so many hours in the day!

  19. “Unless you live or are traveling to a hub city for American or Alaska, these “short-haul” Avios awards probably haven’t been much use to you.”

    That’s not quite the whole story. Recently I booked award tickets to LHR for my wife and me; the trip home is booked out of Dublin. For 8,000 Avios total, we will fly LHR to DUB and save several hundred dollars on U.K. departure fees.

  20. @Nick, you must live at a hub. For me, under the current system, domestic flights are cheaper on Avios than AA miles for scores of destinations. In the future that will be exactly two – DFW and ORD. If you have to make a connection, the minimum round trip with Avios will be 30,000.

  21. Tiffany,

    What if I want to do a redemption like YYZ-LGA-BOS on AA using Iberia Avios? The total flight distance over 2 segments is 541 miles according to GC Map. Would that make it 11,000 or 12,000 miles round trip?

    I also just signed up for an Iberia Avios account and it won’t let me price out the trip above, because I don’t have ‘sufficient miles in my account’.

  22. @ Zak — Hmm, I have zero miles in my account, and I’m still able to price flights. Are you sure award space is available on the dates you’re searching? And are you looking at round-trip itineraries? That can cause errors as well.

    The roundtrip itinerary looks like 1082 flown miles, which would mean 17k Avios for the round trip.

  23. I just tried a search from DFW-ORD rt, but it only showed non-stop flights and didn’t show any saver flights with a connection. Is there something I need to do to see the options with stops?

  24. Im having some trouble with the iberia website. Just checked Montreal,Canada to Belize City, Belize. The distance is around 2100 miles, therefore the price should come out at 23,000 avios. When I do the search it shows 28,000 miles. Anyone have any idea why? Also just checked Quebec City, Canada to Philadelphia which is 511 miles and should therefore be 11,000 avios. Website is showing 17,000!!! Does the Iberia website hate Canada? Lucky any idea?

  25. @ geoff — Keep in mind all Iberia partner awards have to be round trips. So YQB>PHL>YQB is 1031 flown miles, and thus prices as 17,000 Iberian Avios.

  26. Thanks Tiffany for the response. I was calculating it the same way as BA avios, one way. Any idea why connections through PHL from YQB aren’t pulling up?

  27. This is weird. I am doing DCA-BOS and a direct routing prices out at 12,000 even though GCMap says it’s 400 miles. Anyone know why?

  28. Is there a reason why I cant search for flights on Iberia? I only have 1200 avios and was going to transfer more over. However, I cant use any of the search features on Iberia. Does it work for you?

  29. Like Phil said I also can’t search for flights on Iberia now. I could before though.
    I also don’t have enough points for flights – wondering if that is glitch?
    Jay.

  30. I m in the same boat as other posters: the Iberia award search is not working. I have enough IB avios in my account for the award, and confirmed availability via the BA award search. Most frustratingly, the error message is, “We regret to inform you that there are no connecting flights between the cities selected.” I was search roundtrip Mia-Gcm Jan 13-17 (AA metal). Anyone know what gives?

  31. I have been talking back and forth with Iberia English on Twitter and they have been “waiting for an answer from our colleagues” for a few weeks, lol.
    I have to think this is costing them business, but maybe some reader knows something?

  32. They say you have to call in for these flights now – not blocked according to their social media team.
    I wonder if the author of this article knows something?
    This whole article is basically about booking those flights online which can save you significant Avios.
    It’s puzzling that this could happen and stay down this long…

  33. I see plenty of availability for short-haul AA flights on the ba.com website within the US (15,000 British avios vs 11,000 Iberia avios) but when I call in they tell me they cannot book the flights because it is AA and because it is “in the U.S. and we don’t have access to that” and they told me to contact AA instead, errr but I want to use my Iberia Avios points to pay for the flight…how’s AA going to access that? Was I just dealing with an incompetent agent and should just HUCA (Hang Up Call Again)?

  34. They are playing dumb or something. Nobody there seems to know what is going on- I have chatted with a few agents now.
    The only way to do it is phone them- if you can do it at all.
    I’m surprised more isn’t being said about this glitch because it’s extremely annoying if you have Iberia Avios.
    Jay

  35. Thanks Jay, that’s what I figured! Were you ever successful in making a booking with them for AA flights or other partners? How many agents did you have to go through before you were successful?

  36. Well I read this article and thought it would be a great idea to get Iberia Avios but I waited a few months and am glad I did. When I went to check some US flights there was nothing available any more.
    Their people really don’t know or care that there is an issue and someone suggested that the only way to book those flights is by calling them up.
    I have to think this is costing them customers but what do I know?
    Good luck with them -I am so glad I didn’t convert to them- but you never know they may fix it.
    Jay

  37. Have you tried to book American flights on Iberia’s website recently? I can’t seem to get it to pull up award space. For example, I’m currently searching SLC to DFW roundtrip 9/2/17 to 9/4/17. I see both Economy and Business MileSAAver availability but when I search on Iberia I keep getting a message saying “No availability has been found for the selected journey.” I tried some other routes as well and as far as I can tell it won’t pull up any American flights. Any thoughts?

  38. No matter what route I choose I get “No availability has been found for the selected journey.” I called and they don’t even know what is wrong. I had a lot of trouble understanding the CSR.

  39. I called and asked them to book the flight for me. After 20 minutes the CSR came back on and said she couldn’t get it to work and didn’t know why. She said she was going to submit a request to have their IT department look into it. I think it would help if someone fluent in Spanish would call. I had a lot of trouble understanding her. The airport I fly out of, EVV, requires a connection when flying anywhere outside of the Midwest so Iberia is a good deal on points for me. I hope they get this resolved soon.

  40. Tiffany, any luck making headway on this issue? Would be nice to be able to make these bookings online since calling in is hit or miss every time.

  41. Having the same problem that people have reported above — nothing available NYC-WAS on any date I looked over the course of the entire year, despite availability showing on AA/BA. The customer rep kept saying there are no seats in the class that Iberia can access for Avios customers. I said it seems like there must be some problem with the system and she kept saying she had no reports of issues, and easily found availability on a flight from Miami to Madrid.

  42. Same issue here. Looking to use Iberia Avios to book an AA flight. Has anyone had any luck with phone customer service?

    Anyone have connections that could help us find answers?

  43. Yep, I just tried 1 – DTT – CLT Sept 12- Sept 27.
    I just can’t transfer from my BA account to Iberia Avios.

  44. I am having the hardest time getting miles for four Royal Jordanian Flights credited to my IBERIA PLUS account. I have already written to the customer center providing all necessary information, but haven’t received a single reaction for over a month now, despite having sent two follow-up emails. Has anyone an idea what to do now or has anyone had similar issues with crediting miles to the account?

  45. I have tried no less than 10 times to contact the 800# on the Iberia website and each time, I get “transferred” to a representative via the automated voice system and into a dead air scenario. After a few minutes of dead air, the call is dropped. Extremely frustrating. Has anyone had luck contacting a human at Iberia? I’m trying to book an award ticket on American from ATL-ORD-LON and have no luck on the website or trying to contact a human.

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