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Why you should NEVER book Avios flights on Iberia via ba.com

I am off to the US again for a week in July.  I am trying to put together an interesting itinerary that maximises my flying and hotel experiences whilst minimising the cost.

(I have a fantastic outbound lined up.  As I will already be in Germany, I have a Frankfurt – Zurich - Boston flight lined up.  This lets me do a morning in the Lufthansa First Class Terminal, the afternoon in the Swiss First Class Lounge and then a Swiss First Class flight over to the US.  Once in a while, you really appreciate a day like that!  But more on this in a few weeks time.)

Coming back, availability is tight so I am looking at all the options.  And one of those options is taking Iberia from New York to Madrid.

Iberia Plus

When you book a flight on Iberia, you have two options:

1.  You can book it via ba.com – Iberia availability shows up alongside BA availability, as both airlines are in the oneworld alliance and you can use your Avios on all oneworld carriers

or

2.  You can book it via iberia.com

Iberia – which has the same parent company as British Airways – also uses Avios as its loyalty currency.  And, if you have an Iberia Plus account, you can freely transfer Avios back and forth from BA to Iberia using ‘Combine My Avios’.

However, there are two conditions:

You can only transfer in or out of Iberia Plus accounts which are 90 days old

You can only transfer in or out of ‘active’ Iberia Plus accounts.  This means that the account has ‘earned’ an Avios directly – ie you have credited a flight, hotel or car hire to it, or done some other activity to earn an Avios.  (Does buying 2,000 Iberia Avios count?  I don’t know the answer to this one.)  If you have an Amex card with Membership Rewards, transferring 1,000 points across may be the easiest way to ‘activate’ your account.

Why would want you want to mess about with all this?  Very simple – you do not pay fuel surcharges on Iberia redemptions using Avios when booked via Iberia Plus.

Here is an example, looking at 24th July for a one-way flight from New York to Madrid:

Book IB6250 from New York to Madrid in Business on ba.com and pay 40,000 Avios and £298 of taxes

Book IB6250 from New York to Madrid in Business on iberia.com and pay 40,000 Avios plus €68 (£58) of taxes

That is a ludicrous £240 saving – per person!

Note that this ONLY applies to booking Iberia flights on iberia.com.  If you book a British Airways flight on iberia.com, you pay the same fuel surcharges as at ba.com.

(In any event, you should NEVER book a British Airways or oneworld Avios flight at iberia.com, because it is non-refundable.  Book at ba.com and you can cancel it for a £25 fee.)

This is why, if you don’t have an Iberia Plus account, you should open one.  It will start the 90 day clock ticking before you can transfer in or out of it.  If you don’t, you won’t be able to get an Iberia account up and running and short notice if you need one.

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Comments

  1. sandgrounder says:

    I’m surprised this doesn’t get more publicity. Air Berlin and Aer Lingus are often discussed, but Iberia not so much.

    • Until IB’s new business class is fully rolled out, the product is worse than BA. And if you start in London, you need to get back to London from Madrid which is 4,500 Avios. Still a better deal but the savings reduce. In my case, I need to be in Hamburg so I am ambivalent whether I go via Heathrow or Madrid (or Berlin, but airberlin is not available).

  2. Chris C says:

    In one part of your article you say ‘you don’t pay fuel surcharges’ then later (with the examples) you use the term ‘taxes’

    Which is it?

    If you mean fuel surcharges then please say so and stop conflating ‘fuel surcharges’ with ‘taxes’ it’s what the airlines do to try and hide the fuel surcharge and try to blame it on the Government(s) .

  3. I wonder if exchanging some Amex MR points to Iberia would count as the account being active?

  4. Isn’t there another restriction on transferring Avios out of Iberia Plus- you can’t transfer into a family account?

    I’ve got several thousand Avios “stuck” in my Iberia account because of this.

  5. Rachid says:

    Hi,
    Can you advise if you also can book Malaysia airlines, Cathay , others Oneworld partners through Iberia and pay less charges?

    • Couldn’t check Malaysian because you need to call – Kuala Lumpur is not in the Iberia drop-down menu! Cathay is the same, though – £289 for a economy redemption from London to Hong Kong. And non-cancellable as well if you book via Iberia, unlike via BA.

  6. Mark B says:

    Where is the option on checking price and availabiliy using avois on the Iberia site? I only get the cash only options, which perhaps could be explained by the fact I haven’t yet transferred any Avios into Iberia

    • Hello,

      In Iberia you have a place called IBERIA plus and there you need to choose the book with Avios.

      • Mark B says:

        Thanks, yes going through Iberia plus works on the main website, but for some reason not on my tablet’s desktop site, so will use the main one

  7. I have question but it is the opposite.

    I wanted to book on BA a BRU-SCQ flight. Hoped to get the reward saver. But NO flights are showing up. Same thing for BRU-OPO.

    What am I doing wrong?

  8. Andrew (@andrewseftel) says:

    You should have an IB account even if you never want to touch IB metal – plenty of enhanced third-party Avios earning opportunities over crediting to BA. Hilton and Avis come immediately to mind.

  9. I have heard that you cannot transfer avios into a Iberia account if the points are coming from a household account, is this true?

    • If your BAEC account is part of a Household account grouping, then you can’t use combine my Avios with BAEC.

      However if you have a UK address, you qualify to open an account in the Avios.com scheme, and you can then route via your Avios.com account to go between BAEC and IB+.

      • Adding clarification to my own comment: “If your BAEC account is part of a Household account grouping, then you can’t use combine my Avios with BAEC.” – with IB+, i.e. you can’t got IB+ BAEC if the BAEC is in a HHA.

        You can go via Avios.com accounts.

  10. Small point, but Madrid is 15,000 abios return from London rather than the 9,000 hinted at earlier- makes quite a difference when travelling as a family of four, but as a plus point (for some) you can fly from London City.

  11. To answer the question in the original post. Yes, buying Avios (inside your Iberia plus account) should activate an IB+ account – and I’ve seen multiple confirmation reports of this on various sites as something that works in practice.
    You will obviously still be subject to the 90 days rule.

    If you have just opened your IB+ account, you could give this potential free route a go though:
    http://www.ukpoints.com/2013/04/26/way-to-activate-an-iberia-plus-account-with-50-free-avios/

    If that promo route to 50 free Avios doesn’t work for you, you could still buy the Avios at the end of the 90 days period.

  12. Wow, I knew there would be a difference, but £240 per person is ridiculous!

    IB plus accounts for me and the mrs are on the way!!!

    :D

    • The £240 differential is also high because BA is very ‘creative’ in its fuel surcharges. If you book a return to the US on BA as 2 x one-ways, you pay substantially more in fuel surcharge than if you book a return starting in London. Just proves how the numbers have no grounding in reality.

  13. onlysuites says:

    OT I know but booked a NCL-LHR return last night. Return fare was £110 and two one ways were £50 each. Same flights.

  14. Just to confirm/check the BA Amex PP companion ticket can only be redeemed on BA flights? Which then incurs all the taxes/fees/surchages x2

    • Only redeemed on BA flights, and also only redeemed from BAEC. Even if it did allow IB flights, as it could do at some future time, it would be redeemed from BAEC at the rates BAEC prices them.

      • Thought would be the case, the companion ticket still remains attractive, but only after checking versus Iberia.

        The BA Moscow redemption looks an absolute bargain (40,000 avios, plus £40) for business class return. Shame i have no desire to visit.

        Iberia avios redemption availability, on first glance, seems to have more availability for NYC than BA?

    • Yes, afraid so

  15. AndyGWP says:

    hey Raffles,

    Apologies if you’ve covered this before, but I’ve never really looked into redeeming Avios via. the BAEC before… I was wondering if there was any advantages over using Avios redemption on BAEC, as opposed to going via. the avios.com website?

    Hope that makes sense :)

    • ba.com – also shows you seats on oneworld partners (Finnair, Qantas, Cathay, Malaysian etc)

      avios.com – sometimes has better BA availability in Economy class, also shows you seats on Flybe, Monarch, Aurigny and Air Malta

      No differences in taxes charged.

  16. Any reason why I would need two IB+ accounts activated for 90 days (as opposed to one Ac.) if I book flights for my wife and me?

  17. Many here seem unaware that Avios.com also has household accounts and the ‘combine my Avios’ rules are the same as with BAEC household accounts. You cannot transfer out of a household account but you can dissolve it pretty easily and quickly. With Avios.com the members agree to how the Avios should be apportioned between the members – including giving all to one member. With BAEC they remain with the members who earned them (as it is a frequent flyers rather than a reward scheme).

    My recent Iberia redemption was business class Sao Paulo – Madrid for 50,000 Avios + €28 taxes!

    • sandgrounder says:

      It’s not that easy- you need to send a paper for in via snail mail and wait for it to be processed. For most people, it’s probably best to stick to BA for HHA purposes, and then you still have the option of consolidation via avios.com if you built up small IB+ balance. Opening and closing an avios.com HHA is, as stated, a useful way of giving Avios to another family member free of charge, however.

  18. Lady London says:

    Thanks for interesting article.

  19. Raffles you made an interesting and valid point about checking availability for flights on BAEC and Avios. I can back this up as I found Business Class seats from LGW to Dubrovnik in July on Avios and not on BAEC (where i thought i would). Always worth checking both!

    • Interesting, because I always say its only Economy which comes up with extra seats!

    • Sir Stamford says:

      Are you sure there is extra availability on Avios?

      I just did a search for CE from LGW to DBV on both BA and Avios for June, July, Aug, Sep and October and they both show the same level of availability.

      For instance, there is a single CE seat available on 17 July. This is shown on both Avios and BA.

      Sir Stamford

      • Hi Sir Stamford, I booked 1 of the CE seats for 17/7 flight a few weeks ago in fact and it only showed on Avios. I needed to book another one on Sunday and found one more…said it was the last one. Looks like they are drip feeding them if you say there is another one… No harm in checking both sites I think

      • Yes, think it is X bucket of the top of my head.

  20. A little off topic but it is interesting to peoples general views on travel. To me it is a means to an end (i.e. to get to the destination), and whilst I would like it to be comfortable and hence the reason I collect various points, I would not want to go out of my way and do multiple connections when I direct flight is possible or another airline has a faster total time. Nor would I want to be in any exec lounge 1 minute more than I had to.

    • If you travel regularly and your employer is paying for the flight, then I’d say you were correct that a direct flight is preferable. However, if it’s coming out of your own pocket then I imagine lots of people would be willing to have a stopover to save almost £500 for a couple. It’s a couple of nice meals, or an upgraded hotel room at your destination.

      • I even enjoy it! When I did the ex-Budapest to New York, I went to Heathrow in the morning, had a nice brekky in the lounge, flew Club Europe to Hungary, got the next flight back (Club Europe again, so no great strain), was back in the UK for 5p, went home, slept in my own bed and then next day went down to City Airport to get the New York flight. (Because I was less than 24 hours in the UK I didn’t pay the stopover fee or UK Air Passenger Duty.)

        As long as you have that extra day to play with, its not a problem. If you book ex-Amsterdam, you can even fly to Holland and back home after work if you live near Heathrow or City Airport, before flying off ‘properly’ the next day.

        Obviously doesn’t work so easily with a family!

    • Sir Stamford says:

      There are many reasons why people may prefer to travel via an indirect route when there is a more direct route with shorter flight time.

      When you travel via an indirect route, there are sometimes significant cost savings especially if you are paying for it from your own pocket. The best example I can think of is the ex-EU British Airways fares. Travel in J LHR-HKG-LHR, BA will charge you £3,000. Travel in J from AMS (i.e. AMS-LHR-HKG-LHR, leaving out the final AMS sector), you can get the same long haul flights for about £2,000.

      Some routes are not served by the main carriers, for instance Krakow (KRK). I would rather walk, not go at all or travel with LH via TXL at additional cost than to be seen flying with easyJet or Ryanair. I am not a snob when it comes to budget airlines but I have had horrible experiences with them.

      You may also choose to fly with specific airlines or alliances which less than direct routing to earn or maximise frequent flyer points, save on taxes/fuel charges etc.

      And of course, the flight experience and comfort. If you have a choice of flying direct with an airline which offers lie-flat in their ancient B744 or A343 or go with a competitor who offers fully flat in their modern A388 or B77W but with a short transit along the way, what would you choose? For me, I would go with the latter.

      Sir Stamford

      • Phillip says:

        Try IST-LHR-HKG-LHR for £1600 for a bargain and an interesting stop-over!

  21. IB and Vueling flights add a number of mainland and island destinations in Spain. Theoretically they can available as Avios Reward Flight Savers and again theoretically there should be a ‘free’ connection in Spain without incurring doubled sector fees.

    However, it does seem that at least one IB sector must be included. Vueling to Vueling connections don’t show up online. (I checked at avios.com and iberia.com.)

    I was looking at getting to FUErteventura dn PMI (Palma, Majorca) using Avios. For FUE, no online availability as LON-BCN-FUE is an all Vueling connection. LON-MAD-PMI is fine, though, even though it’s Vueling to Vueling but the LON flight is IB op Vueling. But it’s regarded as two flights so double sectors are charged.

    In a similar situation, Flyertalk suggests BA Ticketing must be involved to get around this (not just BA eservations).

    For FUE, I don’t think I’ll try any more. I think I’ll use Norwegian LGW-FUE nonstop, a new winter route.