Avios changes 7: big Avios savings (up to 43%!) on long-haul when you redeem on Iberia

Executive summary: post April 28th, you can make SUBSTANTIAL business class savings to certain cities, especially on some BA peak dates, by redeeming your Avios on Iberia via Iberia Plus rather than on British Airways

Key link: ‘Club Changes’ page on ba.com, ‘Club Changes’ page on iberia.com

(If you are new to Head for Points, welcome!  Please consider bookmarking the site or sign up for our daily emails via the box in the right hand margin.)

Here are the other articles in this series you may have missed:

1. Understanding the new tier point rules

2. Understanding the new earning rates

3. Understanding the new spending rates

4. What is an Avios point worth after April 28th?

5. Exploiting the ‘no repricing on date changes’ rule

6. Why are off-peak upgrades now more expensive than peak?

8. Partner redemptions may be cheaper if booked on iberia.com

9. What will happen to airline partner earning rates?

10. Are you a winner or a loser overall?

British Airways Executive Club and avios.com are not the only programmes undergoing substantial change.  Iberia Plus, which also uses Avios as its currency, is changing too.

As usual with Iberia, it is doing things in a different way.  This opens up some interesting arbitrage opportunities for you.

Full details of the changes to the Iberia scheme can be found here.  In summary:

  • the changes start on March 1st, two months before the BAEC changes take place, for miles earning and from April 1st for miles redeeming
  • Iberia will move to a similar peak and off-peak redemption structure but with different peak dates
  • Iberia will adopt a different reward chart to BAEC and avios.com

For tickets bought after March 1st and credited to Iberia Plus, Avios earning will have the same structure as British Airways Executive Club, eg 250% of miles flown for flexible Business Class ticket and a 50% bonus for a mid-tier member.

What we do NOT know yet is how many ‘Elite Points’ you will get for each flight.  The table will not be published until March 1st.  It might turn out that you can earn status more quickly by crediting British Airways flights to Iberia Plus.  I will look into this further when we know more about their Elite Points structure.

Is it worth redeeming for British Airways flights via iberia.com?

No.  This PDF document shows the redemption rates for BA flights booked via Iberia.  The redemption rates and the table of peak dates are the same as those used by British Airways Executive Club.

Add in the fact that BA redemptions booked via Iberia are non-refundable and non-changeable and there is no reason at all to use Iberia Plus to redeem on British Airways.

PS.  Here is a handy tip – the PDF document above shows the BA peak dates for January to March 2016.  This information is not on ba.com.

If both BA and Iberia fly to the same long-haul city, is it worth redeeming on Iberia via iberia.com?

Oh yes.  Big time.

Here is the Avios redemption table for Iberia:

Iberia chart PNG 2

Let’s take a look at New York as a typical Iberia long-haul route which is also served by British Airways.  New York is Zone 5.

This is what a return business class redemption will cost:

British Airways flight:  120,000 Avios + £508 at peak, 100,000 Avios + £508 at off-peak

Iberia flight: 100,000 Avios + £137 (€183) at peak, 68,000 Avios + £137 (€183) at off-peak

Wow.  Big difference.  You can save 32,000 Avios and £371 in charges by getting yourself to Madrid (for cash or Avios) to connect.

It can be even crazier though.  BA and Iberia have different definitions of ‘peak’ and ‘off peak’.  Let’s say you want to fly to New York for October 15th – October 19th which is half-term for UK state schools.  These are peak days with BA, requiring 120,000 Avios + £508.  Iberia Plus treats those as off-peak days, however, so you only pay 68,000 Avios + £137.  That is a huge difference – you save 52,000 Avios (43%) and £371 per person with Iberia!

Taking Los Angeles as another example, a business class Iberia reward will be 85,000 or 125,000 Avios depending on season.  British Airways will charge 125,000 or 150,000 Avios – and the taxes will be £300 more expensive.  Would you buy a ticket to Madrid in order to save £370 and 25,000 – 65,000 Avios per person?

A key feature of Head for Points after April 28th will be a calendar comparing peak and off-peak dates with BA and Iberia!

Remember that Iberia is starting flights from Manchester and Edinburgh to Madrid this year which will give those in the regions an easy option for connecting.

Booking partner airlines via Iberia Plus may also be cheaper – but will be non-refundable

British Airways will be using the ‘peak’ part of the BA reward chart for redemptions on partner airlines such as airberlin.

Iberia, to confuse matters, will be using a totally different chart which is in the PDF document above.

Click for the next article – Partner redemptions may be cheaper if booked on iberia.com

Virgin status match still running if you fly Little Red - and why you should do it
How to earn miles when using your mobile abroad, with 'Travelling Connect'
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  1. Time to activate an Iberia account!

  2. avidsaver says:

    Do we know if Iberia will also be opening up a minimum number of redemption seats like BA?

    • avidsaver says:

      Answer is yes! Just found the info!

      • I saw a reference to ‘1 million more seats’ but I couldn’t find any ‘we promise x seats per flight’ guarantee.

        • avidsaver says:

          Under FAQ (“Using Avios” last question) they confirm that all flights both peak and off peak will have redemption seats. By the way, thanks Rob for covering all these changes so well -very much appreciated!

    • Iberia currently releases a good 4 seats on many of its US routes.

  3. If the difference remains it’s hardly worthwhile holding 241 vouchers on BA!

  4. erico1875 says:

    Brilliant info Raffles.
    I dont think the sky is falling in on point collecting as first thought. We may just need to shift strategies slightly.
    RFS availability for July is excellent at the moment too.

  5. Any household account or similar with Iberia?

    • No.

      • Perhaps not as big an issue if transferring what you need from BA for occasional iberia bookings… Just need enough in one person’s account for that particular booking. Strategic balance moves prior to booking anything with BA may help to distribute your avios in a way that makes it easier.

  6. “Some partner flights will be a better deal if booked via iberia.com. I will return to this topic in another article”

    Apart from the main drawback of Partner bookings being non refundable another drawback with booking partner flights with IB is that you must book return flights.
    as per the TCs

    “Tickets that contain a journey on any oneworld company should be return flights with the same origin/final destination”

    Still a great deal if you do require return flights.

    • All true. But most of us do come back to the same destination. Whether or not you consider the saving (20%-ish) to be worth losing the ability to cancel is a different matter as I will show tomorrow.

    • Can you fly to the same one world destinations?
      Also, calendars seem to be playing up on my iPad since latest software update. Almost as if it’s using the US way of showing the date. Had the different problem on Kaligo yesterday trying to book, 28 feb 15 to 1st March 15, which kept coming up 29th feb 2016, although the booking went through on the correct dates at the end of this month.

    • That wording doesn’t necessarily exclude open jaw bookings, though such a technicality is meaningless if you can’t actually book them.

      Can you?

  7. Rob, any thoughts as to the likelihood of IAG scrapping the ability to transfer avios between programs, and implications of an AGL sell off? Even if they did, presumably we would have some notice anyway. Also, any idea how long MBNAs contract with BA has yet to run?

    • Not impossible but I doubt it is a top priority, if at all. I think the MBNA deal lasts as long as the massive pile of BMI miles they bought takes to be used up!

      • Did MBNA buy the remaining BMI miles? I thought that BA acquired all liabilities as part of the deal?

        • My understanding is that MBNA had committed to buying a huge slug of miles and is still working through them. This is the norm for these sort of deals in the airline industry.

  8. I’m struggling to find what the new bands align to – looking at http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/british-airways-executive-club/1527161-selecting-redemption-destinations-edges-pricing-bands.html doesn’t seem to match up e.g. goes up to band 9, whereas the new pricing goes up to band 7

  9. but what are the Long Haul Iberian planes like??

  10. Colin MacKinnon says:

    IB long-haul is excellent. They replaced sloping seats with flat years ago, and have now just about completed replacing the lie-flat with brand new (mainly by buying brand-new aircraft A330s and getting rid of/refurbishing the A340s)
    Food is good, and wine is outstanding. Try the Predro Ximenez Old Particular sweet sherry – it is not a sweet sherry, an ambrosia of a dessert wine!
    Madrid is a quiet airport!
    ps IB crews can be pretty grumpy, but I seem to hear that a lot now about BA! Must be IAG standardising across the company!

  11. At first glance the lower Avios/charges flights look like a good idea (assuming that Iberia fly to where you want to go e.g. no flights to Canada). In practice, however, there are other factors to consider. In the discussion of free connecting flights from the far corners of this country it was pointed out that they rarely connect easily with the long haul flight. And what if the flight to Madrid is delayed/cancelled, although your travel insurance may cover the cost but not the inconvenience. So you may well end up with a night in Madrid at each end; which could be enjoyable but will eat into the saving. On our last long haul holiday we stayed in four hotels and two friends’ homes; I would not consider suggesting two more hotels to unpack/pack.
    Also, if you use even part of your luggage allowance for Business let alone First your case can be up to 32kg. I cannot understand the rules for European flights on Iberia, but on a low cost airline you would pay a lot in luggage charges.
    It needs careful consideration in each set of circumstances.

    • You should probably be looking to fly a one world airline to Madrid. Eg ba Iberia or the budget one- cant remember the name. That way they should honour your connecting flight? At least that was my understanding???. However if you were to fly Ryanair its best to arrive the day before

      • Surely one of the bases of this strategy is to split the journey and so avoid APD and charges at Heathrow, so you want to keep the flights separate. How could they honour your connecting flight if you are not there? They could give you another flight, but you may lose a day of your holiday.

        • Doesn’t have to be same ticket. But if you miss a one world flight because your oneworld flight was delayed you should be covered

      • Vueling is not part of oneworld but is owned by IAG so I’m sure you would be OK.

  12. Can anyone recommend a decent (avios) value Iberia long haul destination.

    • Cuba, starts soon. Article next week. Costa Rica? They do all the ex Spanish colonies.

      • Done Cuba with tc , first and last time we flew with them. Left Gatwick and 10h later emergency landing back at Gatwick. But the country we liked. Would go back so its good to hear there’s an avios option to get there. Also lots of decent places in south America that have to be explored in sure. Lower taxes and fewer avios are always a good thing

      • Iberia have good coverage to every Spanish speaking country in South and Central America and OK coverage to Hispanic centres in the USA (eg Miami). Their short haul is poor, and I don’t trust them not to lose my luggage, but their product has improved significantly in the past years (whereas sadly BA’s appears to be declining)….

  13. Looking forward to the partner flights option. I could pick up a RJ flight for my April needs and hopefully be better off.

  14. Despite some great savings, maybe worth pointing out that all of July and August is Iberia Peak Period. (At least BA don’t include Tuesdays and Wednesdays)

  15. Is there a way of transferring points from a household account with BA to Iberia. I have a BA HH account but I can only transfer the points that are in my name to Iberia, rather than all of the other members. I could set up separate accounts for them at Iberia to transfer to but there is then the issue of all tickets being on separate PNRs and some of those would be under 14s booking separate tickets for themselves, not too mention being a bit of a faff too.

    • You’ll have to set up separate accounts. I think you can book for other people from your Iberia.

      • thanks, you can book for other people but the problem is that if earning from flying as a family then the earnings on Avios go to individual accounts. Was thinking about Cuba too and IB is an option but can use AB for the HHA from BA.com I guess

  16. Good value from Iberia redemptions …but slightly less attractive if you’re not going to be flying from London..more Avios and expense once the changes kick it.

    • Yes, you have to factor in the cost of getting to Madrid vs a free BA connection.

      On the upside, if you are in the regions you are facing a plane change in Heathrow anyway so going via Madrid is less of an inconvenience. If you are in London it is more of a mental shift to agree to two flights when you could do it in one.

  17. I\’m guessing the Amex 2-4-1 voucher nis not applicable on Iberia avios redemptions?

  18. Does an Iberia avios account still need 1 mile earned before you can transfer to it? If so, does anyone have any suggestions on the quickest way to activate an Iberia account?

  19. I recently flew Iberia in Business Class from Sao Paulo to Madrid with my wife and Dad (his first Business Class flight !!) using Avios thanks to Raffles and this wonderful blog. I would never have got so many avios without Headforpoints. (Tesco deals and Economist promo in particular)
    Booked tickets in their 50% Avios sale so paid 25K per person + £35 in taxes. Wonder if Iberia will now have these kinda sales in future. I personally thought their product outscored BAs business class in all aspects except IFE (less choice, less friendly to use)
    Food and service( for me) was way better. For ex: Before reaching Madrid all connecting passengers were told personally which Gate they have to go to and whether there is a change of terminals and how much time should it take. I have just had 1 business flight with BA but never had such personal attention. Had shower in Madrid lounge (toiletries managed by Melia I believe so was really nice..even got a small bottle of perfume!!) The BA lounge has better lunch options but Iberia lounge had Ice cream (probably Haagen Das but don’t remember). If flying to same destinations I will now try for an Iberia flight rather than BA for the Avios and Money savings (unless severe time constraints or 2-4-1). Wish Iberia had a much wider coverage outside S.America

  20. Hi Rob,

    Are you sure that avios booking via Iberia are non-refundable?
    I just did I dummy booking which contained the following:

    Permitted 24 hours before departure the first flight of the ticket with a penalty of 25€ . If ticket not contains flights IB5XXX’

    This was for an IB6XXX flight so that implies they are refundable no?

  21. Offtopic but would be very grateful if Rob or anyone can answer this for me,
    I am planning a couple of trips in Europe and BA Hello Weekend offers with hotels are almost £80 cheaper per person than booking just the flights for the same date and time !!! If I book the package and don’t even bother to check in the hotel what happens? Does it impact my return flight?
    Also, would I get full avios (assuming I book before 28th April) for flights booked as part of BA holiday package or are these deeply discounted tickets not attracting any avios?

    • Ok Thanks. Actually I don’t require the hotel at all just the flight but will look into just checking in

    • No, you’re fine. You don’t need to check into the hotel. You will receive 100% Avios on the flights, BA does not have any ticket classes (except redemptions) which do not earn.

  22. Am I reading it right that an Air Berlin return to Abu Dhabi is only 46k avios in business class when booked via Iberia under the new rules? And better still that applies to flights from Düsseldorf as well as Berlin?

    I realise it would be non-refundable and it has to booked as a return, but even so with BA wanting 75k avios from Berlin or 120k avios from Düsseldorf in future booking via Iberia surely has to be a no-brainer in most cases….

    • Please confirm Raffles?

    • i was thinking the same but now i think the mileage shown is for the total return flight miles…
      ie: 5,001-8000 miles = 100k avios.
      hope i’m wrong

    • No. Berlin to Abu Dhabi is 5,800 miles return which (using the partner table) is 100,000 Avios return.

      The table is confusing because the mileage is for the TOTAL trip. You can tell this because it goes up to 50,000 miles which is clearly wouldn’t if it was just one-way!

      • Shame. That said Iberia’s clunky website doesn’t seem to recognise Abu Dhabi as a destination anyway. It doesn’t recognise Doha either, even though it offers Qatar routings via Doha!

  23. Do Iberia have a pay cash and upgrade with avios option?
    I always find the WTP upgrade to Biz class with avios to be the best way to use them

    • Yes. Upgrades are shown in the table. In the case of Iberia it is upgrades from economy since they don’t have premium economy. I suspect (as is the case with BA WT to WT+ upgrades) that it is not available with the cheapest fare buckets though.

  24. There might be a small error on the Iberia redemption table for full economy fares (band 6) in peak season. 375,000 miles is quite a lot :-)

  25. Very interesting indeed. Though I’d be interested in an article studying the before/after situation with Iberia itself.

  26. Can someone check my maths are correct???

    If 2 of us wanted to go to Sao Paulo in May 2016 in Business it looks like it would be better value to go with IB than use my 2-4-1 and go with BA. Obviously I need to factor in cost/hassle and potential risk of transferring via Madrid as well

    BA to Sao Paulo Off peak 192000 avios (up from 140k) plus 2-4-1 and £1050 taxes etc
    Iberia to Sao Paulo off peak 204000 avios and £270 taxes etc for 2 people

    Does that look right? If so I look forward to trying out Iberia service after years of only flying BA.

    • No, but in a good way.

      London to Sao Paulo seems to be 5,863 miles. That is a Zone 7 redemption. Offpeak is 150,000 per person and peak is 180,000 per person (where did you get 192k from?).

      However …

      Madrid to Sao Paulo seems to be 5,192 miles. That is a Zone 6 redemption which would make is 85,000 return at off-peak and 125,000 peak. The Iberia option is therefore (for 2) 170k – only 20k more than BA and you save a fortune in tax and you save your 2-4-1 for another day (perhaps Club Europe to Madrid!).

  27. Anyone know where I might find an Iberia route map? Can’t seem to find one and wondering what direct flights they have from Madrid to the USA?

  28. Has anyone got any experience booking Vueling flights with Iberia Plus Avios? I can book dublin to Barcelona on Iberia.com. Would much rather get BHD – BCN instead.(belfast flights start in May) but belfast doesn’t even appear in the list unless you choose One World and then you only have the BA option via Heathrow. Would this be a phone – only booking?

  29. Iberia puts a new perspective on travel now with these changes. We never considered it before and always liked the 241, however those taxes bite! Far better to have a nice overnight in Madrid both ways, little inconvenient but a beautiful city. Their club class seems to win votes too!