Nine UK travel hacking secrets you definitely won’t know about

If you are interested in UK travel hacking, Head for Points is, realistically, your only good daily source of news and information.  If you sign up for our daily newsletter or visit the site daily, you will be shocked how much you can learn and how quickly the quality of our travelling improves.

I wanted to remind you today about nine travel hacking tips for Avios collectors in the UK.  I am 99% certain that you won’t be familiar will all of these, however experienced you are.

Click through the links in the headlines if you want to know more about any particular statement.

So …. did you know …..?

Avios banner

… that you can get 20,000 Avios points quickly, and for free, by signing up for the FREE American Express Gold charge card?

Most people know that American Express issues an ‘official’ British Airways card.  Few people know that points from its Gold card can also be transferred to Avios at 1:1 – and that the Amex Gold card has a ludicrously generous sign-up bonus.  Find out more here.

… that the tax on Iberia redemptions is 60% lower if you transfer your Avios to Iberia Plus and book via their website?

Iberia Plus does not charge the full range of airport taxes and fuel surcharges imposed by

Let’s look at Madrid to New York in Business Class, return. Iberia, when you book on, will charge £159.

A BA redemption from London to New York (via on a BA plane) on the same route in Club World costs £502 in taxes and charges! That is, by any stretch, a big difference. It makes it well worth heading to Madrid to start your trip if you are price conscious.

More interestingly, if you try to book the Iberia Madrid to New York flight on using BA Avios, it will charge you £361 of taxes! This is for the SAME Iberia flight which costs only £159 of tax on using Iberia Avios.

that the Iberia Plus redemption chart has certain quirks which make some redemptions exceptionally cheap?

The Iberia Plus chart is in this article.  It is ALMOST the same as the BA chart, but not quite.

The difference is most pronounced in Band 5.  Business Class flights on Iberia to Band 5 (which includes New York) are 68,000 Avios return off-peak and 100,000 Avios peak.  British Airways redemptions in Band 5 are 100,000 Avios return off-peak and 120,000 Avios peak.

Would you buy a separate ticket to Madrid if you could use 68,000 Avios and £159 of tax to fly to New York on Iberia compared with 100,000 Avios and £502 on tax with BA from London?

… that British Airways and Iberia have different off-peak dates which leads to arbitrage opportunities? 

British Airways Executive Club and Iberia Plus do NOT share the same table of peak and off-peak dates, especially around half-term school holidays in the UK.

You can see the 2018 peak and off-peak dates for BA and Iberia in this article.

This means that New York in Business Class can be as low as 68,000 Avios return from Madrid (on an off-peak date) on the same day that BA wants 120,000 Avios return from London (because BA treats it as a peak day).

… that you can earn Avios when you fly on Emirates as long as you book a Qantas codeshare service?

I got my wife to test this out and it works fine as the article shows.

… that you can earn Avios when you fly United Airlines – even though it is a Star Alliance member – by crediting your flights to Aer Lingus AerClub?

I genuinely expected this feature to go away when AerClub was launched a few weeks ago but, for now, it is still there.

… that there is more Avios availability on Iberia flights if you move your points to Iberia Plus and book from there?

It isn’t clear why this is the case, but it is.  Don’t rely on what shows you if you want seats on Iberia.

… that you can fly to the US or Middle East on airberlin in Business, with free chauffeur transfers on Middle East routes, for 75,000 Avios and £75 tax return?

The end appears to be nigh for airberlin, as I will discuss in an article later this week.  For now, however, it is a great low cost redemption if you are Avios rich and cash poor.  Here is Anika’s review of New York to Berlin in Business Class last Summer.  The Middle East route is so cheap because the flight is just under 3,000 miles and so falls into a cheaper Avios pricing zone than a flight from London.

… that Aer Lingus redemptions have lower taxes if booked via BA on the phone than via the site?

As of last month, you can finally book Aer Lingus redemptions online via  There is some jiggery pokery going on with the taxes, however.  If you keep your Avios in British Airways Executive Club and ring them to book – it can’t be done online – you will pay a lot less.

Make sure you read Head for Points regularly if you want to keep up to speed with tips like these and build up your UK travel hacking skills.

(Want to earn more Avios?  Click here to visit our home page for the latest articles on earning and spending your Avios points and click here to see how to earn more Avios from current offers and promotions.)

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  1. Mark Witham says:

    What’s the best way to check Iberia availability? I have an account but no points in there.

  2. Great update, Rob. ESP those obscure ones that have appeared. One thing that worries me, is the cancellation policy not an issue, no refund or something? Seemed to remember it being more strict than baec or avios. Do have the same refund cancellation policy as baec now?

  3. I use, not least because like all keen HFPers I have avios there.
    I use to check availability even if I will then book using BA avios.

    Is it worthwhile joining E.g. Cathay, Quantas schemes just to use their websites to search for availability to book using BA avios?

  4. Good luck if you ever have to ask Iberia customer services for help.

    My surname has an apostrophe in it but Iberia systems won’t allow it so transferring from Avoid could prove tricky as my account there (and my BAEC ) do use the apostrophe.

    I contacted Iberia to ask them to change my details and they refused unless I completed a form and sent a copy of my passport (even though it’s their fault that I cannot have the apostrophe in the first place).

    A week or so later I was surprised to received a new membership card with my name changed however they had not added the apostrophe but had instead added a random letter by mistake. After months of chasing via email I sent a Facebook directed message. They conceded it was their fault but insisted that I complete a form and send copy passport to resolve, even if I just wanted it back how it was!!!

    • They seem to take the greatest pleasure in doing the least possible to help you. I personally avoid them after (a must less stressful than yours) CS issue. They are useful for Avios collection and no doubt if things go well on your flight, but if things go wrong then be prepared for a whole lot of nothing being done I’ve found.

    • I also had a similarly bad experience with their CS. They had my first name and last name the other way round and it took me several months and multiple calls and emails to sort it out. And yes, I had to fill the same form too. Ibera planes are nice but their CS appears to be very incompetent.

    • They also can’t handle hyphens in double-barrelled surnames. Even though BA can… this means names on different avios accounts don’t quite match and makes transfers across impossible…
      If Raffles is right that they might be prepping to move all IAG airlines onto one platform (I think he suggested this recently), that should hopefully solve these problems.

      • Although probably introduce a host of new ones and potentially kill off more partners and arbitrage between schemes…

  5. Will the low taxes on Iberia avios redemptions (via Iberia website) go when they move to the single platform this year?

    Some of my favourite off peak Iberia redemptions are Shanghai for 51,000 avios business one way and 59,000 for Tokyo.

  6. Avios & Qantas..

    What’s the best way to search and book Avios redemption flights with Qantas, Internal or Internal.

    Use Qantas website for availability, book on Avios or BA???

    • Check with Qantas and book with BA is a good strategy, but if you can’t find online BA availability then call them. For QantasLink or JetConnect by Qantas you have to call almost everytime.

      • Thanks Alan, and for interpretation my typo of “International and Internal.”

        • To check qantas award availability online you need to log into a qantas frequent flyer account…. however qantas unfortunately charge 80 AUD to become a member of their frequent flyer program

          • Isn’t the membership fee just for Aussie residents? (most of whom will get it for free via credit card or Woolies or the likes!) I’ve certainly never paid one and am sure I setup my account before I was in Oz.

          • I’m a Brit in the UK, had Qantas a/c for a few years, no charge to setup.

            Reason for asking about which sites to use for searching is just because you can redeem on the Airline the seats aren’t always readily available to other partners.

            Indeed recently BAEC staff couldn’t see a Qantas flight redemption that I could see in the BA app.

          • Generally I found BA could book ones I found. Of note though they sometimes can’t see flights as return – if they recheck as one-way they often show up.

            Here’s the full summary I sent Rob at the time…
            “Just off the phone to BAEC – my folks liked the sound of my trip so much they’re going to Hobart when they’re over. Got them business return SYD-HBA for 36,000 Avios + £25 in total for the two of them vs $2,800 in cash!! (even economy would have been >£400 so good value!)

            The extra good bit of what I managed in doing this was – all Tasmania flights are via QantasLink, a QF subsidiary – therefore not bookable via However you can check availability if you have a QF a/c and then call BA to book. At first the agent couldn’t see the return leg availability but when I persisted (as I’d seen it on the QF website) she rechecked as one-way and found it 😀 Also SYD-HBA is 646 miles – 5 miles more and it would have been band 2 and 60k Avios instead!”

          • Oh weird I did not know it was free outside of Aus (seems very odd) as i signed up for mine whilst I lived there. As yeah… got it paid by my credit card too

  7. Andrew H says:

    “Aer Lingus redemptions have lower taxes if booked via BA on the phone than via the site?”

    Does anyone know how much the DUB->BOS taxes are if booked over the phone? A lot less than the new amount, I’m hoping.

    • £75 return, ish

      • Hi Rob,

        Do you know how much the Aer Lingus redemption taxes are for Belfast to Boston?

        Are Aer Lingus redemption taxes cheaper from all airports or just Dublin?

        Thanks Conor

      • Andrew H says:

        Thanks Rob! So the taxes are pretty much the same as before – IF you phone BA.

        I’m guessing the request over the phone to waive the BA booking fee doesn’t work anymore, now that you can book Aer Lingus redemptions online!

  8. Just triggered my 241 with BAPP having spent £10k. I know this gets asked a lot but I can’t find a clear answer. If I downgrade to BA standard, will I definitely keep the companion voucher?

  9. Slightly O/T. Have paid a £600 deposit for a BA holiday. Balance is due in a few weeks but we now can’t make the holiday dates… BA have bought the return flight forward by 2 hours. Is that grounds to ask for a refund so I don’t lose the deposit???

    • I remember 3 hours movement being relevant but can’t seem to find it.
      See 10b1 at
      “10b1) We will pay fare refunds as set out below if we:”…
      “make a significant change to a flight time which is not acceptable to you”
      2 hours is arguably significant and you can easily argue it’s not acceptable to you

    • Peter Taysum says:

      Do you have any sections in economy? If you booked it before they changed the service level, that is ALSO reason to cancel (so long as you give a months notice, but you must have that as balance is due six weeks before travel).

      Agree with above, two hours is significant. “We can’t make that”…

      • 30 second phone call and refund of my £620 deposit….. not even an argument. “We can move your flight at our expense or refund you”. Guess 2 hours is significant – at the end of a 12 day holiday in Mauritius!?

  10. OT but I need to add a return leg to an outward Amex 241 Avios companion voucher.

    As demand will be high, I will need to be on the phone at say around 11:57pm waiting for the midnight release. From the UK, which office is the best to call ?

    Singapore is +8 so 07:57 – likely not open

    New York is -5 so 18:57 – open or not ?

    Other decent options ?

  11. Iberia are also running an up to 6000 avios bonus promotion for WorldHotel bookings. I seem to recall Ghenghis saying good things about the chain.

  12. avidsaver says:

    O/T Does anyone know how long Aer Lingus take to credit Avios to BA exec club on a business return flight? I booked this flight at the beginning of last year giving them my BA freq flyer no and I flew out on the 22nd Dec and will be returning on the 7th Jan. Many thanks.

  13. Premier01 says:

    OT just reveived this E-mail from Hilton

    ..hope there’s not a set of ‘enhancements’ alla BA to come soon!

    Thanks for blah blah

    We have some new things in store for 2017 that we’ll know you’ll love because we’re making the program more about you. Stay tuned for more soon!

    • I saw that, sounded a bit worrying!

      • Indeed. I’d be grateful if improved Hilton IT was one of those things though – not received this email not indeed any others from Hilton (apart from booking confirmations, etc.) – despite marketing settings being set to allow all!

        • I don’t get the HH emails either despite the preferences being set correctly. Same with Tesco – other family members get them but I never do! Not fair!

      • Promo changes maybe? Similar to IHG’s?? We’ll see….

  14. If I cancel an AA gold rewards card and apply again after 6 months, will I still be entitled to the first year card fee for free?

  15. O/T looking at return flights glasgow to orlando, on the return leg i am looking at WT+, this books the domestic leg lgw-gla into j class, does this allow me access to ba lounge at gatwick? thinking not but thought i would ask lol

    • Afraid not. You’ll get more tier points and Avios but only Business UK tickets come with lounge access.

      • thanks Alan, thats what i thought, just hopeful as it was a j class booking it might print as a business uk ticket

  16. Is there a limit to the number of seats you can book with Avios on an Aer Lingus flight ?

  17. Great tips as always. I’m particularly interested in the United – Aer Lingus link. I have return flights with united booked from Chicago to Austin in March. I’ve now added my AerClub number to the flight booking. I assume this should now acredit Aer Lingus which I can then subsequently transfers to Avios?