Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

The farce that is booking UK-Spain reward seats with Avios

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I have finally got around to booking the free night at a luxury Melia hotel that is available to all American Express Platinum cardholders.

(This offer is also available to anyone who takes out a Platinum card and can travel before 30th November – see my full Amex Plat review here.)

As I highlighted in my original post, the best package is at the Grand Melia Fenix in Madrid.

This is because the hotel throws in the benefits Amex offers via the Fine Hotels & Resorts programme, so I actually get:

  • Double room for free (currently selling for €220) plus upgrade on arrival if available
  • Free breakfast
  • Free lunch or dinner
  • Guaranteed 4pm check-out


So, with the hotel booked, all I needed was a return flight on Avios (business class) between London and Madrid.

If only it was that easy ….

You now need to remember six silly rules when booking Avios flights between the UK and Spain:

BA flights qualify for Reward Flight Saver (so flat £50 tax return in Club Europe)

Iberia flights do not qualify for Reward Flight Saver

Mixed airline bookings mean that the whole trip does not qualify for Reward Flight Saver

Iberia charges lower taxes on reward flights at vs

BA reward flights booked at are not refundable or cancellable

All reward flights booked at are refundable

What does this mean in practice?!

For the flight times I wanted, I would be travelling out on BA and back on Iberia.

These were the permutations I had to go through:

Book the flight on as a return flight – total taxes were a whopping £116, because the inclusion of an Iberia leg means I have to pay the full taxes on both legs, even the BA flight

Book the flight on as two single flights – total taxes reduce to £78, because – whilst I would still be paying full taxes on the Iberia leg of £53, booking the BA flight separately would mean it qualified for Reward Flight Saver so the tax outbound was only £25

Book the flight on as a return flight – can’t be done, as Iberia Plus does not seem to be capable of mixing Iberia and BA reward flights on the same booking

Book the flight on as two single flights – can’t be done, as Iberia Plus does not allow oneworld flights to be one-way bookings (at least, not if booked online)

Book the Iberia flight on – this reduces the taxes on the Iberia leg to £17 instead of £53 on

So, this is what I did in the end:

Booked the outbound flight (on BA) on, to get the £25 Reward Flight Saver tax amount

Booked the return flight (on Iberia) on, to get the ‘no fuel surcharge’ £17.60 tax amount

Total taxes – £42.60. Ironically, the tax on the Iberia leg is lower than it would have been in the old Reward Flight Saver days! I saved £74 over booking the same Avios reward flights as a return trip on

This is, of course, totally crazy. How many people actually know that this is how to do it? Someone at IAG really needs to bang some heads together, because there must be a better way.

PS. After I’d booked, I realised something else. I had accidentally booked myself on one of the handful of short-haul Iberia flights operated by an A330, so I get the ‘proper’ long-haul business class seat. Which is nice.


How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (February 2023)

As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Avios points from UK credit cards.  Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses!

In February 2022, Barclaycard launched two exciting new Barclaycard Avios Mastercard cards with a bonus of up to 25,000 Avios. You can apply here.

You qualify for the bonus on these cards even if you have a British Airways American Express card:

Barclaycard Avios Plus card

Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard

25,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher for spending £10,000 Read our full review

Barclaycard Avios card

Barclaycard Avios Mastercard

5,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher for spending £20,000 Read our full review

There are two official British Airways American Express cards with attractive sign-up bonuses:

SPECIAL OFFER: Until 21st February 2023, the sign-up bonus on the British Airways Premium Plus American Express card is increased to 35,000 Avios from 25,000 Avios. You can apply here.

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

35,000 Avios (ONLY to 21st February) and the famous annual 2-4-1 voucher Read our full review

British Airways American Express

5,000 Avios for signing up and an Economy 2-4-1 voucher for spending £12,000 Read our full review

You can also get generous sign-up bonuses by applying for American Express cards which earn Membership Rewards points.

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & four airport lounge passes Read our full review

The Platinum Card from American Express

30,000 points and unbeatable travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review

Run your own business?

We recommend Capital On Tap for limited companies. You earn 1 Avios per £1 which is impressive for a Visa card, along with a sign-up bonus worth 10,500 Avios.

Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa

Get a 10,000 points bonus plus an extra 500 points for our readers Read our full review

You should also consider the British Airways Accelerating Business credit card. This is open to sole traders as well as limited companies and has a 30,000 Avios sign-up bonus.

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express

30,000 Avios sign-up bonus – plus annual bonuses of up to 30,000 Avios Read our full review

There are also generous bonuses on the two American Express Business cards, with the points converting at 1:1 into Avios. These cards are open to sole traders as well as limited companies.

American Express Business Platinum

40,000 points sign-up bonus and a £200 Amex Travel credit every year Read our full review

American Express Business Gold

20,000 points sign-up bonus and free for a year Read our full review

Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Avios. This includes both personal and small business cards.

Comments (24)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Hingeless says:

    A few thoughts has more availability to Spain than

    You can change in Madrid and go to any other Iberia airport for no extra points

    A330 is great fun but you can’t reach the magazine pocket in front of you !

    • JK says:

      Do you really get internal Spanish flights on Iberia free? At one time, I thought stopovers in Madrid were included free if flying to elsewhere in Spain. And Hingeless says you can change in Madrid for no extra points. I guess he means less than 24 hours so transit rather than stopover. I can’t find anything about it on BA or Avios and whenever I search, usually to VLC or ALC, always get shown fares charging 4500 / 9000 for the internal flight, on top of the 7500 /15000 for the London – Madrid flight. Anyone know how this actually works and how to book?

      • Rob says:

        It does seem to have gone away, perhaps as part of the Reward Flight Saver changes? Just done a pile of tests on with no joy.

  • Dave says:

    Sometimes is good value to just buy the return ‘single’ ticket in the local country.

    I was looking for return flights to Lisbon next May and could get outbound but not return. BA wanted £120 both ways if booked a return from, but the reutrn leg LIS-LHR leg if booked using Portugal as you’re ‘from’ destination was only 45 Euros(!). Therefore, booked Avios on the outbound and paid a cash for the single leg return.

  • General Mayhem says:

    Thanks very much Raffles. I m once again in your debt!

    I have managed to book 2 economy flights from LCY in November, returning on Iberia business a couple of days later to LHR (on the 340 – thanks for the tip).

    Cash price would have been £956 in total, and avios price is 45k avios and £35.00 taxes on outward leg and 35.61 Euros on return. So I can sort of con myself that 50k avios have saved about £886, so approx 1.77p per avios (which is OK).

    Hotel wise I have the Melia Fenix for one night, and a mercure for one night (also paid on points).

    So all in all a pretty cheap couple of nights in Madrid.

    What a brilliant site this is.

  • Susan says:

    Silly question time. Assume you need both BA Avios + IB Avios to book on each of the websites?

    • Rob says:

      Yes and no – you need to have a balance with the relevant site, but you just use Combine My Avios to move your points between, and as necessary.

      (With the caveat that your Iberia account must be 90 days old to accept transfers)

  • Chu Vo Dam says:


This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

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