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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

Nice!

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 ….

Iberia BA

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 iberia.com vs ba.com

BA reward flights booked at iberia.com are not refundable or cancellable

All reward flights booked at ba.com 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 ba.com 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 ba.com 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 iberia.com 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 iberia.com 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 iberia.com – this reduces the taxes on the Iberia leg to £17 instead of £53 on ba.com

So, this is what I did in the end:

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

Booked the return flight (on Iberia) on iberia.com, 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 ba.com.

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.)

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Comments (24)

  • Hingeless says:

    A few thoughts

    Avios.com has more availability to Spain than ba.com

    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 iberia.com 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 iberia.com, ba.com and avios.com as necessary.

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

  • Chu Vo Dam says:

    Masterful.