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 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.)