Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

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

Links on Head for Points may pay us an affiliate commission. A list of partners is here.

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 ….

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.


British Airways BA Amex American Express

How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (September 2021)

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

There are two official British Airways American Express cards. Both have increased sign-up bonuses until 2nd November 2021:

British Airways BA Amex American Express card

British Airways American Express

10,000 Avios for signing up, no annual fee and an Economy 241 voucher for spending ….. Read our full review

British Airways BA Premium Plus American Express Amex credit card

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

40,000 Avios and the UK’s most valuable credit card perk – the 2-4-1 companion voucher Read our full review

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

Nectar American Express

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 30,000 points, FREE for a year & two airport lounge passes Read our full review

American Express Platinum card Amex

The Platinum Card from American Express

60,000 points and an unbeatable set of travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review

The 30,000 points bonus on Amex Gold runs to 9th November 2021. The 60,000 points bonus on The Platinum Card runs to 2nd November 2021.

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:

Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa

The most generous Avios Visa or Mastercard for a limited company 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. This card has a limited time offer of 60,000 Avios when you sign up:

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express card

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express

60,000 Avios sign-up bonus – plus annual bonuses of up to 30,000 Avios 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.

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

Comments (24)

  • John says:

    > Iberia did not charge me for a seat assignment, even though – as my Iberia
    > number is in the booking – it doesn’t know I have status. BA please note.

    Does IB allow free seat selection at time of booking then?

    • Rob says:

      It seems to, at least for short-haul business class!

      • Rome77 says:

        Award seats with Iberia qualify for free seat selection from time of booking regardless of class/distance flown in my experience.

  • Alan says:

    Nice result re the return seat! Thankfully I booked just prior to the change so had a mix of 3 BA flights and 1 IB without an issue and all as RFS. Do IB still offer domestic UK connections albeit with a little more tax on a redemption? If not then major cost increase for those of us in the regions.

    Must admit I tend to only go economy when flight is under 3h – amazing availability and free seat selection as Gold, my legroom on the IB LHR – MAD segment was stunning.

  • BritBronco says:

    What options did you have if booking from Avios.com?

  • Paul says:

    Brillian post thanks…..will look to do the same myself now.

    p

  • danksy says:

    I’m staying there on 19th October! I used RFS for economy flights LHR-MAD on BA. I couldn’t see the point in using precious avios for a Business Class ticket for a short-hall!

    Any other HFP’ers staying there on 19th?

    Cheers
    Danksy

    • Rob says:

      Madrid isn’t SO short haul – 2hr 30m! I can drink a lot of Club Europe champagne in that time, albeit with a 10am departure I may not be up to it!

  • Rome77 says:

    I think the crucial point here that even though avios.com, ba.com and iberia.com all use the same currency for award bookings, each of the sites have their own unique benefits. To get the most out of your Avios it is therefore important to know the ins and outs of each of these sites!

  • Rob says:

    Instant. However, your Iberia account must be 90 days old before it will accept a transfer in or out.

  • Eastland says:

    Raffles perhaps a quick summary of the perks of each of Avios vs Ba vs Ib? I only use BAEC so I didn’t realise there was any advantage to the others.

    • Rob says:

      Probably worth covering again at some point, since I haven’t written about it since IB dropped Reward Flight Saver.

      Bottom line:
      Iberia flights should be booked on Iberia Plus because taxes are massively lower
      BA European Economy flights should be booked on avios.com because they have better availability (avios.com offers ‘G’ revenue ticket bucket for rewards, ba.com does not)
      Non-Iberia flights should NOT be booked on Iberia Plus because they are non-cancellable and non-changeable

      Plus the usual issues over who is available where:
      Iberia Plus lets you book Vueling and some other odd partner routes (eg RAK to Morocco I think)
      ba.com lets you book all the oneworld partners [as does Iberia, but they are non-changeable if booked there] plus Aer Lingus (phone only)
      avios.com lets you book Air Malta, Flybe and Monarch

      • xcalx says:

        I am a big fan of Iberia for reward bookings and am used to the quirks.
        I have just been checking a IB flight from MIA-MAD . On the date I want, BA has availability but IB dont this is the first time I have seen BA have more availability than IB on this route. Problem is BA want over £200 per person more in taxes than IB..
        I have also seen a suitable AB flight into DUS with only £1.60 taxes and its showing the new J seat I would book this but AB have a habit of changing the plane and not sure I would want the old seat on an overnight flight.

        • Rob says:

          The old AB seat was fine. Not great, but fine. I wouldn’t say that if I’d paid £300 of tax, but to save 99.5% of that amount I would take the old seat. As time goes on, the chances of the new seat get higher and higher as well.

          • xcalx says:

            I Have booked MIA-TXL AB new J and will hope there’s no equipment change. If so I am sure I can tuff this one out for £1.60. Have also booked upfront on AA SJU-MIA for another £1.60.

The UK's biggest frequent flyer website uses cookies, which you can block via your browser settings. Continuing implies your consent to this policy. Our privacy policy is here.