British Airways is often known as ‘London Airways’ to its detractors, and for good reason. For a number of years now, BA has not operated a single flight from a UK regional airport that went anywhere except London.
As far as Avios collectors are concerned, any redemption flight on BA from the regions means a change of plane, usually at Heathrow. To be fair to BA, they do not penalise flyers from the regions – a redemption from Manchester – London – Hamburg costs the same in Avios as London – Hamburg. However, the extra couple of hours added to your journey time is not always welcome, especially if travelling with children.
(Of course, many Avios collectors with BA status or who redeem for Club Europe flights are happy with a long layover in London, as it allows them to hit the free food and drink on offer in the Heathrow lounges!)
There are, however, some opportunities to fly from the UK to Spain from the regions. This is because, in April 2013, International Airlines Group, the parent of British Airways, took full control of Spanish low-cost airline Vueling for €123m.
Unlike Iberia, Vueling is profitable. Oddly, despite being based in Madrid, Vueling will NOT be merged into Iberia but will be run as a third leg to the company alongside BA and Iberia. That said, if you buy a paid ticket on Vueling, you can only earn Avios in Iberia Plus and not British Airways Executive Club.
Vueling is a bit like easyJet, with a low cost structure and, more importantly, a low paid crew. It is possible that BA’s operations at Gatwick will be transferred to Vueling, possibly with it operating as a BA franchise in BA colours. This would massively reduce costs and allow it compete better with easyJet. Another option is that more of Iberia’s short-haul operations will be transferred across.
Spending Avios on Vueling
There is one key thing you need to know about Vueling and Avios points.
At present, you can only earn Avios and spend Avios on Vueling via Iberia Plus.
This means that you need to have an Iberia Plus account as well as a BA or avios.com account, and you will need to move Avios into it from one of the other schemes. However:
you cannot move Avios into Iberia Plus until the account is 90 days old, and
you cannot move Avios into Iberia Plus until the account is ‘active’, ie has earned at least 1 Avios. This can be done with an Amex Membership Rewards transfer, crediting a BA or oneworld flight, crediting a hotel stay or car hire or even buying 1000 Iberia Plus Avios.
These are the routes currently operated by Vueling from the UK:
- Edinburgh to Barcelona
- Cardiff to Barcelona, Majorca, Alicante, Malaga
- London Gatwick to Barcelona
- London Heathrow to Florence, A Coruna, Bilbao, Galicia, Majorca
You can no longer book Reward Flight Saver fares on Iberia or Vueling. However, even with full charges, the fare should still be fairly modest. Redemption tickets allow you to bring a free suitcase, which is not the case (sic) with the lowest Vueling cash fares. (You can also get a free suitcase by booking on the Iberia website – you pay slightly more but less than the cost of paying separately for luggage.)
One more tip – you should look up the Vueling timetable before trying to book, as the antiquated Iberia Plus website will throw up an error message if you search for flights on days when flights do not operate.