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Redeem Avios on Iberia’s new San Francisco route – when they fix the taxes

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Iberia, BA’s sister airline, has announced a new route between Madrid and San Francisco for Summer 2018.

This is an opportunity to redeem Avios on a route where it can be tricky to find seats, and where you will often need fewer Avios and pay lower taxes than if you flew from London on British Airways.

Here are the details:

Flights launch on 25th April and end on 28th September

Flights depart on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays

Iberia launches San Francisco

Iberia’s business class is good ….

A couple of weeks ago I reviewed Iberia’s long-haul business class seat, albeit on the short hop from London to Madrid.  Iberia occasionally runs a long-haul plane on this route for cargo reasons.

My review of Iberia business class is here.

Iberia launches San Francisco route

Suffice it to say that the 1-2-1 seating, all with direct aisle access, is very impressive and far better than British Airways Club World.

Of course, you need to get yourself to Madrid to connect.  However, if you live outside London this is no more difficult than connecting in Heathrow for the British Airways service.  The only snag is the 12.25 departure time from Madrid which may make it a tight connection unless you want to stay in Spain the night before.

Redeeming Avios for this route

Business class redemptions on Iberia to the US are better value, off peak, than redemptions on British Airways.

New York is the prime example of this.  Off peak – and Iberia’s off-peak dates are here (click), they are different to BA’s off-peak dates – Madrid to New York in Business Class is only 68,000 Avios return!

San Francisco is not that cheap, but it is good value.

Off peak, an Avios redemption is 102,000 Avios plus £370 of taxes and charges.

On peak dates, you will pay 150,000 Avios plus £370 of taxes and charges.

This compares with 125,000 Avios off-peak and 150,000 Avios peak, plus £574 of taxes, with BA from London.

You must book your connecting flight between the UK and Madrid separately.  Adding it to your Iberia booking will cause the taxes to shoot up as you will be paying long-haul premium class UK Air Passenger Duty.

Something weird is happening with taxes though

Historically, Iberia redemptions were substantially cheaper – in terms of taxes and charges – when booked at using Iberia Plus Avios.

This is not the case here.

Whether you book via the Iberia site or the British Airways site, the taxes are identical – £369.

This is not normal.  For example, I checked the taxes on Iberia’s Madrid to New York route and they came out at €179 return, in business class, when booked at  The identical flight, booked on, was £369.

I would have expected the taxes on Iberia San Francisco flight to be similar to New York, at around £150 – £175.  £369 is high.

So …. it is possible that either:

Iberia has made a mistake and is charging too much in taxes on its own website, or

This is a new strategy, equalising taxes across the Iberia and BA websites, and we will see all other routes brought in line

We can only wait to see which it is.

Business Class Avios redemptions seem to be limited to one seat on most dates although I did see two here and there.  More seats may open up when Iberia gets a feel for how the flights are selling.


This new Iberia route offers a good way to get to San Francisco in a good quality business class seat for fewer Avios and lower taxes than flying British Airways.

Although, of course, you need to get to Madrid first.

The taxes currently being charged on the Iberia website appear to be wrong and will hopefully drop even further, to the expected £175 or so.

How to earn Avios points from UK credit cards

How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (August 2022)

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:

British Airways BA Premium Plus American Express Amex credit card

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

25,000 Avios and the UK’s most valuable card perk – the 2-4-1 voucher Read our full review

British Airways BA Amex American Express card

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.

EDIT: Until 25th October 2022, there is an exceptionally generous sign-up bonus on The Platinum Card. You will receive 60,000 Membership Rewards points – double the usual amount – and £200 to spend at Amex Travel. You need to spend £6,000 within six months to earn the bonus.

American Express Amex Gold

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 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, £200 travel credit and an unbeatable set of 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 10,000 Avios.

Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa

10,500 points bonus – the most generous Avios Visa 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 and has a 30,000 Avios sign-up bonus.

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express card

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.

Amex Platinum Business American Express

American Express Business Platinum

40,000 points sign-up bonus and a long list of travel benefits 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.

(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 (18)

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

  • Rivo says:

    If you want to fly from LON to SFO direct and struggle with availability (like I did last week) then there are two other alternatives – Oakland which flies from LGW as well as San Jose (I did the latter). It’s only an hour from down town SF and you can take the Caltrain or of course a cab. The level of availablity was good, plus it’s a daily service on a 787.

    • Russell says:

      I’m doing precisely this for Dreamforce in a few weeks. Into Oakland, home via SJC. Hopefully it’s as simply as you suggest!

    • Oh! Matron! says:

      Mentioned this elsewhere, but SJC is much more convenient for the valley rather than SFO. And the caltrain is a surprisingly nice ride into SF (and cheap!)

    • RussellH says:

      BART from OAK is probably quicker into central SF than BART from SFO. Immigration at OAK was also pretty painless – the BA flight was the only international arrival at the time we were there. The walk from baggage claim to the BART station at OAK is only around 5 mins. If you are headed for wine country rather than central SF OAK is a much more convenient departure point in a hire car than SFO too.

      I have not used SJC, but yes, there is a station on the Caltrain line. I also really liked what I saw of San Jose last summer. We had a very pleasant stay at the Four Points in San Jose; they upgraded us to a suite from a standard room (and forgot to tell us). Amusingly, there was a sign on the outside terrace saying that drinking was forbidden after 9pm – but the bar staff were delighted to serve us there – thay said the sign did not apply to us, only to noisy people.

  • xcalx says:

    I do hope it’s the former, I use Iberia twice a year for Trans Atlantics. I will have to step up the American Airlines balance if it’s the later to avoid the BA Fees.

  • Polly says:

    Would definitely recommend staying overnight in Madrid with that tight connection, esp if collecting and rechecking a bag in. Hope the taxes get clarified soon,mas it’s one route we are looking at.

  • David Lewis says:

    Can anyone explain to me how BA (and LH) can get away with charging so much in fees and taxes, etc – higher than on paid fares – on what are supposed to be free flights we have earned? Couldn’t they be attacked for false advertising?

    • mark2 says:

      All the redemption flights seem to be taken, so the price must be right?

    • JAXBA says:

      They’re not higher than paid fares; they’re exactly the same or even less (on some routes). They just stand out more starkly.

      Also, airlines tend not to advertise so-called free flights; they call them reward flights…

    • Anna says:

      I don’t recall ever seeing a redemption ticket advertised as “free”. It’s like anything, there’s a price and you pay it or you shop somewhere else. I prefer to think of it as a heavily discounted fare, rather than something for nothing.

      I do think, though, that without RFS seats and the 2 4 1 voucher, a lot of people wouldn’t bother with BA at all (especially those of us who don’t live near London). Just in case Senor Cruz is reading…!

      • Leo says:

        I’m a Londoner. Most people I know – from all walks of life – don’t bother with BA either. Only me because of the “hobby”!

        • Mikeact says:

          And yet it can still be difficult to get reward seats, despite thousands leaving BA in droves. Will you all please hurry along and leave BA to the rest of us

  • Markc62 says:

    Just been looking at Iberia for Madrid to JFK return in Oct 18 – the breakdown showed £370 as the taxes. Even one way JFK – Madrid showed £369! I was thinking about two x one way AVIOS flights in Business on BA from LCY-JFK & then IB from JFK-MAD but not when the taxes are that high. I fear your latter point may be correct Rob!

    • Rob says:

      Iberia taxes booked via have always been that high. On NYC priced at €179 last night.

      • JAXBA says:

        Try comparing MAD-LAX if you can find availability.

        BA have LAX/SFO in the same band for YQ, I’d imagine IB will too.

  • RussellH says:

    > The only snag is the 12.25 departure time from Madrid which may make it a tight connection
    > unless you want to stay in Spain the night before.

    I need to stay in Manchester / Edinburgh / Glasgow the night before for a flight at 1225…

  • the_real_a says:

    The Iberia lounge in Madrid is very nice. An excellent selection of mid-range wines too, especially reds. Caught a few people taking pictures of the labels for future reference.

  • Jon says:

    Something strange might be going on, but I’m not sure. Looking at the Avios required, (using Business Class, one-way and off-peak travel as an example here), why is MAD-LAX in Band 6 at 42,500 Avios and MAD-SFO in Band 7 at 51,000 Avios? Have Iberia shoved one of these destinations into a different band from what it technically should be based on distance?

    Also, the taxes payable MAD-LAX are only showing as about £112 one-way in Business class I think, which means Iberia’s taxes are still lower than BA’s on the MAD-LAX route.

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