BA sale

Seven Avios secrets you probably don’t know

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This isn’t our usual style of article, but I ran a version of it between Christmas and New Year last year and it went down well.  I thought I’d give it another outing whilst the news flow is thin. 

If you are at work today you probably have enough spare time on your hands to click through all the links, which is what you need to do if you want to know more about any particular statement.  The comments below are deliberately brief.

(Think of this as your end of year HFP quiz.  If you don’t answer ‘Yes’ to all seven statements then you haven’t been paying full attention!)

So …. did you know …..?

Avios banner

… that the tax on Iberia redemptions is 60% lower if you transfer your Avios to Iberia Plus and book via their website?

Iberia Plus does not charge the full range of airport taxes and fuel surcharges imposed by

Let’s look at Madrid to New York in Business Class, return, on Avios. Iberia, when you book on, will charge £163 in taxes and charges.

A BA redemption from London to New York (via on a BA plane) on the same route in Club World costs £668 in taxes and charges! That is, by any stretch, a big difference. It makes it well worth heading to Madrid to start your trip if you are price conscious.

More interestingly, if you try to book the Iberia Madrid to New York flight on using BA Avios, it will charge you £402 of taxes! This is for the SAME Iberia flight which costs only £163 of tax on using Iberia Avios.

You can save a lot of money by moving your Avios to Iberia Plus and booking Avios redemptions on Iberia from there.

that the Iberia Plus redemption chart has certain quirks which make some redemptions exceptionally cheap?

The Iberia Plus chart is in this article.  It is ALMOST the same as the BA chart, but not quite.

The difference is most pronounced in Band 5.  Business Class flights on Iberia to Band 5 (which includes New York) are 68,000 Avios return off-peak and 100,000 Avios peak.  British Airways redemptions in Band 5 are 100,000 Avios return off-peak and 120,000 Avios peak.

Would you buy a separate ticket to Madrid if you could use 68,000 Avios and £163 of tax to fly to New York on Iberia compared with 100,000 Avios and £668 on tax with BA from London?

… that British Airways, Aer Lingus and Iberia have different off-peak dates which leads to arbitrage opportunities? 

British Airways Executive Club, Aer Lingus AerClub and Iberia Plus do NOT share the same table of peak and off-peak dates, especially around half-term school holidays in the UK.

Aer Lingus, for example, doesn’t have an October and February peak season during the UK half terms.  The April peak season is also one week shorter and there’s also no peak season towards the end of May / early June.

You can see the 2019 peak and off-peak dates for BA and Iberia in this articleAer Lingus is in this article.

This means that New York in Business Class can be as low as 68,000 Avios return from Madrid (on an off-peak date) on the same day that BA wants 120,000 Avios return from London (because BA treats it as a peak day).  And that is before you factor in the difference in taxes between Madrid-NYC (£163) and London-NYC (£668) …..

… that you can earn Avios when you fly on Emirates as long as you book a Qantas codeshare service?

I got my wife to test this out and it works fine as this article shows.

The same trick also lets you earn Avios when you fly KLM between Amsterdam and Singapore on the Qantas codeshare.

… that you can earn Avios when you fly United Airlines – even though it is a Star Alliance member – by crediting your flights to Aer Lingus AerClub?

I genuinely expected this feature to go away when Aer Lingus AerClub was launched but, for now, it is still there.

… that there is more Avios availability on Iberia flights if you move your points to Iberia Plus and book from there?

There is always better Economy availability for Avios flights on Iberia if you book via  This is because Iberia Plus has two levels of Economy reward pricing and only shows the cheapest level.  There are also times when Iberia Plus shows better Business Class availability on Iberia than does – it isn’t clear why this is the case.  Don’t rely on what shows you if you want seats on Iberia.

… that Aer Lingus redemptions have lower taxes if booked via BA on the phone than via the site?

You can book Aer Lingus redemptions online via ( is still ‘open’ for anyone who opens an Avios account via Flybe, AerClub or Vueling Club).  There is some jiggery pokery going on with the taxes, however.  If you keep your Avios in British Airways Executive Club and ring them to book – it can’t be done online – you will pay a lot less.  Anecdotally, does seem to have better availability though.

Make sure you read Head for Points regularly if you want to keep up to speed with tips like these.

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

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  1. O/T

    How long does Hilton and SPG status enrollment on Amex Plat typically take?


    • The Original Nick says:

      Hilton from what I remember should take about 24-48 hours.

    • TGLoyalty says:

      Anything from 24hrs to forever

      Ive experienced hilton in about 2 days and spg in about 2 weeks.

      But I know others have had there’s faster and some reports of it taking forever and getting stuck in admin.

  2. I searched London to Hong Kong next May on BA and Iberia and it’s the same… 49500 Avios and £346.68 tax. Or did I misunderstand the above. Would it be cheaper via Aer Lingus? I don’t have an Avios account there.

    • Sounds like that’s a BA flight. Iberia is cheaper for Iberia flights.

      • Lady London says:

        Matches my experience. IB taking BA-level carrier greed charges, for any longhaul BA-operated longhaul flight.

  3. Don’t do what I did mind when I went to use the 90k Iberia promotion Avios from last year….I used them before the 1sf dec and booked myself first on a BA club Europe ticket for next October to Frankfurt….so we can connect on Qatar q suite….great I thought…until I booked my seat never even saw or considers that there would be low availability on BA flights via Iberia….short story is I went to book my wife and son on the same flight using my wife’s bonus Iberia agioa only to find only 2 biz seats are released per BA flight. Rang Iberia who were very huffy and puffy that I asked if they could open up a 3rd seat…the answer was NO! So the start and end of our ex eu on Qatar didn’t go down to well with the wife….luckily on BA there’s plenty of flights to Frankfurt so only an hour or two delay between us but what a total pain in the ass.

    Be warned while BA shows availability it seems Iberia does not and so they say only release 2 J and 4 Y seats on BA

    • I don’t mean to sound mean, but hopefully this is a wake up call – you should never make blind assumptions when spending hundreds, if not thousands, of pounds.

      • Echoing Callum – without wishing to be mean – was this a newbie error? I’m struggling a bit with your understanding of reward availability – 2J and 4Y is normal AFAIK. You can never just assume there will be reward availability – it’s part and parcel of the headache that is trying to “join up” flights. Or have I got the wrong end of the stick entirely and you are a Gold who was trying to force open availability? As I say not trying to be harsh just to get clear what happened.

        • No I’m not gold. I just wrongly had it in my head as BA usually up 4 J seats there would be 4 J seats on a BA flight using Iberia Avios. In the end it’s not the end of the world because outbound there is only a 2 hr delay until my wife and son catch me up and returning just an hour behind me. Plus done EX EU several times, and this time like all the others we plan a stay the night before so as not to cause a problem such as short connections…

    • Do you mean CE to Frankfurt? Surely the system would have shown how many award seats were available when you booked your flight? Though only 2 to Frankfurt sounds unlikely as it is very well served as you say.

      • Yes CE to Frankfurt. On Iberia it doesn’t show how many seats are available if you book BA reward flights…it was my bad to assume it would be the standard 4 J seats until I booked one then tried to book another 2 and it showed as sold out…I tried just 1 extra seat (so 2 in total) and it worked. So I rang Iberia who confirmed they only have 2 J seats and 4 Y on BA flights.

        • Shoestring says:

          Default is 4 Economy + 2 Business reward flights on BA as well. Not sure where you got the idea it’s normally more.

          It *can* be more, of course.

  4. O/T: LLOYDS Avios Rewards cards.
    Does anyone know what is happening with these?
    My AmEx card is still functioning but from Oct18 the earned Avios are being deposited into my BAEC account rather than the Avios account (the latter hasn’t closed either, and I can use it for shopping points at John Lewis).

    However, it doesn’t look like I have received my upgrade voucher for 2018 (the rules say that the voucher gets earned in a calendar year, and my last one was issued on 30/12/17 however I have read people’s comments who say they receive an email from Lloyds that they have earned the voucher mid-year).

    • flyforfun says:

      I received my voucher about 2 months after the event in November.There is no proper “date” on the voucher, just a month which makes it more confusing when you try to redeem it.

      My account has been closed. I’m pretty sure I saw it in there just a few days before the account closed, but that was about 4 to 5 weeks after I’d earned the points.

    • As far as we know (always take anything from Lloyds with pinch of salt), our cards will be cancelled by April with 2 months notice. Do a search for ‘Lloyds’ and check Rob’s article from Aug 8.
      As far as you getting a voucher for ‘this year’ goes, the stated rules are definitely wrong: you earn one voucher per ‘card year’. The voucher is issued pretty promptly after your spend since your card anniversary reaches 7k but you may not be told about it via email/letter for a month or more- my email arrived on 19/12 though the voucher was issued on 15/11 (I had called Avios to confirm this, which maybe ‘encouraged’ the email to arrive). You need to go back through statements to find out your card anniversary and add up your spend since. If you think you have reached 7k I suggest you ring Avios and ask if you have a voucher on your account.

      • Thanks. I think you are right about the dates. I can see from the statement that my card was opened in Sep 2017 and it was just a coincidence of achieving the £7k spend by the year-end that the voucher looked like it was issued for the calendar year (and I was further confused by the T&Cs that state “calendar year”).

    • i received my voucher yesterday.

    • These rules have sadly always been very poorly written – definitely works on a 12-month basis from a/c opening. I’m going to trigger my current year (ends early March) in the next few weeks then hoping to squeeze in another voucher before the card closes…

    Seems to be a very short Qatar Sale from Milan MXP atm. Just looking at MXP BKK from £1136pp. Seems to be aimed at MXP to BKK only though. Full availability Oct And November 2019. Would suit us as we can hop anywhere from there. Just wondering whether to press pay or wait for a better one in Jan if it comes at all. Know AY is often around that price, but this gets the Tier Points to Silver.

  6. IB first timer says:

    Anyone having difficulty transferring from Iberia to BA? I’ve got a BA HH account and it doesn’t want to let me transfer.

    If I’m able to transfer the other way, from BA to IB, I’d top up the points to get a RFS to Europe for a friend. Can I do that? Do IB have RFS?

    • You’ll need to open a new account. This means going to, opening a new account, logging it at using these new details and then moving the Avios from IB to and then from to BA (or vice versa).

      • IB first timer says:

        Thank you! Just saved some Avios that I thought were going to be lost! What a palaver but thank you none the less!

  7. May I please ask what is the best and ‘cheapest’ way to activate my Iberia Plus account?
    I have read in your thread, that somebody was offering the suggestion of using to activate my newly registered Iberia Plus account.
    I am wondering if there might be other options of activating my Iberia Plus account?
    Many thanks.

    • Yes, that, but also transfer 1000 MRs from your plat or gold card.

      • MRs if you have them, or do a minimum transfer of hotel points that have IB as a partner (Accor and Melia definitely work)..

        • Thank you, Polly and Stu N!
          I had accor and melia points – but I think they have both expired as they were one-off stays! Will persevere, as I am having trouble with registering with!

        • Accor is fiddly for small amounts. Melia doesn’t always work online but if you use the contact form and give them your Iberia account number they will do it for you within a few days.

    • Move some hotel points, move some Amex MR points, credit a BA or other oneworld flight, credit an Avis car rental …

  8. Avios tip No. 8

    Burning Avios from an APD tax exempt airport saves you £££

    Just burnt 130k Avios 2x Lloyds Vochers and less than £1000 for 2 adults return Club World flights to Florida including Club Europe connections.

    Pretty pleased with that, Cash fare is at least £2260 each for the same date, it was £2420 from non APD exempt Airport

    So (2260-490)*100/65000= 2.72p/Avios

    • ps this booking means I’m postponing the Oz/NZ trip I was considering for another time.

    • But would you really have paid £2260 each? No ADP is great, but if you have to position that adds time and cost. Once I’m positioning I’d sooner ex-EU, and earn TP to maintain status.

      • The Real John says:

        TripRep likes the “bragging rights” that come from making these hypothetical savings

        • lol, Don’t we all ? 🙂

          Even Rob has been guilty of sharing such hypothetical gains.

          I’ve never bought a business class ticket purely with cash so its all relative

          • They are not hypothetical in my case though, unless we are talking about F – since I’ve never paid for a F ticket.

        • Shoestring says:

          yep I love my bragging rights & that’s just 5p/ point on RFS T-355 vs peak pricing

        • Haha – my best recent hypothetical one was ANA F LHR-HND return for 120k VS miles + £400. £10k ticket so 8p/mile in theory lol

        • 🙂 I got a theoretical 9p / avios on a single Spanish domestic over the summer. But I’d rather have walked instead of paying cash for the flight.

    • which airport or airports are APD exempt?

  9. O/T my Hilton credit card has an expiry of Jan 2019. Will I be receiving a new one or is that it?

  10. is that means we should always store the Avios at Iberia and redeem it from there rather than BA? Is there any advantage with BA redemption since they charge your higher tax etc.?

    • For me, the ability to use a BA 241 voucher.

      • Shoestring says:

        IB can be quite ‘nasty’ about expiring your Avios. Many a tale of IB too quick to expire points despite not 36 months inactivity. Also, meaner than BAEC in terms of deciding on what constitutes a/c activity, such as burning Avios with a reward flight.

        So keep the points at BAEC.

        But diarise to keep IB a/c live by doing a points earning activity at least once every 12 months.

        • Anyone know what IB are like for inactive accounts being reactivated? Just had a look at my last earning was in 2016. Did a CMA in May this year and been sitting at zero balance since then. Presumably CMA didn’t keep account active (it normally doesn’t) so thinking of doing 1,000 MR transfer in then CMA across just to make sure my account is still flagged as active – anyone noticed any problems doing this?

        • TGLoyalty says:

          MR transfer counts as activity.

    • Lady London says:

      Often reported issues with bookings on Iberia apparently include :-

      – Partner redemptions can’t be changed apparently. Except flights on BA, IB I think. So if you have even one flight included in your trip that’s not flown on BA or IB metal and BA or IB flight number, I think you lose the ability to request any refund or change to any flight on the booking. Others who know more, may correct me. Btw: this will apparently also apply in case of Iberia rescheduling. Even a big reschedule by Iberia. According to Iberia.

      – Also beware sometimes Air Nostrum, Vueling also (owned by Iberia) kicks off this can’t be changed or refunded rule..

      Accidentally having one of the above non-IB non-BA flights within your booking can land you with this problem.

      – Iberia apparently does not always state things clearly in terms and conditions that it later claims apply. And on the 90,000 promotion Iberia has ‘form’ for trying to change the t’s and c’s after people bought on the promotion based on the conditions published at the time of the promotion. This is unethical and I think not legally valid as well. So be very very careful.

      – Iberia customer service s t i n k s. I’ve had 2 amazingly good agents in over 16 calls to Iberia. I mean, s t i n k s. Absolutely appallnig. Really bad. Did I say terrible?

      So if you get into any bother with Iberia, even if it’s not your fault, see above. You will struggle.
      Based on that Yes, I would book Iberia for the sorts of transatlantic differences in avios and taxes required that Rob is quoting. But I’d be hard pushed to use my avios in Iberia for anything less than the huge differences in avios and tax than Rob mentions. YMMV.

  11. Lady London says:

    PS I got 7 out of 7 on these!
    Clearly I have too much time on my hands… 🙂

    This just goes to show how much useful information Rob has given to all of us..

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