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Seven Avios secrets you probably don’t know

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There is a lot more – a heck of a lot more – to the Avios frequent flyer scheme than most people think.

This article quickly runs through seven interesting quirks in the scheme which you may not know about.  To find out more, click on the relevant link to be taken to a full article on the topic.

So …. did you know …..?

Seven Avios secrets you don't know

… 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 £156 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 £681 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 £383 of taxes! This is for the SAME Iberia flight which costs only £156 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 £156 of tax to fly to New York on Iberia compared with 100,000 Avios and £681 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 2020 peak and off-peak dates for BA and Iberia in this articleAer Lingus dates are in a PDF here.

This means that New York in Business Class can be as low as 68,000 Avios return on Iberia from Madrid (on an off-peak date) on the same day that British Airways 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 (£156) and London-NYC (£681) …..

Avios secrets

… 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.  Whilst not covered in that article, the same applies to Air France services between Paris Charles de Gaulle and Singapore or Hong Kong on Qantas codeshare services (ie your ticket has a Qantas flight number on it).

… 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 Economy 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. 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 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.)

Comments (82)

  • Binks says:

    Rob, if you take the Madrid to NY route out does the return flight take you back to London via Madrid? Thx

    • TGLoyalty says:

      That would depend on how you book it.

      From my experience a routing like that would probably only be available via phone as I haven’t been able to see it online.

      • Benilyn says:

        How much is tax+surcharge NY to LDN one way on BA?

        • Anna says:

          A lot!

        • Rob says:

          £400 at a guess, vs £20 at a guess on Aer Lingus and £75 at a guess on IB. BA overcharges on one-way tickets from the US. This is Business.

          • Lady London says:

            And USD5 or so if you have Delta or Virgin to use.

          • Lady London says:

            In other words BA is a ripoff.

            There are even cash return fares frequently available in both directions for substantially less than the so-called ‘taxes’ BA is charging ,- and taking big Avios off you as well.

          • Alan says:

            Thank goodness they DO charge so much on one ways and returns originating from the USA though – Avios are more more readily available over there in massive quantities with regular 30%+ discounts on transfers from Amex, etc so if they had low taxes too the availability would be even worse. At least these costs put off a lot of Americans leaving a bit more availability for those on trips from the UK.

    • Rob says:

      No. For cheap taxes you need to go into Madrid both ways. Don’t forget Aer Lingus too though.

    • Lady London says:

      It doesn’t always. If available you would normally see both via LON and direct to MAD options.

  • Alex Sm says:

    Just to be clear: is it possible to book a BA flight from LHR to NYC on a BA plane for Avios with lower taxes as in your first example on Iberia website? Or only Iberia flights from Madrid?

    • Nick G says:

      I was wondering the same…

    • TGLoyalty says:

      Only on Iberia flights.

    • Andrew says:

      Start your journey in Inverness?

      • Lady London says:

        A travel agent (competent at ticketing – its a specific skill not all agents have to the needed level these days) could probably ticket it from INV Newquay Belfast or one of the other APD exempt starting points. Would be worth the booking fee. But mysteriously the airline websites have a good chance ofnot being set up to allow you to do this.

    • Lady London says:

      They’ve seen you coming and stopped that. As soon as you select a transatlantic BA flight within your booking even making it from Iberiaplus, something much closer to the BA native level of taxes will be landed into your booking.

  • maccymac says:

    Slightly OT: Just earned my first ever BAPP companion voucher a couple of months after account opening. The app states “Start earning towards next year’s voucher from (renewal date)”… does that mean further spend until then will only earn avios and not go towards another companion voucher until the renewal date? Many thanks for your advice.

  • Benilyn says:

    Thanks Rob, this is interesting, will need to look into this further. Any view on the Iberia Business product Vs BA?

    • TGLoyalty says:

      My view is that Iberia is a poorer J product than BA. The seat on Iberia is ok and on some of the newer planes it is probably better than an old CW seat.

      The F&B on BA is far superior though and in this example it’s NYC so unless it’s an amazing business/first deal out of LHR I’d just save myself some Avios and fly premium economy anyway.

    • Yan says:

      1-2-1 and direct aisle access across the entire fleet vs. BA’s four A350 by the end of 2020
      F&B similar to BA’s non-Do & Co routes

      Excellent value on Avios redemption, particularly on eastbound US-Europe redeyes

      • Riku says:

        >>BA’s four A350 by the end of 2020<<
        The 787-10 that BA will receive in 2020 also have the 1-2-1 seat layout in CW so by the end of 2020 there will be more than four planes with that layout.

        • Yan says:

          I stand corrected. Club Suites on 9 x A350-1000 + 6 x 787-10 + 18 x 777 retrofit = 33/191 on its long-haul widebody fleet by 2020

    • Rob says:

      It’s substantially better than Club World, not as good as Club Suite. Food and service get a bad rap but I would happily trade that for the seat vs CW.

      • TGLoyalty says:

        It really isn’t Rob if money was no object I would fly BA everytime over Iberia (that taxes saving is significant though so can’t be that picky)

        As much as people complain about CW my CW flight to NYC on the top deck of a 747 was light and day vs my Iberia flight to Colombia. Pick the right seat and you have direct aisle access, no one stepping over you and even without all that as a tall person you always have all the space you need to stretch your legs.

        With new plane deliveries and 777 retrofits more and more planes are getting the suite aswell.

      • Roberto says:

        I fly IB often and my two cents worth is that
        (a) breakfast is horrid
        (b) other food is good, maybe not as pretty as Ba but as tasty
        (c) the drinks are great , better than Ba
        (d) the staff are surley but professional
        (e) connections in Madrid are simple
        (f) the seats are good, yes coffin box feet but sweetheart option of travelling as a couple
        (g) more on time than Ba
        (h) plenty of hotels near Madrid airport at reasonable cost with free shuttle
        (i) its €20 in a cab from central Madrid
        (j) good lounges
        (k) reasonable slot times

        Thats just off the top of my head but add that to the savings you make its easy to see why you should consider IB going the the US and central/southern America.

        • Neil Donoghue says:

          You missed the only real benefit and that’s the price! The fact that I can fly from Madrid to Santiago for 51,000 avios & £81.90 means jumping on an RFS with BA is a no brainier. I can’t get a taxi home for £81 let alone fly for 13 hours in a flat bed.

  • Maxine Chivers says:

    I like to use Avios to one or more legs of a trip I do with my two children. We used a BA flight from Madeira to London. To get there in a cheap way we flew from London to Porto and then onto Madeira on Easy Jet.

    For our next ones we are using Avios to see two different islands in the Caribbean. We have got Easter Time flights from Miami to Antigua then onto Tobago. Lastly they will fly us to Port of Spain to Miami. To get over to the USA we are using Norwegian Air. We go via Spain because of the tax on long haul flights.

    I began with a gold card. Then I got rid of that and got the black card that gave me 1.5 Avios per £1 spent. I got rid of it due to not wishing to pay its annual fee. Now I have the free BA blue card.

  • ian says:

    1) does anyone know why Aer Lingus taxes are less when calling? taxes are imposed by the government and should not vary by booking method, and carrier surcharges should be set according to the flight, no? i think Aer Club is doing something shady or BAEC is not doing something correctly in calculating the taxes and fees.

    2) why can you redeem United miles on Aer Lingus but you can’t redeem Aer Lingus Avios on United? are these types of unilateral redemption partnerships common?

    • TGLoyalty says:

      1) taxes are the same. Carrier imposed fees are different (HFP has a habit of calling these fees taxes for simplicity)

      2) you can earn Avios on untied flights via Aer club due to a partnership they had before IAG took over. Who knows how long it will last but yes these sort of tie ups do happen and anomalies do exist. Aer Lingus isn’t part of oneworld either so all of it’s partnerships are strategic agreements rather than something agreed at a group level.

    • ADS says:

      the last time i phoned BA their taxes/fees were crazily high for Aer Lingus avios redemption flight. was a bit cheaper

  • Nils says:

    Hi Rob – I am looking for some Avios advice with regards to payments made to HMRC. I pay approx £50-70k of Corp Tax / VAT Liability to HMRC per year and am looking at if there is a way to earn Avios whilst paying this?

    I am thinking of getting a curve metal card for HMRC payments (I understand that there are no fees associated with this). What would you suggest is the best card to link this to? I have read about the capital on tap card but that also incurs an annual fee. I am also keen to hear any advice on the spending limits etc associated with various linked cards?

    If anyone has any experience of this then I would really appreciate any suggestions!

    • Rob says:

      Capital On Tap linked to Curve Metal. The COT annual fee is offset by the 10,000 Avios sign-up bonus.

      Other options are poor – eg using a Tesco Bank debit card to pay HMRC, which earns 0.3 Avios per £1 (and you need to set up a Tesco bank account).

      • Nils says:

        Thanks. Is there a limit to payments / can you only make 1 payment per month etc?

        • Nils says:

          1 other question – as the COT card is not a debit but essentially a credit card, do HMRC accept this?

          • Rob says:

            No – but they will when linked to Curve.

            COT lets you cycle your credit limit twice per month, but no more than that.

  • Stephen says:

    Slightly OT but I noticed that you can’t get 15 avios /£ on hotel bookings with BAEC anymore but you can with an AerClub account