During January we’ve been running a few introductory articles, primarily to help the new readers we always attract at this time of year. We hope that everyone gets something from them, however.
If you are looking to redeem Avios for flights to Central or South America, British Airways isn’t a lot of use. Instead, you may end up booking BA’s sister airline Iberia instead which has a far bigger route network.
Iberia has an intriguing list of long-haul routes which cover places ignored by British Airways. This includes Guatemala, Cuba, Panama, San Salvador, Montevideo, Bogota, Lima (Summer only for BA), Medellin and Quito amongst others.
Iberia is also worth considering if you are willing to route via Madrid to lower your taxes on redemptions to North America and Asia – places such as Tokyo, Los Angeles, Boston, Mexico City, New York, San Francisco etc.
With a growing fleet of A350s – which I reviewed here – and decent business class seating, Iberia is a perfectly good option these days. The only downside is that you cannot use a British Airways American Express 2-4-1 voucher on Iberia.
If your Avios are sitting in a British Airways Executive Club account, the obvious thing to do is to book your long-haul Iberia redemption flight via ba.com. This is a BIG mistake.
Iberia also uses Avios as its loyalty currency in its Iberia Plus programme. And, if you have an Iberia Plus account, you can freely transfer Avios back and forth from British Airways to Iberia using ‘Combine My Avios’.
(If you are struggling with BA to Iberia transfers via ‘Combine My Avios’, this article explains how to get it to work by using avios.com.)
When you book an Avios reward flight on Iberia, you have two options:
You can book it via ba.com – Iberia availability shows up alongside BA availability, as both airlines are in the oneworld alliance and you can use your Avios on all oneworld carriers
You can book it via iberia.com
However, if you want to move your Avios to Iberia to book on iberia.com, there are two conditions:
You can only transfer in or out of Iberia Plus accounts which are 90 days old
You can only transfer in or out of ‘active’ Iberia Plus accounts. This means that the account has ‘earned’ an Avios directly – ie you have credited a flight, hotel or car hire to it, or done some other activity to earn an Avios. If you have an Amex card with Membership Rewards, transferring 1,000 points across may be the easiest way to ‘activate’ your account.
Why would want you want to mess about with all this? Very simple – the taxes you pay on an Iberia redemption booked on iberia.com are significantly lower than on ba.com.
Here is an example, looking at a return Avios redemption between Madrid and Montevideo:
Book Madrid – Montevideo – Madrid in Business on ba.com and pay 102,000 Avios and £475 of taxes on off-peak dates for November
Book Madrid – Montevideo – Madrid in Business on iberia.com and pay 102,000 Avios plus £180 of taxes for the same dates
That is a ludicrous £295 saving per person – almost £600 for a couple – for IDENTICAL flights. The only difference is the website you use to book.
(For clarity, if you are booking a one way flight TO the UK then the Iberia website may not be cheaper. For a long haul flight departing Europe, however, it almost certainly will be.)
Be careful to ensure your luggage is checked through
My example flights are ticketed from Madrid without a London connection on the same ticket. This is to save Air Passenger Duty. If your flight was ticketed as London – Madrid – Montevideo then you would be charged an extra £170+ in UK Government Air Passenger Duty for long haul business class. Booking London – Madrid on a separate ticket means that you only pay short haul Air Passenger Duty and even that is wrapped into the £35 Reward Flight Saver fee.
(This article in our ‘Avios Redemption University’ series looks at how Avios Reward Flight Saver works on short-haul British Airways flights.)
The £150 APD saving comes at a price though. Iberia will not through-check your bags from the UK if your trip is on two separate tickets. You would need to collect it in Madrid and re-check it, giving yourself enough time to do so. Is this worth a chunky APD saving? Up to you.
If you want to learn more about how to redeem Avios points via Iberia Plus, to save a fortune on taxes and charges, take a look at this article in our ‘Avios Redemption University’ series.
If you don’t have an Iberia Plus account, open one now
If you don’t have an Iberia Plus account, you should open one. It will start the 90 day clock ticking before you can transfer in or out of it. If you don’t, you won’t be able to get an Iberia account up and running at short notice if you need one.
(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.)