Why you should NEVER book Avios reward flights on Iberia via ba.com

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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.

Iberia A330 350

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.

Note that this ONLY applies to booking Iberia flights on iberia.com. If you book a British Airways flight on iberia.com, you pay the same fuel surcharges as at ba.com.

(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.)

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  1. ChickenOrBeef says:

    Saying you should NEVER use BA to redeem on IB is not strictly correct. Granted mine is probably not the most common use of avios, but I recently booked CPH-AGP return over easter where cash fares are sky high. Booking via IB cost 29,000 avios + DKK 641 (£72), via BA.com cost 29,000 avios + £49.

    • Never say never.

      I’d rather see this entire post deleted. Why would you want to draw BA’s attention? Do you enjoy taxes?

  2. I’m doing exactly this next month. I transferred just the right amount of Avios to iberia and saved APD by flying from Madrid to Buenos Aires. There was signifacnt availability.

    With regards the baggage being checked through, is it always the case that I’d need to collect luggage in Madrid? I have BA reward tickets to Madrid on a separate booking to the Iberia reward tickets and was hoping BA may check them through to Argentina for me!

    • You need to collect in MAD. BA and IB are not checking through to final destination on separate tickets. This has been like this for almost 4-5 years now.

    • Unfortunately BA don’t check through baggage on different tickets anymore, so yes you will have to collect it in Madrid!

    • Yes – the irony is that if you have a reward ticket on the same PNR, they will check the bags through, but if you have paid for what could be a very expensive connecting flight with cash on a separate booking, they won’t. Go figure!

  3. Could someone please remind me what needs to be done to get rid of the -27000 Avios balance in my Iberia Plus account?

    I think it involved closing the account and setting the “right to be forgotten” button, then creating a new account entirely.

    Or is there a better way?

    • Shoestring says:

      contact Iberia and ask them to delete all your details under GDPR, they do this same day


      then set up a new a/c with some different ID details, I think you can mistype your passport number for example

    • Charlieface says:

      Am I the only one waiting for 36 month expiry, I see no reason why a negative balance should not also expire?

      • Lady London says:

        I was thinking it should work that way too. Not sure if I’ve got the b*lls to go nearly another two years holding off though.

        • Lady London says:

          And if it doesn’t we’ve wasted 3 years waiting
          What do you think?

          • Well Shoestring seems to be quite switched on so I would go with what he said.

            There have been no stories of Iberia trying to claw back from new accounts or BA.

          • Shoestring says:

            Iberia are stuck. On the one hand, they want you as an active IB a/c user.

            On the other, they set down the rules for the IB90K promotion and can’t really backtrack or give an amnesty.

            Which means (I reckon) that they won’t be running any checks on whether somebody with a negative balance a/c closed it then re-opened another one (ie names & addresses, birthdates etc) – but why not?: use your mum’s address, change your name slightly [Robert Burgess —> Bob T. Burgess], use a different email address, fake your DOB & passport number

          • Mikeact says:

            Good luck trying to Combine Avios with false details if that’s the way you decide.

  4. Does the Iberia site have better Avios availability as a rule for internal Latam flights than the restricted offerings on the BA site? Anybody tried that?

  5. One feature I like with the IB booking system is that you can mix Bus and Econ seats on the same booking. Last year my wife and I flew IB econ to MAD, had a two day stop off there and then on a separate booking on IB we flew MAD-BOS (in Bus) // 8 days // BOS-MAD (in Bus) – LHR in econ. Our luggage was obviously checked through on our return leg.

    The entire trip (avios from “that” IB deal) was 81000 avios and £202 taxes/fees each. ie about £400.

    • You can book different cabins on BA redemptions!

      • Lady London says:

        Online? or just by phone

      • So, you could book a one way BA redemption BOS-LHR-CDG (say) on a single booking with the first leg in Bus and second leg in Econ on the BA website?

        • Shoestring says:

          you can definitely do that with Iberia, as we did it on our cheapo IB90K tickets – Business out, Economy return

          and pretty sure you can’t do it online with BA as when you choose (say) Economy on the outward leg, it won’t let you choose HBO on the return (never tried Economy out, Business home)

          another reason (flexibility) to buy your BA journeys leg by leg, not as a return

          • Lady London says:

            cheers Shoestring. That was what I thought.
            I suppose it’s one way of getting your booking done by phone for free – they should waive the phone in fee as you are not able to do mixed classes online.

      • I might have completely misunderstood what fbrj is getting at, but when you book a BA redemption you are shown which seats are available in which cabins, so you can book e.g. J out and Y back. If you want a connecting flight in a different class to your long haul sector, you can use the “stopover” facility to show the different classes available.

  6. I’m looking to book flights to Santiago de Chile and with BA household account I can book for me and my wife no problem. However, if I book through Iberia I don’t have enough on either individual account to book the whole trip for us both. Neither is there enough on my wife’s account to book her own return flight…. Any suggestions?

    • Maybe booking it by sectors. You could book, one-way MAD-SCL x1 for your wife. x1 for you. and x2 for SCL-MAD.

      • That could work! And just in case there are any issues with seat availability etc, are flights booked with Avios through Iberia refundable (minus £35) in the same way as with BA?

        • Lady London says:

          Minus less money, I think BUT IIRC no refunds, and I think no changes, on any booking that contains even one flight that is not coded IB or BA or not operated by IB or BA. IIRC Vueling and Air Nostrum don’t count as IB for this.

          Iberia are a pain to deal with if something goes wrong so note carefully.

          • OK. Good to know – I’ll tread carefully! But if I travel on an IB ticketed and operated flight, I should be okay for a refund of Avios and (most of the) cash paid?

          • Mikeact says:

            No , you can only check back. Best way is to set up an account with Flyer Talk and then head over to the Iberia forum where you will find a ton of information and you can keep an eye on any questions you ask. Try to see if you can find the answer first, as some folks get a bit snooty about the same questions asked time and again!

        • IB (mainline, Iberia Express, Air Nostrum) and British Airways flights booked with Avios on the Iberia Plus website are refundable minus 25€ (or changeable). All other airlines are non-refundable and non-changeable.

          Just to warn you, refunds are processed very slowly, it may take 3-10 until you get back your Avios.

          • Thanks for the help! I may check back in with this when it comes to booking them. Is there a way to set up notifications for replies to comments here or you just need to check back?

  7. Mikeact says:

    Another use of Iberia Avios rewards, although I hasten to add….not particularly recommended due to no refunds etc., if cancelled, is US domestic, and other routes using AA. I’ve just had to book two internal segments, long ones, on AA, as my FB account showed no seats available on Delta (competition) which was my preferred choice.

  8. Does anyone else – like me – have an Ibera account with minus 90,000 balance still from a certain promotion earlier?

    Wondering what the best way forward with that is in terms of starting a fresh, if possible.

    If I remember rightly I may need to wait until my passport renewal is due in 2023…

  9. Be careful transfering your points to an old inactive Iberia account as points tra sfer don’t count as activity so you don’t want your points to expire.

  10. NEVER book IB on BA is not good advice if you want to mix IB/BA with any other OW airline such as LA or AA or QR on the same booking. If you do such a mixed carrier booking through IB+ then it will be totally non cancellable. Only the date(s) of flights will be changeable – €35 change fee.

  11. Jonathan G says:

    Over the weekend I tried to transfer 105,000 BA Avios points to my Iberia Plus account so I could book a flight from Madrid to Havana. Using “Combine my Points” on BA failed. But I remembered this website suggesting that it often failed and to get around it you can transfer the points from BA to Avios.com and then onwards to Iberia. I transferred 105,000 BA Avios to AVios.com successfully. However, when I tried to transfer the points to Iberia the transaction failed. BUT this time Avios.com still deducted the 105,000 Avios from my account. I checked with Iberia and the points never arrived. Calling Avios.com is a complete joke. They never pick up. I waited 45 minutes listening to their hold music. I did eventually manage to contact them via the webchat feature and they are going to look into the issue. But my worry is that I have 105,000 Avios points floating around in the cloud and I have no idea whether I will ever get them back. So just a warning for anyone else thinking about doing this.

    • Was your Iberia account still active? If it hasn’t been active, it can be a black hole for points transfers.

      • Jonathan G says:

        Yes. Still active. I am able to login and check points balance, and of course needed to use the account to transfer the points from Avios to Iberia.
        When a “combine my Points” transaction fails on BA website, it immediately credits back the points. This didn’t happen with Avios.com to Iberia,. The points just disappeared.

        • Shoestring says:

          ‘active’ means you have earned an Avios point in the last 3 years, not that you can log in and see your a/c

          if you didn’t have an active IB a/c, then Avios points transferred in from BAEC will die / expire

          sounds like you have just lost 105,000 Avios – they are not floating around somewhere but dead

          I believe it happened to Xcalx and (I think) he managed to get the Avios back after some wrangling

      • Jonathan G says:

        Both accounts are active. I managed to have a web chat with someone from Avios.com today and they claim that the points are stuck in Iberia’s system and they have asked for them to be “returned”. They have said this will be completed in 48-hours after which time the points should be back in my Avios.com account. Only hope I can then transfer them back to BA as I have had to go against the advise of this post and book my flights on Iberia via BA’s site (Madrid to Havana return, Business Class). I won’t be trying “Combine My Points” again in a hurry. Although …. if I do get my points back into BA then I may give it one more try transferring them direct to Iberia. Booking with Avios via Iberia was 105,000 points, whereas booking via BA was 185,000 points. At the same ££££ cost.

        • Shoestring says:

          and you definitely *earned* Avios points in your IB a/c in the last 36 months? transferring in MR points—> Avios from Amex would count as earning, as would taking a flight that earns points, buying anything on the store that earns Avios etc

          • Shoestring says:

            one person’s ‘active’ means the account is not closed down, ie they can log in

            whereas active here means you EARNED a point in the last 3 years

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