How to book VERY low tax Avios redemption flights on Iberia (Avios Redemption University, Lesson 11)

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This article explains how to book Avios flight redemptions via Iberia Plus, and how you can save hundreds of pounds in taxes by doing so.

These savings can be huge.  A return Business Class Avios flight to New York costs just £130 in taxes and charges with Iberia.  British Airways wants £680.

The “Avios Redemption University” series is a good starting point for beginners, although I hope everyone will learn something from it.  Click here to see the other “Avios Redemption University” articles.

When an Avios collector in the UK looks for a long-haul redemption, British Airways is the obvious choice of airline. However, the taxes and charges can often be very high – around £550 per Club World seat flying east, and around £650 flying west.

One way around the taxes problem is to redeem on Aer Lingus, the subject of a future article.  Often overlooked in the hunt for low taxes, though, is BA’s sister company Iberia.  Taxes on Iberia flights are often a fraction of those charged by British Airways.

Iberia has extended its UK connections network.  You can fly from Manchester and Edinburgh to Madrid with Iberia Express, which makes it a lot easier to use Avios to connect to an Iberia long haul flight. There are also plenty of budget airline options.

How to redeem Avios on Iberia

Iberia has an obscure route network

Iberia has been through a substantial restructuring since being bought by IAG, the parent company of British Airways.

To IAG’s credit, Iberia has been turned around. 16 new long-haul aircraft – 12 x A330s and 8 x A350s – have been delivered or are on order for delivery by the end of the year. There is a decent new business class seat, with an even better version on the A350 (see my Iberia A350 business class review) and the long-haul network is expanding again.

The great news is that the new destinations being added are places you would actually want to visit such as Tokyo, Havana and San Francisco.

These are the non-European Iberia destinations:

  • Africa – Algiers, Cairo, Casablanca, Dakar, Fez, Marrakech, Melilla,  Oran, Tangier
  • USA – Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, San Francisco, Washington DC
  • South America – Bogota, Buenos Aires, Caracas, Guayaquil, Lima, Medellin, Mexico City, Montevideo, Quito, Rio do Janeiro, Santiago, Sao Paulo
  • Central America and Caribbean – Guatemala, Havana, Panama City, San Salvador, Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic), San Jose (Costa Rica), San Juan
  • Asia – Tokyo, Shanghai
  • Middle East – Tel Aviv

All of these are flown from Madrid.  Note that some of the African routes are served with short-haul aircraft.

Iberia has vastly improved its business class seating

Iberia has no First Class.

The great news is that, over the last five years, Iberia has installed new fully flat seating across its long-haul fleet.  This is the A330 version:

Iberia business class seat

I flew this on a Madrid to London flight as you can read (and see) here in my Iberia A340 business class review.  Iberia runs a few London to Madrid services a week with long-haul aircraft and flat beds in business class because it needs the cargo capacity offered by the bigger aircraft.  The new Iberia A350 business class seat has a few tweaks as our review shows.

How to price Iberia Avios flight rewards

This isn’t as simple as it could be.  Iberia has its own Avios reward pricing chart with its own peak and off-peak dates (click to enlarge):

Iberia redemption chart

and

Iberia redemption Avios chart

This chart is NOT the same as the British Airways chart:

The charts are nearly the same, but not quite.

Let’s take New York as an example. Both British Airways and Iberia price New York as a Zone 5 redemption. However:

British Airways charges 100,000 Avios off-peak and 120,000 Avios peak for a Club World flight to New York

Iberia, as you can see above, charges 68,000 Avios off-peak and 100,000 Avios peak for a Business Class flight to New York

There are not many destinations which are served by both BA and Iberia, of course, so the opportunities for arbitrage are limited. You also need to factor in the cost and time of getting to Madrid, although if you live outside London it is not massively more complex than changing planes at Heathrow.

A word about peak and off peak Avios dates

Just to make life even more complex, Iberia has its own list of peak and off-peak dates. This is different from the British Airways list.

You can see the peak and off-peak Avios dates for British Airways and Iberia for 2020 here.

For clarity, the Iberia peak and off-peak chart is used even if you book an Iberia redemption via ba.com.  It isn’t exclusively for redemptions booked via Iberia Plus.

October half-term, for example, is a peak week for British Airways redemptions and peak pricing is in force. Iberia does not treat this week as a peak week.  During such periods the price differences can be stark:

  • London to New York, BA Club World, is 120,000 Avios during October half term
  • Madrid to New York, Iberia Business Class, is 68,000 Avios during October half term

And that’s before you factor in the massive difference in taxes ….

Iberia is the home of low taxes (but only on the Iberia website!)

Iberia Plus does not charge the full range of airport taxes and fuel surcharges imposed by ba.com.  This is a BIG thing and the main reason – as well as the better seat and potentially lower number of Avios needed – to consider Iberia seriously.

Let’s look at Madrid to New York in Business Class, return.  Iberia, when you book on iberia.com, will charge 68,000 Avios plus £130 return on an off-peak date.  See here:

Iberia low tax Avios redemptions

A BA redemption from London to New York (via ba.com on a BA plane) on the same route in Club World costs 100,000 Avios plus £680 on an off-peak date!  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 identical Iberia Madrid to New York flight on ba.com using BA Avios, it will charge you £393 of taxes!  This is for the SAME Iberia flight which costs only £130 of tax on iberia.com using Iberia Avios.

Now, of course all is not plain sailing:

  • From the UK, you need to fly to Madrid. However, if you are not based in London you will be taking a connecting flight anyway. And the saving probably justifies not flying direct from London.
  • The London to Madrid flight cannot be booked on the same itinerary as the Madrid to New York flight or you will be obliged to pay UK Air Passenger Duty at the long-haul rate. Since you will have separate tickets, IB is not obliged to look after you if you miss your long-haul flight – although if you fly IB from London, it is very unlikely they would abandon you if the delay was down to them.
  • A flight from London to Madrid, return, costs 13,000 Avios and £35 in Economy (offpeak) – but that is hardly making a great dent in your £550 taxes and charges saving (£680 – £130)
  • Iberia reward availability is not great as they fly far fewer seats to New York than British Airways

You need to open an Iberia Plus account to get the best deal

Note that, to get the £130 of taxes for Madrid to New York in our example, you must book on the Iberia website and use Iberia Avios. If you try to book this itinerary on the BA website, BA will add fuel surcharges and other ‘random stuff’ which adds up to £393.  This means that you need to open an Iberia Plus Avios account.

Most importantly, you need to open it 90 days before you want to book. You cannot transfer British Airways Executive Club Avios or avios.com points into Iberia Plus Avios if the Iberia account is under 90 days old. (And this little wheeze is probably why.)

Your IB account also needs to have had an Avios earning transaction put through it.  You cannot move your BA Avios into an Iberia account, even if it is 90 days old, if the Iberia account has never had any activity on it.  You need to credit a flight segment or a car hire or a hotel stay to class it as ‘active’ and thus qualifying to receive incoming Avios transfers.  If you cannot put a flight or hotel stay through it, you could transfer some existing hotel points or American Express Membership Rewards points.

A word about Iberia Avios availability

Even if you aren’t convinced to book via Iberia Plus to save money on taxes, you should also note that economy class Avios availability is better on iberia.com compared to ba.com.  There no longer appears to be much difference in business class availability.

Conclusion

There is no doubt that redeeming Avios points on Iberia is confusing if you are used to the British Airways system. You need to get your head around the different peak and off-peak dates as well as remembering that using Iberia Plus will give you a lower taxes charge. You also need to ensure that any new Iberia Plus account you open is ‘activated’ via an earning transaction and that you have opened it 90 days before you need it.

The bottom line, though, is that you can make substantial savings in tax – and sometimes in Avios too – if you are willing to fly the much improved Iberia business class instead of British Airways Club World.

Want to learn more about how to maximise your Avios redemptions?

You can see the full list of all 15 articles in the ‘Avios Redemption University’ series here.

(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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Comments

  1. I would love to see taxes changed to fees in regards of redemption flights, sentences below wouldn’t sound so silly.

    “Taxes on Iberia flights are often a fraction of those charged by British Airways.”

    “More interestingly, if you try to book the identical Iberia Madrid to New York flight on ba.com using BA Avios, it will charge you £393 of taxes! This is for the SAME Iberia flight which costs only £130 of tax on iberia.com using Iberia Avios.”

  2. Mikeact says:

    I think us regulars all know what is meant by taxes this day and age, in fact, the airlines tend to use this phrase as well.

    For anybody who has never done it…..via Madrid, I would thoroughly recommend it. We’ve now routed through there four times so far with another provisional next year. Never had a problem at all and easy to connect….and the savings ? Say no more.

    • Lady London says:

      Do you have a favourite hotel if, for caution you would stay overnight at Madrid?

      • Blindman says:

        Being a cheapskate (and a Yorkshireman) I stay at Airbnb’s for the one night.

  3. Dave T says:

    flying to mexico later this year from madrid saved me £300 in tax and 10k miles in exchange for a £32 flight to madrid

  4. Rob mc says:

    Flew four times last year on Iberia and the seat is excellent, the food and service absolutely dire. You are an inconvenience to the staff, including having to clamber over a steward in the galley as he lounged on his seat reading a book with his legs stretched out. Also being shouted at whilst trying to go to the toilet as one of the crew said she needed to go before me. The price is cheaper but factor in the hours used to get to Madrid, often stay overnight in a hotel and the poor service has made me decide to just pay the extra and go from London.

    • Blindman says:

      I’ve done this twice.
      Once to South America and last year to JNB.

      Could not fault the service, the flight or the huge $$ and AVIOS saving.

      Being super cautious we stay overnight in Madrid. Easy to get to a nearby Airbnb using the metro.

      On the JNB trip we were allowed to check the bags 24hrs before take off so we landed from the UK, checked the bags and then went to the Airbnb with just hand luggage.

  5. VickyTM says:

    Is there an easy way to search for Avios availability on Iberia? I can only seem to find a one-day-at-a- time view?

  6. Swenglishnick says:

    Thanks for this info re Iberia.
    If one overcomes the issues of setting up an Iberia Plus account and organises an activating transaction, what would the situation be about transfering avios from a BA family account. My wife and I have our points split over 2 accounts with BA. Would we both need to open Iberia Plus accounts or could one transfer from two different BA accounts to one Iberia account?
    TIA
    Nick

    • Hamza Jamil says:

      Exactly what I was going to ask. We have a family account: wife and 2 kids. Would they all need accounts or just the person booking?

      • You can’t transfer from a BA HHA to Iberia.

        What you can do is transfer from a BA HHA to an avios.com account (same name) and then onto Iberia (same name).

  7. rob burgin says:

    can you get a refund with Iberia up to 24 hours before take-off for your Avios to be refunded ?

    • memesweeper says:

      I pretty sure you *cant* cancel a partner airline award booked with Iberia Avios … but on Iberia metal? I’d assume yes but I’ve never done it.

      • memesweeper says:

        Here’s what their FAQ says (skip to the bottom re. partners):-

        Are my Avios refundable?
        Refunds of tickets purchased with Avios for Iberia Group flights depend on the fare and the following terms and conditions:
        Blue Class: Changes and refunds are allowed through the Iberia Plus Service Centre up to 24 hours before the flight and with a penalty of €25. No refunds are allowed after the flight and no partial refunds of segments not flown.
        Full Economy: Changes and refunds are allowed without a penalty.
        Premium Economy: Changes and refunds are allowed through the Iberia Plus Service Centre up to 24 hours before the flight and with a penalty of €25. No refunds are allowed after the flight and no partial refunds of segments not flown.
        Business: Changes and refunds are allowed through the Iberia Plus Service Centre up to 24 hours before the flight and with a penalty of €25. No refunds are allowed after the flight and no partial refunds of segments not flown.
        Changes and refunds are not allowed for tickets purchased with Avios for Vueling flights.
        For partner products and services purchased with Avios, refunds must be processed directly with the partner in question and will depend on their returns policy.

  8. Concerto says:

    Iberia Plus is unique among FFPs in that it allows you to select the class of travel PER segment, meaning that you can mix and match classes on one ticket. So instead of “wasting” miles on business class on the European flight segment you can save your Avios, using them for the larger sum demanded for the intercontinental segment. Would this not be a way of avoiding APD if departing from the UK?

    • Lady London says:

      Only if you had a stop of at least 24h in Madrid, I believe

      • Nope. it can be a direct connection. You can book mixed classes.

      • Lady London says:

        Yes but I’d expect you to pay full APD for the whole ticket according to the highest segment class you have anywhere on it. I think leaving a 24hr gap in MAD on the outgoing stops this

    • Charlieface says:

      BA you can do this it just has to be over the phone, or you select a stopover in London. Equally almost any other scheme I can think of

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