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.
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:
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 Avios reward flight prices (plus taxes, fees and carrier charges)|
|Zone||Distance||Discount Economy||Economy||Premium Economy||Business Class|
This chart is NOT the same as the British Airways chart:
|British Airways one-way Avios reward flight prices (plus taxes, fees and charges)|
|Zone||Distance||Economy||Premium Economy||Business Class||First Class|
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:
For comparison, the British Airways 2021 Avios calendar is here whilst the Aer Lingus 2021 peak/off peak calendar is 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:
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.
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?
How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (June 2021)
As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Avios from UK credit cards. Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses!
There are two official British Airways American Express cards:
You can also get generous sign-up bonuses by applying for American Express cards which earn Membership Rewards points, such as:
We also recommend Capital On Tap for limited companies. You earn 1 Avios per £1 which is impressive for a Visa card:
Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Avios. This includes both personal and small business cards.
(Want to earn more Avios? Click here to visit our home page for our latest articles on earning and spending your Avios points and click here to see how to earn more Avios this month from offers and promotions.)