If you are looking to redeem Avios for flights to Central or South America, you may end up booking BA’s sister airline Iberia. With British Airways announcing the closure of the Lima route last week, its own coverage has become even thinner.
Iberia has an intriguing list of long-haul routes which cover places ignored by British Airways. This has included – although we can’t be sure what routes will return post-coronavirus – Guatemala, Cuba, Panama, San Salvador, Montevideo, Bogota, Cali, 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. The massive tax savings available are covered in our ‘Avios Redemption University’ article on Iberia here.
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.
Using Avios on Iberia
Iberia uses Avios as its loyalty currency.
If you have an Iberia Plus account, you can freely transfer Avios back and forth from BA to Iberia using ‘Combine My Avios’.
(OK, that is easier said than done. Transfers between BA and Iberia are famously ‘buggy’. Most people find it easier to open an Aer Lingus or Vueling account which lets you log in at avios.com. You can then use your Aer Lingus or Vueling avios.com account as a middle man to pull in points from BA and then push them off to Iberia, or vice versa.)
How to book Avios flights on Iberia
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 – you do not pay carrier surcharges on Iberia redemptions using Avios when booked via Iberia Plus. You DO pay carrier surcharges when booking via ba.com.
How much money do I save booking Iberia redemptions on iberia.com instead of 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 126,000 Avios and £499 of taxes on off-peak dates for October
Book Madrid – Montevideo – Madrid in Business on iberia.com and pay 102,000 Avios plus £187 of taxes for the same dates
That is a ludicrous £312 saving per person – over £600 for a couple.
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 £176 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.
The £176 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.
These savings are why, 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 to book a redemption.
How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (February 2024)
As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Avios points from UK credit cards. Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses!
In February 2022, Barclaycard launched two exciting new Barclaycard Avios Mastercard cards with a bonus of up to 25,000 Avios. You can apply here.
You qualify for the bonus on these cards even if you have a British Airways American Express card:
There are two official British Airways American Express cards with attractive sign-up bonuses:
You can also get generous sign-up bonuses by applying for American Express cards which earn Membership Rewards points. These points convert at 1:1 into Avios.
Run your own business?
We recommend Capital On Tap for limited companies. You earn 1 Avios per £1 which is impressive for a Visa card, along with a sign-up bonus worth 10,500 Avios.
You should also consider the British Airways Accelerating Business credit card. This is open to sole traders as well as limited companies and has a 30,000 Avios sign-up bonus.
There are also generous bonuses on the two American Express Business cards, with the points converting at 1:1 into Avios. These cards are open to sole traders as well as limited companies.
Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Avios. This includes both personal and small business cards.