Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

Should you credit SkyTeam and Etihad flights to Air Europa, hoping they become Avios?

Links on Head for Points may support the site by paying a commission.  See here for all partner links.

Back in November 2019, IAG, the parent company of British Airways, announced the acquisition of Air Europa for €1bn.

Air Europa is the 3rd biggest airline in Spain.  The acquisition, according to IAG, would turn Madrid into a genuine ‘5th European hub’ city alongside London, Frankfurt, Paris and Amsterdam.

Importantly, IAG will become the largest airline group flying between Europe and the Caribbean and Europe and Latin America.

IAG to buy Air Europa

The deal is still on

When coronavirus hit, many people thought that the deal would collapse.  Not only was Air Europa at risk of not surviving the crisis, but IAG and its member airlines were running around picking up Government guaranteed loans wherever they could find them.  It isn’t a good look to take a Government loan and then use it to buy up a competitor.

The deal is moving ahead, however.  IAG has negotiated a price cut to €500m and, impressively, agreed that it doesn’t have to pay the money until 2026.

It still isn’t a done deal.  There is a real risk that the competition authorities block the acquisition.  Based on 2019 data, IAG would operate 73% of all domestic flights in Spain if there are no divestments, and IAG may consider any proposed divestments too high a price to pay.  Divestments will also be tricky – IAG may end up having to create, and then sell, a start-up airline with some aircraft and crew from Air Europa to compete with itself.

What has this got to do with earning Avios from SkyTeam and Etihad flights?

I’m glad you asked.

IAG has confirmed that Air Europa will be leaving the SkyTeam alliance and adopting Avios if the deal succeeds.

Air Europa currently has its own frequent flyer scheme called SUMA.  You can find full details on the Air Europa website here.

As a member of SkyTeam, you can currently credit miles from any SkyTeam flight to Air Europa SUMA – Delta, Air France, KLM, Vietnam, Aeroflot, Korean etc.

Air Europa also has a partnership with Etihad.  You can earn or redeem SUMA miles on Etihad.

China Southern and GOL are also non-SkyTeam partners, although you are far less likely to be flying with them than with Etihad.

If you do not usually collect SkyTeam or Etihad Guest miles but find yourself on a SkyTeam or Etihad flight, there is an interesting opportunity here.

If you credit your activity to Air Europa SUMA, it is virtually certain that your SUMA miles will be converted into Avios if the sale of the airline to IAG is finalised.

Is this risk-free?

Absolutely not.

There is a chance that IAG abandons the deal if the competition authorities demand excessive divestments.  This deal increases the size of Iberia by 50%, assuming you treat Air Europa and Iberia as one airline.

Based on 2019 data, eight airlines control 99.6% of Spanish domestic flights according to CAPA.  Unfortunately for regulators, IAG would own the three biggest, running a total of 73% of all domestic flights:

  • Vueling 32%
  • Iberia 26%
  • Air Europa 15%

Ryanair comes joint third, also with 15%.  You then drop to BinterCanarias with 9%, which mainly operates in and to the Canary Islands and is itself an Iberia partner.

There is another potential roadblock in the form of the Sociedad Estatal de Participaciones Industriales. SEPI is a state-owned investment fund which provided a €475 million loan to prop up Air Europa last year and which needs to approve the sale.  IAG will not want to, and may not be able to, refinance this loan.

What is the downside?

If you credit SkyTeam or Etihad flights to Air Europa and IAG ends up abandoning its bid for Air Europa, you will be stuck with some SUMA miles.

This isn’t the end of the world, of course.  After all, you would otherwise have been stuck with some Delta, Air France, Korean etc miles.  It is harder to top up Air Europa SUMA miles to the level required for a flight redemption, however, as they have fewer partners – you can’t transfer UK Amex Membership Rewards points, for example.

Air Europa SUMA miles have a fairly generous expiry policy so you should be safe even if the move to Avios takes a couple of years.  You only need some piece of ‘activity’ on your account every 18 months to keep them alive, which could be partner earning.

If you have any SkyTeam or Etihad flights planned for later in 2021 then this is a strategy worth thinking about if your main focus is Avios.

How to earn Avios from UK credit cards

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:

Barclaycard Avios Plus card

Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard

Get 25,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher at £10,000 Read our full review

Barclaycard Avios card

Barclaycard Avios Mastercard

5,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher at £20,000 Read our full review

There are two official British Airways American Express cards with attractive sign-up bonuses:

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

25,000 Avios and the famous annual 2-4-1 voucher Read our full review

British Airways American Express

5,000 Avios for signing up and an Economy 2-4-1 voucher for spending £12,000 Read our full review

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.

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & four airport lounge passes Read our full review

The Platinum Card from American Express

40,000 bonus points and a huge range of valuable benefits – for a fee Read our full review

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.

Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa

Get a 10,000 points bonus plus an extra 500 points for our readers Read our full review

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.

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express

30,000 Avios sign-up bonus – plus annual bonuses of up to 30,000 Avios Read our full review

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.

American Express Business Platinum

40,000 points bonus and an annual £200 Amex Travel credit Read our full review

American Express Business Gold

20,000 points sign-up bonus and free for a year Read our full review

Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Avios. This includes both personal and small business cards.

Comments (5)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Alex W says:

    You won’t want to fly BA again after experiencing Etihad 🤣
    Etihad has some other useful partners such as American and ANA. We used Etihad miles on Bangkok Airways to get to Koh Samui.
    As for Sky Team, if I had any Delta, Air France or KLM flights I would be crediting them to Virgin Atlantic.

    • DeB20 says:

      On the other hand I have had better in flight service on BA. Etihad was a few notches below. Food was so-so and their inability to keep to the dine on demand service promise was a huge disappointment each time I flew with them.

      Their A380 was excellent, especially the interiors and clean toilets / shower, but that aircraft has been retired.

      It was a lot of hype in my view. Unless they have competitive prices going forward, I will be flying BA, Emirates, possibly Qatar and Singapore Airlines, going east.

      Just a different point of view for those reading the article and comments.

      • Sandra says:

        Having flown regularly to the ME with them up to 2017, both in economy and business, I found Etihad to be at one extreme or the other – exceptionally good or exceptionally bad and when they lost my bags they were totally uninterested. Having said that as an even more regular user than me my OH had some good upgrades from business to first with them via his status.

  • mr_jetlag says:

    Betteridge’s Law

  • Mike says:

    My expectation as an antitrust lawyer is that this deal’s competition clearance will require the divestment of slots rather than planes & crew. The teams working on this will also likely wave the “failing firm” defence to avoid more stringent structural remedies. That said, I agree it’s not a done deal: someone needs to take up those slots, else they simply result in fewer overall connections with not much of a decrease in market share for the merged entity. And some city pairs (e.g. Canary Islands – continental Spain) rely heavily on air travel, so won’t be happy if flight frequencies go down.

    Perhaps niche, but Air Europa also has a codeshare partnership with Turkish Airlines, it’s come in handy a couple of times when doing connections down to Istanbul with other Sky Team airlines. The codeshare may only cover Spain-Turkey flights, though, so you’d need to connect in Madrid to make it work.

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

The UK's biggest frequent flyer website uses cookies, which you can block via your browser settings. Continuing implies your consent to this policy. Our privacy policy is here.