I was thinking about writing a me-too article about the United States lifting the travel ban on vaccinated UK citizens, but I couldn’t face it. It’s all over your newspaper this morning and we can’t add much.
Instead, I thought it worth focusing on the one Avios trick that is worth knowing today – how to save a huge sum in Avios and cash when heading to New York, by using Iberia.
How to redeem Avios via Iberia Plus
This article is a long one, so let’s quickly summarise what you need to know:
- When travelling to the US East Coast, the number of Avios you need is substantially lower with Iberia – from just 68,000 Avios return in Business Class
- If that wasn’t good enough news, when booking Iberia flights via Iberia Plus, taxes and charges are lower and availability is better than if you book BA via British Airways Executive Club. You save £463 per person in taxes and charges to New York, as I will show.
- You cannot use a British Airways American Express 241 voucher or Barclays Avios Rewards upgrade voucher when you book Iberia redemptions
- Iberia has its own peak and off-peak calendar which can work in your favour, as UK school holidays are often off-peak
Why should you redeem Avios on Iberia via Iberia Plus?
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 – often £650 per Club World seat to North America and £550 elsewhere.
Taxes on Iberia flights are often a fraction of those charged by British Airways – although Air Passenger Duty will be added if your connecting flight from the UK is on the same ticket.
Business Class seating on Iberia
Iberia has been through a substantial restructuring since being bought by IAG, the parent company of British Airways. 16 new long-haul aircraft – 8 x A330’s and 8 x A350’s – have been delivered and older aircraft retired.
Iberia has no First Class. The great news is that, over the last decade, Iberia has installed new fully flat seating across its long-haul fleet:
Rhys was recently lucky enough to fly it on an A350 on a London to Madrid flight as you can read (and see) here. 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.
How cheap are Iberia redemptions to the US East Coast?
Iberia has its own reward pricing chart with its own peak and off-peak dates (click to enlarge):
This chart is NOT the same as the British Airways chart:
The charts are nearly the same, but not quite.
There are substantial differences in the 3,000 to 4,000 mile zone which covers the US East Coast.
Let’s take New York as an example. Both British Airways and Iberia price New York as a Zone 5 redemption. However:
- Iberia, as you can see above, charges 68,000 Avios off-peak and 100,000 Avios peak for a return Business Class flight to New York
- British Airways charges 100,000 Avios off-peak and 120,000 Avios peak for a return Club World flight to New York
There are not many destinations which are served by both BA and Iberia 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.
Travelling to the US West Coast? This isn’t as straightforward. London to San Francisco is a Zone 6 flight, for example, whilst Madrid to San Francisco is Zone 7 as it is a longer trip. Despite that, off-peak, Iberia from Madrid is still – despite being priced as Zone 7 – cheaper than a Zone 6 flight from London on BA. You need to do the maths and also compare the taxes.
A word about peak and off peak 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. Here are the dates for 2021 and 2022 (click to enlarge):
2021 and 2022 British Airways peak and off-peak Avios dates:
2021 and 2022 Iberia peak and off-peak Avios dates:
October half-term, for example, is primarily – across the two weeks – peak for British Airways. Iberia shows a lot more off-peak dates during this period.
Show me some actual numbers ….
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 €240 (£206) return on off-peak dates
- A BA redemption from London to New York (booked via ba.com on a BA plane) in Club World costs 100,000 Avios plus £669 on an off-peak date. That is, by any stretch, a big difference.
- More interestingly, if you try to book the Iberia Madrid to New York flight on ba.com using BA Avios, it will charge you £381 of taxes and charges. This is for the SAME Iberia flight which requires only £206 of taxes and charges on iberia.com using Iberia Avios. BA just pockets the extra £175.
This is not necessarily easy, of course.
- 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, Iberia is not obliged to look after you if you miss your long-haul flight – although if you fly Iberia 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 15,000 Avios and £35 in Economy – but that is hardly making a great dent in your £463 per person saving.
If you mind is pondering a short break in New York or elsewhere on the US East Coast, don’t forget the exceptional Avios value offered by Iberia.
The saving on taxes and charge is HUGE – £669 per person on BA from London to New York versus £206 per person on Iberia from Madrid to New York. This is before you factor in the saving of 32,000 Avios per person on off-peak days.
In return for a detour via Madrid – which is not necessarily a hardship – you can save a substantial amount in both Avios and taxes and charges on your way to New York.
How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (October 2022)
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.
EDIT: Until 25th October 2022, there is an exceptionally generous sign-up bonus on The Platinum Card. You will receive 60,000 Membership Rewards points – double the usual amount – and £200 to spend at Amex Travel. You need to spend £6,000 within six months to earn the bonus.
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 10,000 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.