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Maximizing British Airways Avios: Save Money on Fuel Surcharges and Fees – Transfer British Airways Avios to Iberia

by on June 20, 2012 · 93 comments

in British Airways, Iberia

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This is the next installment on my new Maximizing British Airways Avios series. Other posts include Master FAQ Post on British Airways 100,000 Mile OfferSpotlight on Taxes and FeesDistance-Based AwardsTravel Together Companion TicketHousehold AccountsUsing Avios to Upgrade Paid Tickets, The Avios and Cash OptionUsing Avios For Non-Flight Redemptions.

Update: The current sign-up bonus offer for the British Airways Visa is 50,000 Avios. 25,000 upon first use, and another 25,000 when you spend $2,500 within 90 days.

As I’ve mentioned before, there are many reasons why British Airways Avios can be great, including the fact that they are distance-based meaning shorter flights require fewer miles – even if fares on certain routes can be as expensive, if not more so, than on long-haul routes; and that you can use them for one-way travel as well.

One of the other useful features of Avios is that they can be used to book flights on any of BA’s Oneworld partners, and the awards on these airlines, like American, Cathay Pacific and Iberia, are all distance-based as well when using Avios.

A huge reason a lot of people have discounted the value of Avios, however, is that using them to fly British Airways to or through London means that you can get hit with huge taxes and fuel surcharges that are often the majority of the ticket price, so the value of Avios you redeem for certain awards can be rather low.

In light of that, however, an interesting element of the program to consider is that Avios is also the mileage program of Iberia since the two airlines merged in 2010, though they continue to operate under their current brands. One Mile at Time recently reported that Iberia’s taxes and fuel surcharges are often far below BA’s, meaning you can redeem your Avios to get to Europe without breaking the bank.

The key is to transfer your British Airways Avios into Iberia Avios and then use them to redeem for your award flights on Iberia or non-British Airways partners. You can sign up for an Iberia Plus account here. Then on BA.com, you simply log into your Executive Club account, go to the Manage My Account tab on the lefthand side of the page and it pulls up a screen with your options, the last of which is to “Combine My Avios.”

Combining Avios from your two accounts is under the Manage My Account tab on BA.com’s Executive Club site.

That pulls up the following page where you can then link your BA and Iberia Avios accounts.

BA gives you the option to transfer as many Avios as you want to Iberia for free.

Best of all, you can transfer as many Avios as you want as often as you want between the two programs, and it takes effect immediately. However, both of your Avios accounts must be open for at least three months before you can transfer Avios to Iberia – so it’s too late for summer travel, but you might be able squeeze a fall trip in.

So, when would this make sense? Mostly if your travel doesn’t take you through London. Iberia’s main hub is Madrid with a large presence in Barcelona, and it operates flights to several US cities out of both every day. You can also book on American with Iberia Avios to avoid fuel surcharges that British Airways would normally charge.

37,500 Iberia Avios to Madrid each way and only $48 in taxes.

For instance, in the screenshot above, I searched Iberia.com and found an itinerary from Miami to Madrid one-way for just 37,500 Iberia Avios and $49 in taxes.

I took a look at just booking the one-way ticket using cash and it would have cost a staggering $2,949 even in economy, so if I were to fly, I would definitely use Avios at nearly 8 cents apiece in value. (Note: one-way fares are almost always more expensive than roundtrip, so this fare would be much cheaper if I booked a return).

Though it’s a lot of Avios for an economy ticket, paying for this one-way flight would be just incomprehensibly expensive.

If I were to try booking through British Airways, however, it would first of all tell me that there was no availability on my dates since it preferences BA’s flights over its partners, including Iberia, and it’s tricky to get it to search for the airline you want if there are London routings available.

British Airways doesn’t even show any award availability for those dates.

I decided to search a few days before and after, and BA.com instead routed me through London on British Airways, incurring those huge fuel surcharges. This itinerary would cost me fewer Avios at 32,500, but it would also require me to pay $290. I’d rather use an extra 5,000 Avios and pay $242 less (getting nearly 5 cents of value out of each of those extra Avios).

Though it would cost me fewer Avios, BA.com would route me through London and incur huge fuel surcharges.

Using Iberia.com to search for award availability is a better idea in a few different cases. First, if you want to fly directly from the US to Spain, it pulls up a lot more award availability on its flights, both at low and high levels, than you’d be able to find on BA.com, and as I pointed out, you save a lot of money on taxes and fuel surcharges. You could also consider using it to fly to London because though it would cost you more Avios to add in an extra segment, you’d still be saving a lot of money on those British taxes and fuel surcharges, so if you have a lot of Avios but want to save cash, that could be a workaround option for you.

Also remember, that both American Express Membership Rewards points and Chase Ultimate Rewards are partners with British Airways (Amex also transfers directly to Iberia in case you don’t have 3 months to wait to link with a BA account), so even if you don’t have enough BA Avios, you can transfer points from either program to British Airways – preferably when they’re running a big transfer bonus – and then transfer those to Iberia Avios in order to redeem better-priced awards to Europe.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • PJ

    I am planning a trip to Switzerland for late spring skiing. wonder if my “massive” avois can help out after the cration of my Iberia Avios ?

  • MilesRunner

    Has anyone found a signup bonus for Iberia Plus?

  • Bexho2000

    Thanks for the useful info – great alternative to BA for European flights.

  • Ericlipkind

    This is a good one.

  • http://www.youwentwhere.com/ Adam

    Correction: Iberia does not fly to the US directly from BCN, only MAD.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=41900029 Josh MacDonald

    My In-laws just transferred AMEX to BA Avois for an upcoming trip on LAN, should I have them set up an account and move over to Iberia to save money? Route is JFK-LIM

  • Adam1222

    (MIA-BCN is no longer operated by Iberia, but by AA)

  • Sammy Bips

    I assume that the Travel Together Voucher from the BA Visa card would not apply if miles were transferred to Iberia?

  • Docomo

    Second this, since I am going to sign up for an account, would be great if there’s sign up bonus. Thanks

  • Asuruma

    If I want to go IAD-FCO using Avios, can this help me?

  • Hms7

    Excellent article.

  • The Points Guy

    No, you have to use it on BA flights.

  • The Points Guy

    It actually does fly direct, but stops in Madrid – no plane change.

  • mojoshtudd

    I like how we can book AA flights using BA website and Avios. But the BA website sucks, to say the least. If I transferred Avios to Iberia, would I be able to book AA flights from Iberia’s website? Also, can I transfer Avios back to BA in case things don’t work out so well?

  • Dcschwartz

    I thought a search system couldn’t be worse than BA’s. I can’t find a single available flight from LAX for any day. Am I doing something wrong? I clicked “Flying with Avios”.

  • PJ

    hmmm good luck to all of us :)

  • Sean

    looks like Iberia Avios awards on OneWorld partners require roundtrip…

  • James

    Great idea but it doesn’t work. I got this error:

    You can’t use Combine my Avios with this account

  • RakSiam

    Are Iberia Avios useful for TPAC flights (on CX for example?)

  • http://twitter.com/Goldeneyeuro Alex

    Has anyone ever flown with Iberia before? Most of the reviews I’ve been able to scrounge up (all economy class) are that the flight attendants and other personnel are cold and unsympathetic to your concerns, the food middling, the aircraft either old, dirty, or have faults.

  • MargiMc

    I, too have massive amounts of Avios and am choking on the taxes and surcharges from Seattle to anywhere in Europe.

    Does anyone have an idea of what the taxes and surcharges in Business or First for a trip to Europe via AA and Iberia? I did sign up for the Iberia Avios and checked out the points required but when I tried to book, it said you do not have enough Avios points so I cannot find out the charges. I have not yet transferred any Avios from BA to Iberia.

  • JaneSJC

    Since British Air and Iberia have merged and are both using Avios, can you use the British Air free companion ticket earned from the Chase BA Visa card when flying on Iberia?

  • MichaelJapan

    Did you read the part where it said that both accounts need to be open for a minimum of three months to make the transfer..?

  • slkwe

    I’d like to learn more about Iberia AVIOS, particularly how to redeem for Iberia/Vueling flights within Europe. You wrote they are distance based awards, like BA’s AVIOS miles. In a previous post, you sent us to a web page which calculated the number of BA AVIOS miles between UK and Europe, when flying on BA metal. Does anyone have a similar search function for Iberia AVIOS? Iberia has a bunch of direct flights: Madrid-Zurich, Madrid-Vienna, Madrid-Munich, Madrid-Paris, etc. For some, it might be a great option to redeem AA miles for flights between the US and Madrid (or Barcelona) and then redeem Iberia AVIOS miles for a Iberia flights within Europe. If you can share info on this, it would be helpful. Thanks.

  • Kofucious

    Great article. I wonder if the fees are less for intra-Asia travel after transferring to Iberia Avios from BA?

  • James

    Yeah, both accounts were opened in early 2010.

  • Krloach10

    I dont have the option “Combine Avios” as shown on this page. Wonder why?

  • mspswede

    This is great news–not sure how I had missed this feature myself! I did run into one short-lived snag when I went to add my Iberia+ account info: like James below, I got an error message. Tried a few times, same response. I called the USA help desk, was advised that EVERY bit of profile data has to match in order for it to work: name (i.e. spelling, middle initial if any), email address, phone, etc. She said it’s the same with AX Membership Rewards.

    Anyway, I found that my IB and BA accounts were tied to two different email accounts, so I changed IB to match BA and *voila*! It worked just fine. I occasionally do an e-rewards survey when I’m bored andactually have time, and IB (but not BA) is one of their award partners, so this would be a way to earn with IB and burn with BA if I so chose. $25 in e-rewards = 750 Avios.

  • guestt

    same with me…wonder if they made changes now that this option is known.

  • Mike

    Wasn’t able to link the accounts online, despite trying to get every field to match on name, address, phone, e-mail, etc. and having both accounts for years. However, if you call BA Executive Club, they can transfer the points for you directly between the accounts. Not as convenient as being able to do it all online, but at least it’s an option. The rep said you can transfer either way, and the transfer is instantaneous.

    And again, entering in some sample routes and comparing between BA and IB sites gives the same results as Brian; the BA site requires fewer Avios but many hundreds of dollars more in fees compared to IB. So you get much better value using the IB site for your Avios.

    One more detail: you can purchase Avios on either site (up to 24,000); however, the IB site doesn’t give you any bonus, while BA throws in an extra 7,200 (if you purchase the max). So if you want to go this route, be sure to purchase on BA, then transfer over to IB. BA costs $685 for 31,200; IB costs 459 euros for 24,000. That’s an effective exchange rate of $1.49; obviously using today’s real rate (around $1.26), the 459 euros would be worth $578. Even so, the bonus miles offsets this; BA’s Avios works out to be 2.2 cents, while IB costs 2.4 cents. The BA bonus is in effect until August 2.

    Finally, I didn’t confirm this, but if you’re _really_ short of Avios, I assume you can purchase them on both sites, since the programs are somewhat separate. So in theory you can get 31,200 on BA and 24,000 on IB, for a total of 55,200 for $1,263, which is about 2.3 cents each.

  • Mike

    I don’t think so; I believe the terms are that it must start in the US and is only valid on BA metal. No Oneworld alliance flights allowed. :-(

    You can read all the details here:

    http://www.britishairways.com/travel/red1trav2tcs/public/en_us

  • MFK

    Thanks for the information, but the BA site keeps telling me my session has timed and I need to re-login (worst airline site ever IMO). Can this be done via Iberia’s site? I can’t find it, but I’m new to the program and site. Thanks again.

  • Mike

    In reply to my previous post, Iberia is now offering a 20% bonus on Avios until July 8. So if you purchase 24,000 for 459 euros (about $578), you get an extra 4,800 Avios. That brings the price down to 2 cents each, better than the BA offer (although BA gives you more miles).

  • Jill

    Wow, this is spectacular. My Virgin and BA points up until now have “landlocked” me to the US due to the unreal and unjustifiable tax structure for “award” seats-
    Here are the questions:
    1. We have a household account-we have to unbundle that for each of us?
    2. Once we “combine Avios” is there any penalty to do that (like Amex) once you transfer points you lose them to the household account for future BA flights?
    3. How do you “test availability”? On the IB site is says you don’t have enough points to do check on anything.

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  • Jim

    I do not see the “Combine My Avios” link under BA “Manage My Account” page? Any updates appreciated.

  • http://twitter.com/theblondeabroad The Blonde Abroad

    Hmm it seems as though British Airways reads your website :) There is no longer the “Combine my Avios” hyperlink. Any recommendations? Guessing I need to call.

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  • Arthur Jacobs

    I’ve tried to transfer avios from BA to IB. Kept getting error message. Called BA 3 times
    and they said at end they will check and will get back to me by email.Everything matched.
    Worst system I have ever seen

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  • Kevin

    Does this still work?

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  • Karen

    I was told this was because you have to have at least one mile in your Iberia Plus account. Would not do it for me on the phone.

  • Tom

    I am an Avios-gathering pro but an Avios-using newbie. I have over 1.1 million Avios, including a couple of companion passes, but am at a loss on how to use them.

    I would like to splurge on a family trip from SFO to Germany, returning Italy to SFO, in the Fall. There seems to never be availability, and the various mechanism to maximize the use of the points seem daunting.

    Is there a service – a consultant, a travel agent, a whatever – who for a fee could try to manage and figure out how I can make the best use of my Avios?

  • David S

    I couldn’t agree more, both the website and the call center based out of the USA are such a pain. To further aggravate things, the UK call center, which works substantially better, does not have the authority to handle requests from US-based accounts.

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  • Mclean Danny

    Thanks for the great info! Not sure if it was mentioned in the thread but you must have some points in the Iberia account to transfer and the BAEC must not be part of a household account.

  • Kevinhcraig

    Is there any easy way to get iberia miles (other than booking a flight with them? Also, can I just un-link my household account before making the transfer?

  • thepointsguy

    You can transfer amex points to Iberia at a 1:1 ratio

  • Kevinhcraig

    How is this done? I tried from the Amex site and did not see any options to transfer to Iberia. I tried from Iberia and the site says transfers are “currently not available?”

  • thepointsguy

    Do you have US Amex cards?

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  • Pete

    How can we go about adding a couple of Avios to our Iberia account in order to be able to transfer our BA miles? I am having the same problem as James and would rather not spend 60 Euros for the minimum 2000 avios with Iberia if possible..

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  • sw01

    Update your passport infor then it will show upi

  • radster360

    Tom, I am in similar situation and trying to achieve similar objective. Did you get an answer?

  • Daivd

    Did you ever get it to work?

    I’m having the same problem with the BA website telling me my session has timed out

  • Daivd

    Did you ever get it to work?

    I’m having the same problem with the BA website telling me my session has timed out

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  • http://continuousdelivery.com/ Jez Humble

    Unless you are BA Gold, there isn’t much reward availability on SFO – LHR – you’d certainly be very lucky to get more than 3 seats in economy. Try reducing the number of adults that you’re booking and see if availability appears – if so, this is your problem. BA Gold status opens up more availability.

    You can use BA miles to book on other OneWorld carriers – I recently booked a family holiday to Hawaii from SFO with my Avios. Use the “book with Avios” option from the exec club homepage, and make sure you look for “partner availability” when searching.

    Alternatively, using the trick shown on this page, search using Iberia and transfer the necessary miles – you’ll find it _much_ cheaper than going via BA, because (as noted) you don’t pay the fuel surcharge.

    The downside is that you can only use the companion passes on BA metal. If you can’t find availability for the entire trip, you could book BA return to London, and then book the ongoing flights separately using just avios. It’ll use more avios, but you have more chance of getting availability.

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  • kevin

    Thank you for your information.

    I just read the Terms & Conditions written on the BAEC website. Could you help me with the following questions?

    1. If my IB and BA accounts were registered 90 days ago, then I can start combining my avisos?

    2. If my BAEC is a Household Account, can I still transfer my avios from BAEC to Iberia? I can also transfer them from Iberia to my Household Accounts?

    Thank you ^^

  • Rajeev Jog

    PLEASE…update your post to save everyone the hassles. I tried forever

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  • Ricky

    Thanks Rajeev. Seems like most folks do not know about this and the BA folks in USA are either poorly trained or idiots. I got a ref no and they said they have no IT dept that can help (So what the point of giving a CMA Ref no?). Very unprofessional customer care, every representative has his/her own diagnosis.

  • Rajeev Jog

    Update: MR miles went to Iberia in about 48 hours which matches what most people have reported. Tried like crazy to get BA miles to transfer to Iberia using the “Combine my Avios” link on BA.com. All the BA reps could tell me that the accounts have to be IDENTICALLY registered. Even went through the trouble of changing my phone number to add the +1 (US country code) etc. No dice. Ended up getting my Iberia account locked.

    Finally, called Iberia Plus service again, after midnight Pacific Time. +1 to Iberia for being open around the clock.
    Extremely friendly Iberia rep manually pulled the miles from BA, and booked the Iberia express flight (in April). +2 to Iberia again. Well worth the $1 for the phone call.

    Lastly, another bit of advice. Create an Avios.com account. Needs UK address, pick a friend’s address or just use a hotel or something. If the are going to send physical mail it will only be junk mail anyway. Apparently, BA.com -> Avios.com -> Iberia transfers work. Have not personally verified this in light of the extremely easy Iberia phone service, but several people have reported this works. Much better than waiting for BA.com to fix it.

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