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Maximizing Iberia Flights With British Airways Avios

by on November 12, 2012 · 23 comments

in Avios, British Airways, Iberia

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Update: The current offer for the British Airways Visa is 50,000 Avios when you spend $2,000 in the first 3 months.

While Britishairways.com can be a good tool for booking award tickets, it also has a lot of bugs and makes searching for non-BA flights a pain. If you are flying anywhere that could possibly route through London, the system will automatically just show you BA flights that do so rather than pulling in partner awards…and as I talk about a lot, those itineraries through London can often incur some huge taxes and fuel surcharges, making it uneconomical to book these awards.

One trick is to search on dates you know that BA award seats aren’t available and then select the partners that BA.com says also fly your selected route, but that can be a guessing game and a waste of time. Not to mention that BA.com will only show you saver level availability on the partners that it does pull in.

For example, yesterday I wanted to find a last minute one-way award from Madrid to Zurich to meet up with the Star Megado international folks. When I looked up ticket prices, they were going for about $670 on Iberia and Swiss. For economy!

I decided to look up my options on United.com and Britishairways.com. While United showed me a few different options flying Lufthansa from Madrid to various German hubs including Munich and Frankfurt on the date I wanted to fly, British Airways was only showing a single non-stop flight on Iberia with award availability, and it was departing at about 8:00am on a Sunday morning. Well, I know what Saturday night in Madrid is like, and that didn’t seem like the best option.

Because it only searches for low-level awards, the only flight available on BA.com was the morning one.

Searching Iberia Awards

So instead, I went directly to the Iberia site, logged in with my Iberia Plus number and searched for flight availability. The flight BA had displayed was there with low-level “Blue” availability for 7,500 Avios and $22.50 in taxes and fees.

However, looking at the other two flights that came up was even more interesting. The latest flight in the day only had business class availability for 15,000 Avios, which hadn’t come up when I’d searched BA.com for either economy or business class tickets.

The middle flight, right in the late afternoon that would get me in in time for dinner was my top preference, and though “Blue” level awards weren’t available, standard Economy awards were for 11,250 Avios for an outright award ticket. That was still less than the 12,500 United miles it would take to redeem for a one-way ticket (and the fees on United were almost $100 since they charge last minute ticketing fees), so I decided to book it.

Transferring Avios from BA to Iberia

I didn’t have any miles in my Iberia account, however, Avios is the mileage program of both British Airways and Iberia, and as long as your accounts are over three months old.

To transfer British Airways Avios to Iberia, you simply log into your Executive Club account on BA.com, go to the Manage My Account tab on the left-hand side of the page and it pulls up a screen with your options, the last of which is to “Combine My Avios.” That pulls up the following page where you can then link your BA and Iberia Avios accounts. (Note Iberia is also a direct transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards so you can transfer directly from there, though it can take up to 2 days for miles to post).

The option of combining Avios is under the “Manage My Account” tab on the left-hand side.

You can transfer as many Avios as you want as often as you want between the two programs, and transfers go through immediately, so as soon as I found the award ticket I wanted, I was able to make an Avios transfer and book it.

Transfers occur instantaneously and for free.

My one consideration was that, instead of paying 11,250 Avios and $22.50, I could instead use a combination of Avios and cash and pay:

I could use a combination of Avios and cash to redeem for my award ticket.

10,125 Avios + $37.50
9,000 Avios + $52.50
7,875 Avios + $67.50
6,750 Avios + $82.50
5,625 Avios + $97.50

With these co-pays, I was essentially purchasing back Avios at a rate of 1.3 cents each – and I know I can get a lot more value out of my Avios than that, so I decided to pay $52.50 and use just 9,000 Avios instead. After all, I did want to save some cash on this flight.

Changing Flights

I was all set, but then once I got to Madrid, I decided I was having such a good time that I wanted to extend my trip a day and head to Zurich on Monday morning instead.

A quick search of Iberia.com turned up a morning flight with a low-level business class award seat available for 15,000 Avios and $27.50. I couldn’t cancel my original ticket online and had to call the Iberia call center in Spain, which is luckily open 24 hours unlike the US call centers which close at 7pm. I got through to someone immediately and asked to speak to a representative in English, and was transferred and on the line with someone within a minute. This could be a good strategy for others out there who book Iberia flights- the number from the US is +34-91-374-2442. If you’re having trouble getting through to the US call center, try their Spanish one – it might be worth a little extra on your phone bill or to try calling in via Skype to get someone who can help you immediately.

The rep I was speaking to told me that because my original flight was less than 24 hours away that she could not refund the Avios from my original ticket as it was. But she was creative and helpful: she said she could change my ticket to a later date and then cancel it so I would get my Avios back. That took her about 45 seconds, after which she explained that the Avios should show up in my account instantly (a quick check on Iberia.com revealed that they did) but that the $52.50 in taxes and fees I paid would take several business days. Other than that, there were no cancellation fees, redeposit fees or anything!

I thanked her, hung up and booked my new flight. Instead of using 15,000 Avios and $27.50, I actually paid $127.50 and used 7,500 Avios – I know that in the future, I’ll be able to redeem those 7,500 Avios for a flight that costs much more than $100, so I’d rather pay a little more up front.

The various Avios and cash options for my business class ticket.

Even paying the extra, my ticket by itself would have cost $970, so I was getting over 11 cents per Avios in value on my redemption, though I would never pay for intra-European business class so my true value received is less, but it was still a solid redemption.

I can’t say I’m excited to fly intra-European business class, which is essentially just coach with the middle seat blocked off but I was excited about how easy it was to book flights on Iberia using Avios, and not only that, but at the great service I received and the fact I didn’t have to pay any fees for ticketing or re-ticketing. Another great use for my BA Avios if you ask me.

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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  • Andras

    Hold on sec…no cancellation fees with Iberia using Avios? :-0

  • Jon

    Does transferring Avios between Iberia BA extend the expiration of the points?

  • SgFm

    I’m liking IB Avios more and more. I did not have any recent activity in my account when I wanted to book with some (transferred over from BA) Avios, so I did first have to transfer 1,000 Membership Rewards points into my IB account (this took 24 hours). But, then I was able to transfer my BA Avios instantly, and book a business class ticket from BOS-MAD for 30,000 Avios and $49.56 in taxes. I also booked a flight in coach from MAD-VIE for 4,500 Avios and $22.50 in taxes. There is definitely a place for IB and BA Avios in my portfolio of FF accounts.

  • Andras

    MAD-VIE is 7500 miles. no?

  • SK

    Really helpful post. I hadn’t realized I could transfer my BA Avios (of which I have 50K+) to IB, and was tired of fighting with the BA online booking system.

  • SgFm

    Andras, you are right!

  • Ernie S

    It does not appear that you can transfer Avios points from Iberia to British Airways. Is this correct?

  • cmrk

    I live in San Francisco, with in-laws in Greece, and have had a terrible time attempting to use my Avios points for much of anything at all. I had high hopes for the Iberia Avios workaround – but when I try to redeem Avios points on the Iberia website, SFO is not given as a possible origin city. Does that mean I’m stuck redeeming via BA, with all of their lovely taxes and fees?

  • Mmt

    are ba avios taken proportionaly from all members of a family accout when transferred to an IB account? Thats the way an award ticket is on BA.

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  • Boggart UK

    I think this service is blocked. I tried transferring and was told that it was cancelled by pne customer service rep at BA, another told me I had to call Iberia directly. Iberia told me I have to have more than 0 in my account to transfer miles from BA.

    Anyone had any success recently?

  • buhu

    I wanted to trasfer my BA avios to Iberia, but I could not see the option “combine Avios”. I spoke with BA rep and he told me to update my profile info- mostly date of birth and passport number etc. After doing that, I could see the option and I had transfered my Avios successfully to Iberia Account. It is not true that this option is blocked or expired and you do not have to have more than 0 miles in your account.
    Btw, I just did that on 1.1. 2013. So, I would try to do that first and see what happens. I live in USA, so it should be the same in UK. Hope this is helpful.

  • buhu

    I just want to add that I had 0 avios in my Iberia account and I did everything online.

  • MiamiDeamz

    SgFm, You couldn’t book from BOS-VIE? I”m trying to book from MIA-PRG on Iberia using Avios, and I can book MIA-MAD and a separate trip from MAD-PRG, but if I try to go straight from MIA-PRG, there is no availability.

  • SgFm

    You have to book to separate flights for your itinerary. Still, a good use of Avios, esp. if you just book in coach for the MAD-PRG flight, and business for the flight from MIA.

  • Karen

    I was just told that I had to 1) not have a household account and then the same nonsense about needing at least 1 mile in my Iberia account. Would not escalate my call or let me talk to anyone else. I just went through both accounts to make sure both credentials matched and they do. I set the Iberia account up in July so I would be ready for this. Now I have to pay another 53 Euro to buy Iberia Avios and then I bet I still can’t do it…

  • simone b

    This is a great tip, and a great resource. Thank you.

    Just fyi the latest from Iberia Plus for those trying to replicate this process, you must have your Iberia Plus account open 3 months, and it also must be activated (“movement” was the word the Iberia Plus rep used). She said it could be achieved via travel on Iberia with the plus account, or purchases of Avios, or purchases via partner offers that earn you Avios points.

    I had tried to do transfer BA Avios to Iberia Avios and was told that it could not be done with this account. I called BA and they said their computer shows my account is “invalid” for transfer of Avios. I called Iberia Plus, they said that the account has to be 90 days plus activated by the above-mentioned movement.

    Having a new account open for just 90 days won’t cut it! Hope it works!

  • simone b

    UPDATE: It worked! I am kind of in disbelief because there were so many obstacles & conditions in the way — very frustrating. But it worked. To recap, these were the steps required:

    1. Have Iberia Plus account opened for 91 days. The “stated” amount of days is 90, but the Iberia Plus online system doesn’t recognize you until the 91st day, as advised to me by Iberia Plus rep from Spain. I called on the 90th day and she told me wait one day, and she was right. Worked for me on the 91st day.

    2. You must have the account open 90 (91) days, PLUS have “movement” which means some kind of transaction on your Iberia Plus account–hotel, airfare, car rental stay, or purchase of Avios (purchase of Avios also had to wait until the 91st day from account opening). This does not mean you must have an Avios balance, just that you must have had some kind of qualifying activity in your Iberia Plus in the last 12 months.

    3. Your personal details information must match up in both accounts perfectly.

    4. This is the strangest quirk: Your Iberia Plus account PIN # must be all numerical–from British Airway’s point of view anyway. You can use an alpha-numerical PIN if you’re ever only dealing with just Iberia Plus website. But if you want to “Combine your Avios” from BA to Iberia+ using the BA website tool, your IB+ pin MUST be all numerical. I had read this elsewhere and tried it back and forth between numerical and alpha-numerical PINS–it proved true for me 3 times. BA website would only recognize my Iberia Plus login info if my Iberia Plus PIN was numerical. I have no idea why, but true.

    Good luck!

  • John Hine

    Simone b,
    Thank you for the tip.
    How does someone living in North America get “movement” on their Iberia Plus account other than taking a flight on Iberia ? All of their partner offers seem to be directed at those living in Spain.
    Thanks in advance.
    John H

  • simone b

    I am also in N. America. We purchased the lowest level of Avios (2000 for 40 or 50 euros). This counted as “movement.”

    After this, I tried to combine Avios but BA website kept saying it didn’t recognize the log in credentials.

    So, changed my Iberia account password to numbers only. For some reason, when you are in your BA Avios account and begin the process to “combine Avios”–the BA website only recognizes Iberia passwords that are only numerical (even though this is not required by Iberia website itself).

    A very strange quirk. But it was the last trick that unlocked all of this and FINALLY allowed the transfer to Iberia.

    Good luck!

  • simone b

    By the way, the purchase of Avios is only allowed after 3 months of opening your account.

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