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One of the best ways to get more value out of your British Airways Avios is to transfer them to Iberia, which is also part of the Avios program, and book your trip on Iberia instead because booking flights from North America to Europe and within Europe on Iberia generally incurs much lower carrier-imposed fees and surcharges than flying British Airway.
However, it looks as though Iberia has recently raised – albeit just slightly so far – the surcharges on its awards. They are still far below British Airways surcharges, but still something to keep in mind if you’re planning award travel. For more information on transferring Avios between your British Airways and Iberia accounts, see this post. Just remember, 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. Also note that Iberia is a 1:1 transfer partner of Amex, so you can still take advantage of their low fees by transferring in from Amex or Starwood. To open an Iberia Avios account, go here.
To take a quick example, last year, an Economy (not the lowest Blue level) award ticket from Miami to Madrid required 37,500 Avios and $48 one-way.
That same ticket this year would now cost you the same 37,500 Avios (again not at the very lowest saver “Blue” level) and 68.50 EUR or $90, nearly double!
While $90 for an award ticket to Europe one-way isn’t horrible, it is an indication that Iberia is starting to impose higher fees on award tickets. Even if you’re paying the premium for the higher fare class ticket, with the current Amex transfer bonus to British Airways of 35% (ending Friday!), you’d need to transfer just 56,000 Amex points to British Airways then transfer those to Iberia for a roundtrip economy ticket, which is below what most carriers will charge you (60,000 for economy roundtrip to Europe). Plus, if you can snag the Blue saver level, you’re looking at only having to transfer 37,000 Amex points (for a total of 50,000 Avios) for roundtrip economy tickets from the east coast to Europe.
It’s not all bad news. A business class ticket from Miami to Madrid on Iberia will cost you 50,000 Avios and 78.50 EUR ($103).
And just to compare, the same ticket would cost you the same 50,000 Avios, but an astounding $452.20.
Although British Airways also gives you a cash and points option where you could choose to pay $967 and just 30,000 Avios.
In the US, Iberia flies to New York, Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles, and Miami. In terms of searching for Iberia awards, Iberia’s site actually does a decent job at pulling in inventory, but you can always search on ExpertFlyer as well for business class availability.
25% Award Discount Promotion
Iberia is also offering a 25% discount award promo right now through June 30, 2013 for a few city pairs in Europe and South America.
Band 2: From 5,625 Avios for a one way trip instead of 7,500 Avios To / From Madrid to Milan or Munich.
Band 4: From 9,375 Avios for a one way trip instead of 12,500 Avios To / From Madrid to Accra.
Band 6: From 18,750 Avios for a one way trip instead of 25,000 Avios To / From Madrid/Barcelona to Rio de Janeiro or Sao Paulo.
Band 7: From 22,500 Avios for a one way trip instead of 30,000 Avios To / From Madrid/Barcelona to Buenos Aires.
I took a quick look around for awards, and this one from Rio de Janeiro to Madrid and found discount tickets readily available throughout this coming week in economy, though business class awards were still pricing out at the normal level of 50,000 Avios each way despite the promo supposedly being available for all classes.
Still, that economy redemption for 37,500 miles roundtrip from South America to Europe – which will only cost you 28,000 Amex points if you factor in the 35% transfer bonus to British Airways Avios – is a pretty great deal, though sadly the promotion is limited to flights in June.
Oops I Booked Through British Airways
I actually once booked an Iberia flight with British Airways Avios, forgetting that booking it through Iberia would be cheaper. You can always pay $40 to cancel your British Airways award, then transfer those miles to Iberia and book to save hundreds in fees. Granted, there needs to be availability, but if so it would easily be worth the change fee to get the lower fees.