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How To Get Around the Glitch Moving Avios Between British Airways And Iberia

by on April 2, 2014 · 24 comments

in British Airways, Iberia, TPG Contributors

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TPG contributor Jason Steele (and a lot of other frequent flyers) have found it impossible to move Avios between their British Airways and Iberia accounts recently. Here’s the way he found to work around the problem.

The British Airways Executive Club can be an incredibly valuable rewards program, but it is crippled by the outrageous fuel surcharges imposed on flights operated by British Airways and many of its partners. Surcharges on business and first class tickets can be approximately the price of a coach ticket, and there are even cases where the fuel surcharges on a coach ticket can approach or exceed its cash price.

The trick to getting the most value from your British Airways Avios is to focus on the partner award flights that it doesn’t add fuel surcharges to. These flights include those operated by Alaska Airlines, Aer Lingus, Air Berlin, LAN (international), S7, and US Airways. In addition there are exceptions for short haul flights including British Airways flights within Europe and South Africa, Qantas domestic flights, some LAN domestic flights, and American Airlines flights within the Americas.

Using Iberia Avios to Avoid Fuel Surcharges

Iberia airlines of Spain is owned by the same parent company as British Airways. Although it operates its own frequent flyer program called Iberia Plus, it also calls its points “Avios.” Like the British Airways Executive Club program, Iberia Plus imposes similar fuel surcharges to partner award flights, but it charges substantially less for awards on flights that it operates (though still some that can be hundreds of dollars on transatlantic flights).

For example, this roundtrip flight on Iberia from Miami to Madrid in business class requires 100,000 Avios plus $935 when purchased from British Airways.

Screen Shot 2014-04-01 at 9.48.26 AM

The very same flight is just EUR 190 (~$263 US) if Iberia issues the award (along with the same number of Avios). That’s a $672 savings per ticket!

Screen Shot 2014-04-01 at 9.50.41 AM

Not only that, but now that US Airways is a part of Oneworld, you can use Avios to book US Airways awards. However, BA is pricing them out while Iberia is not, so you’ll want your Avios under your BA account if you want to put them to use this way.

Fortunately, British Airways appears to offer customers the ability to move points to Iberia Avios, at least under the certain conditions. First, Iberia Plus members must have their account open for at least 90 days. Next, the Iberia Plus account must be “initialized” in some way by having some activity.

The Problem

Having an Iberia Plus account open for more than 90 days, I wanted to transfer points from my Chase Ultimate Rewards account, to British Airways Avios, and then on to Iberia Avios to book four flights to Italy, via Madrid. Thankfully, I decided to first test the Avios transfer functionality on BA’s website, called “Combine Avios” before moving tens of thousands of Ultimate Rewards points to British Airways, which is irreversible.

First, I had to initialize my Iberia account, which had no activity. To do so, I moved 1,000 points from the American Express Membership Rewards program, of which Iberia Plus is a transfer partner. That transfer took nearly three days to complete.

Next, I went to the British Airways Executive Club page and clicked on “Combine my Avios.”

Screen-Shot-2014-04-01-at-9.53.02-AM

This link took me to another page explaining how I can combine points from the various Avios programs, along with a button on the bottom to “Combine my Avios.”

Screen Shot 2014-04-01 at 10.16.51 AM

Infuriatingly, clicking on that button only pulls up the same page in a frame within that page, over and over again.

Screen Shot 2014-04-01 at 10.17.04 AM

So I then tried to pull up the correct page in Firefox using both private browsing and safe modes, as well as in various other browsers, all without success. Finally, I contacted both British Airways and Iberia. Iberia informed me that only British Airways could initiate the transfer. The British Airway representative that I spoke to was happy to help, but she reported seeing the exact same problem on her system.

The Solution

In researching the problem, I came across several threads on FlyerTalk that indicated that this is not a new issue. While some posts referred to workarounds that I had already tried, and others that just didn’t pan out, one post briefly mentioned using Avios.com. This started to make sense as the Combine Avios feature on BritishAirways.com was supposed to work not just between BA and Iberia, but also with Avios.com as well as something called the Diamond Club. The Diamond Club is a largely defunct credit card rewards program that originated with BMI, an airline that was purchased by BA’s parent company in 2012.

On the other hand, Avios.com is an active program that offers shopping and travel rewards to residents of the United Kingdom and South Africa.

After creating an account at Avios.com, using a fictitious address in England, I was eventually able to transfer points between my Avios.com account and both my British Airways and Iberia Avios accounts.

Screen Shot 2014-04-01 at 10.17.14 AMI verified that transfers can occur in both directions between BA and Iberia in two steps, by using an Avios.com account as a go-between.

Screen Shot 2014-04-01 at 10.18.11 AMTransfers worked in both directions and were instantaneous – like they’re supposed to be.

Screen Shot 2014-04-01 at 10.18.35 AM

Tips for making Avios transfers work

While it seems simple enough to transfer points from British Airways to Avios.com and then to Iberia, it took me a few tries to get it right. To save yourself some time, make sure that your email addresses in your personal profiles match, and that you have your birth date entered into your profile with both programs.

The moment you execute the transfer, you will receive a pair of confirmation emails from the programs involved in the transfer, even before the website itself confirms the transfer. In my experience, I also had to log out and log back in to Avios.com in order to see my updated points total.

Screen Shot 2014-04-01 at 10.18.46 AM

Other reasons why you would want to transfer points between Avios.com and BA Avios or Iberia Avios

As if saving hundreds of dollars in fuel surcharges on Iberia flights wasn’t enough motivation, there are several other reasons why you might want to transfer points between the two programs:

1. Award flights on Vueling. Vueling is a Spanish low-cost carrier that serves dozens of destinations in Europe, north Africa, and the Middle East. However, Vueling award flights can only booked with Iberia Avios, not British Airways Avios.

2. Award flights on Aer Lingus and Alaska. Iberia Avios cannot be used to book flight on Aer Lingus or Alaska Airlines, which are partners of BA but not Iberia (don’t ask me to explain it!).

3. Capitalizing on Membership Rewards Bonuses. Although BA and Iberia are both Amex Membership Rewards transfer partners, American Express offers fairly frequent bonuses when transferring points to BA.

4. Combining small balances. If you have a small amount of points with either program, you can use these points for the purpose implied by the phrase “Combine my Avios,” and put otherwise orphaned Avios to use.

5. Earning Avios points in the UK and South Africa. If you actually live in the United Kingdom or South Africa, you can earn points with Avios.com when shopping, buying gas, and even recycling your old electronics. You can then transfer these points to Iberia or BA for use with award flights.

6. Avios.com awards. Avios.com offers some interesting awards that you can’t get with either the BA or the Iberia Avios programs. For example, you can use points to book a Eurostar train, rent a car, or get tickets on one of a number of ferries.

Screen Shot 2014-04-01 at 10.18.59 AM7. Various discounts. Earlier this year, Iberia had an award sale where it offered a discount on the number of Avios necessary for certain flights, which were not available using BA Avios. Iberia also prices out more award availability at more levels on its own flights when you use its own Avios, so if you’re looking to get around Spain or Europe on the airline, it can often be worth booking with IB Avios instead of those on BA.

For more information on Iberia and Avios, check out these posts:

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

Maximizing Iberia Flights with British Airways Avios

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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  • http://www.leeschneider.com/ leeschneider

    I had good luck in 2013 going Chase > BA > Iberia without any glitches. Seems to have changed. Appreciate this info as we generally fly to Spain on Iberia (from Boston) and have had good luck with that airline.

  • tucsonbabe

    Brian,
    Are there other ways to initialize an Iberia account besides transferring AmEx points. My husband and I have BA points and Iberia accounts; however we have not yet initialized the Iberia accounts. we have had the accounts for more than 90 days.

  • Wylie

    Another way to max your Iberia Avios is thru staying at the French hotel group Acoor and their varied brands. The hotel reward programme Le Club allows you to transfer these points to BA and Iberia. HOWEVER Iberia is the better deal being 1:2 Avios against BA 1:1

  • dee seiffer

    When I did this in 2012, the Iberia CSR told me I could make a purchase through their shopping portal. There were no US companies. So, I transferred 1000 Amex MRs. Haven’t looked since then.

  • Sanka Naak

    Does using avois.com mean that we don’t need to initialize the iberia account because I only have a Chase card and no AMEX card that earns MR. I would really like to Use Iberia to book one world partners like cathay pacific to avoid fuel charges rather than BA.

  • Jason Steele

    It does appear that the Iberia acct. must still be 90 days old, but I am not sure about the initialization requirement.

  • Jason Steele

    Good to know!

  • Jason Steele

    Actually, you should be able to try it and let us know. I only have 1 IB act. that is 90 days old, but it was already initialized.

  • Points to be Made

    Does this arbitrage still exist? I thought they had eliminated it. See this post. http://www.headforpoints.com/2013/09/29/accor-devalues-its-avios-points-conversion-rate-again/

  • tucsonbabe

    Thanks Jason. I just opened an AMEX Everyday card. I will use the sign up points to initialize our Iberia accounts.

  • joe_l

    A long-standing problem with OneWorld combined flights is that seat reservations are impossible on the fllght leg(s) not operated by the airline with which you purchased the ticket, until the day of the flight. This is a real bummer, and it has been going on for years. And they don´t fix it.

  • jmw2323

    used the avios.com website for the transfer. Got a msg that it couldn’t be done now. However, the 1000 test points are already out of my BA account but have yet to arrive in my avios.com account. Will keep an eye on it.

    I assume I can only transfer my points to my avios account, not the household points that belong to others?
    Will a household avios.com account solve this? In the process of creating 1 now

  • Pete

    Can I transfer Iberia Avios to my BA account?

  • jmw2323

    still missing the 1,000 pts I transferred from BA to avios. Also I do not see the “combine my avios” link on the avios.com “my account”

  • Paul

    When I tried this on April 27, I was able to transfer my BA miles to Avios.com, but when I tried then to transfer them on to Iberia, I received this error message: “You can’t use Combine my Avios with this account. Please contact us”

    Have others received this? Have they shut down this route?

  • Ron Tepper

    Tried to transfer Avios to IB using BA website – it insisted Iberia ID-password not valid. Called BA, they said I need to have more than 0 at IB to transfer in. Moved 1K amex to IB. Still same problem of BA site. Called BA – supervisor said it’s a known problem in their system, but call IB and they’ll do it. Called IB, they said you need to actually flown on IB in the past to transfer points in, not just have a non-zero balance. Amazingly poor service by both BA & IB!!

  • zev

    making it a Household account kills it, as the details have to match exactly, all avios accounts need to be solely in your name.

  • Todd

    I was just trying to combine accounts today. I had the same website within a website glitch. I tried right clicking the Combine my Avios link and “open in new window”. That opens the correct page so you don’t have to use the avios.com site.

    Unfortunately I didn’t realize the 90 requirement until attempting to link the accounts. Seems no other way to book the Vueling award I found for Paris to Barcelona in a couple weeks other than transfer in enough MR. That wasn’t what I was hoping to do since I have a ton of Avios to burn.

  • msupp

    I have a balance in my IB account, and have had it for over 3 months. When It try to transfer, I keep receiving the error that the details do not match on each account. Has anybody had this issue? Both accounts have the same details.

  • msupp

    Your IB account must be open for 3 months and have a balance (ie ‘be active’).

  • Paul

    Thanks so much! What’s the best way to get your IB account a balance short of buying a ticket on Iberia? Do they or Avios.com have a shopping portal that one can use to generate some points and a balance? Many thanks!

  • msupp

    I have read on Flyer Talk of the occasional promotion (such as posting something to Facebook for 15 avios, etc), but don’t know if it is currently running. You can also just purchase avios through Iberia (minimum 2,000, costing around 50 EUR). You can also transfer American Express points, but I don’t know much about the latter option since I don’t use Amex.

  • siflsniffle

    Worked through 6 hours of issues yesterday to book on Iberia with my BA Avios balance. Some things to note- you still need to have a points balance on Iberia to transfer your Avios from BA. Despite the Iberia agent telling me otherwise, I was able to make a purchase of Iberia Avios on the Iberia site to activate the Iberia account. I didn’t have any AMEX points to transfer over, so I had to spend their minimum of $75 to get 2K miles but it was worth it to save on BA fees and get my tix. Also, there was a discrepancy with my birthday year between the two sites but the BA agent was able to manually push my Avios over to Iberia once there were miles in Iberia account. They really need to get this and the 40+ minute BA customer service line wait time fixed!

  • siflsniffle

    Another important discovery- according to the Iberia agent if your Iberia account has been open for more than 3 years with no activity then it will be closed. We got in just under the cutoff, otherwise it would have meant waiting 90 days on a newly opened account in order to transfer over BA miles. I’m not sure if this 3 yr thing is true because the Iberia agent wasn’t otherwise correct but it’s worth noting.

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