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In October Iberia Airlines announced it would be adding a premium economy cabin to its long-haul flights starting in 2017, which meant it was only a matter of time before we’d see a set of award prices for these new seats. Those new prices have now arrived… but they’ve brought along a few eye-opening surprises with them.
First, let’s take a look at the new Iberia Avios award charts which are distance-based like its British Airways cousin, using Madrid as the origin (the distance bands are in parentheses). Remember, these are for one-way flights entirely on Iberia itself, since partner awards are priced using separate charts for each partner. Also, Iberia has different charts for peak season and off-peak season, although generally two-thirds of the year are considered off-peak.
Iberia’s New Award Charts
And for reference, here is Iberia’s old award chart…
At first glance, obviously the biggest change is the new prices for Premium Economy seats. Since the seats will only be installed on long-haul flights, the prices start at Band 5, and on the off-peak chart they’re nearly identical to what up until this point has been the Avios price for “Full Fare Economy” — essentially Iberia’s version of standard economy awards. For peak awards, the Premium Economy seats will cost about 5,000 to 8,000 Avios more than the old Full Fare prices.
However, it would appear those Full Fare Economy prices are dropping by roughly 2,000 to 7,500 Avios depending on the band and date. This is certainly good news, and flights after March 10 appear to already be pricing using the new lower numbers, though you’ll still want to keep an eye out for lowest-priced “Blue Class” awards if you’re booking economy seats and have flexibility in your schedule.
New Award Bands and Moving Cities
But hang on! You may have also noticed that, whereas the old chart ended at Band 7, there’s now a new Band 8 for flights between 6,500 to 7,000 miles, and a Band 9 for flights more than 7,000 miles. The new Band 8 covers Iberia’s Madrid (MAD) to Tokyo-Narita (NRT) route, and word is that higher price has actually been in place since that flight launched in October even though the award band itself wasn’t published yet. It’s not clear what Band 9 will be used for, but it’s available if Iberia decides to start flying nonstop to Singapore. We’ve reached out to Iberia for clarification.
So that’s it, right? Nope. There’s one more really big change, but you have to dive deep into the footnotes to find it.
Here are the entire footnotes — check out the sections I’ve highlighted…
That’s right — Iberia is saying cities will no longer necessarily conform to their distance-bands. In fact, Chicago is specifically listed in Band 5, even though it is 4,202 miles from Madrid and should technically be in Band 6. This means during off-peak season, business class seats between Chicago and Madrid on Iberia will cost only 34,000 Avios each way instead of 42,500 Avios. If you can find award space, 68,000 miles for a round-trip business class ticket to Europe from the Midwest is an absolute steal!
So those are the new official Iberia charts, but…
Here’s the really interesting part of all this. Late yesterday an eagle-eyed TPG reader, Allan S. from Los Angeles, sent us an e-mail to let us know that the Iberia award search engine was coughing up odd pricing. When we did some investigating, we discovered these new award charts, which of course Iberia just posted on its website without saying a word about them.
But when you actually try to book Iberia awards to and from Chicago, some flights are pricing way below where they should.
Here’s the example Allan sent us, which I’ve been able to reproduce myself. This is Chicago to Madrid in business class, which should be 34,000 Avios according to the new chart. But it’s pricing at an insanely low 25,500 Avios!
And this discrepancy isn’t just limited to business class awards. Here’s Madrid returning back to Chicago in low-level Blue Class on an off-peak date, which should be 17,000 Avios. But it’s pricing over 4,000 Avios below that (and we even found four seats available)…
You can even get in a brand new Premium Economy seat on an off-peak flight from Madrid to Chicago for only 19,150 Avios, instead of the 25,500 Avios it should cost on that date…
[UPDATE 2/11/17 12:30pm — At first we thought this was a pricing glitch, but another TPG reader Alex noted that these even lower prices are actually due to a limited-time Iberia Valentine’s Day promotion. Here are the terms, which are well-hidden on the Iberia website — note the limited dates and you must book by February 14.]
Now because this promo is limited in dates, not every flight will be affected. Here’s a Chicago-Madrid business class seat that’s pricing at the regular amount, though it is at the new lower Band 5 price of 34,000 Avios…
Keep in mind that Iberia Avios can be transferred directly from American Express Membership Rewards at a ratio of 250:200 and the transfer should be instant. But you can also transfer Avios directly between British Airways and Iberia if both your Iberia and British Airways accounts have had previous activity in them and your Iberia account has been open for more than 90 days. Since British Airways is a transfer partner with both Chase Ultimate Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest along with Membership Rewards, this opens up a lot of ways to get Iberia Avios into your account relatively quickly.
These new Iberia award chart changes are undoubtedly here to stay, but the promo won’t last long. So, many thanks to both Allan and Alex for their tips, and make sure to book to or from Europe at a super cheap price while you can!
Featured image courtesy of Iberia Airlines.
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