Three versions of Avios: When to use Aer Lingus, Iberia and British Airways
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Members of the International Airlines Group — or, IAG for short — all use Avios as their loyalty currency. These airlines include Aer Lingus, British Airways, Iberia, LEVEL and Vueling — most of these have their own flavor of Avios, but you can move Avios freely between your accounts. What does that mean exactly?
If you’re confused about the best Avios to use for each redemption, you’re not alone. Here, I’ll walk through the pros and cons of each of the Avios currencies and when you should use each of them.
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An overview of the different Avios currencies
As discussed, Avios is the loyalty currency used by all the IAG airlines. Each of these currencies has separate award charts, but you can use any of the three Avios to book tickets on all of the IAG carriers.
To make things even more interesting, each IAG carrier has its own set of partners. Aer Lingus, for instance, has a partnership with United Airlines. You can earn Aer Lingus Avios when flying United, but you couldn’t do the same with British Airways or Iberia Avios.
Further, earning rates on flights will vary. Aer Lingus Avios are earned based on the price you pay for a flight on Aer Lingus while partner flights earn Avios based on fare class and distance flown.
On the other hand, British Airways and Iberia earn Avios based solely on the fare class and distance of a flight. This is the same for flights operated by the carrier or by a partner airline.
Thankfully, though, you can take advantage of all the Avios partners by transferring points between accounts. Just note that your Iberia account must be open for at least 90 days before you can transfer Avios from British Airways to the airline.
The three types of Avios — Aer Lingus, British Airways and Iberia — are each managed on a different website. You can manage Aer Lingus through Avios.com, British Airways on BritishAirways.com and Iberia on Iberia.com.
Earning Avios with credit cards
You have two options for earning Avios with credit cards: cobranded credit cards and transferable points. Cobranded credit cards earn Avios directly while transferrable points cards earn a bank currency that can be transferred to Avios at a 1:1 ratio.
Each has its own benefits — here’s a look at both types of cards.
Earning Avios with cobranded credit cards
There are three Avios credit cards available at the time of writing this article: one for Aer Lingus, British Airways, and Iberia respectively — each card is issued by Chase.
Here’s a look at each credit card and its respective welcome bonus:
- Aer Lingus Visa Signature Card: Earn 50,000 bonus Avios after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of account opening. Earn an additional 50,000 Bonus Avios after you spend $20,000 total on purchases within your first year of account opening.
- British Airways Visa Signature Card: Earn 50,000 bonus Avios after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of account opening. Earn an additional 50,000 Bonus Avios after you spend $20,000 total on purchases within your first year of account opening.
- Iberia Visa Signature Card: Earn 50,000 bonus Avios after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of account opening. Earn an additional 50,000 Bonus Avios after you spend $20,000 total on purchases within your first year of account opening.
Earning Avios with transferable points cards
You can transfer American Express Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards points to each of the types of Avios. These points transfer at a 1:1 ratio and transfer should process immediately.
- American Express® Green Card: 30,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $2,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening. Earn 3x points on dining, travel and transit, 1x points on all other purchases, ($150 annual fee; see rates and fees).
- American Express® Gold Card: Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months. Earn 4x points on dining; 4x points at U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 per calendar year; then 1x points); 3x points on airfare purchased directly from airlines; 1x points on all other purchases, ($250 annual fee; see rates and fees).
- The Platinum Card® from American Express: 75,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in your first 6 months of Card Membership. Earn 5x points on airfare purchased directly from airlines or Amex Travel (starting Jan. 1, 2021, earn 5x points on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year), 5x on prepaid hotel bookings through Amex Travel, and Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts; 1x on all other purchases, ($550 annual fee; see rates and fees).
The information for the Amex Green Card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
- Chase Sapphire Preferred Card: Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months after account opening. Earns 2x Ultimate Rewards points on travel and dining purchases.
- Chase Sapphire Reserve: Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months after account opening. Earn 3x Ultimate Rewards points on travel and dining purchases.
Best ways to use Aer Lingus Avios: Don’t use them
Now that you know the basics, let’s take a look at the best ways to use each type of Avios. I’ll provide you with actual redemptions you can make with each type of Avios and explain why it’s best to use one over the others.
Let’s start with the bad news: I can’t find a time when it makes sense to use Aer Lingus Avios instead of British Airways or Iberia Avios. The award pricing isn’t as good and it sometimes adds additional taxes and fees not charged by the other carriers.
That said, it is the only Avios currency that lets you book Aer Lingus awards online. You can book them with British Airways, but you’ll have to find availability on Avios.com or United.com and then call to book.
Unfortunately, Aer Lingus charges more taxes and fees than British Airways does for the same Aer Lingus ticket. It’s in your best interest to spend the extra time to book with British Airways.
Best ways to use British Airways Avios
British Airways is the most versatile of the three Avios. It has the widest range of uses, but it also has the most downsides. The most common downside? High fuel surcharges on British Airways tickets. You’ll pay over $500 for a one-way business class ticket on most British Airways routes when flying business class.
That said, this is true of all British Airways award tickets when booking with any Oneworld partner. The only way to lower the cost is by booking with Asia Miles, though you’ll still pay over $200 per one-way business class ticket in most cases.
Thankfully, there are many ways to use your British Airways Avios without high surcharges. Let’s take a closer look at how British Airways prices award tickets.
A look at the British Airways award charts
British Airways has two award charts: one for IAG airlines and another for partner airlines. The IAG award chart is split up into on-and-off-peak pricing while the partner award chart maintains the same pricing for all awards.
These award charts are distance and segment based. This means that you’ll pay more Avios for longer tickets and those with layovers. So a flight from Chicago (ORD) to Dublin (DUB) via New York-JFK will cost more than a direct flight from Chicago to Dublin.
Here’s a look at the IAG award chart:
(distance in miles)
On the other hand, here’s a look at the partner award chart:
(distance in miles)
To calculate the price of an award, use a website like GCmap.com to find the physical distance of your flight and match it to the respective section on one of the award charts above. Calculate any connecting flights separately and add them to the price of the other awards to find the total cost of an itinerary.
Simple enough, right? With that out of the way, let’s take a look at the best times to use British Airways Avios to book awards.
Short-haul tickets anywhere
Short-haul tickets are one of the best British Airways Avios redemptions. They start at just 4,000 Avios for an off-peak award flight 650 miles or less in distance. Partner awards start at 6,000 Avios but exclude flights within North America. Meanwhile, all partner flights in North America that are 1,151 miles or shorter cost 9,000 Avios in economy class.
Booking short-haul flights with British Airways can still be a great deal, even if you’re booking flights in North America. A flight from New York (LGA) to Chicago clocks in at 733 miles, meaning you need 9,000 Avios one-way in economy class. This is 3,500 miles cheaper than using AAdvantage MileSAAver ticket.
You’ll get an even better deal when booking flights that take place outside of the U.S. Some of the best examples of this are flights within Europe, Asia or Africa. For example, an off-peak award ticket from London-Heathrow (LHR) to Brussels (BRU) requires just 4,000 Avios and minimal taxes.
If you’re in Asia, you can use just 6,000 Avios and $33.54 to book a Cathay Pacific flight from Hong Kong (HKG) to Taipei (TPE) in economy class.
Interestingly enough, you can use the IAG award chart to book intra-Africa flights too. British Airways’ South African subsidiary — ComAir — operates an extensive South African route network, with flights to nearby international destinations. This means you can book a flight from Johannesburg (JNB) to Windhoek (WDH) for 6,500 Avios and $54.78 on off-peak dates.
You can get good value when booking mid-haul flights using British Airways Avios too. That said, always compare the price of booking with Avios to the price of booking with other points currencies to ensure you’re getting the best value for your points.
Aer Lingus long-haul tickets in economy or business class
My favorite way to redeem British Airways Avios is for Aer Lingus flights from the U.S. east coast to Dublin. While you used to be able to book these tickets from Boston (BOS) for just 10,000 Avios one-way in economy, the award now costs 13,000 Avios on off-peak dates after British Airways “moved” the country further to the east.
Other cities that fall into this range include Hartford (BDL), New York-JFK, Newark (EWR) and Philadelphia (PHL). Flights from all of these cities cost just 13,000 Avios off-peak and 20,000 on-peak in economy, or 50,000 and 60,000 in business class.
Each of these redemptions carries under $100 in taxes and fees per one-way ticket, making it a great way to avoid British Airways’ notoriously high fuel surcharges on long-haul flights.
To book these flights, find award space using Expert Flyer (owned by TPG’s parent company, Red Ventures) or United.com and call British Airways to book. The phone representative should waive the phone booking fee if you tell them that the award isn’t bookable online.
Flights from the U.S. west coast to Hawaii
Another great way to redeem British Airways Avios is for Alaska Airlines and American Airlines flights from the U.S. west coast to Hawaii. Most of these flights fall into the 2,001 to 3,000-mile range, so you can book them for 13,000 Avios one-way in economy class with $5.60 in taxes each way.
You can book American Airlines routes on the British Airways website too, making it an extremely cheap and easy way to get to The Aloha State. Unfortunately, you have to search for Alaska Airlines award space on AA.com and call British Airways to book Alaska routes.
Intra-Caribbean travel on British Airways
There are a handful of other interesting British Airways options too. You may not use them frequently, but they’re worth keeping in mind for future trips and obscure travel plans.
Here’s a weird one: British Airways operates a handful of fifth-freedom routes within the Caribbean with wide-body aircraft. Some of these routes include Nassau (NAS) to Grand Cayman (GCM), Saint Lucia (UVF) to Port of Spain (POS) and Antigua (ANU) to Saint Kitts (SKB).
These routes are relatively short, so you can book them on the cheap using British Airways’ IAG award chart. These flights are equipped with lie-flat seats and are a great way to experience British Airways Club World business class without flying to Europe.
Economy class from Los Angeles to Tokyo
Another sweet-spot in the British Airways partner award chart is flights from Los Angeles to Tokyo. This flight clocks in at 5,451 miles, so you can book an economy flight for 25,750 Avios and premium economy for 51,500 Avios with minimal taxes and fees.
These are both solid redemptions to Tokyo if you don’t mind forgoing the luxury of business and first class. This flight is operated by both American Airlines and Japan Airlines (JAL), so we recommend booking with JAL for a better in-flight experience.
Lie-flat transcontinental business class in Australia
Qantas frequently operates wide-body aircraft on its Perth (PER) to Melbourne (MEL) flight. This flight clocks in at 1,681 miles one-way, so you can book it in business class for 22,000 Avios with minimal taxes and fees.
This can be a great way to expand your Australian itinerary and experience a new business class product. Just make sure to check the aircraft type that’s operating the route — sometimes a wide-body is swapped with a standard 737.
Best use of Iberia Avios
Iberia Avios has become one of my favorite points to use for booking flights to Europe. The airline has excellent deals when booking Iberia-operated flights from the U.S. to Madrid, with connections available to other major European cities.
The award chart is split into on-peak and off-peak dates, with the ladder offering great prices on business class flights. The airline publishes on and off-peak dates on its website — the 2021 dates haven’t been published yet, but are bookable online and largely follow the 2020 dates.
Here’s a look at the current award chart:
|Origin||Blue Class / Economy||Premium Economy||Business|
|Off Peak||Peak||Off Peak||Peak||Off Peak||Peak|
|New York (JFK)||17,000 / 22,000||20,000 / 28,000||25,000||35,000||34,000||50,000|
|Chicago – O’Hare (ORD)||17,000 / 22,000||20,000 / 28,000||25,000||35,000||34,000||50,000|
|Boston (BOS)||17,000 / 22,000||20,000 / 28,000||25,000||35,000||34,000||50,000|
|Miami (MIA)||21,250 / 27,750||25,000 / 35,000||31,750||43,750||42,500||62,500|
|Los Angeles (LAX)||21,250 / 27,750||25,000 / 35,000||31,750||43,750||42,500||62,500|
|San Francisco (SFO)||21,250 / 27,750||25,000 / 35,000||31,750||43,750||42,000||62,500|
You’ll find the best deals when booking off-peak business class awards. A 34,000 Avios flight from New York-JFK to Madrid (MAD) is as good as it gets, and the product is pretty solid too. Even booking on-peak isn’t a bad deal — all destinations on the east coast and midwest cost just 50,000 miles one-way, which is 7,500 miles cheaper than using AAdvantage miles to book the same ticket.
Unfortunately, this pricing does not carry-over to partner carriers, but there are two times when it does make sense to use Iberia Avios to book with a partner — let’s take a look.
Booking Royal Air Maroc business class for 100,000 Avios round-trip
Royal Air Maroc is one of the newest Oneworld partners, and you can fly them from a handful of U.S. gateways to its hub in Casablanca (CMN). Iberia has a solid award chart, but you can only use it to book round-trip flights on the airline.
Round-trip flights from the U.S. to Casablanca cost 42,000 and 100,000 miles for a round-trip flight in economy or business class respectively. Plus, you’ll pay roughly $200 in taxes and fees on one of these tickets.
If you’d like to book one of these flights, use AA.com or Expert Flyer to find availability. Then, call Iberia to book the flight — unfortunately, these tickets cannot be booked online.
That said, consider booking with Etihad Guest if you decide to transfer American Express Membership Rewards points to book one of these flights. The airline charges 44,000 miles each way for a flight from the U.S. to Casablanca, so you’ll save points in the end.
Take advantage of these American sweet spots
While we usually recommend using British Airways Avios to book American flights, there are times when it makes sense to use Iberia Avios instead. This is for booking round-trip ultra short-haul flights within the U.S. and shorter long-haul flights.
You can see Iberia’s American award chart below. Like Royal Air Maroc’s chart, this pricing is based on round-trip mileage:
|1 – 600||11,000||22,000||33,000|
|601 – 1,000||12,000||24,000||36,000|
|1,001 – 2,000||17,000||34,000||51,000|
|2,001 – 4,000||23,000||46,000||69,000|
|4,001 – 5,000||28,000||64,000||96,000|
|5,001 – 8,000||42,000||100,000||150,000|
|8,001 – 12,400||65,000||150,000||225,000|
|12,401 – 14,000||75,000||175,000||262,500|
As you can see above, short-haul tickets are the best redemptions. These routes can be booked for 11,000-12,000 Avios, depending on length. A round-trip flight from New York-JFK to Washington-National (DCA) can be booked for just 11,000 Avios round-trip as the flight is 213 miles each way. That’s 7,000 Avios cheaper than booking two one-ways with British Airways Avios.
Flights between 5,001 and 8,000 miles round-trip can be a good redemption too. You could use this to book New York-JFK to Milan (MXP) for 42,000 Avios round-trip in economy and 100,000 Avios in business class as the round-trip mileage is 7,990 physical miles.
Make sure to compare British Airways and Iberia pricing before you book an American Airlines award ticket with Avios. Additionally, you’ll need to use British Airways Avios to book one-way flights on American.
Avios are a great way to travel the world — you just need to use them properly. Here, we discussed all the best ways to use the three types of Avios, giving you solid examples of the best redemption in each practice.
In short: you’re best using Aer Lingus for short-haul flights departing Ireland and Iberia Avios for long-haul flights on Iberia, especially when booking on off-peak dates. Then, use British Airways for booking everything else.
That said, you may have better luck booking Oneworld long-haul tickets that aren’t Iberia or Aer Lingus ticket with another loyalty program like AAdvantage, Qantas Frequent Flyer or a non-alliance partner like Etihad Guest. Always do your research to find the best deal.
Feature photo by by Fasttailwind/Shutterstock
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