Three versions of Avios: When to use Aer Lingus, Iberia and British Airways

Jul 24, 2020

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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?

Each form of Avios has its benefits and drawbacks. For example, British Airways Avios are great for short-haul awards while Iberia Avios is your best bet for business class awards to Spain.

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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In This Post

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.

Looking to quickly earn points to transfer to Avios? Here’s a look at the best American Express cards to use to earn American Express Membership Rewards points:

  • 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.

Prefer Chase Ultimate Rewards points? Here’s a look at our favorite Chase credit cards:

  • 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.
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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.

Related: Pot of gold: A review of Aer Lingus on the A321neo in business class from Dublin to Philadelphia

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:

Zone #

(distance in miles)

Economy Premium Economy Business First
Off-Peak Peak Off-Peak Peak Off-Peak Peak Off-Peak Peak
Zone 1

(1-650)

4,000 4,500 5,750 6,750 7,750 9,000 15,500 18,000
Zone 2

(651-1,151)

6,500 7,500 9,500 11,250 12,750 15,000 25,500 30,000
Zone 3

(1,152-2,000)

8,500 10,000 12,750 15,000 17,000 20,000 34,000 40,000
Zone 4

(2,001-3,000)

10,000 12,500 20,000 25,000 31,250 37,500 42,500 50,000
Zone 5

(3,001-4,000)

13,000 20,000 26,000 40,000 50,000 60,000 68,000 80,000
Zone 6

(4,001-5,500)

16,250 25,000 32,500 50,000 62,500 75,000 85,000 100,000
Zone 7

(5,501-6,500)

19,500 30,000 39,000 60,000 75,000 90,000 102,000 120,000
Zone 8

(6,501-7,000)

22,750 35,000 45,500 70,000 87,500 105,000 119,000 140,000
Zone 9

(7,001+)

32,500 50,000 65,000 100,000 125,000 150,000 170,000 200,000

 

On the other hand, here’s a look at the partner award chart:

Zone #

(distance in miles)

Economy Premium Economy Business First
Zone 1**

(1-650)

6,000 9,000 12,500 24,000
Zone 2

(651-1,151)

9,000 12,500 16,500 33,000
Zone 3

(1,152-2,000)

11,000 16,500 22,000 44,000
Zone 4

(2,001-3,000)

13,000 25,750 38,750 51,500
Zone 5

(3,001-4,000)

20,750 41,250 62,000 82,500
Zone 6

(4,001-5,500)

25,750 51,500 77,250 103,000
Zone 7

(5,501-6,500)

31,000 62,000 92,750 123,750
Zone 8

(6,501-7,000)

36,250 72,250 108,250 144,250
Zone 9

(7,001+)

51,500 103,000 154,500 206,000

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

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

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.

HKG to TPE Pricing British Airways
(Image courtesy of British Airways)

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.

JNB WDH Pricing British Airways
(Image courtesy of British Airways)

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

Aer Lingus business class seat
(Photo by Nicky Kelvin/The Points Guy)

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.

Related: Great service, thin seat: Review of Aer Lingus on the A321neo in economy from Dublin to Philadelphia

Flights from the U.S. west coast to Hawaii

Makena Beach, Big Island, Hawaii
(Photo by Tor Johnson/Hawaii Tourism Authority)

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.

Related: The best ways to get to Hawaii using points and miles

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 A350 Business Class (Photo by Christian Kramer/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Christian Kramer/The Points Guy)

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.

Related: 6 best ways to redeem 100,000 Iberia Avios

Booking Royal Air Maroc business class for 100,000 Avios round-trip

Royal Air Maroc business class
(Photo by Brendan Dorsey/The Points Guy)

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

American Airlines A321T (Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy)

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:

Distance
(round-trip)
Economy Business First
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.

Bottom line

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.

For rates and fees of the Amex Green, click here.
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Feature photo by by Fasttailwind/Shutterstock

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