New way you might be able to fly to the Maldives in lie-flat business class for less

Sep 16, 2021

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Would you believe us if we told you that an 11-hour, business class flight to the Maldives costs as little as just 66,000 points … for the entire round-trip? Well, it’s true, at least theoretically.

The Ritz-Carlton, Fari Islands, Maldives (Photo by Chris Dong/The Points Guy)

Today, Iberia announced that it would start two weekly flights between Malé (MLE) and Madrid (MAD) from Dec. 2021 through Feb. 2022.

These flights are about 11 hours long each way from Madrid, and lie-flat, business class flights to the Maldives are notoriously pricey. And while it will cost you more to start your journey in the U.S., it’s still a stellar deal if you can stack booking it with some current transfer bonuses from Chase and American Express.

The challenge is that while we were able to price out awards on these flights this morning, availability appears to have dried up for the time being. But, since things can always change, here’s what you should know if the Maldives is on your travel wish list.

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New flight option to the Maldives

Typically, you can expect to pay at least 150,000 miles round-trip through other loyalty programs.

Thanks to the Iberia Plus program and its distance-based award chart, a one-way flight to Malé from Madrid will costs 42,500 Avios for an off-peak business class rate, or 85,000 Avios round-trip — which is an already excellent use of your points.

If you’re starting from the U.S., you’ll need to factor in the price of that first segment. If you’re using Iberia Avios for this flight, it starts at 34,000 Avios one-way from Chicago (ORD) and New York (JFK), for an added total of 66,000 Avios.

Iberia is flying the A330 to the Maldives. (Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

What makes this deal even sweeter, is both that American Express Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards are currently offering transfer bonuses to the Iberia Plus program for a couple more weeks. That means it’ll cost you even fewer points than quoted above if you can find availability:

  • You’d need to transfer just 33,000 Chase points — which turn into 42,900 Avios with the current 30% bonus — for a one-way award ticket. Meanwhile, just 66,000 Chase points (85,800 Avios with the bonus) would get you a round-trip flight.
  • You’d need to transfer just 31,000 Amex points — which turn into 43,400 Avios with the current 40% bonus — for a one-way award ticket. Meanwhile, just 61,000 Amex points (85,400 Avios with the bonus) would get you a round-trip flight.

Of course, if you are coming from the U.S., you’d have to get to Madrid first.

But prices have dropped significantly for this upcoming fall and winter across all airlines — I’ve found round-trip fares in the low $200s from Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) to Madrid, as an example. Likewise, you can find great award rates to Madrid on Iberia or others and even build in a few days in your itinerary to explore Spain.

Four Seasons Madrid (Photo by Lori Zaino)
(Screenshot courtesy of Google Flights)

Regardless, if you’re already looking to get away from the freezing cold temperatures this winter, why not spend a week (or more) in The Maldives? In this post, I’ll walk you through how you can book and leverage the current transfer bonus to redeem Avios for a trip of a lifetime.

(Photo by Ryan Petterson for The Points Guy)

Confirm redemption rates on Iberia

Iberia-A330-at-Los-Angeles-AIrport-LAX
An Iberia Airbus A330 is seen in Los Angeles. (Photo by Ryan Patterson/TPG)

Before you transfer any of your hard-earned points to Iberia Plus, head on over to Iberia.com and search for flights. We saw availability quickly decrease this morning, so double-check that the flights you want are even there first. Be sure to click “Pay with Avios” to see the rates in points — and note that Iberia uses some funky search parameters for departing from the U.S. (e.g. “CHI” for Chicago).

Here are your nonstop flight options from Madrid to Malé (and back) from Dec. 3, 2021- Feb. 28, 2022:

  • MAD-MLE: 8:40 p.m. to 11:25 a.m., with departures on Mondays and Fridays
  • MLE-MAD: 10 p.m. to 6:20 a.m., with departures on Saturdays and Tuesdays
(Screenshot courtesy of Iberia)

Once you find your ideal dates, scroll down to find the rates with points.

(Screenshot courtesy of Iberia)

These particular dates I searched cost 85,000 Avios and $291.90 in taxes and fees for the round-trip flight from Madrid. This is the lowest redemption rate you’ll find, thanks to the off-peak business class rates on Iberia’s award charts.

However, if you want to fly around Christmas or New Year’s, expect redemption rates to be higher — around 105,000 Avios round-trip if you can find availability. That said, this is still an excellent award rate for holiday travel, especially if you take advantage of the current 30% or 40% transfer bonuses into account, effectively lowering your round-trip price to as little as 75,000 Amex points.

Leverage transfer bonuses to Iberia Avios

If you have an Ultimate Rewards-earning card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve or the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card (or a card that earns Membership Rewards, like The Platinum Card® from American Express and the American Express® Gold Card), listen up.

(Screenshot courtesy of Chase Ultimate Rewards)

The transfer bonus from Chase runs until Sept. 26, while the one from Amex ends on Sept. 30. Ultimate Rewards points transfer instantly to Iberia Plus while Amex Membership Rewards can take up to 48 hours — so be sure to keep that in mind, as availability on these flights may not last.

Alternatively, transfers from Amex to British Airways (which is also offering a 40% bonus) are typically instant, and you can move Avios from there to Iberia if you meet certain criteria.

The math can be a bit tricky, but here’s how you can figure out the exact amount to transfer:

  1. Price out your desired itinerary (e.g. 85,000 Avios for a round-trip, off-peak, business-class flight from MAD-MLE).
  2. Divide that price by either 1.3 (for Chase) or 1.4 (for Amex)
  3. Round up to the nearest 1,000 points — since you’re required to transfer in increments of 1,000.

So for an itinerary that prices at 85,000 Avios, you’d need to transfer 66,000 Chase points (85,000 ÷ 1.3 = ~65,385, which rounds to 66,000) or 61,000 Amex points (85,000 ÷ 1.4 = ~60,714, which rounds to 61,000).

Bottom line

Overwater bungalows in the Maldives
(Photo by Lifestyle Travel Photo / Shutterstock.com)

Iberia has long been known as one of the best award charts friendly for stellar business class redemptions. With Iberia offering flights to the Maldives, you can fly in luxury at a fraction of the cost any other airline will charge if some additional availability returns.

If you are able to book a flight, check out our guide on the best times to visit the Maldives and things to know when booking your first overwater bungalow.

Featured photo by Chris Dong for The Points Guy.

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