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Book now: Round-trip, business-class award tickets to Spain for 68,000 points

Feb. 19, 2020
9 min read
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Here at The Points Guy, we love jumping on award sweet spots to make the most of our hard-earned points and miles. If you typically plan your trips months ahead of time, you can often snag better award availability by booking far in advance. And for our Midwestern readers looking to book a trip for early next year, that chance may be here, as we've just seen a healthy amount of award space for up to six travelers from Chicago-O'Hare (ORD) to Madrid (MAD) and back in early 2021.

The best part? A round-trip, business-class award ticket on Iberia's nonstop flight would only set you back 68,000 credit card points.

Let's take a closer look at this great opportunity to exchange shoveling snow for tasting tapas.

Current award availability

At the time of writing, here are the dates that currently have four business-class award seats on Iberia's nonstop flight:

Chicago to Madrid

  • January 13, 17-20, 24-27 and 31
  • February 1-2, 8-9 and 14

Madrid to Chicago

  • January 13, 19-21 and 26-28
  • February 2-4, 9-11 and 14

It's worth noting that many of the dates that don't have four awards right now do have 2-3 business-class seats designated for awards, so if you only need a couple, your available travel windows might be even broader. And if you're trying to travel with an even larger group, some dates have five or even six business-class awards available.

Unfortunately, we're not seeing similar award inventory from other U.S. gateways, though you may get lucky with a seat or two on select dates.

How to book

Photo by Benji Stawski / The Points Guy.
You and a travel companion could be enjoying a comfortable ride to Spain this February. (Photo by Benji Stawski / The Points Guy)

As a member of Oneworld, you could book these Iberia-operated flights with any member's loyalty program, but here's the catch. Some aren't able to book this far in advance. For U.S. travelers, you may default to American AAdvantage solely out of familiarity, but there are two problems:

  • American AAdvantage only allows awards 330 days in advance, which means that you can currently only book through January 15, 2021
  • A round-trip award ticket from ORD-MAD in business class will set you back 115,000 miles per person (plus ~$225 in taxes and fees). That's not a terrible price, but it's far from a sweet spot.

Instead, your best bet is to book through the Iberia Plus program. The carrier uses a distance-based award chart to calculate the number of Avios you need for your flight, and you can get the lowest price booking on off-peak dates. Though Iberia hasn't published a calendar for 2021 yet, my searches indicate that it'll start on January 13 next year. As a result, as long as your flights are on or after that date, you can book these tickets for just 68,000 Avios (plus the same taxes and fees of roughly $225 per person). And you can book these awards 360 days in advance — giving you a full month of award options that wouldn't be available to American AAdvantage members.

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That's a round-trip award price, meaning that on the above dates, you and three friends or family members could fly from Chicago to Madrid and back for a total cost of 272,000 Avios and ~$900 in taxes and fees.

Simply put, that's a fantastic value for a flight that's blocked at over 8 hours on the way to Spain and nearly 10 hours on the way back.

(Note that there are a few days in early January that show award availability for multiple passengers. However, the one-way award rate jumps from 34,000 to 50,000 Avios, since January 1-12 are classified as peak travel dates.)

Getting Iberia Avios

You may be thinking that this sounds great, but who in the world has Iberia Plus Avios sitting around? Well, as long as you have Chase Ultimate Rewards points or American Express Membership Rewards points, you do. Both of these currencies transfer directly to Iberia at a 1:1 ratio, so if you have a card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or American Express® Gold Card, you can convert your earnings into Iberia Plus Avios.

Now, it's important to note that transfers from Chase should process instantly, but those from Amex could take up to 48 hours to post. However, there is a workaround for this: Transfer your Amex points to British Airways first and then use the Combine my Avios tool to move them to your Iberia Plus account. Just note that to do this, both of your accounts must have been open for at least 90 days, and they also must be active (meaning you've earned or redeemed Avios in some way). In addition, all of the account details — including your name and contact information — must be identical between the two for this to work.

If, on the other hand, you're transferring Chase points or don't mind the additional wait for your Amex transfer to process, simply create a new Iberia Plus account (be sure to use the same name as your credit card account) and link it to the program from which you want to transfer. Then you're ready to send your credit card points over to Iberia to lock in these award tickets.

READ MORE: Comparing Amex Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards

However, there is one additional step you'd need to take to book award tickets for more than one passenger, one that isn't typical of U.S. frequent flyer programs. If you haven't already done so, you'll need to add your travel companion as a beneficiary on your account. Here's how to do that:

  1. Login to your Iberia Plus account.
  2. Click on your name at the top right, then click on My Iberia Plus.
  3. Scroll down, then click on My card.
  4. Click on Beneficiaries, then click Add beneficiary or companion.
  5. Enter all of your travel companion's information, then click Add.

This should only take a few minutes, but you won't be able to use your Iberia Plus Avios for someone other than you unless you complete these steps.


What about British Airways?

Many U.S. travelers may be more familiar with British Airways' loyalty program than Iberia's, and yes, you can book these flights through British Airways as well. However, there's a major drawback to doing so: fuel surcharges. The exact same round-trip flights booked through British Airways will set you back the same 68,000 Avios, but you'd also need to fork over nearly $1,400 in additional taxes and fees per person:

As a result, you should definitely stick with Iberia Plus for these awards.

What if I want to visit other cities in Spain?

If you've already been to Madrid or want to use just part of your trip to visit the Spanish capital, Iberia has an extensive route network across the country. However, because the Iberia Plus uses a distance-based formula to calculate the award price, adding an additional connecting flight will increase the number of Avios you'd need. Instead of adding another segment to the ORD-MAD award, consider one of the following options:

  • Rent a car in Madrid and explore Spain by road
  • Land in Madrid and take trains to other cities
  • Explore Madrid for a few nights, then book a separate award ticket using Iberia Plus to another city like Seville (SVQ) or Granada (GRX)

Can I add a connecting flight in the U.S.?

Unfortunately, adding a connecting flight on American within the U.S. likely isn't possible here for three reasons. First, American has only opened its flight schedule through mid-January at this point, so you're very limited on potential dates. Second, American flights must be booked round-trip using Iberia Avios. Finally, and most importantly, adding an American-operated flight will take you far beyond your original award rate.

As an example, when I priced out a round-trip flight from Des Moines (DSM) with an economy-class flight to Chicago-O'Hare (ORD) connecting to an Iberia business-class flight to Madrid (MAD), the price came back at 144,200 Avios per person — which doesn't match any Iberia award chart I've ever seen.

Instead, consider booking separate awards from your departure city to Chicago — or paying for a positioning flight separately.

Triana colors, Seville, Spain
February isn't a peak time to visit Spain by any stretch, but the weather sure beats a Midwestern winter. (Photo by Zu Sanchez Photography / Getty Images)

Is February even a good time to visit Spain?

There's a reason why Iberia Plus classifies these dates as "off-peak" for award pricing purposes: It's not exactly high season in Europe. However, the weather in Spain in February is still vastly superior to what you'd experience in Chicago. I actually visited Seville, Granada and Madrid in mid-March 2019, and I found that it was a perfect time to visit. The temperatures still reached the 50s and 60s during the day, while the chill of the evenings typically required just a light jacket over a long-sleeved shirt.

Most importantly, however, we found cities that were largely devoid of tourists, allowing us to explore the major attractions and get into just about any restaurant we wanted. You'd likely find similar conditions in January and February.

Bottom line

Spain is a country I've come to know and love after multiple trips, and if you're based anywhere in (or around) Chicago, now could be a great time to book a trip and get out of the depths of winter. Redeeming just 68,000 Chase or Amex points for a round-trip, business-class award flight from the U.S. to Europe is a fantastic deal, especially considering that many programs would require a similar amount (or even more) for a one-way ticket. However, I'd jump on these sooner rather than later, as I doubt this availability will last.

Featured image by Iberia A330 Business Class. Photo by Benji Stawski / The Points Guy
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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