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British Airways is offering a 25% discount on its longhaul awards–flown by BA or Iberia. That would be great except British Airways charges humungous surcharges that make any redemptions an awful deal in my mind. To wit, British Airways business class from New York to London:

As the screen shot indicates, this is normally a 40,000 Avios award, so there is a 10,000 Avios, or 25%, discount. But the taxes and fees of $438 oneway make this an award I would not purchase. Roundtrip, taxes and fees would be over $1,000 because of the UK Air Passenger Duty.

Luckily Iberia is also offering the same sale that British Airways is offering! Link to promo.

And if you use Iberia Avios to book awards on Iberia flights, your out of pocket cost will be much lower!

Iberia and British Airways are owned by the same company. They both have a loyalty program with a currency named Avios, but the loyalty programs are separate and slightly different. Let me run through Iberia’s if you’re not familiar with it, so you can take advantage of its superior promo.

Iberia’s program is distance based, such that each flight adds to the cost of an award. Here’s its chart.

Blue class is discounted economy. Iberia offers more award space at “Full Fare (Turist),” which is called “Economy” on the award booking page. Both Blue and Full Fare/Turist/Economy are economy class, but the multi-named one costs 50% more.

We’re interested in booking Blue class and Business class, which costs double Blue class.

Every segment adds to the cost, so if you fly New York to Madrid to Venice, that will cost 27,500 Iberia Avios–20,000 for New York to Madrid and 7,500 more for Madrid to Venice.

Iberia charges big surcharges on British Airways flights and even American Airlines flights, but it doesn’t charge quite such large surcharges on Iberia flights.

Iberia’s current 25% off promotion offers 25% off the Iberia Avios price for all flights operated by Iberia and BA “from zones 4 and beyond.” I’m not sure what “from zones 4 and beyond” means exactly, but by poking around, it looks like all BA and Iberia flights of 7,500 Avios or more are 25% off. 4,500 Avios flights are full price.

How do you get Iberia Avios?

There are two easy ways.

You can transfer your BA Avios over. Both accounts need to be open for 90 days to make this work, so open your Iberia Avios account now to do this in the future if you don’t already have one open. Sign up here.

On ba.com, click on Manage My Account after signing in.

Next choose Combine My Avios.

Next click the red button that says Combine My Avios on the next page.

After that, select Iberia Plus from the drop down and type in your account info.

At this point, hopefully you’ll have a smooth, intuitive transfer. Unfortunately I got an error. I called BA at 800-AIRWAYS (hit 1, 1 to get to the Executive Club where you want to be) to straighten it out. The agent did a manual transfer that he said will show up in 24-48 hours.

The second way to get Iberia Avios is via a Membership Rewards transfer. Instead of selecting British Airways Executive Club, select Iberia Plus. It should be an easy, instant 1:1 transfer.

How do you search for Iberia Avios awards?

Sign into your account at iberia.com. Then click Redeem Avios under My Iberia Plus.

The default setting is to search only Iberia flights. Since this trick of using Iberia Avios only saves us money on those bookings, leave the default setting as-is. Select your departure city; they’re grouped by continent. Select your arrival city; some of the codes are not airport codes but city codes like NYC, LON, and PAR for New York-JFK, London-Heathrow, and Paris-Charles de Gaulle.

The search screen should show Blue, Economy, and Business. Remember that Blue is discounted economy, so that and business are what we want.

An X means there is no space. For itineraries with layovers, you have to select each individual flight. Once you’ve made your flight selections, you can click Consult to see the price. Here is New York to Madrid roundtrip in economy.

30k Avios and $166, not too bad for roundtrip to Europe!

This is about $400 less out of pocket than British Airways would charge for the same route!

Over $500 in taxes and surcharges roundtrip with BA Avios for the same JFK-MAD route

There’s probably an easy way to convert the taxes and surcharges from displaying in Euros to dollars on iberia.com that I am missing. If you can’t find it either, just type this into google for a conversion: “XXX eur to usd.” And while on the subject of currencies, make sure to book with a card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees. Even if quoted in dollars, your card company may consider it a foreign transaction.

New York to Madrid should be 20k Iberia Avios each way, so 30k roundtrip is a 10k, or 25% discount, as promised.

What about adding on an intra-Spain leg?

39k Avios and $231 to Seville

As I mentioned earlier, 4,500 Avios legs don’t seem to be discounted, so adding an intra-Spain leg bumps the price to 39k roundtrip and increases the taxes quite a bit.

What about seeing somewhere other than Spain?

41,250 Avios and $248 to Venice

Venice is normally 7,500 Avios each way from Madrid, but 25% was knocked off, so the total is 41,250 Avios instead of 55,000 Avios.

All the awards I’ve shown are economy class, Iberia also flies with angled lie flat business class seats. This space is searchable on Expert Flyer, like so:

For more information on using Expert Flyer, see my beginner’s post on Using Expertflyer.com. Unfortunately I searched from several cities in the US to Madrid and I saw just two total flights–one BOS-MAD and one MAD-JFK–with any space in business class. This deal seems basically limited to people interested in economy class flights.

Where does Iberia fly in the US?

Prices are listed in Blue/Business class per direction.

Boston <-> Madrid (20k/40k)

New York <-> Madrid (20k/40k)

Chicago <-> Madrid (25k/50k)

Miami <-> Madrid (25k/50k)

Los Angeles <-> Madrid (25k/50k)

I found economy class space available on all these routes, most readily on the shorter routes.

Is the Iberia promo a good deal?

Yes, there are two things I love about it. First it uses Avios or Membership Rewards for transatlantic travel with out of pocket costs of only ~$200 roundtrip. That’s pretty great for those of us with a ton of these currencies who can’t use them all up on 25k roundtrips to Hawaii or hopping around Australia or South America–the normal best uses.

Second the Avios price is incredibly low for the seasons it encompasses. Bookings must be made by November 19, 2012, but travel can run through May 31, 2013, when Spain and much of Europe are pretty nice. Last week I ran through all the off-peak-to-Europe deals, and Iberia’s promo’s dates are better than all of their dates.

You really can’t beat flying from New York to Madrid in May roundtrip for 30k Avios and under $200.

Recap

British Airways has a dud of a promotion running this week. You can knock 25% off the BA Avios price of awards to Europe and beyond, but not 25% off the insane, disgusting fees.

Iberia is running an identical promotion though, unlocking Iberia’s lower surcharges to Europe on its own planes. If you book between now and  November 19, you can fly through May 31, 2013 with a 25% discount on the Iberia Avios price.

Iberia Avios prices are already very low from the east coast to Madrid and quite reasonable from the west coast or to other points in Europe, so another 25% off is incredible. The taxes and surcharges are approximately $200 for a roundtrip in economy class.

Getting Iberia Avios–which are different from BA Avios–is easy. You can transfer directly from your BA Avios account online if both accounts are over 90 days old, or you can transfer 1:1 from Membership Rewards.

When the news of the BA Avios promotion circulated, I wasn’t excited, but the Iberia Avios promotion is a much better deal.

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