Iberia

I’ve been hopping around Europe for the last few months with flight that I’ve booked a variety of ways:

  • Barcelona, Spain to Leipzig, Germany (cash, Vueling)
  • Prague, Czech Republic to Belgrade, Serbia (Etihad Guest miles, Air Serbia, Anatomy of an Award)
  • Belgrade to Tivat, Montenegro (cash, Air Serbia)
  • Sarajevo, Bosnia to Zagreb, Croatia (cash, Croatia Airlines)

Now I have two more flights coming up from Zagreb to Spain and back for a quick trip. Using all my knowledge of cheap flights and miles I came up with the best options for each flight, and I’ll share my thought process here, so you can see how I attack the flight search.

I need to fly into Madrid and out of Barcelona. My dates were only semi-flexible. I really wanted to go on certain days, and going a different day would make me less happy and cost me extra for hotel rooms, so I’d only change from my preferred dates for a great deal.

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First Step: Cash Search

The first thing I always do when deciding how to book a flight is to check out its cash price. On the dates I wanted to travel, I could book a nonstop roundtrip for $257.

Screen Shot 2016-06-30 at 6.15.01 PM

 

That sounded reasonable. If the flights were under $200, I would have just booked the trip with cash and not looked any farther because when the cash price is very low, you are not getting a good return on your miles. It’s better to save them for flights with high cash prices like international Business Class or routes made expensive by a lack of competition.

I went a step further and searched each one way separately. The return was only $84, so I decided to book that with cash and the outbound with miles, if I could find a suitable outbound itinerary.

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Second Step: Wikipedia

If I’m going to use miles, I always go to Wikipedia’s articles on the airports I’ll be using to see which airlines fly my route. It turns out that only Iberia has a direct flight from Zagreb to Madrid.

Third Step: Brainstorm Potential Miles and Search Award Space

For a short, direct flight on a oneworld carrier, Avios are ideal–not much brainstorming required.

I went to ba.com and searched for the flight I wanted, and I found ample award space on the direct flight on my ideal date in economy and Business Class. (Intra-Europe Business is the same seat as economy, just with the middle seat in each row blocked. That’s not worth extra miles for me.)

Screen Shot 2016-06-30 at 6.14.23 PM The economy award was 8,250 Avios + 25 euros, or several other combinations of Avios and euros. (By the way, can anyone explain why the award was 8,250 Avios and not 7,500 or 10,000? I think BA might have slightly different prices for Iberia flights than other partners.)Screen Shot 2016-06-30 at 6.14.33 PM There are no fuel surcharges on the award. The 25 euros are all taxes, and the other amounts you can pay are cash co-pays to spend fewer Avios.Screen Shot 2016-06-30 at 6.14.49 PM
I decided that the best option was 2,750 Avios + 85 euros. I’d save 5,500 Avios at a cost of 60 euros, which was like buying back Avios for 1.21 cents each, which is a good deal for me, since I value Avios at 1.7 cents each. Check out my full analysis of Avios Cash & Points award here.

Screen Shot 2016-07-02 at 4.38.37 PMSince the one way flight cost $173, I was getting well over 2 cents of value per Avios.

But before I booked the award, I took a look at booking it with Iberia Avios instead. On iberia.com, the same flight showed the same award space, as expected.Screen Shot 2016-06-30 at 6.18.53 PM The prices were a little different though. The option to pay 8,250 Avios was 5 euros more expensive with cash. But the option to use the fewest Avios used 250 fewer Avios (worth about $4) to me and 5 euros less, about a $10 savings overall.Screen Shot 2016-06-30 at 6.18.59 PMI tried to transfer British Airways Avios to my Iberia Avios account to book the cheaper way, but I got an error message online.

Screen Shot 2016-08-08 at 2.39.56 AM

At the time, I was busy and decided not to make the call. I booked with British Airways Avios instead.

Screen Shot 2016-07-02 at 4.38.03 PM Screen Shot 2016-07-02 at 4.38.27 PM

Bottom Line

Instead of $257 roundtrip between Croatia and Spain I paid $178 and 2,750 Avios. I looked at the best options with miles and cash to get the cheapest and most convenient flights. It turned out the best deal was cash one way and Iberia Avios the other.

This is a rather mundane example, but most award bookings are rather mundane and just require knowing the options and picking the best one. Over time, these mundane “wins” add up to huge savings which you can plow into extra travel.

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

The Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard® 60,000 mile offer has expired. Check out the current best credit card offers here.

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Let’s talk about how to use American Airlines miles for awards to Europe. This is not the best use of American Airlines miles because award space isn’t great, and American collects fuel surcharges on two partners to Europe. But there are routes with no fuel surcharges and good award space that you should know about.

 

“Redeeming American Airlines Miles” Series Index

The Partners for Europe Awards

Here are the American Airlines partners with direct flights from North America to Europe:

  • American Airlines
  • British Airways
  • Iberia
  • airberlin
  • Finnair

Award space on all the partners except Iberia is searchable on aa.com. Here’s how to search aa.com.

Award space on Iberia is searchable on ba.com. Here’s how to search ba.com.

Pricing

From North America to Europe, American Airlines charges:

  • 22,500 miles one way in economy from January 10 – March 14 and November 1 – December 14 (Off Peak dates)
  • 30,000 miles one way in economy the rest of the year
  • 57,500 miles one way in Business Class
  • 85,000 miles one way in First Class

These miles prices are the same whether you fly directly or with connections, so even your tiny home airport to Mykonos, Greece with a few connections and flying multiple partners costs the same number of miles.

These prices are very similar to what United and Delta charge for the same awards. However United and Delta do not have published Off Peak prices to Europe, so American does have the edge for those dates. Note that the Off Peak price to Europe applies on American Airlines planes as well as partners, which is unlike the rest of American’s Off Peak prices that only apply to flying American Airlines planes.

In addition to the miles, you pay government taxes on all awards. In addition to taxes, you pay fuel surcharges on American Airlines awards that fly British Airways and Iberia. The fuel surcharges on British Airways flights are humungous: over $400 each way.

Washington to London in British Airways First Class is 85,000 American Airlines miles + $442.
Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 6.21.59 PMScreen Shot 2016-06-22 at 6.22.18 PMWashington to Madrid roundtrip in British Airways First Class is 170,000 American Airlines miles + $1,020

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Because of the fuel surcharges, I won’t be mentioning British Airways flights again in this post, which is a bummer because it is the American Airlines partner offering the most award space to Europe.

Fuel surcharges on Iberia are much smaller, at under $100 each way.

Routes & Award Space

American Airlines has a decent route network to Europe from New York and Philadelphia.
Screen Shot 2015-08-12 at 2.51.45 PMScreen Shot 2015-08-12 at 2.54.28 PM

American also flies transatlantic flights from Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas, Miami, Los Angeles, and Raleigh.

Award Space on AA Flights

At the moment, the following routes have a very solid amount of Business Class award space open in early 2017:

  • Chicago and London
  • New York City and Barcelona
  • New York City and Paris
  • Paris and New York City
  • Barcelona and New York City

As award space varies by destination and season, the general pattern on American Airlines flights to Europe is usually OK economy award space and poor Business and First Class award space.

All calendars show award space for two passengers unless otherwise noted.

For instance, Raleigh to London is typical in having good award space in economy and basically none in Business Class.

Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 7.07.40 PM

There are exceptions to the basically-no-Business-Class-award-space “rule.” Let’s look at some of the American Airlines routes with more award space.

New York to Paris has award space in economy nearly daily outside of peak travel times.

Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 6.59.31 PMAnd it also has a good deal of Business Class award space scattered throughout, including a ton of space in 2017.

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I hardly saw any First Class American Airlines award space at all on any of my searches.

Unfortunately, American Airlines does not open up last second award space in premium cabins on its European flights. Here is the award space from New York to London this week. There is some economy space, but nothing in Business or First.Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 8.07.13 PM

Iberia, Finnair, and airberlin Award Space

Iberia, Finnair, and airberlin fly from seven American cities to Europe, including four American Airlines hubs. Let’s go through their award space one at a time.

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Finnair

A lot of Finnair award space shows up on aa.com, but it is nearly all phantom award space. Check the real space on ba.com, and don’t get your hopes up.

airberlin

Airberlin has the best award space of these three partners, and is your best way to get to Europe with American Airlines miles other than the routes mentioned in the American Airlines section above.

For instance, New York to Dusseldorf has a decent amount of Business Class award space this summer.

Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 8.23.25 PM

Award space in Business Class is not nearly as good on the return to New York from Dusseldorf, but there is still some.
Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 8.27.48 PM

New York to Berlin has wide open economy but not much Business Class space in general.

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Dusseldorf and Berlin are both airberlin hubs with connections all over Europe.

Iberia

Iberia has great economy award space and OK Business Class award space as long as you book in advance. For instance, here are the days with Iberia Business Class awards in the first week of April 2017 from New York, Miami, and Chicago to Madrid.

Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 9.28.15 PM
Here is the economy space the same week on the same routes.

Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 9.38.44 PM

What about last minute award space? You sometimes see economy seats available, but not Business. For the routes mentioned above, there is not even economy space within a week of today.

From Madrid, you can connect all over Europe on Iberia.

Booking the Award

Search segment-by-segment if necessary to find award space from your airport to an international gateway, the transatlantic flight, and any connecting flights in Europe.

If all your award space is searchable on aa.com, book online. If your award includes Iberia flights, you need to book by calling American Airlines at 800-882-8880. The good news is that you will pay zero phone booking fee, since that fee was waived when an award can’t be booked online.

Pay your award taxes with your Citi Prestige® Card, since it comes with a $250 Air Travel Credit every calendar year that will cover the award taxes and fees on these ticket. If you haven’t used the credit yet, pay the taxes with your Prestige, and you will receive an offsetting credit on your next statement.

Even if you’ve already used your $250 credit for this year, the card offers 3x on all airfare purchases which includes award taxes and fees.

Bottom Line

American Airlines miles are not stellar to Europe in premium cabins. The prices are expensive and award space isn’t that hot. Using American Airlines miles during the Off Peak dates to Europe for the lower price of 22,500 miles is a better bet since there is plenty of economy space (and Off Peak prices to Europe apply for American Airlines flights as well as partner flights).

There are some American Airlines, some Iberia, and some airberlin routes with decent award space if you know what to search and can be flexible. But I’d rather book awards to Europe with United, Delta, Flying Blue, or Virgin Atlantic miles.

For a limited time, the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard® is offering 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles and Admirals Club lounge membership, among other awesome benefits, after spending $5,000 in the first three months.Screen Shot 2016-02-12 at 4.44.21 PM

By meeting the $5,000 total spending requirement you’ll earn at least 65,000 American Airlines miles, which is more than enough to book a roundtrip in economy or a one way in Business to Europe.

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

2

Membership Rewards used to transfer 1,000:1,000 to British Airways Avios, but the rate was cut to 250:200 on October 1, 2015.

Screen Shot 2015-12-04 at 1.44.32 PM

Through the end of the year, though, you can temporarily get the old 1:1 rate through a two-step process.

  1. Transfer Membership Rewards 1:1 to Iberia Avios during the current 25% transfer bonus.
    Screen Shot 2015-12-04 at 1.44.40 PM
  2. Transfer Iberia Avios 1:1 to British Airways Avios.

Caveats

 

Great Uses of Iberia or British Airways Avios

Generally both are good for short, direct, economy awards on partners without fuel surcharges. Here is my rundown of British Airways Avios.

Iberia Avios–if you just want to transfer there and not on to British Airways–are additionally very good for Iberia Business Class. For eight months of each year (the off peak window):

  • New York or Boston to Madrid is 34,000 Iberia Avios each way in Business Class.
  • Los Angeles, Chicago, and Miami to Madrid is 42,500 Iberia Avios each way in Business Class.

Connections will increase the price.

Bottom Line

There is a 25% Membership Rewards to Iberia Avios transfer bonus that runs through December 31, 2015. It brings the transfer ratio to 250:250.

If your Iberia account has been open for three months, you can then transfer the points 1:1 to British Airways Avios.

(By the way, if you don’t have an Iberia account, open one now to start the 90 day clock for future times when you want to transfer between accounts.)

Hat Tip -g

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

4

I’m on record saying that I don’t think the British Airways devaluation from last month is a big deal. Only Business and First Class awards went up in price, and the vast majority of good Avios redemptions are short, direct, economy awards.

Well there’s another good part of the “devaluation” that I haven’t covered yet: the introduction of cheaper off peak awards on British Airways and Iberia flights. Here’s the new award chart that shows off peak award prices next to peak award prices.

New Award Chart

Off peak awards are only possible on British Airways and Iberia flights. Other partner flights always price at peak level.

Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 2.49.32 PM

As a reminder, each British Airways flight on an award has its own price determined by three things: distance, cabin, and whether it is an off peak or peak date.

For distance, the zones are broken down like this:

  1. Up to 650 miles flown
  2. 651 to 1,151 miles flown
  3. 1,152 to 2,000 miles flown
  4. 2,001 to 3,000 miles flown
  5. 3,001 to 4,000 miles flown
  6. 4,001 to 5,500 miles flown
  7. 5,501 to 6,500 miles flown
  8. 6,501 to 7,000 miles flown
  9. 7,001+ miles flown

For a one segment award, read its price off the new award chart above. For an award of two or more segments, read the price of each segment off the above chart and add them up to get the whole award’s price.

What Dates Are Off Peak

British Airways promises that for British Airways flights: “Two thirds of the year is off-peak, including every Tuesday and Wednesday.” Here are the exact dates through April 2016.

Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 2.44.54 PM Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 2.45.03 PM Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 2.45.12 PM Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 2.45.20 PM Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 2.45.29 PM Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 2.45.41 PM

You can find the most up-to-date off peak calendar for British Airways and the separate Iberia off peak calendar here.

Good Deals?

Longhaul

There definitely are some good deals at off peak prices, but not every off peak flight is a good deal.

Longhaul flights have the problem of huge fuel surcharges. For instance, a British Airways flight this summer from New York to London costs 50,000 Avios + $442 in Business Class. Over $400 of that is a fuel surcharge.

Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 3.03.41 PM

Considering this award cost only 40,000 Avios one way before the devaluation, and you can book transatlantic Business Class on United flights with various types of Star Alliance miles for 40,000 to 58,000 miles without fuel surcharges, I’d say this isn’t a very good deal.

Better off peak deals are offered on longhaul economy and Premium Economy flights. That same New York to London flight costs only 13,000 Avios + $257 on off peak dates even during the summer. Or you can use Cash & Avios options to pay only 4,550 Avios and $342.

Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 3.10.59 PM

British Airways’ Premium Economy, which reminds me of domestic First Class, from New York to London on off peak dates is 26,000 Avios + $257 or 10,400 Avios + $411.

Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 3.11.19 PM

The value of longhaul off peak awards is severely hampered by the devaluation of Business and First Class awards last month and by the huge fuel surcharges on longhaul British Airways flights. If you find a longhaul off peak award you love, share it in the comments.

Shorthaul

Shorthaul off peak awards are almost all going to be Reward Flight Saver awards too, offering a better deal on fuel surcharges. Reward Flight Saver flights are Zone 1-4 awards to or from London on British Airways. Instead of paying taxes and fuel surcharges, you pay one flat fee.

Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 2.54.42 PM

Notice the fee is cheaper in euros, so you may want to set your Executive Club address to one in continental Europe. I set mine to continental Europe during a recent sale of Avios that was cheapest is euros.

I found award space in economy and Business Class (intra-Europe this is just an economy seat with the seat next to you empty) from London to Istanbul on an off peak date this summer.

Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 2.51.37 PMScreen Shot 2015-05-18 at 2.52.29 PM

The Business Class redemption would cost 17,000 Avios + $34.

Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 2.52.08 PM

The economy redemption would cost 8,500 Avios + $24 or 3,400 Avios + $81.

Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 2.52.45 PM

I value Avios at 1.7 cents each, so spending 3,400 Avios + $81 is like expending $139 of value for me. That seems like a very good deal from London to Istanbul, which is an almost four hour international flight.

But a quick search shows a low cost carrier offering even cheaper flights near the date I found award space.Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 2.55.12 PMI think there is more potential for value on shorthaul Avios off peak awards because shorthaul awards are a better value with Avios normally, and Reward Flight Saver awards avoid big fuel surcharges. But the value of shorthaul off peak awards is muted, since so many low cost carriers fly from London to Europe so cheaply.

BA Availability Calendar

Normally searching award space on ba.com is very slow, but when searching for British Airways award space, as you will be doing when hunting for off peak awards, searching is much faster. Click the blue button on your results that says “View calendar of BA availability” instead of clicking day by day to search.

 

Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 3.05.56 PM The calendar shows award space that you can cross-reference with the off peak calendars above.Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 3.06.06 PM

Iberia Off Peak

Iberia and British Airways are owned by the same company, and both use Avios as their rewards currency, so it makes sense that Iberia flights can also be booked off peak with British Airways Avios.

The off peak dates for Iberia flights are different. Not every Tuesday and Wednesday is off peak for instance. Selected Iberia off peak dates:

Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 3.55.57 PMScreen Shot 2015-05-18 at 3.56.09 PM

Another difference with Iberia flights is that they do not qualify for the Reward Flight Saver reduction in fees.

I searched Paris to Madird to see how Iberia off peak flights price out.

Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 3.06.57 PM

Oddly, ba.com didn’t give the off peak discount at all even though the words “OFF-PEAK” appeared next to the space I selected. Economy was 7,500 Avios and Business 15,000 Avios instead of the off peak prices on British Airways’ chart: 6,500 and 12,750 Avios for a zone 2 redemption. (Another side note: ORY-MAD is 639 miles, so it should be zone 1. Maybe it prices as zone 2 because CDG-MAD is 660 miles, and the whole city is geographically located at CDG for the purposes of Avios zones. But that’s just a guess.)

Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 3.56.29 PM Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 3.56.54 PMCan you get Iberia flights to price at the correct off peak prices? Leave the date, route, and cabin in the comments.

Bottom Line

British Airways’ “devaluation” last month is mostly no big deal. The bad values–longhaul Business and First Class–got worse. The good values–short, direct, economy awards–were untouched.

Simultaneously British Airways introduced off peak awards for Iberia and British Airways flights that lower the cost of an award in each cabin to any destination for eight months out of the year and every single Tuesday and Wednesday. (That’s the off peak calendar for British Airways flights. The Iberia off peak calendar differs substantially.)

These off peak awards will offer some value in some cases though many off peak awards will still be a poor value because of a high Avios price or big fuel surcharges.

 

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

15

Remember that Avios devaluation from last week? British Airways is jacking up the number of Avios you need to redeem for mid- and long-haul Business Class awards and for First Class awards. Of course, I said it was no big deal since the best Avios awards are short, direct, economy redemptions on awards without fuel surcharges.

Iberia and British Airways are owned by the same company but maintain separate loyalty programs that both call their miles “Avios.” You can freely convert British Airways Avios to Iberia Avios as long as you have both accounts and they’ve been open for at least three months. Open your Iberia Avios account now to start that clock for the existing benefit of Iberia Avios and the upcoming one that this post is about.

Iberia and British Airways Avios currently have identical charts.

The Current Reason to Use Iberia Avios

The current reason to use Iberia Avios is to book Iberia flights.

Iberia collects far lower fuel surcharges on its own award flights than British Airways collects. For instance the same New York to Madrid flight in Iberia Business Class costs 40,000 British Airways Avios + $456.

Screen Shot 2015-02-04 at 4.41.27 PM

The same flight costs the same 40,000 Iberia Avios + 75 euros ($85.) That’s a savings of $371 by using Iberia Avios for an Iberia flight.

Screen Shot 2015-02-04 at 4.05.24 PM

 

For other partners, Iberia and British Airways collect identical surcharges, so I find it easier to use British Airways Avios for all other awards.

The Reason to Use Iberia Avios April 1

Iberia Avios is changing its chart April 1. (The BA Avios changes happen April 28.) Most of the changes mirror the negative changes to the BA chart, but Iberia is adding an Off Peak Season and it lowers the price of awards from the United States to Spain for much of the year.

Screen Shot 2015-02-04 at 4.24.19 PM

For the off peak season, flights to Madrid from:

  • New York and Boston are 34,000 Iberia Avios one way in Iberia Business Class
  • Chicago, Miami, and Los Angeles are 42,500 Iberia Avios one way in Iberia Business Class

The off peak season is all the dates below NOT highlighted in red. The only summer dates included are in early June and September. Most of the rest of the year other than Christmas and New Year is off peak.

Screen Shot 2015-02-04 at 4.02.45 PM Screen Shot 2015-02-04 at 4.02.54 PM

There is good award space on Iberia in Business Class, often for two passengers during all of the off peak windows including those in the summer. You can search this on iberia.com or ba.com.

The Product

Iberia A330s and “new” A340-600s feature fully flat 6’6″ beds in Business Class.  The A340-300 and old A340-600s feature angled seats. Check your operating airplane carefully.

The Bottom Line

Starting April 1, this will be a great chance to book a one way Business Class award to Europe for 34,000 miles. Of course, like all Avios awards, you will need to pay extra Avios for each segment of your award including the connecting flights. That means if you don’t live in New York, Boston, Chicago, Miami, or Los Angeles, or you don’t want to go to Madrid, your award will cost more miles.

Open your Iberia Avios account now, and in three months, you can freely transfer British Airways Avios to Iberia Avios to take advantage of the deal.

Hat Tip Head for Points

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

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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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

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