Anyone who’s recently discovered British Airways Avios might well assume that Avios is a loyalty currency earned via British Airways (BA) and likely managed solely on the BA website.

Unfortunately Fortunately, that isn’t quite the case.

There are in fact four main loyalty programs that use Avios as their currency of choice:

A number of weeks ago, I covered the news that the Avios.com platform is due to close on 20th May 2018.

Although there’s nothing to suggest that Iberia Plus will go the same way anytime soon, I felt it was a good opportunity to highlight some of the best ways to maximise your Avios and pay fewer taxes by utilising the sweet spots in the Iberia Plus program.

Here are some of the biggest advantages of using Iberia Plus and indeed Iberia to fly using Avios:


Low taxes

This is probably the single biggest advantage of booking on Iberia.

Let’s take a look at a business class redemption on Iberia to Buenos Aires. Here’s the cost  on the Iberia website:

IB cheaper pricing

And here is the price if you were to fly BA:

BA more expensive pricing 1.png

As you can see, the taxes on the BA flights are more than £400 higher than those imposed by Iberia!

This works on economy redemptions too, albeit with comparatively smaller savings.


Fewer Avios required on many routes

You may well have noticed in the above Buenos Aires example the huge difference in terms of Avios required. BA will charge you a total of 210,000 Avios per person, compared with the 126,000 that Iberia require.

Here’s a further example of how you can save yourself plenty of Avios.

Iberia offers direct flights to Los Angeles: 

IB cheaper Avios pricing 2

That’s right, Iberia will charge you just 41,500 Avios each way to fly to Los Angeles in business class. That’s superb value!

However, flying BA would cost:

BA more exp pricing 2.png

So you would need to shell out an extra 66,000 Avios plus £390 per person for the BA flights.


Different peak/off-peak charts – useful for school holidays

As part of the sweeping changes to the Avios scheme in April 2015, peak and off-peak pricing levels were introduced.

This has created a further sweet spot – almost by accident!

The key is that BA and Iberia have different peak and off-peak charts and you can use that to your advantage.

Take Spring Half-term next year for example.

Here’s the BA calendar:

BA Peak & off-peak calendar 18

And here’s the Iberia calendar:

Iberia Peak & off-peak calendar 18

As you can see, under the Iberia chart, the half-term period is NOT considered to be peak dates. If you’re looking to fly during that period, you’ll pay even less Avios by booking flights on Iberia rather than BA.


Enjoy a better business class product

One of the biggest bugbears about BA’s Club World cabin is the lack of direct aisle access for every seat. This should be remedied once the new Club World seat is finally introduced. But for the time being the “BA flying dormitories” remain and an awkward middle-seat pairing with a complete stranger is always a possibility.

Contrast that with Iberia’s long-haul aircraft, which offer each passenger direct aisle access in an altogether less-crowded 1-2-1 layout.

When compared to the typical 2-4-2 layout on a British Airways 777 for example, the difference is night and day!


Getting to Madrid

You do of course have to factor in the cost/convenience of getting to Madrid to position for your flight on Iberia.

The easiest way to do this is to book a Reward Flight Saver (RFS) ticket. Taxes on short-haul Avios bookings are capped at £35 for an economy return and £50 for Club Europe.

Note: Make sure to book via BA not Iberia for this one. The reason being that Iberia scrapped RFS caps on taxes some years back, allowing them to charge more than BA on short-haul redemptions.


How to move Avios to/from Iberia Plus

OK so plenty of good reasons to spend some of your Avios on Iberia, but how do you move your existing Avios – that are sitting in your BA account – over to Iberia Plus?

Enter the Combine my Avios tool.

Combine my Avios allows you to transfer unlimited amounts of Avios freely and instantly between British Airways and Iberia Plus (as well as the soon-to-be-defunct Avios.com).

Here’s how it works – in theory. Bear in mind that this tool has been known to be quite temperamental at times so you may have to have several goes before it works.

There’s two important things to note first:

  1. To transfer in/out of Iberia Plus, your account must have been open for at least 90 days. You must also have earned at least 1 Avios to ‘activate’ your account.
  2. The details on your Iberia Plus and BAEC/avios.com should match to avoid any potential issues.

Because of the 90 day requirement, I strongly recommmend opening an Iberia Plus account today even if you have no immediate plans to travel (on Iberia).

The link to join is here.

You can push or pull

Both of the programs allow you to both push your Avios from their program to another or pull your Avios from one to another.

Using ‘Combine My Avios’ via BAEC:

  • Visit ba.com and log in to your BAEC account
  • Click on ‘Manage my account’ – found in the Executive Club tab at the top of the homepage.
  • Scroll to the bottom of the page and you will see an option to ‘Combine My Avios’
  • Click on that and input your Iberia/avios.com login details, depending on where you are moving Avios to/from.
  • You will then see a screen which displays your balances in both your BAEC account and Iberia Plus account. It will prompt you to either transfer from BAEC to Iberia Plus or vice versa.
  • Enter the transfer amount and confirm.
  • You should then receive two emails, one from each program stating that ‘Combine My Avios’ was successful.

Using ‘Combine My Avios’ via Iberia Plus:

  • Visit Iberia.com and log in to your Iberia Plus account
  • Hover over the Iberia Plus tab (far right) and click on “My Avios” in the ‘middle’ section.
  • Click on “Buying or transferring Avios” (left-hand side of the screen, last option).
  • Scroll to the very bottom of the screen where you will see in small writing: “Don’t forget you can combine your Avios with those of other customer loyalty programmes”. Click on that line of text.
    NOTE: This line of text will NOT appear if your account does not meet the 90-day and active account requirements described above.
  • Repeat the steps described in the BAEC method above.

Don’t book Iberia flights on the BA website

This method of reducing the taxes applies specifically to Iberia flights booked on directly on the Iberia website.

While the BA website does offer a certain amount of Avios availability on Iberia flights – as it does with all oneworld partners – you shouldn’t book that way if you want to save on the taxes.

Let me illustrate.

Here’s the price of a one-way business class flight from Madrid to New York when booking on the Iberia website:

IB cheaper pricing 3.png

And here’s what the same flight would cost if booking on the BA website:

BA more exp pricing 3.png

As you can see, there’s an additional £100 tacked onto the flights when you book on the BA website.


Verdict

Using your Avios via Iberia Plus is a great trick to make your Avios go further as well. It also helps you dodge the brunt of the hefty taxes that are slapped onto Avios redemptions starting in the UK.

Yes, some people may roll their eyes at the thought of having to ‘start’ in Madrid, but if given the chance to save in excess of £400 per person plus a significant reduction in the amount of Avios required, surely that’s worthwhile.

What’s the best-value Avios redemption that you’ve booked?


Header image credit: EQRoy / Shutterstock.com

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