US to Europe (and beyond?) using BA Avios without fuel surchages!

Earlier in the year, it was discovered that you could use BA Avios for Aer Lingus to Europe. It was of somewhat limited use unless you were on the east coast. Today Lucky posted another way to use BA Avios for awards to Europe without paying the hefty fuel surcharges. This time on Iberia which owned by IAG, the same parent of British Airways.

This is big news but you need to take action to prepare by grabbing your passport and signing up for an Iberia Plus account (which is also Avios) since you won’t be able to do this until your Iberia Plus account is 3 months old.

Read more here.

And don’t forget to register your new Iberia Plus account with Awardwallet. If you’re new to AwardWallet, post a comment and/or let me know and I’ll refer you. Much appreciated!

Analysis (Minor updates June 15)

AL asked whether you could use Iberia Plus miles (also known as Avios) for awards on BA operated flights.  I decided to dig a bit into that.  5 scenarios to break it down…  I chose Miami because I knew that AA has a hub there and BA a nonstop to London while Iberia has one to Madrid. One heads up – the dark blue in the screenshots below indicates “Blue Class” which appears to have significant availability limits. I might even call this an off peak award since I didn’t find it until into November. More research is needed here. The screenshots on AA and BA operated flights use the Oneworld search at iberia.com which displays differently and may even be at a slightly higher class.

Miami to Madrid non-stop.  Blue Class.  Iberia operated.  50k Avios + 100 Euro.  Good!  Of note, though not shown, is that if I moved from “Blue Class” to “Economy” I saw the price increase to 75,000 Avios but the taxes/fees stayed the same.

Miami to Barcelona via Madrid.  Blue Class.  Iberia operated.  50k + 119 Euro!  Cool!  I would have expected the extra, albeit short, segment from MAD-BCN would increase the milage cost.  This flight may be a “direct” which is not the same as a “nonstop.”  A “direct” is a single flight number from A-B but a direct may in fact land, swap passengers, and even swap equipment but for mileage purposes, it is treated as though it’s A-B (e.g. MIA-BCN).  Usually this is something I really don’t like since it means I earn fewer miles but in this case, I’m guessing that it means I spend fewer miles than expected and that’s great.

Now let’s compare AA on Miami to Madrid non stop.  AA operated.  Economy.  60k Avois and 73 Euro. Fuel surcharges are lower but mileage went up. What’s really interesting to me is that it’s 10k more Avios to fly AA than flying Iberia in “Blue Class” but 15k less than the same route in Iberia “Economy”. Perhaps I’m crossing some sort of calendar divide or there’s a separate chart for one-world awards vs. Iberia operated awards. Strange.

Now, what if we did Iberia to London which has notoriously high fees.

Miami to London via Madrid. Iberia operated. Blue Class again. 65k Avois + 241 Euro. That’s our London taxes kicking in now I think, not to be confused with fuel surcharges. I haven’t cross referenced but I’m pretty sure about that. Mileage went up by 15k or 7.5k each-way which makes sense to me as MAD-LHR isn’t a terribly long flight.

BA only flies to Europe through London so let’s see what happens if we go on BA booked using Iberia miles.

Miami to London nonstop. BA operated. Iberia miles. Economy. 50k Avois + 494 Euro. Ouch. Our miles go down since Avios (whether from a BA or IB account) are distance based and eliminating the connection reduces distance but you can see the bad news. Probably a function of both fuel surcharges and high London fees.

Conclusion

Transferring BA Avios to an IB Avios account does enable us to avoid fuel surcharges on Iberia and AA flights which also lets us circumvent London and the high fees there. Nonetheless, to AL’s question, it doesn’t look very helpful for flying BA operated flights. You might be able to use this with BA flights that don’t go through London but those are few and far between and won’t take you transatlantic. Still, this is a great option to have. There are definitely some other outstanding questions though…like just what is Iberia Blue class and the extent to which this makes Avios more valuable. I’ve been pegging their value at $.012 each and that seems to be a good consensus (YMMV) and more options at lower prices always makes them more valuable. That said, I can’t help but think that other currencies still carry significant advantages. AA should be able to access the same inventories generally and avoid fuel surcharges even on BA (though not London’s fees) and they can be used on Iberia too, of course. Then again, a byproduct of the distance/segment based pricing in Avios allows for unlimited stops which is a strong advantage over AA.

Hmm. I see a future post constructing some hypothetical “what-if’s” for my family in the mid-west coming since Chicago O’Hare is served by BA, IB, AA, and UA. Availability issues aside, what should you use when?

Avios value’s up today, for sure. But I’m still not sure how much.

Read More

Take a look at a follow-up post here.

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One comment

  1. […] few days ago, I posted an initial reaction to the transfer of British Airways Avios to Iberia Avios and the impact on award bookings. In […]

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