At this point, anyone with any ear into the points and miles community has heard about the Iberia promotion that was run earlier this year. To sum it up — Iberia launched a promotion where you could earn 9,000 bonus points for any flight booked earlier this summer, on up to 10 flights. The intriguing thing about this was that Iberia would credit your account with the (potential) 90,000 points just days after it was booked.
So I went ahead and booked ten one-way flights for early next year, which totaled about $270, and my Iberia account was shortly credited with 90,000 Avios. I don’t intend to take those flights, but I do have to use my points earned in the promotion by December 1, or else my Iberia account will go negative.
While Iberia availability should match what you see on British Airways’ site, there are some key differences in the two programs. And because of that I have decided I may transfer my points to British Airways before that Dec 1 deadline. I first wanted to go over why?
A Quick Recap: British Airways Executive Club
British Airways Executive Club is a member of the Oneworld Alliance, with other notable partners like American Airlines, Japan Airlines, and Cathay Pacific. For the purposes of this post, and the purposes of my planned travel with the 90,000 Iberia Avios, I focused on the possibilities of using Avios for travel on American Airlines.
A quick look at the British Airways award chart:
Some important notes:
- All travel booked on a partner airline is considered peak travel, regardless of the time of the flight
- Zone 1 pricing is not available in North America — in other words, the minimum you can pay per flight is 7,500 miles
- Pricing for an award flight is per segment
I think the biggest thing of note here is that flights on American, within North America are priced at a minimum of 7,500 points, and maybe most importantly per segment. Which I have had to play with quite often, honestly.
For example, a flight from Washington DC to Atlanta would cost 7,500 plus taxes. If you happened to only find availability for a connecting flight through Charlotte, that same flight would cost 15,000 points plus taxes. Round-trip would be 15,000 versus 30,000, a pretty substantial difference.
A Quick Recap: Iberia Plus
Iberia has an award chart for travel on each of their partners, so they all vary slightly. For the purposes of this article we’re going to look at travel on American.
Here is the Iberia award chart for travel on American:
Similarly, some important notes here:
- These flights are round-trip (referred to on Iberia as “return”), and there is no option to book one-way flights
- Price is calculated as total distance of the trip, which will benefit you in some cases and fault in others
The thing you’ll see here off the bat is that there is a chance to save points — especially flying on American. While the cheapest flight on British Airways will be 15,000 miles, you can get a flight on Iberia for 11,000 miles.
Differences of the two programs
The price is probably the clear differentiator when comparing these two points currencies. To be honest, when I first took a look at the award charts, and played around in the systems I thought that Iberia had the better price, but there were other restricting factors. I’ve come to find that may not be the case.
The way in which both of these programs price out their tickets really makes the difference. I looked up a flight between Washington D.C. and Dallas on both websites and got some interesting findings.
This is the price I found when booking on Iberia.
And this is the price for the same exact flight on British Airways’ site.
So you’d actually save 3,000 miles if you booked through British Airways.
Unfortunately, it is hard to say which one you should always book with or not, because the situation changes depending on the flight, and maybe more importantly the route.
I will say that based on my digging over the past few days, the two biggest factors affecting the pricing on these are distance and segments. In other words, British Airways can really screw you with the segments, and there are some real possibilities to save miles on Iberia with shorter flights.
Of course, it all comes down to whether or not there’s availability!
When I was ultimately trying to decide whether or not to use Iberia or British Airways Avios, a lot of it came down to the flexibility of the programs. And while Iberia may have saved me a few thousand miles, the flexibility of British Airways came through in the clutch.
Specifically, I’m talking about the ability to book one-way fares, and the overall accessibility and ease with which you can book flights.
I will talk a little bit more about the second point in the next section, but for some reason I have found myself able to book a lot more one-way flights recently. And then either using other points to get back, fly back a different route, or even just drive 🙁 So while not the most financially justifiable way to spend my points, it has been the most beneficial to me.
And overall, I think this leads to my next point — that British Airways makes the user experience, from searching for flights to actually booking them much, much easier.
The first big turn-off from Iberia Avios is how difficult it is to actually just find flights. When searching for a round-trip ticket (which you have to do on Iberia), you’ll get an error that flights don’t exist if there is no availability for even one leg of the trip. This can become quite frustrating when trying to determine your routing.
And it’s a whole other story once you decide to try and book the ticket. I spoke about it here, but all I’ll say here is make sure you’ve got your drink filled up!
So I think this is really where over time British Airways just makes a huge difference. For frugal travelers like myself, I enjoy the challenge of fighting against the hardships that come with trying to find the best deal. But I can also understand that it may just be not worth it to spend the time and effort for a few thousand points.
Either way, you should be using British Airways’ website to do a lot of the leg-work anyways, so I think a lot of people may just find it easier to book there. The availability will be the same, but once again, there are no one-ways on Iberia.
So what did I decide?
As I alluded to, I have found a ton of opportunity to use my Avios with one-way flights, which can only be booked through British Airways. So while 7,500 points is not the best deal on the market, I think it’s good for what I paid for the points originally. And it works with my schedule!
So yes, I just decided to transfer all my Avios to British Airways. I’ve just about been able to deplete my reserves (before the deadline of this Saturday!), and I can tell you I have not found it hard to spend the points. That is one problem I know I will never have.
And if you are to transfer them, it is just as easy to transfer back. The transfer is just about instantaneous, and there are no fees or anything else. So maybe for practice — just transfer back and forth!
How to transfer…
So finally, I want to do a quick run-through of how to transfer points between the two. As I mentioned above, it is a really easy process and the transfer is almost instantaneous. So in the event this made sense for you, you could transfer back and forth as much as you find fit.
For the purposes of this demo, I am going to be doing the transfer “leg work” from my British Airways account — that isn’t to say I necessarily have to transfer away from BA, though.
First, from the main British Airways page go to Manage — “Executive Club”
From there, select the option to “Combine Avios” under the menu on the left titled “Manage My account”
You will then be brought to a page where you will once again have to select the “Combine my Avios” button.
Next, you will need to log in to your Iberia account (as you are already logged in to your British Airways account).
Now you’ll see the balance on each account, and you’ll be prompted to select which way you want to transfer your Avios — either British Airways to Iberia, or Iberia to British Airways.
Once you select which transfer you’d like to execute, you’ll then type in how many Avios you want to have transferred.
And finally, “Confirm” the transfer.
Just like that your Avios are transferred! Easy enough.
So I hope this helps! If you are one of those folks who decided to take advantage of the incredible Iberia offer, maybe transferring to British Airways will give you some options you won’t see on Iberia’s site. Best of luck!
Would love to hear how anyone else has decided to use up their points — with time running out!