The 4,500-Avios, short-haul British Airways Executive Club award has long been one of the most valuable things about the program for North Americans. On flights within the United States you pay neither fuel surcharges nor close-in booking fees, and your Avios are refundable up to 24 hours before departure (you forfeit only the taxes and fees).
Starting February 2, 2016, the same short-haul flights originating or ending in North America will cost 7,500 Avios per segment, although there's no indication the other two features will change.
The good news is that as far as I can tell Iberia hasn't announced any changes yet.
Iberia is still a weird program
The two key things to know about booking North America Iberia award flights are:
- Awards have to be round trip. You can't even search for one-way availability; you have to use a dummy return date (or search for availability on American Airlines' or British Airways' website first);
- Award prices are based on total trip length, adjusted by cabin.
What do I mean, "adjusted by cabin?" Hopefully the following example will illustrate the idea: a flight from Chicago (ORD) to Louisville (SDF), a 574-mile roundtrip, costs:
- 11,000 Avios and $18.70 in Blue Class (economy);
- 22,000 Avios and $18.70 in Blue Class one way and First on the return;
- and 33,000 Avios and $18.70 in First in both directions.
The same itinerary connecting in Charlotte (CLT) in each direction (1,868 miles roundtrip), costs:
- 17,000 Avios and $24.70 in Blue Class;
- 23,109 Avios and $24.70 in First on one of the CLT-SDF legs (17.9% of the total distance) with the remainder in Blue Class;
- 27,891 Avios and $24.70 in First on one the ORD-CLT legs (32.1% of the total distance) with the remainder in Blue Class;
- 29,218 Avios and $24.70 in First on both of the CLT-SDF (35.9% of the total distance) legs with the remainder in Blue Class;
- 38,782 Avios and $24.70 in First on both of the ORD-CLT (64.1% of the total distance) legs with the remainder in Blue Class;
- 34,000 Avios and $24.70 in Blue Class one way and First on the return;
- and 51,000 Avios and $24.70 in First in both directions.
The total number of Avios required very closely corresponds to the sum of the percentages of the total itinerary flown in each cabin multiplied by that cabin's roundtrip Avios award cost.
Observe two key things here:
- Under today's award chart, a roundtrip, nonstop flight between Chicago and Louisville in First is cheaper if booked with Iberia (33,000 Avios) than if booked with British Airways (36,000 Avios), and an itinerary connecting in Charlotte is also cheaper with Iberia (51,000 Avios) than with British Airways (72,000 Avios — no, I'm not kidding);
- After the February 2, 2016, British Airways devaluation, Blue Class nonstop flights booked with Iberia will be cheaper (11,000 Avios) than if booked with British Airways (15,000 Avios).
Here are a few things to take away from this post:
- You can only use Iberia to book roundtrip partner itineraries;
- Do not use Iberia to search for partner award availability;
- Once you find North American award availability with American Airlines or British Airways, check their prices against Iberia's;
- Iberia's online booking system is very frustrating but very flexible — it's easy to book short legs in Blue Class and longer legs in First for potentially big savings, because of the "cabin adjustment" mentioned above.
Using Iberia Avios instead of British Airways Avios for short-haul North American flights isn't a silver bullet to solve all of your award booking problems. But it is another tool you can use to let your miles take your further, faster.